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Re: The tragedy of the commons
- From: John Cowan <email@example.com>
- To: "Steven R. Newcomb" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2001 09:30:33 -0400
Steven R. Newcomb wrote:
> As I understand it, the "tragedy of the commons" is a
> concept from Economics: the tendency of individuals to
> over-exploit publicly-owned assets. The "commons" is
> archetypically a grassy area held in common by an
> entire village. The commons loses all of its grass,
> and all of its value, due to the tendency of everyone
> to let their sheep graze there first, in preference to
> exploiting their own private grasslands as grazing
> areas. Needless to say, this practice destroys the
> commons; no grass can grow where everyone prefers their
> sheep to graze. Nothing prevents or inhibits the
> destructive feeding frenzy of those who are in a
> position to exploit the commons for personal gain at
> everyone's expense; this is the "tragedy of the
What nobody understands who uses this example is what
common land really was, before it was expropriated without
compensation. Rights of common were *individual* rights;
if one of the villagers "wasted" (i.e. made waste) the
common in the fashion described above, any of the other
villagers could, and generally did, start a lawsuit in
the local court or the king's court. Wasters were fined
or otherwise punished.
Similarly, no one had the right to enclose (fence off) any part of
the common, even if the unfenced portion was "enough and
as good". The right to pasture commonable beasts on the
land extended to every part of it whatsoever.
> Successful, maximally-productive gardens are Planned.
"Plan or be planned for."
"The important thing about planning is doing the planning,
not the plan that may result."
Not to perambulate || John Cowan <email@example.com>
the corridors || http://www.reutershealth.com
during the hours of repose || http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
in the boots of ascension. \\ Sign in Austrian ski-resort hotel