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5 Examples of Tragedy Of The Commons

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Tragedy of the commons is an observed tendency for freely shared resources to be overused and abused. In modern times, the phase is most often used to describe the use of natural resources such as air, water and land that are important to economies, basic survival and quality of life. Tragedy of the commons can also be used to describe minor scenarios such as the tendency for shared office refrigerators to quickly fill with expired food.


The commons are an collection of important economic, cultural and life sustaining resources. The tragedy of the commons is a tricky problem to solve because open access to the commons is typically viewed as an inalienable right. At times the idea has been used to sell propositions to privatize what was customarily public. An ideal solution keeps the commons open but gives incentives for moderation.


Traffic jams
Species extinction
Deforestation & desertification
Office refrigerators that fill with expired food.


Tragedy of the commons was first coined by William Forster Lloyd in 1833 to describe shared pastures for sheep in England. Each individual herder had incentive to graze as many sheep as possible. In other words, there were no incentives in place to use the shared pastures in moderation, resulting in overgrazing and unstable feed supplies.
Overview: Tragedy Of The Commons
A system that gives incentives for shared resources to be overused and abused.
Related Techniques
Next: Tyranny Of Small Decisions
More about sustainable economics:
Cascading Failure
Circular Economy
Dollar Voting
Economic Bad
Economic Security
Food Sovereignty
Happiness Economics
Happiness Index
Jevons Paradox
Land Footprint
Market Failure
Missing Market
Moral Hazard
Point Of No Return
Quality Of Life
Race To The Bottom
Uneconomic Growth
Water Security
More ...
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