Tragedy of the Commons after 50 Years

22 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2019

See all articles by Alain Marciano

Alain Marciano

Université de Montpellier; Université Montpellier I - Montpellier Recherche en Economie (Montpellier Research in Economics) MRE

Brett M. Frischmann

Villanova University - School of Law

Giovanni Battista Ramello

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 11, 2019

Abstract

Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968) has been incredibly influential generally and within economics, and it remains important despite some historical and conceptual flaws. Hardin focused on the stress population growth inevitably placed on environmental resources. Unconstrained consumption of a shared resource — a pasture, a highway, a server — by individuals acting in rational pursuit of their self-interest can lead to congestion and worse, rapid depreciation, depletion, and even destruction of the resources. Our societies face similar problems, not only with respect to environmental resources but also with infrastructures, knowledge, and many other shared resources. In this Retrospective, we examine how the tragedy of the commons has fared within the economics literature and its relevance for economic and public policies today. We revisit the original piece to explain Hardin’s purpose and conceptual approach. We expose two conceptual mistakes he made, that of conflating resource with governance and conflating open access with commons. This critical discussion leads us to the work of Elinor Ostrom, the recent Nobel Prize in Economics Laureate, who spent her life working on commons. Finally, we discuss a few modern examples of commons governance of shared resources.

Keywords: Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons, Commons, Common Pool Resources, Vincent Ostrom, Elinor Ostrom, Open Access, Infrastructures

JEL Classification: B20, B21, B31, H41, H54

Suggested Citation

Marciano, Alain and Frischmann, Brett M. and Ramello, Giovanni Battista, Tragedy of the Commons after 50 Years (September 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3451688 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3451688

Alain Marciano (Contact Author)

Université de Montpellier ( email )

Avenue Raymond Dugrand, CS 79606
Montpellier Cedex 1, F-34000
France

Université Montpellier I - Montpellier Recherche en Economie (Montpellier Research in Economics) MRE ( email )

Montpellier
France

Brett M. Frischmann

Villanova University - School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Giovanni Battista Ramello

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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