Talk:Tragedy of the commons

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I query the History section, even though it has citations. It starts off:

The enclosure movements in England (which led to over 5000 Inclosure Acts between 1750 and 1860) prompted the analysis of this economic principle, probably known to Adam Smith.

This doesn't make much sense. The Enclosures got rid of the commons (i.e., common grazing land). Why would they prompt the analysis of this principle? In fact, the Enclosures were connected with the development of capitalism, and were not a reaction to overgrazing. And why say the principle was "probably known to Adam Smith"? Either he discussed it, or he didn't. Much of the rest of the section doesn't seem particularly relevant to the topic.--Jack Upland (talk) 20:58, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

It does sound as though WP:ESSAY and WP:BOLLOCKS richly apply to the section. Also sounds as if you'd be the perfect person to cut it down to size? Chiswick Chap (talk) 07:04, 8 March 2014 (UTC)
The Enclosures were connected with the development of capitalism. They were not a reaction to overgrazing. Actually overgrazing actually wasnt a problem at all for smaller communities regulating their common land. But the commons stood in the way of the scientific consensus of economists which preferedd large landowners haveing their say. So the Enclosure Movement is strongly connected to the commons ;) but, as discussed, overgrazing is not connected to it. Serten (talk) 14:35, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

Antibiotic use and resistance[edit]

An article in Nature used the Tragedy of the Commons as a metaphor for antibiotic use.</ref>Megan Cully. Public health: The politics of antibiotics. Nature 509, S16–S17 (01 May 2014) doi:10.1038/509S16a</ref> In each instance where an antibiotic is used its use may be rational; but each instance contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance, and the eventual failure of that antibiotic. It seems an accurate metaphor. --peter_english (talk) 18:58, 1 May 2014 (UTC)


This picture of cows is irrelevant to the topic at hand and should be removed. A picture of a barren/destroyed ecosystem would work better. Alekvuozzo (talk) 23:39, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Totally agree. Images of happy cows is one subtle and powerful ways the ranching industry attempts to whitewash their consequences. I've replace that image with one with more barren grazing in Afghanistan. Cutelyaware (talk) 22:40, 22 October 2020 (UTC)

Can we have a bit more in the caption about what the new picture is saying. Is the area concerned subject to un-regulated grazing? Has it deteriorated as a result? The previous image showed a UK common, which is where the concept came from. Dougsim (talk)

What makes UK commons better examples of the concept? I could see that if something of historical significance happened in a particular village with images of the consequences, but otherwise I don't see the value. Better is an image showing the problem itself, since that is what the article is about. Cutelyaware (talk) 22:35, 9 January 2021 (UTC)


The term was most popular around 1800, but is based on some citations of the greek classics. Insofar there is no use all to claim Hardin as inventor of the term. Serten (talk) 13:39, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

Where is the evidence for this claim? What "citations of the greek classics"? Google Ngram clearly shows that the term only started to register in books after 1968, when Hardin published his classic paper. There is no sign at all that "the term was most popular around 1800". Are you just making this stuff up all by yourself? If you didn't, then you need to document your case with reliable sources that support your view. Otherwise you are engaged in original research, which is not acceptable on Wikipedia. --Epipelagic (talk) 21:43, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Gee, the early economic literature used - not only according Radkau - the "klapprige allmendekuh" (dry cow of the commons) quite often. Try real science as in "Allmende und Allmendaufhebung: vergleichende Studien zum Spätmittelalter bis zu den Agrarreformen des 18./19. Jahrhunderts Hartmut Zückert Lucius & Lucius DE, 2003" - the debate started in the 18. Century, full stop, and Hardin - in contrary to Osrom - completely ignored actual commons. Hardin himself quoted a 1833 pamphlet by William Forster Lloyd, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Serten (talk) 22:54, 17 September 2014 (UTC) PS.: Alfred Thomas Grove and Oliver Rackhams history of the Nature of Mediterranean Europe, denounce Hardin as "an American with no notion at all how Commons actually work". If you continue to ignore basic science and still try to upheld the lies about Hardin defining the topic, you violate basic WP rules. Why?

Radical rewrite[edit]

I have reverted a radical rewrite of the article by Serten. These involved the dismissal of well cited material totalling nearly 40% of the original article. The reason given for these mass deletions was entpovt, whatever that means. The remainder of the article was then restructured. I would like Serten to explain his thinking with these changes, and achieve some consensus here before actually making the changes. --Epipelagic (talk) 20:43, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

The previous version of the article claimed that Hardin coined the term as ecowarning end of the 1960. Thats completely inacceptable and against all evidence. It doesnt stand any scrutiny. No consensus with any sort of intro claiming that. The scientific literature states that the origin of the term is the use as forestry science and agriculture modernization rationale end of the 18th century and Hardins metaphorical use is a more fringe aspect much later on. Insofar the article had to be rewritten radically. A big part of it was original research trying to provide examples for the Hardin story, which is more or less neomalthusian nonsense. As said, thats neither needed nor in line with WP policy. Insofar keep the new version, the old one is neither acceptable nor based on valid sourcing. [Please notify that I already have used the talk page and given a rationale for my changes.[User:Serten|Serten]] (talk) 21:16, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Twice now you have reverted back to your radical rewrite, including it's bad English, and are trying to edit war your version into place. You have ignored the advice given by wp:brd. Your rewrite goes way beyond your dubious claim above that the term "tragedy of the commons" cannot be said to originate with Hardin, and you have provided no reliable sources to back your claims. In short, the original research seems to be coming from you. I invite you now to do the decent thing. Please revert yourself and start discussing your issues properly by offering reliable sources. --Epipelagic (talk) 22:03, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Are you kidding? Whoever claims that the term was originated by Hardin hasnt read the basic literature on the topic. To call Joachim Radkau Nature and Power: A Global History of the Environment a dubious source is as offensive as funny. Serten (talk) 22:24, 17 September 2014 (UTC) PS.: Try his quote of Alfred Thomas Grove and Oliver Rackhams, both scholars speaking white, via google books. Hardins science article has been quoted, but he is deemed an ignoramus in environemntal history. Serten (talk) 22:42, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

Far from reverting herself, Serten is continuing to flood the article with her point of view. She also seems to be gearing up to a radical rewrite of sustainability on Wikipedia. According to Serten's interpretation of her countryman Joachim Radkau, sustainability and the tragedy of the commons are concepts which originated in "medevial Saxony Ore mountains" and German forests, and this overshadows other viewpoints. --Epipelagic (talk) 23:22, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

I am using scientific sources to improve the article. Thats called editing, not flooding. My countrywoman Joachim Radkau got her own article and some books in the one and only language youre able to utter. Hardin was a zoologist that got a slot in Science for some neomalthusian gibberish, he was neither an expert in history nor in economy. That said, both Radkau and Ostrom are the sources to take into account. And yes, sustainability as a policy concept of dealing with natural ressources started with another countrybeing, Hans Carl von Carlowitz compare "Inventor of sustainability" in die Zeit. Serten (talk) 09:45, 18 September 2014 (UTC) PS.: "The good version" would never use Hardin as base of the intro. You still ignore the facts honey.
The only sources you have mentioned in discussion so far have been confined to a minor German historian Joachim Radkau, to a German tax accountant Hans Carl von Carlowitz, and to an American political economist Elinor Ostrom. Where are the high scientific credentials you keep claiming, sweetheart. You have not only reverted back to your version again without consensus, but you have removed the POV tag from the article. Why? Do you think there is no POV dispute here, or is it just arrogance? You are now also behaving equally badly on History of sustainability. --Epipelagic (talk) 23:31, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Contrary to your claimes, I have provided further sources and I never quoted Hans Carl von Carlowitz.

  • David Bollier and Silke Helfrich Collection of 73 essays that describe the enormous potential of the commons in conceptualizing and building a better future,
  • Hartmut Zückert: Allmende und Allmendaufhebung. Vergleichende Studien zum Spätmittelalter bis zu den Agrarreformen des 18./19. Jahrhunderts (= Quellen und Forschungen zur Agrargeschichte; Bd. 47), Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius 2003, IX + 462 S., 4 Farb-Abb., ISBN 978-3-8282-0226-9 review (in German)
  • Huberman, Bernardo A. and Romero, Daniel M. and Wu, Fang, Crowdsourcing, Attention and Productivity (September 12, 2008). Available at SSRN:
  • Avoiding Tragedy in the Wiki-Commons, by Andrew George, 12 Va. J.L. & Tech. 8 (2007)
  • Elinor Ostrom got a nobel prize on her work on commons. Youre claiming she was introduced by me, she was already quoted before I edited in the article, she alone is enough to get rid of the Hardin bullshit.
  • Joachim Radkau is THE specialist in the field of environmental history, the book quoted about nature and power got the Bentley Book Prize.
  • Radkaus point about Hardin being an ignoramus which didnt know anything about real commons is quoted from The Nature of Mediterranean Europe: An Ecological History, by Alfred Thomas Grove, Oliver Rackham, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 88.

You cannot ask for consensus as long as you deny factual evidence, Epipelagic. The consensus concept does not apply to factual errors. Hardin didnt invent the topic, he was ignorant about actual commons and didnt have any proper background to write about historical topics. No consensus needed to state that, similar as no consensus at all will allow you to restore Phlogiston or Aether theories in actual physics articles. You might suggest to restore parts of the previous version, as you seem to miss some of the lists included. I will however ask for real sourcing and not allow further OR. Serten (talk) 04:23, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

What "factual evidence" have I denied? You don't bother to read what I actually write, do you? It seems to be part of a general lack of respect. I presume you just skim over the top and then have some fantasy which you reply to as though it was something to do with me. The sources I was referring to were the "only sources you have mentioned in discussion so far", not sources in the article. You are bulldozing the issue by removing POV tags, and refusing to revert your contested changes and move to a collaborative and consensual approach to editing. It is no surprise you got into so much trouble on the German Wikipedia, and unless you are willing and able to change you will be heading to a similar fate here. The fact is that I think you have some good points and the article should move in some of the directions you have indicated. But it is clearly a waste of time trying to discuss such issues when you so rudely pre-empt any possibility of collegiate debate. It's a shame, because at one level you probably have something to offer Wikipedia. At another level you sabotage yourself by your refusal to respect fellow editors. In short, the way things are now I can't be bothered with you. --Epipelagic (talk) 05:21, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
You tried to ridicule Radkau and Ostrom and you havent read or registered the sources I have provided. Instead of discussing content, you reverted several times to a bullshit version. I may not suffer fools gladly but you disrupt improvement of the article in question. You defende fringe theories of an eugenist and bell curve friend like Hardin - that doesnt help respect wise. Serten (talk) 06:03, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Tsk, tsk... there you go again. --Epipelagic (talk) 07:51, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Sorry I read what you have written "The only sources you have mentioned in discussion so far have been confined to a minor German historian Joachim Radkau, to a German tax accountant Hans Carl von Carlowitz, and to an American political economist Elinor Ostrom. Where are the high scientific credentials you keep claiming, sweetheart" and you dare to ask for collegiality. Start debating content and get rid of that horse, the corpse stinks already. Serten (talk) 14:18, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

There are multiple reliable sources which show the tragedy of the commons is a real thing, rather than some fallacy. Stop this. bobrayner (talk) 21:46, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

Hardin was - as quoted - an ignorant which was not aware of actual commons at all and he surely was not the one that inventied the metaphor. Thats out of discussion, so the intro has to be changed. I would prefer you better respect Radkau and his credentials, same for Groe or, beware Ostrom which all do not take Hardin seriously. As steted and proven, the metaphor has been used since the 18 century at least, it should be no problem to come up with examples. I have already reinserted some of the examples of the previous version and insofar stepped back from the radical rewrite. You may use as well further sources or list some of the topics where the alleged tragedy of the commons occured or the metaphor was used. Serten (talk) 21:55, 19 September 2014 (UTC)


If you still want to have Hardin broadly in the intro, you need to state Groves and Radkaus assumption, that he was completely ignorant of the topic, had no idea how commons actually work and was debunked completely by various experts in the field, including Ostrom. The factual evidence is showing that Harding had no idea of what he was talking about but parroted neomalthuisian gibberish and the tragedy of the commons was used as a metaphor centueries ahead of him. Serten (talk) 01:14, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Then please show a measure of patience and restraint, and stop bulldozing and edit warring your preferred version in place. I'm not unsympathetic to some of your views, and will check them out as I get time. If we need other editors, they will turn up eventually or we can solicit them. But let's get this right rather than just making it a matter of who can be the rudest and the most bulldozing. --Epipelagic (talk) 01:50, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Goodness. Wikipedia:Don't revert due solely to "no consensus". Just keep what has been improved. Serten (talk) 01:54, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Oh dear, you've just made four reversions in five hours. That's a blockable offence if anyone notices. We can't just keep what has been improved until we have established whether it really has been improved. You have made too many changes for that to be a simple matter. Why don't you avoid the possibility of a block by self-reverting, and then start the ball rolling in a constructive direction by explaining why "Groves and Radkaus assumption, that he was completely ignorant of the topic" is an issue of such importance that it should overshadow the rest of the article. Hardin's paper has been cited by over 24,000 other scholars, and none of them seem to think he was "completely ignorant of the topic". It is an issue of balance. Groves and Radkaus could be right, but you need more reliable sources which back up that contention. --Epipelagic (talk) 02:16, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

@Bazonka, Serten, and Jarble: Serten, you have reverted to the original version, apart from the addition of this sentence to the lead...

"Garrett Hardin used the model as baseline of a neomalthusian outlook on human nature interaction in a famous article in Science 1968. However according environmental historians Joachim Radkau, Alfred Thomas Grove and Oliver Rackham Hardin as "an American with no notion at all how Commons actually work" had no idea what he was writing about nor any notion of the historical background.[1] The tragedy of the commons had already been used as a metaphor since the 18. century and the alleged inavoidable failure of the Commons has been thoroughly debunked since, among others by Elinor Ostrom."

It's not appropriate to include Radkau here. In his book he merely quoted from Grove and Rackham's book The Nature of Mediterranean Europe without specifically endorsing what they said. So your case rests on just one source. I see you are currently applying the same undue weight based on the same book to Mediterranean Sea. In addition, you have provided no sources for your contention that the term "tragedy of the commons" originated in the 18th century. --Epipelagic (talk) 22:36, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Science is not based on majorities. Hardin was no expert in the field of commons and neither in environmental history, Radkau, Grove and with regard to commons, Nobel Prize laureate Ostrom are distinguished espert and their research is modern. Hardin, as already quoted in the artcile acknowledged himself that he had chosen a wrong track with the title and subject of his essay in science. I in so far dont care much how his believe was parroted - same as with Paul "the end is nigh" Ehrlich versus Julian Lincoln Simon. Ehrlich never got it right, but his doom was quoted, Licoln won his bet and provided reliable research, but had much more trouble to get heard. The point is my set of sources (sorry, just start to read instead of deny them as listed above, its clearly stated in Radkau and others, even Hardin mentions the greek classics and the 1833 predecessor), prove that the tragedy commons was a) discussed much earlier than Hardin and his followers suggests and b) the tragedy commons can be interpreted as a failure of all sort of cooperative approaches and to prefere authoritarian state or individual property owners control instead b) as call to action to get failing commons regulated in different ways. That said, we do not have any reason to declare Hardins writings a sort of holy scripture, ist just another malthusian approach with rather controversial genocide / eugenic population control statements. Undue Weight applys as well to the notion of Hardins essay, Ostrom and the environmental historians are providing actual and much more up to date reasearch on the topic. That said I suggest to restore the background section I introduced and the section about the modern comedy of the commons - which we contribute to within Wikipedia btw., contradicting Hardin again. Serten (talk) 21:25, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
You seem to be pushing some libertarian cornucopian fantasy where you imagine the world is not a finite resource. That is more a self-serving ideology that has nothing to do with science. You may find some economists in the pocket of the business sector pushing that view, but you will not find mainstream scientists upholding it. You have not provided a single additional source for your overblown claim that Hardin "had no idea what he was writing about nor any notion of the historical background." Nor have you provided a single source for your claim that the term tragedy of the commons has "been used as a metaphor since the 18. century". Accordingly I have deleted the claims you have added to the lead. Do not add these claims back unless you can adequately source them. --Epipelagic (talk) 00:21, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, you should know better - Radkau page 91 in the german version or page 42 and 43 in Die Ära der Ökologie: eine Weltgeschichte , "die Reformer versicherten, die Allmende sei ein Sumpf von Schlendrian und Misswirtschaft, und die gemeinen Wälder und Weiden seien ..., Diese Situation entsand in der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts." Same is to be found at Zückert. I have shown you that many times before, you seem to stay in denial mode. Goodness about cornucopia: Thats completly off topic and neither Radkau nor Grove nor anybody else mentioned here (except Lincoln) is a cornucopian sensu strictu. First what you try to offend as "libertarian cornucopian fantasy" is completely in line with science and is it based on science, engineers call it calculus, mineralogists love the Deborah number. It is no problem at all but normal behavior of most technical and economic scientists to assume certain (de)finite amounts (age of the universe, weight of the earth, speed of light) and so forth as infinite - since the finite ranges are not important for their businesses resepctively so large in comparision, that its not important to use finite amounts. With regard to ressources, just tell me any elementary ressource that has been exhausted so far.Serten (talk) 01:20, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
That confirms you are just pushing a fringe fantasy ideology. That explains your confusion about what science is. --Epipelagic (talk) 01:34, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
OK, now you have to try to get back to reality yourself. You think Radkau, Grove or Ostrom are fringe and genocide-population-control eugenist Hardin is mainstream? Interesting sort of weed! Serten (talk) 01:49, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
@Serten, Serten II, and Epipelagic: The article about Garrett Hardin does mention an "alleged justification of genocide", but that assertion is not supported by any reliable sources on Wikipedia. Jarble (talk) 21:34, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

I <really> don't want to re-ignite the tetchy debate above, but I do have some comments. I came here to discuss the acceptability of the word 'theory' in reference to this phrase 'tragedy of the commons', and then I discover all of this! I'll try and say what I have to say as clearly as I can (I haven't made, and won't make, any edits without conversation first).

1/ The description of the phrase 'tragedy of the commons' uses the word 'theory'. And since this is within the context of academia and presents as 'science', then we should expect that this definition of Scientific Theory would hold. But it doesn't. Hardin's coining of the term (it does appear that he coined the term, accepting the prior outlinings of the idea) was in the context of an essay, not a peer reviewed piece, and did not offer itself for falsification or proof. I propose that the word 'hypothesis' should replace 'theory' here. Hypothesis is slightly weaker term, inviting further research.

2/ The deep and serious work of Elinor Ostrom - a Nobel Prize winning economist on commons of all kinds is carefully analytical and research based [1]. Her findings are that there is no inevitability about resource depletion in commons. In fact she found many examples of commons that had been sustained over long periods. Further, she and her co-researchers have systematically identified characteristics which obtain when commons are sustained. Her work is both serious science, and presents a significant challenge to Hardin's proposition. Thus I propose that her work be given a short description here.

dilgreen (talk) 23:20, 27 August 2017 (UTC)

Arthr Rubins intro[edit]

I agree that discussing Hardin in the intro is not suitable for a compromise. I have however restored the quotes in the critisism part and gave an overview about the historical background of actual commons and the use of the metaphor then. That might be elaborated in the Commons article. I would be Ok with the article in this version. Serten (talk) 04:11, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

NPOV, other issues[edit]

The article claims Hardin as the inventor, which is not even claimed by Hardin himself, and has no links or reference to actual Commons, which is sort of funny as well. Serten (talk) 07:12, 26 October 2014 (UTC) Either provide sources for the claims or leave the tags where they belong. Serten (talk) 13:47, 29 October 2014 (UTC)

The link for source 11 does not exist anymore, thus there needs to be an updated citation for the Criticisms Page.

original research[edit]

Re [1] Yes this is original research. The categorization of various phenomenon according to some Wikipedia editor is the very definition of original research. If it's not original research then it should be trivial to find a reliable secondary source which has something like this table in it.

(This is putting aside the fact that this whole idea of "Comedy of the commons" is essentially OR/non-notable as well)

Volunteer Marek (talk) 01:23, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

This is what I thought; and you have just admitted that you are deleting material because you don't agree with it.
Wikipedia editors are free to present information pretty much however they want; that's what we do, we summarise information. WP:OR is when you add novel information that is synthesised from multiple sources. This is in no way original research. You appear to be simply deleting material to the detriment of the project because you don't like it. Tell me do you delete other information in this way? I ask so we can revert your edits.GliderMaven (talk) 01:29, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
It has nothing to do with whether I agree or disagree with it. It has everything to do with the fact that this is unsourced original research.
No, Wikipedia editors are not "free to present information much however they want" (sic). Information has to be sourced and it must be based on reliable secondary sources.
Look, it's simple. If this is NOT original research, then give me a source.Volunteer Marek (talk) 02:07, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Yes, we are allowed to summarise material, pretty much however you want, provided it's accurately summarised. No this is not OR. Please explain how you think this is supposed to be OR; what novel conclusion is being presented?GliderMaven (talk) 02:18, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Please provide a source for the material. It's a simple and legitimate request.Volunteer Marek (talk) 02:35, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

imposing order on the solution section[edit]

I love this article because it tries to deal with an important political topic in a nonpolitical way. But the solution section was way too chaotic to me. I am not an expert in the field of economics or political science so I mainly tried to use the keywords that were already in place and seemed well sourced. Some of the subsections have little information but I was hoping that someone more knowledgeable than me would either fill in the details or delete if it is impertinent. I apologize if I caused more troubles than good. Keep up the good work here. TStein (talk) 21:04, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

New External Links[edit]

The smurf link is downright confusing. I'd like to replace it with one that's clearer. Here are two options:

Brinerustle (talk) 12:31, 29 December 2016 (UTC)

Bottom trawling is described in 1376 as "great damage of the whole commons of the kingdom"; an early example of the concept and conflict of overuse of a common area by some to the detriment of others. I am not sure the complaints are a reference of TotC, but other editors may be more bold. 100 MB link, page 2 TGCP (talk) 20:45, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Meaning of "commons"[edit]

What meaning of "commons" is used here? --Backinstadiums (talk) 08:59, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

Digital commons[edit]

I don't think Yochai Benkler was critical of the traditional conception of the tragedy of the commons: he simply observed that it doesn't apply in the digital commons, because there is no (practical) constraint on the size of the commons. The tragedy of commons is a function of scarcity of a resource and unlimited demand. In cyberspace, resource is not scarce, making it a fundamentally different proposition to physical space. ElectricRay (talk) 13:29, 21 December 2020 (UTC)

Unhampered Vs. Unregulated[edit]

The introduction talks about individuals "who have open access to a resource unhampered by shared social structures or formal rules that govern access and use". Open access itself is a shared social structure that governs access and use so the phrasing is logically incoherent. The assumption that open access is an objective social structure is a contested perspective that, at the very least, requires explanation.

I would suggest instead that the definition is improved in both clarity and accuracy by substituting this phrase with "unregulated access to a resource". Simplecommoner (talk) 21:42, 17 August 2021 (UTC)