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The Tragedy of the Commons and Resource Management in Botswana

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Runge, C. Ford
Date: 1985
Agency: Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Series: A Colloquium on Issues in African Land Tenure, LTC Paper, no. 124
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5652
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Africa
Subject(s): land tenure and use
tragedy of the commons
Abstract: "The subject of this paper is the 'tragedy of the commons,' a thesis first popularized in its modern version in Garrett Hardin's now famous 'Science' article of 1968. Since then, it has in many ways become the dominant paradigm of resource overexploitation resulting from common ownership. As an explanation, it has formed the basis of numerous public policies devoted to 'privatizing' natural resources from current policies in the United States to many effort s to end common ownership of resources in the developing world. It is directly relevant to Botswana's experience with range management. The influence which the tragedy of the commons thesis has had on policy in Botswana can be seen directly in the 1975 Tribal Grazing Land Policy White Paper, and the Chambers and Feldman consultants report which preceded and formed the basis for it. Here I would like to investigate the soundness of this thesis as a basis for policy. First, I will examine its logical properties, looking carefully at its major premises and conclusions. I will argue that it is an erroneous and inaccurate description of many problems of common resource use, which leads to a limited view of policy options and a restricted sense of the institutions capable of successfully managing natural resources."

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