Freedom in a Commons Brings Ruin to All

Picture a pasture opens to all. It is expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on [this] commons ... What is the utility ... of adding one more animal? ... Since the herdsman receives the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility [to the herdsman] is nearly +1 ... Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1. Adding together the ... partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to [the] herd. And another; and another ... Therein lies the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that [causes] him to increase his herd without limit--in a world that is limited. ... Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

G. Hardin
"The Tragedy of the Commons,"
Science 162, 1243 (1968), p. 1244.

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Freedom in a Commons Brings Ruin to All

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