When the economists sing “Good for me, good for you, bad for us” they mean that when individuals consume some common resource, they act rationally and independently, to maximize their gain but, at the same time, they are depleting this shared common resource, which is disadvantageous for all who share it, including these individuals. However, these individuals bear only a small portion of the cost associated with exploiting the common resource, while their benefit is substantial. As a result, people are automatically motivated to exploit commons as much as they can, although it is harmful for them and those around them in the long run.
The problem with pasture is that every farmer is motivated to bring as many sheep as possible to the pasture, because they don’t pay for its usage, while receiving direct benefits in the form of meat and wool from their sheep. As a result, more and more sheep will be brought to the pasture, until it becomes totally depleted, and no one will be able to use it at all. In the case of fisheries, certain kinds of fish become extinct, and the total amount of fish in the fisheries decreases dramatically due to excessive exploitation of this common resource. The problem with atmosphere is associated with pollution and emissions of carbon dioxide from cars. It damages the atmosphere and reduces the amount and quality of breathable air.
There are several ways by which society has tried to mitigate the problems with the common resources: either by motivating those who exploit a common resource to use it more responsibly, or by imposing quotas and fines for excessive usage of a certain resource. For instance, to deal with the problem of overusing pasture, it is now a widely used practice to privatize them. Although it is a controversial solution, it strictly limits the extent of a resource that its owner can use, and makes the user bear the cost associated with exploiting this resource (TheAtlantic.com). To deal with the problem of fisheries, special quotas are placed on the amount of fish that can be caught within a certain area of water. If someone exceeds the specified amount, they incur financial, and sometimes even criminal, punishment. Dealing with the problem of excessive atmosphere pollution is difficult on a local level, so global solutions have been introduced. For example, the Kyoto protocol signed in 1992 and effective of 2005, sets a certain limit on emissions of greenhouse gases caused by 192 member countries. As a result, countries are required to regulate their economies and its subjects to implement more energy efficient and environmentally friendly production technologies.
McArdle, Megan. Property Rights and the Tragedy of the Commons. The Atlantic, 22 May 2012. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.