The tragedy of the Commons is aneconomic theory based on the conclusion that individual egoistic decisions willruin the common resource of all users, use it up and spoil (Robbins, Hintz & Moore,2014).For example, one pasture can recycle and support food for certain number ofcows, but if each cow owner in order to raisehis or her individual profit brought to this pasture extra cows, the grazingwill degrade and not one farmer can use it anymore(Gomez-Baggethun,2018) or when a family re-produce a lot ofchildren their advantages are immediate, but the costs of overpopulation spreadto the whole humanity as the result (Robbins, Hintz & Moore,2014).It contradicted Adam Smiths’ “Invisible Hand of the Market” theory, that the sumof personal selfish decisions would lead to the benefit of the population as a whole.
The concept of tragedy of the commonsbecame widely known after the article in “Science” of Garett Hardin in 1968 (Robbins,Hintz & Moore, 2014) and refers to a game theory “Prisoners Dilemma”, according to which individualswithout communication inclined to make egoistic decisions which will createnegative consequences for everyone (Robbins, Hintz & Moore,2014).Hardin saw two possible solutions for the problem: coercion or privatization.He suspects that the system of control could be compromised by the influence of one of the commons, so preferredprivatization, believe that individuals will manage sustainable their ownproperty (Robbins, Hintz & Moore, 2014). Until nowadays thistheory is widely spreader, accepted and became very influential among market environmentalists,offer to internalize the externalitiescost as an alternative solution toprivatization and regulation.
The tragedy of the commons has itscritics. Elinor Ostrom argued that the problem is not so difficult to solve asHardin supposed if participants start tocommunicate to each other. Her argument based on a large number of case studies,like lobster fisheries in Maine, village irrigation system in southern Indiaand tree tenure traditions in East Africa (Robbins,Hintz , 2014). According to her viewpoint, Hardin’s theory doesn’t apply fornatural resources under the commonproperty or group ownership, which is possible to manage sustainable in certainconditions and with certain institutions (Robbins,Hintz , 2014). These conditions are:obvious borders physical and social, individual costs and benefits shouldcorrespond, rules for resource managing should be created collectively,monitoring, graduated sanctions, mechanism of solving conflicts and finallyself-governing, independence from non-local authorities (Robbins,Hintz , 2014).
The problem is that Ostroms’institutionalism assumes equal power for all actors which is a very rare condition. On practice local elitesmay take dominant positions in common management, her theory also ignoredsocial relations of the people, so just to reduce agency to private choiceswill not help to explain people behavior,as well as only particular behavior,cannot explain a commons system (Gomez-Baggethun,2018).