November 04, 2011

The tragedy of the commons – a modern example

Writing about web page http://www.smh.com.au/environment/-1mzw0.html

When discussing collective action problems and Hardin's "tragedy of the commons" in class the other week, one or two of my MA in Public Policy students expressed scepticism that modern humans would be so stupid as to exploit a resource past the point of no return. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Exhibit A: Kashmir's Lake Dal, discussed in a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald this week (link above). Of course, the article doesn't say much about the decades of more-or-less civil war that has prevented much in the way of collective problem resolution. But even with the problem being drawn to the attention of international journalists now it may already be too late, and we will have once again succeeded in fouling our own nest. We should never assume that collective action problems beset uneducated or primitive "others". It happens now, here. Keep an eye out for examples. And, for those who haven't seen it, here's a link to Hardin's classic article: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.124.3859&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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