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Tragedy of the Commons


Multiple agents acting in rational self interest escalate their actions such that they deplete a shared, erodible resource.

Description of Behavioural Traits


In a "Tragedy of the Commons" situation, individuals make use of a common resource by pursuing actions for their own enjoyment or benefit, without concern for the collective impact of everyone's actions. At some point, the sum of all individual activity overloads the "commons" and all parties involved experience diminishing benefits. The commons may even collapse.


Effective solutions for a "Tragedy of the Commons" scenario never lie at the individual level

Ask questions such as: "What are the incentives for individuals to persist in their actions?" "Can the long-term collective loss be made more real and immediate to the individual actors?"

Find ways to reconcile short-term cumulative consequences. A governing body that is chartered with the sustainability of the resource can help.

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