[Air-l] Tragedy of the Commons

Ken Friedman ken.friedman at bi.no
Sat Mar 16 11:33:58 PST 2002

It is difficult to believe the assertion that
no empirical examples exist for a "tragedy of
the commons."

The destruction of the forested hills of ancient Greece,
the reduction of America's aquifers and wetlands,
the extinction and near-extinction of hunted species
are all examples of a common good or property
held in common that has been wasted by over-use
under circumstances that fit the "tragedy of the
commons" model.

Before making the claim that there is no empirical
evidence for a loss or extinction among common
resources that fluctuate over time, it is helpful
to examine empirical evidence with the help of
scientists who are qualified to interpret the

This begins with a crisp definition of what is meant
by the phrase "tragedy of the commons." Even
a fuzzy definition will do if it is reasonable.

Historical data from several ten of thousand years
of human history clearly offers evidence that this
phenomenon occurs -- unless you want to argue that
the resource substitution or the continued presence
of human creatures is evidence that extinctions and
loss are not genuine examples.


Ken Friedman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design
Department of Leadership and Organization
Norwegian School of Management

Visiting Professor
Advanced Research Institute
School of Art and Design
Staffordshire University

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