• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Tragedy of the Commons

The “tragedy of the commons” describes a social dilemma in which rational human behavior in using a resource as an unmanaged commons leads to overuse and, consequentially, to the destruction of that resource. It has proven a useful concept for understanding how resources are ruined not by some outside forces but by the inherent behavior that can be expected whenever a number of individuals own a scarce resource in common. A famous article in the journal Science by Garrett Hardin (1968) introduced the concept to common parlance.

Central to the tragedy of the commons is a metaphor: Imagine a common parcel of land (the commons) used by farmers. As a rational being, each herder will try to keep as many cows as possible on the ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles