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Tragedy of the Commons

The tragedy of the commons is a concept used in the fields of economics and politics to describe a particular social dilemma requiring social coordination to solve. The term comes from the title of an article by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in which he identified a class of social dilemmas using the metaphor of herders’ choices over their use of pastures when such lands are commonly owned. Specifically, he argued that individual herders have an incentive to overgraze their sheep on the lands owned in common. Thus, if individuals are left to do as they please, the commons will eventually be ruined, contrary to the desires of those in the community (and hence, Hardin’s use of the term tragedy). The concept is typically employed ...

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