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The Tragedy of the Commune: Learning from Worst-Case Scenarios

37 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2004 Last revised: 19 Dec 2017

Karsten Mause

University of Muenster, Germany

Date Written: August 19, 2004

Abstract

Living in an apartment- or house-sharing community may offer numerous advantages. Unfortunately, under certain circumstances this easy, adventurous, harmonious life in such a communal arrangement may turn into a Hobbesian "war of everyone against everyone." Applying some well-known instruments from the economic toolbox, this paper demonstrates why flat sharers' individually rational behavior may lead to collectively undesirable outcomes. It also offers some practical remedies. Tragically, even if housemates realize that they are on the road to ruin, without concerted action, which poses a collective good problem, their livable commune gradually turns into an inhospitable environment.

Keywords: Collective action, Common-pool resources, Shared housing, Communes

JEL Classification: D01, D70, R21, R31

Suggested Citation

Mause, Karsten, The Tragedy of the Commune: Learning from Worst-Case Scenarios (August 19, 2004). published in: Journal of Socio-Economics, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2008, pp. 308-327, DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2007.01.015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=618742 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.618742

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