Discussion on Tragedy of the Commons |
This paper intends to discuss the basic theories within the scope of the tragedy of commons, especially from the ethics perspective. In addition, the paper also explicitly explores two possible ways to solve the tragedy of the commons, the free market solution and the socialism solution, and applies these ways to a real case of Euro’s Tragedy. In the end, referring to Elinor Ostrom’s theory in 2009, the paper recommends the collective agreement from the moral perspective to be the possible ideal solution to the tragedy of the commons. |
1. Introduction 1
2. Formation 2
2.1 Theoretical explain of the formation 2
2.2 Hardin’s ...view middle of the document...
Theories of the tragedy would also be applied to a case of Euro’s tragedy. In the end, we have summarized a new way from the perspective of ethics, referring to the advanced theory in the field by Elinor Ostrom on how to solve the tragedy.
Concerning its origin, the dilemma of “tragedy of the commons” was first described in Garrett Hardin’s article “The Tragedy of the Commons” which was published in 1968. Hardin (1968) described tragedy of the commons as follows:
“Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.”
Commons refers to the resource owned by the human society. It has economic value and intrinsic properties that could meet humans’ demands and relates to humans’ understandings of the resource. Such resource is not owned by anyone in the community, which means no one can claim exclusive use to it, and no one can stop anyone else from using the resource. Oceans, forests, fish stocks, and national parks are all commons. In Hardin’s opinions, the result of the commons would be a tragedy, that is to say, the resource would lose all of its value in the end, becoming depleted, unusable, worn out, and no longer possessing any value to the use.
We often use the concept of “tragedy of the commons” in relation to environmental protection, sustainable development and global warming issues. The dilemma of tragedy of the commons also helps us understanding behavior in the fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, taxation, and sociology.
2.1 Theoretical explain of the formation
The formation of the tragedy of the commons contains several steps, and people involved in the situation are those resource users who seek profits for themselves. When adding multiple self-interested individuals and the commons together, a number of things are going to happen. Since the users need to maximize their own profits by consuming the commons, they would have more incentive to overuse the resource instead of maintain the commons. If one engages in maintaining the public resource, other people in the community will also gain benefit from the maintenance, which means he or she would bear all the cost of maintaining, but much of the benefit will go to other people who are using the resources as well. Therefore, under a personal cost-benefit analysis, he or she will find it not worthy to do the maintenance and would have less incentive to do so, therefore leading the resource to depleting more quickly. Also, just as people have no incentive to do the maintenance, they would not like to engage in any improvements with the benefits dispersed to all of the others.
As time goes by, all the people in the community would have even much stronger intention to overuse the resource. Because resource is...