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Table of Contents

  1. Topic pack - Microeconomics - introduction
  2. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply
  3. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply - notes
  4. 1.1 Competitive markets - questions
  5. 1.1 Competitive markets - simulations and activities
  6. 1.2 Elasticities
  7. 1.2 Elasticities - notes
  8. Section 1.2 Elasticities - questions
  9. Section 1.2 Elasticities - simulations and activities
  10. 1.3 Government intervention
  11. 1.3 Government Intervention - notes
  12. 1.3 Government intervention - questions
  13. 1.3 Government intervention - simulations and activities
  14. 1.4 Market failure
  15. 1.4 Market failure - notes
    1. The meaning of externalities
    2. Types of externalities
    3. How do externalities affect allocative efficiency?
    4. Negative externalities of production
    5. Negative externalities of consumption
    6. The economic theory of traffic congestion
    7. Demerit goods
    8. Government responses - demerit goods
    9. Possible government responses to externalities
    10. Direct government provision
    11. Extension of property rights
    12. Taxes and subsidies
    13. Tradeable pollution rights
    14. Regulation, legislation and direct controls
    15. Positive externalities of production
    16. Positive externalities of consumption
    17. Merit goods
    18. Why might merit goods be underprovided by the market?
    19. Government responses - merit goods
    20. Public goods
    21. Common access resources & sustainability
    22. The tragedy of the Commons
    23. Common access resources in practice
    24. Sustainability
    25. Threats to Sustainability
    26. The threat to sustainability from the use of fossil fuels
    27. The threat to sustainability from poverty
    28. Government responses to threats to sustainability
    29. Cap and Trade Schemes
    30. Promoting Clean Technologies
    31. The 'dirty side' of cleaner technologies
    32. International responses to threats to sustainability
    33. Asymmetric information
    34. Abuse of monopoly power
    35. Inequality
  16. Section 1.4 Market failure - questions
  17. Section 1.4 Market failure - simulations and activities
  18. 1.5 Theory of the firm
  19. 1.5 Theory of the firm - notes (HL only)
  20. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - questions
  21. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - simulations and activities
  22. Print View

The tragedy of the Commons

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The overgrazing cost shown in Hardin's analogy is an example of a negative externality of consumption, where the private utility is diminished by the negative utility suffered by third parties; in this case the other herders. The grazing land is over-consumed and so there is a welfare loss.


To reduce these negative externalities, Hardin suggests potential management solutions for common goods including privatisation, environmental taxation, government regulation and stricter management by the state. The nature of this regulation depends on whether the resources are within national boundaries or global in nature. Where national resources are concerned; rules on their use can be imposed by national governments. Global common access resources, such as fishing grounds, will require the creation of international regulatory organisations to control their use. Hardin also suggests the transfer of common access resources to private ownership. In keeping with his original pasture analogy, he categorises this as the enclosure of the commons.

The 'Tragedy of the Commons' is an analogy. The major theme running through Hardin's work is, in fact, the growth of human populations with the Earth's resources being a general 'common'. He focuses on the allocation and exploitation of larger resources, such as the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, and the 'negative commons' of pollution.

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Garrett Hardin on the Tragedy of the Commons and Resources

In this video, Garrett Hardin is interviewed on the Tragedy of the Commons and Resource Allocation: As Hardin says:

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The Tragedy of the Commons is concerned with the allocation of resources...The unmanaged commons cannot possibly work once the population gets about a certain size.