Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tragedy of the Commons

Have you heard of the "Tragedy of the Commons"? As I understand it, it was first described by biologist Garrett Hardin. The cartoon basically describes the situation (if someone can tell me where the cartoon came from, I'll give them credit).

The basic situation is that if any one of the four shepherds chooses to be the nice guy and only stick with his 4 sheep, or only let his 4 sheep graze on equal grass, then he will feel trapped thinking that maybe one of the other shepherds might take more. It is a way of thinking that encourages you to take while you can, because no one else is going to.

This explains why we would make decisions that we know would ultimately hurt others, and thus ourselves. We know that we are relational creatures, yet we constantly make decisions that harm those relations - and thus, ultimately ourselves. Because sometimes we get the mistaken illusion that sometimes, someone else should sacrifice or get out of the way so that I can prosper. But it never works that way.

I think the Tragedy of the Commons is a common reality, but that is not the way that life has to work. When you realize that being a Giver rather than a Taker provides for everyone, then we all prosper. But you have to trust, and you have to give first.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sort of sounds like Game Theory.