The Tragedy of the Commons

People living together must find some way to preserve common resources. Unfortunately, there are strong incentives for people to exploit these resources when they are held in common by everyone. As Prof. Sean Mullholland at Stonehill College explains, the ‘tragedy of the commons’ occurs when individuals acting independently end up depleting shared resources, such as fisheries or pastureland. Prof. Mullholland discusses two potential solutions to this problem: public ownership, where the property is owned and administered by the government, and private ownership. He discusses the strengths and weaknesses to each approach and some key considerations for determining which institutions best protect useful resources.

8 Comments

  1. Matt Wavle

    "Public Property" is an oxymoron.  Land owners have a direct incentive to maintain and even increase the value of their land.

  2. citizen1111

    I think there is something to be said for community (or in other words individuals making a free choice to come together for a common purpose) management of the commons.  Those benefiting the most do have an interest and an incentive to make sure that that resource in managed properly.  There is an incentive to maintain the resource so that all, or rather each individual, can benefit.  Also, history has lead us to a present situation in which there is no equitable way to divide the commons, as some people have been able to use their positions to extract favors from government, leaving them in a position to monopolize any benefit of privatization.  Is it right to allow those who have already trampled on the liberty of others to then benefit further? Perhaps, it would be better to devolve the management of the commons to the communities that are invested in the future of the commons, rather than allow those who have already benefited from a corrupt system to exert their power on those communities.

  3. kskousen

    I remember a chapter in the book Johnathan Gullible about that. Except the exploited area was an overfished, polluted lake.

  4. Raquel Rivera

    So this is where my Comparative Politics Professor found this video!!! Awesome! I think this website is a great idea and will be recommending it to every one of my friends and classmates! 

  5. Lukas Koube

    have you seen the On Demand work they did with personal finance? its like the best thing ive ever seen…how did no one say that too me when i was in school?????

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