tragedy of the commons



  • The tendency of a publicly available resource to be overused, because individual users do not bear the full cost of their use, which is instead shared by everybody. This is particularly a problem when a resource, such as an ocean fishery, is not in the jurisdiction of a single government. Term first used by Hardin (1968).

Health Economics

  • (written as Tragedy of the Commons)
    A term attributable to the ecologist Garrett Hardin. Common grazing land ('the commons') is of value to farmers, each of whom gain from grazing their flocks on it without charge but, the more each grazes it the less grazing there is. The tragedy arises when the land (or any other common property resource - fisheries are another classic case) is entirely destroyed or used up. One solution may be to substitute private and exchangeable property for public property. Another may be for a public authority to own it and ration its use through prices or some other mechanism.