“Good for me, good for you, and bad for us” as sung by the economists implies the tragedy of the commons. The common in this case is the pasture, which ensures that the flocks of the two economists thrive. The sheep provide benefits to them such as wool and meat. When a single economist increases his flock (selfish interest) to reap the maximum benefits of the sheep, it is “good for him.” When the other economist also pursues his selfish interest and increases the number of his animals, it would be “good for him.” But since the pasture is shared between them, the increase of the animals would deplete the pasture, leading to a lack of it. This would mean that their flocks would lack the pasture, which is “bad for them.”
The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma that arises from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting individualistically to satisfy their self-interests, would ultimately deplete a shared limited resource. This is even when it is widely known that it is not everyone’s long interest for such a situation to happen. The commons in this case would mean the sea, atmosphere, pasture (forage) and fish stocks among many others. These commons are also referred to as the common pool resources or common property resource. They are the limited resources that are commonly shared among individuals. When these resources are over-exploited by individuals for their selfish interests, or when their care or sustainability is overlooked, it brings about tragedy. This is because all the people using these resources would lack them.
Pasture (forage) is a resource that is commonly shared among herdsmen. Each individual herdsman notes that if he increases one more animal on the commonly held pasture, he will reap the full benefits of the animal’s value such as food or market value. Since the pasture is commonly held, an individual herder would only bear part of the costs of raising the animal. When each herdsman increases the number of his animals, ultimately the finite resource (pasture) would be depleted to a point that it can no longer be useful to anyone of them. This is a tragedy since all the herdsmen will lack that vital resource for the animals. Currently, many sustainable practices have been adopted to try and mitigate this problem of overgrazing. Some of the practices include animal management, land management and grassland management. The successful management of these key resources has seen a drop in the problem of overgrazing in most parts of the world.
Fisheries are also key resources that have been the subject of the tragedy of commons. The property rights to fisheries are incomplete and the access to them is open. Fisheries are common pool resources. A fisherman would fish as much as he could so as to reap the benefits of the fish. Some of these benefits include food and the financial value of the fish. Because the fisheries are uncontrolled, many other fishermen would want to take more so as to reap from the benefits of having more. As a result, the fish would become depleted. This is a tragedy given that the fishermen would have no fish to sell to their various markets. Overexploitation or overfishing is the main problem with fishing currently in the world. Privatization of the fisheries is one of the ways that has been used to solve this problem. Taxation on the use of fisheries is also a way of solving this problem.
The atmosphere is another common pool resource that is subject to the tragedy of the commons. Currently, the atmosphere is being polluted and depleted through the burning of fossil fuels and other sources that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. With the continued pollution of the atmosphere by individuals, problems such as climate change and global warming occur. Since the atmosphere is a shared resource, all people suffer from the consequences of events such as climate change. Many efforts have been put in place to curb the problem of pollution of the atmosphere. The principle of polluter pay has been enforced in different countries to curb this pollution. The imposition of carbon tax to carbon emitters is also a proposed solution to climate change. Education and awareness is also carried out to ensure that people keep the emissions to the atmosphere at a minimum.
Hardin, Garrett J. The Tragedy of the Commons. , 1968. Print.