The Tragedy of the Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
The Tragedy of the Commons  by Garrett Hardin The tragedy of the commons develops in this way.  Picture a pasture open to all.  It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on  the commons.  Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries  because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast  well below the carrying capacity of the land.   Finally, however, comes the day of  reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a  reality.   At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates  tragedy. As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain.   Explicitly or  implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility  to me  of adding one  more animal to my herd?”  This utility has one negative and one positive component.   1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal.  Since the  herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the  positive utility is nearly +1. 2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by  one more animal.  Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all  the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is  only a fraction of -1. Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that  the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd.  And  another…  But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman 
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 09/27/2011 for the course SOCIOLOGY 290 taught by Professor Jeffwilhelms during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

Page1 / 4

The Tragedy of the Commons

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online