The tragedy of the commons

The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory by Garrett Hardin, which states that individuals acting independently and rationally according to each’s self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource. The term is taken from the title of an article written by Hardin in 1968, which is in turn based upon an essay by a Victorian economist on the effects of unregulated grazing on common land.

Commons” in this sense has come to mean such as atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, the office refrigerator, or any other shared resource which is not formally regulated; not common land in its agricultural sense.

The tragedy of the commons concept is often cited in connection with sustainable development, meshing economic growth and environmental protection, as well as in the debate over global warming. It has also been used in analyzing behavior in the fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, game theory, politics, taxation, and sociology. However the concept as originally developed has also received criticism for not taking into account the many other factors operating to enforce or agree regulation in this scenario.

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