Common property resources are those resources which have property rights that are enforced collectively by members of a group or organization. Usually, the increased use of the resources by one individual led to a decrease of resources available for other individuals to consume. Ocean resources include; marine life such as fish and whales, open sea used for traveling and fishing, minerals found in the ocean such as oil, gas, sand among others. This paper will briefly describe the tragedy of commons as indicated in Hardin. It will also use Seabright to clarify how the rights of the common property can be used to solve the commons problem. In the context of Cinner’s paper, it will illustrate how the theoretical challenges and clarifications have been played out in practice.
Hardin contends that the tragedy of the commons revolves around the population problem. According to him, this population problem does not have any technical solution, but rather requires a significant extension in morality (Hardin 1243). The population is increasing, yet the resources available to them are limited. When left to cater for their needs using the common resources, the tragedy thus arises.
First, he explores the tragedy of freedom in the commons. When people have access to common land and are not limited on how to use it, they tend to maximize their goal without considering hat effect their decision has on other people. For example, in a common graze land; each herdsman will tend to increase the number of cattle in his flock. When all herdsmen do the same, they will be faced with the problem of overgrazing and erosion in the grazing land. It leads to reduced area of grazing for the community in general which could be avoided if the land was not common property. It is similar to marine resources, which are open-access to all without any restrictions. As a result, overfishing occurs and the impending extinction of some species of whales and fish.
Problems of pollution are another way through which tragedy of commons reappears. People sharing common properties do not have the incentive to treat their waste before releasing it into the environment. The pollution comes from untreated sewages, chemical, fertilizers released to rivers which end up destroying the ocean resources. People who share a common property often find that it is less costly to dispose of the waste without treatment into common property compared to purifying it first. As this is common for all people, they together destroy ocean resources and continually do so as they don’t consider the effect on other people or society in general. It is a major problem of the commons and can only be solved by individuals taking the together challenge and thus considering the effect of own decisions that have on the society and the community in general (Hardin 1245).
The use of common property rights can be used to solve the Commons problems. Paul Seabright is an author who agrees with this statement. According to him, the first way of managing the commons problems is establishing common interests (Seabright 115). Just like shareholders in a firm will unanimously agree on maximizing the value of their shares, so will the people sharing the commons agree to maintain them if they optimize their needs in returns. For example, if people who rely on fishing are advised that pollution of the rivers and marines will lead reduction in fish available for their consumption, they tend to reduce pollution. It is because they have a common interest, unlimited fish supply at their disposal. They will thus guard their common interest and thus the commons problem will be managed.
Privatization of property right is another way of managing local commons. It is viewed that privatizing formerly common resources will lead to efficient allocation and utilization of the resources (Seabright 124). For example, allowing the marine authority to control exploitation of ocean resources. The authority will license fishermen, travelers who use the ocean as well as all activity carried out in the oceans. They will thus control pollution and conflicts that result and ensure proper and efficient utilization of the resources, it manages the commons problem efficiently. Decentralization of incentives under the collective management also controls the local commons. Members who own a public resource meet and agree on how to manage the property as well as any penalties and reward that arise from the management of the resources. All members, thus have the right to monitor the implementation of these decisions. It allows members to follow carefully the people that do not follow set rules. People know that any benefits that arise will be equally shared. Mutual trust has thus developed, and the local commons are managed (Seabright 129).
Many communities have used various techniques to manage the marine resource use. Such methods include; restriction on the kind of fishing gear used to avoid overfishing and limitations to entry in the Marines. Customary marine tenure (CMT) is said to be the basis of most of the techniques because it allows conservation of the Marines as well as their utilization to cater for the community goals. Coastal communities in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are some of the places in which CMT has been used (Cinner 1).
Problems in the commons include conflicts over resources, pollution, and overuse of the resources, leading to their close extinction or their degradation. These problems are common in the coastal communities in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea where Cinner conducted his research. He found out that where highly exclusive tenures were used as a solution to commons; there were huge conflicts over marine resources. These were different from the place that used less exclusive tenures. There was also the problem of distances to market that arose in highly exclusive tenures (Cinner 7). High immigration rate was a problem faced by communities that used less exclusive tenures (Cinner 7). Increased population growth in such communities lead to overexploitation of the ocean resources and thus their close extinction. There is also increasing in pollution in such communities as the tenure is not very exclusive. Using highly exclusive tenure is thus the solution to most commons problems.
In conclusion, the tragedy of the commons indicates the problems that are associated with public land. They arise where members of the community seek to optimize their resources without considering the effect that has on others and the community as a whole. Such problems include pollution, conflicts, overuse of resources, overpopulation. The solution that has been adopted to manage these problems includes establishing a common interest, decentralization of incentives under common management, privatization of property rights.
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Hardin, Garrett. "The Tragedy of Commons." Science, New Series (2003). Document.
Seabright, Paul. "Managing Local Commons: Theoretical Issues in Incentive Design." The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 7, No. 4. (1993): 113-134. Document.
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