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Antitrust and the Commons: Cooperation or Collusion?

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Yandle, Bruce
Date: 1997
Agency: Center for Private Conservation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5245
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Subject(s): tragedy of the commons
environmental policy
Abstract: "People have long been aware that unbridled access to natural resources could result in ruin for all. Whether by custom, kinship, or ownership, people found ways to assign limited rights for the sharing of pastures, streams, and hunting grounds. The story of property rights, whether common, public or private, is a story about limiting access to otherwise common-access resources. Efforts to sustain stocks of species and increase productivity of natural resources inevitably lead to an access restriction. In the absence of rules for managing common-access resources, initial output will be higher and prices at first will be lower. Eventually, unbridled use will destroy a pasture, fishery or wildlife population. Access restrictions when imposed systematically assure long periods of sustained environmental use and can avoid the tragedy of the commons. The 'Tragedy of the Commons' is defined as, 'a resource used by a number of individuals but is unrationed by rules, custom or property rights.' As demand for the resource increases, and its existance is threatened, society runs the risk of losing the resource. Yet individuals are motivated to respond by increasing their use of the resource. For the resource to survive, access must be rationed by formal or informal means. However, in the minds of some, rules, customs, and property rights that limit access and production raise the specter of monopoly control."

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