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The Tragedy of the Commons

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

The Tragedy of the CommonsThe tragedy of the commons is a term coined by scientist Garrett Hardin in 1968 describing what can happen in groups when individuals act in their own best self interests …

5 Comments to
The Tragedy of the Commons

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  1. Need for belonging.

    I believe only healthy people have a need for belonging and a capacity to fell complete when they have it, it is not the case with narcissists, sociopaths and people with other personality disorders. For these people others exist solely to serve their needs.

    A good deal about our capitalist system encourages these disorders, but all experiments into alternative orders suggest a monority are born/designed to prey on others, any scientific or social progress will need to address this fact.

  2. The Tragedy of the commons has been an issue that’s been studied for over forty years. The research started in 1968 when it was coined by scientist Garrett Hardin. Tragedy of the commons is a term used to describe what can happen in groups when individuals act in their own best self interests and ignore what’s best for the whole group. Since the research has started there are four common solutions that outline tragedy of the commons. These solutions are information, identity, institutions, and incentives.

    Information is understanding of the environment in order to help individuals understand what happens in the future or in times of uncertainty. Identity is the need to belong to a certain social group for acceptance and belonging. Institutions are the institutes that are in charge of the issue of the commons and you need to be able to trust them. Incentives is improving oneself and responsible use, while punishing overuse.

    Out of these four solutions that may help avoid the issue of the tragedy of the commons, I think Information is most powerful and has the greatest effect on people’s behaviors. The more information a person knows, they will make more rational decisions benefiting the environment. If everyone knows more about the issue then a better effort will take place from those that care. Although you still have people that could care less, they will eventually care if information is addressed much more. When people understand that an issue will effect them they take the effort to help fix and stablelize a certain issue. Such clear, simple messages can impact consumer behavior.

    The next most important solution is institutes because you want the issue t0 be addressed and handled to the best capability. Whether it be effecting a community, country or even the world. Incentives has the next most important issue because you want a positive influence on the people. Finally Identity you want to belong to a supportive social group that can fight the issue in an organized way, you also want to be able to communicate and feel good about it. That is my opinion of the most important to least important solutions of tragedy of the commons.

  3. * rewriting this for the third time now! of course it deltes everytime. my luck! haha

    Tragedy of the commons is a world wide issue that has been studied since the year 1968.After decades of reasearch scientist have come to the conclusion that there is a four step solution to our problem.
    The four steps consist of information,identity,institutions and incentives.
    i personally beilieve that the most important part to the solution of tragedy of the commons would be “information”. I think that information is the key to helping indidvuduals be less selfish and realize group prospect will benift everyone in the end. i beilieve this because we as American human beings are very used to have the largest eclogical foot print in the world. We require more, we take more, we use more than any other country but! if we were told our water rescource for example is running slim than as a nation we would ration ourselves so we can save our water source, and gain more water over time for the future. We can only do this IF we are informed, IF we know our water supply is running thin. this is why i think information is such a key impact to the solution to tragedy of the commons. We need to be informed to make a change.

  4. (RE DID AGAIN FOR BETTER GRADE DR. PALMER)

    Tragedy Of The Commons, is a world wide issue that has been studied for about fourty years.
    the research began in the year 1968 and has continued till present day.Tragedy of the Commons is a phrase used to describe how if indviduals only think of how to benift themselves their group will suffer greatly. Scientist have come to the conclusion that there are four solutions to this issue, those solutions consit of infortmation,identity, institution, and incentives.

    My personal Belif is that the best of the four theories of solutions would be Information.

    Information is the understanding of the enviorment and a better understanding and knowledge of the unknown.this is why i strongly beilieve that Information is the most important of the solutions.

    Information is imporant to the solutions of Tragedy of the Commons becuase we as a American Citzens esspecially have the largest ecological footprint. this being said we have a hard time grasping the conscept of beign rationed, not having enough of and sharing so the end result for us will be lack of recoursce.though i think that if information and knowledge is shared to people then they would understand the causes and efects of our selfish ways, and we can change our actions in a postitve way to affect the enviorment and ourselves.

    For example i beilive if we who live in the state of Colorado are in a drought, and we had NO idea we were in this drought then we would continue using water recklessly. Wash less dishes. Wash less clothes. (which require the same amount of water for less clothes or dishes) water our lawns more. take longer showers etc..

    Though if we who lived in the state of Colorado were informed about the drought we would begin to ration and save our water so we would have enough of it later in the future.

    information is important to the solutions of tragedy of the commons because if we as a society arn’t informed about what is going on we can not and probally will not change our behaviors to benift us in the long run.

    you need to be informed and have knowledge of your surrondings to make a change.

  5. Personally, I have strong reservations regarding the four factors that should supposedly alleviate the gravity of the tragedy. Namely, as already pointed out, a ” good deal about our capitalist system encourages these disorders, but all experiments into alternative orders suggest a minority are born/designed to prey on others”. I am not so sure they are born/designed to prey on others, it would seem that, rather, in our capitalist system the four elements — Identity, Institutions, Information and Incentives — are geared toward such antisocial behavior.
    Identity: geared toward consumerism, being rich, keepin’ up with the Joneses, not toward the sustainability of the commons (just think about the Kyoto Protocols). The theory of the “Tragedy of the Commons” is actually utilized by many as a theoretical basis — a recipe book — for exploiting the commons to their best advantage, and for transposing the mechanisms of exploitation to realms that, hitherto, weren’t strictly part of the commons.
    Institutions: geared toward the powerful (which, in our system, translates to “the rich”) and against the powerless (the “poor”). This may be seen everywhere, but is perhaps culminating in the judicial system, in which you just have to be powerful — not necessarily right — to win virtually any case in court. Actually, if you’re powerful/rich enough, you may even prevent the case to ever reach the courts. The powerful are not only above the law, they *write* the laws!
    Information: is not used to “enlighten” people, but to manipulate and control the social behavior of the masses. To this end, information is purposefully manipulated, filtered and presented in such a way as to further certain agendas. The ownership of the main media has no secondary role in this. The owners decide what we are permitted to know and from which perspective we are to look at it.
    Incentives: are geared toward the powerful institutions and corporations (which are impersonal, therefore incapable of having any “personal ethics”), at the expense of the small individual (who, for better or worse, is an “ethical being”, with a sense of responsibility). Although we rarely admit it, individuals are actually expendable (be it as work force, as soldiers in the field, as consumers, you just have to look around you to see that), while big mega-entities (banks, corporations, insurance companies) are worth salvaging and incentivating.
    So, it would seem that, just like any good theory, the Tragedy of the Commons has been embraced and put to practical use by the worst segments of society far before it could spread among its best segments and do any good. Just as happened with, say, Nietzsche, Nobel, Marx, or the atomic energy — which, not surprisingly, was first used for making a bomb. And was done so by the U.S., by the way.

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