chapter  14
21 Pages

Cooperation and the Commons: Laboratory and Field Investigations of a Persistent Dilemma: Roderick M. Kramer


In 1968, the biologist Garrett Hardin published a six-page article in Science entitled “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Historically, the commons were public pastures in small communities on which local herders could freely graze their livestock. In such situations, it was in the self-interest of each individual herder to graze as many animals as possible on the commons, since all of the profits from sale of the livestock accrued directly to the individual, while the costs of open grazing-measured in terms of damage to the commons-were shared by all of the herders. Yet, if all of the herders pursued their individually rational course of action, the result was the eventual devastation of the commons. Thus, individual rationality-perfectly sensible and sensibly pursued-led inexorably to collective folly.