Tag Archives: tragedy of the commons

Tragedy of the commons

The phrase “tragedy of the commons” is used generally in environmental writing to talk about the way some shared resource can be damaged when individuals – striving to maximize their personal gains in utility – use more than their socially optimal share of the resource.   The term was introduced though in a famous paper by Hardin


which refers specifically to population issues.  This is a disquieting article to read today, with its echoes of early 20th-century eugenicists’ fears of the “lower classes” outbreeding the elite, but it is also an important one in the history of environmental thought.