Tragedy of the Commons
A term used to illustrate the conflict between individual interests and the common good, based on the assumption that when individuals use a public good, they do not consider the impact – or externalities – of their use on the good itself; as a result, public resources become overexploited. The term was popularized by Garrett Hardin in his 1968 Science article “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which used a hypothetical example of English Commons, shared plots of grassland used by all livestock farmers in a village. In this hypothetical, each farmer keeps adding more livestock to graze on the Commons, because it costs him nothing to do so. In a few years, the soil is depleted by overgrazing, the Commons becomes unusable, and the village perishes.