Reference #371: Thinking in Systems

The tragedy of the commons is a system archetype where, by their own bounded rationality, the users of a shared resource — the commons — harvest that resource until it is over-harvested then destroyed. Examples of commons are a shared pasture, a national park, or the global environment.

This pattern occurs when there is growth in a shared, erodible environment. Since the positive utility of the commons goes entirely to the user, while the negative utility is shared, that user either receives very delayed feedback on the consequence of use or no feedback at all. This fails to trigger them to adjust their behaviour and decrease their own use of the commons.

Meadows. Thinking in Systems, 2008. (116-118)

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