Public Choice

, Volume 124, Issue 3–4, pp 353–364 | Cite as

The tragedy of the political commons: Evidence from U.S. Senate roll call votes on environmental legislation

  • Anwar HussainEmail author
  • David N. Laband


When the costs of regulation are borne by individuals outside of their political jurisdiction, an elected politician arguably will vote in favor of socially costly regulations because from his/her narrow perspective even small marginal benefits outweigh zero marginal costs. Our empirical analysis of the environmental voting records of U.S. Senators from 1991 to 2002 reveals a pronounced tendency for Senators to vote against (in favor of) environmental bills that impose costs in their (other) states. The straightforward implication is that elected politicians overgraze the regulatory pasture.


environmental legislation majority voting political commons roll call 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Forestry and Wildlife SciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnU.S.A.

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