The difficult to solve as Hardin supposed if

The tragedy of the Commons is an
economic theory presuming that individual egoistic decisions will ruin the
common resource of all users, use it up and spoil (Robbins, Hintz & Moore,
For example, one pasture can recycle and support food for certain number of
cows, but if each cow owner in order to raise
his or her individual profit brought to this pasture extra cows, the grazing
will degrade and not one farmer can use it anymore
2018) or when a family re-produce a lot of
children their advantages are immediate, but the costs of overpopulation spread
to the whole humanity as the result (Robbins, Hintz & Moore,
It contradicted Adam Smiths’ “Invisible Hand of the Market” theory, that the sum
of personal selfish decisions would lead to the benefit of the population as a whole. The concept of tragedy of the commons
became widely known after the article in “Science” of Garett Hardin in 1968 (Robbins,
Hintz & Moore, 2014) and refers to a game theory “Prisoners Dilemma”, according to which individuals
without communication inclined to make egoistic decisions which will create
negative consequences for everyone (Robbins, Hintz & Moore,
Hardin saw two possible solutions for the problem: coercion or privatization.
He suspects that the system of control could be compromised by the influence of one of the commons, so preferred
privatization, believe that individuals will manage sustainable their own
property (Robbins, Hintz & Moore, 2014). Until nowadays this
theory is widely spreader, accepted and became very influential among market environmentalists,
offer to internalize the externalities
cost as an alternative solution to
privatization and regulation.

The tragedy of the commons has its
critics. Elinor Ostrom argued that the problem is not so difficult to solve as
Hardin supposed if participants start to
communicate to each other. Her argument based on a large number of case studies,
like lobster fisheries in Maine, village irrigation system in southern India
and tree tenure traditions in East Africa (Robbins,
Hintz &
Moore, 2014). According to her viewpoint, Hardin’s theory doesn’t apply for
natural resources under the common
property or group ownership, which is possible to manage sustainable in certain
conditions and with certain institutions (Robbins,
Hintz &
Moore, 2014). These conditions are:
obvious borders physical and social, individual costs and benefits should
correspond, rules for resource managing should be created collectively,
monitoring, graduated sanctions, mechanism of solving conflicts and finally
self-governing, independence from non-local authorities (Robbins,
Hintz &
Moore, 2014). The problem is that Ostroms’
institutionalism assumes equal power for all actors which is a very rare condition. On practice local elites
may take dominant positions in common management, her theory also ignored
social relations of the people, so just to reduce agency to private choices
will not help to explain people behavior,
as well as only particular behavior,
cannot explain a commons system (Gomez-Baggethun,

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