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tragedy of the commons

The tragedy of the commons, as defined by economistGarrett Hardin, was the destruction of the commons due to the chronic inability of the public sector to protect it from depredations of the private sector.

It is represented in two diametrically opposed ways:

In green politics, a slightly different position tends to be advocated, that failures to preserve natural capital tend to make both the rich and the poor, poorer:
  • the poor lose access to the goods, period, and can't pay for access elsewhere, accordingly, are forced into crime
  • the rich lose access to common public goods they used to be able to exploit freely, and have to pay for access elsewhere, meanwhile they become victims of crime

Well-being for both groups goes down substantially, even for the rich who have managed to exploit the resource fully before it was exhausted.