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Tragedy of the Commons

The tragedy of the commons is a collective-action problem in which commonly owned or shared resources are exploited to the point where they become severely degraded. The commons may refer to any resource whose use is largely unregulated, including the earth’s atmosphere and oceans, many grazing lands, lakes and rivers, urban parks, toll-free roads and highways, refrigerators in shared office lounges, and much online information such as Wikipedia and the Open Education Resources Commons.

The degradation or destruction of these common but finite resources can occur owing to the difficulty of excluding potential users and restricting the rate of exploitation given the absence of a coercive authority regulating the resource or the insufficient compliance of participating actors with customary protective practices. In either case, the ...

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