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Capturing the Commons: An Introduction

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Type: Working Paper
Author: McCay, Bonnie J.; Acheson, James M.
Date: 1987
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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/4165
Sector: Theory
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Subject(s): common pool resources
property rights
tragedy of the commons
Abstract: "The 'tragedy of the commons' paradigm is a behavioral and ecological theory rooted in classical microeconomics about human response to resource decline. According to the theory of common property resources, all resources held in common or in the public domain, such as water, oceans, air, rivers, and public grazing land, are inexorably doomed to over exploitation. So-called 'common property resources' are owned by no one and thus are not protected by anyone. Why should those who use such resources conserve or protect them? The fish, wildlife, grasses, waters that are not exploited today will only be taken by someone else tomorrow. It is not just that they may be wasted by an uncaring public. Rather, common property users are said to be locked into a competitive system in which it is only rational that they get as much of the resource for themselves as quickly as they can. Escalating abuse ceases only when the resource is stripped bare or befouled beyond value."

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