Tragedy of the commons is an economic theory presented by Garret Hardin. It states that exhaustion of shared resources by individuals, acting autonomously and rationally according to each one’s self-interest, act different to the group’s long-term best interest by depletion of the resource. Common pool of resources (CPRs) are the ones always involved in the tragedy.(David, pg. 18) De Young explains that use of public goods by does not in any way affect another as the CPRs do. In this context, therefore, CPRs are said to be subtract-able. Although the tragedy is not inevitable, it is most likely to happen when the resource is under the category of CPRs since CPRs can be overused and can at the same time experience unrestrained open access. Lack of information can also lead to tragedy of commons since those using the commons may not have an idea of nature of the resource and may regard it as unlimited. (David, pg. 115) Those using the commons may also lack information of who is using the resource too; this may result to careless overuse thinking that others are also doing the same.
An example of resources that presents a tragedy of the commons is the oceans and seas. Overfishing and whaling can lead to tragedy. For many years, people believed in freedom of seas and oceans, this has led to oceans and their inhabitants being treated as inexhaustible. This belief allowed fishermen to catch as much fishes as possible so as to maximize profit. This has led to eventual exhaustion of fish stock that affect both the fishing industries and also everybody else. However, currently different governments through the inter-regional organizations have laid down measures such as discouraging catching of small fish and encouraging fish farming to sustain the growing demand for fish and its products.
The major solution to disabling “tragedy of commons” is restraining both the consumption and access to CPRs especially in the oil and gas areas. Other solutions include;
1) Creating congruence between rules and local conditions.
2) Having collective choice arrangements.
3) Monitoring CPRs to address any arising matter.
4) Clearly defining boundaries.
5) Graduating sanctions to those who violate rules.
David Churchman, Theories of Human Aggression and Conflict, 2005, University Press of America.