How do we prevent the ‘tragedy of the commons’ globally?



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    The theory of the “tragedy of the commons” is that each individual user of a common resource wants to optimize the benefit he receives, but the cumulative result is an eventual destruction or overuse of the resource. The common example used is a grazing field, where each farmer wants to add as many of his own cows as possible to the eventual detriment of the field through overgrazing. The tragedy is that by each player trying to win, everyone loses. There are a couple ways to avert this tragedy, namely regulation through quotas or barriers and privatization or the assignment of fees. In the case of fisheries, for example, each fisherman can be given a quota of fish or a designated area in which to cast his lines (obviously a more difficult task than in a field!). Fees are a better solution to something like pollution, although the cap and trade system is a good example of quotas. These solutions can also be applied globally by treating each country as a “player” or participant.

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