Environmental Justice and the Tragedy of the Commons

8 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2022 Last revised: 5 Oct 2022

See all articles by Gregory M. Stein

Gregory M. Stein

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: July 6, 2022


In "The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin argues that those who can use a resource for free consume more of it than they would if they had to pay for it. Public resources eventually collapse because people overuse them. Hardin’s widely accepted argument seems correct as far as it goes, but he focuses on small-scale resource failures such as overgrazing, which affect people within a narrow geographic range and become evident soon after the resource is consumed. Modern environmental problems, and particularly global climate change, are more complex because they are more universal and there may be a considerable time lag between the exploitation of a cost-free resource and the consequences that result. Thus, the tragedy of the commons is a temporal phenomenon and not just a physical one.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Tragedy of the Commons

JEL Classification: A1, D23, D52, D61, K11, K32, O13, P14, Q15, Q20, Q32, Q53, Q54, Q56, Q57

Suggested Citation

Stein, Gregory M., Environmental Justice and the Tragedy of the Commons (July 6, 2022). California Law Review Online, Vol. 13, p. 10, 2022, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 438, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4155717

Gregory M. Stein (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
865-974-6812 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.utk.edu/people/gregory-stein/

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