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The Tragedy of the Commons or the Tragedy of Misinterpretation in Economics?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Aguilera-Klink, Fredrico
Conference: Common Property Conference, the Second Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Conf. Date: September 26-30, 1991
Date: 1991
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2347
Sector: Theory
Subject(s): tragedy of the commons--debate
common pool resources
Abstract: "This paper aims to provide a reflection, from an economist's perspective, on some vital conceptual aspects of the subject of common property resources. Specifically, it aims to show how management of the commons is transformed into the problem of the commons, following the works on fishing by Gordon and Scott, eventually becoming the tragedy of the commons thanks to Hardin. "This approach, in my view, confuses a problem, such as lack of agreement between users of a resource, with a concept (common property in the sense of a social institution) which for centuries has facilitated sustainable management of resources and ecosystems. Paradoxically, this confusion has persisted due to an interpretation of the work of Adam Smith which may be viewed as biased and erroneous since it underestimates the important role which Smith confers on ethics. "I conclude by pointing out that management of natural resources, which requires user agreement, is a situation which, objectively at any rate, cannot be given the name common property. Nevertheless, given that the concept of common property is highly valuable in facilitating a solution to the aforementioned problem, it is suggested that its application is crucial to man's survival."

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