Human Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–19 | Cite as

The Tragedy of the Commons: Twenty-two years later

  • David Feeny
  • Fikret Berkes
  • Bonnie J. McCay
  • James M. Acheson
Article

Abstract

Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons model predicts the eventual overexploitation or degradation of all resources used in common. Given this unambiguous prediction, a surprising number of cases exist in which users have been able to restrict access to the resource and establish rules among themselves for its sustainable use. To assess the evidence, we first define common-property resources and present a taxonomy of property-rights regimes in which such resources may be held. Evidence accumulated over the last twenty-two years indicates that private, state, andcommunal property are all potentially viable resource management options. A more complete theory than Hardin's should incorporate institutional arrangements and cultural factors to provide for better analysis and prediction.

Key words

co-management common property fisheries forests grazing lands sustainable development water resources wildlife 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Acheson, J. M. (1975). The lobster fiefs: Economic and ecological effects of territoriality in the Maine lobster industry.Human Ecology 3: 183–207.Google Scholar
  2. Acheson, J. M. (1987). The lobster fiefs, revisited: Economic and ecological effects of territoriality in the Maine lobster industry. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 37–65.Google Scholar
  3. Acheson, J. M. (1988).The Lobster Gangs of Maine. University Press of New England, Hanover, and London.Google Scholar
  4. Acheson, J. M. (1989a). Where have all the exploitings gone? Co-management of the Maine lobster industry. In Berkes, F. (ed.),Common Property Resources. Belhaven, London, pp. 199–217.Google Scholar
  5. Acheson, J. M. (1989b). Economic anthropology and the management of common property resources. In Plattner, S. (ed.),Economic Anthropology. Stanford University Press, Stanford, pp. 351–378.Google Scholar
  6. Agnello, R. J., and Donnelley, L. P. (1984). Regulation and the structure of property rights: The case of the U.S. oyster industry.Research in Law and Economics 6: 165–172.Google Scholar
  7. Anderson, E. N., Jr. (1987). A Malaysian tragedy of the commons. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 327–343.Google Scholar
  8. Arnold, J. E. M., and Campbell, J. G. (1986). Collective management of hill forests in Nepal: The community forestry development project. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 425–454.Google Scholar
  9. Baines, G. B. K. (1989). Traditional resource management in the Melanesian South Pacific: A development dilemma. In Berkes, F. (ed.),Common Property Resources. Belhaven, London, pp. 273–295.Google Scholar
  10. Bauer, D. (1987). The dynamics of communal and hereditary land tenure among the Tigray of Ethiopia. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 217–230.Google Scholar
  11. Berkes, F. (1977). Fishery resource use in a subarctic Indian community.Human Ecology 5: 289–307.Google Scholar
  12. Berkes, F. (1985). Fishermen and the “tragedy of the commons”.Environmental Conservation 12: 199–206.Google Scholar
  13. Berkes, F. (1986a). Marine inshore fishery management in Turkey. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 63–83.Google Scholar
  14. Berkes, F. (1986b). Local-level management and the commons problem: A comparative study of Turkish coastal fisheries.Marine Policy 10: 215–229.Google Scholar
  15. Berkes, F. (1987). Common-property resource management and Cree Indian fisheries in subartic Canada. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 66–91.Google Scholar
  16. Berkes, F. (ed.) (1989).Common Property Resources: Ecology and Community-Based Sustainable Development. Belhaven, London.Google Scholar
  17. Berkes, F., Feeny, D., McCay, B., and Acheson, J. M. (1989). The benefits of the commons.Nature 340: 91–93.Google Scholar
  18. Blaikie, P., and Brookfield, H. (1987). Common property resources and degradation worldwide. In Blaikie, P., and Brookfield, H. (eds.),Land Degradation and Society. Methuen, London, pp. 186–196.Google Scholar
  19. Bromley, D. W. (1986). Closing comments. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 593–598.Google Scholar
  20. Bromley, D. W. (1989a).Economic Interests and Institutions. Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  21. Bromley, D. W. (1989b). Property relations and economic development: The other land reform.World Development 17: 867–877.Google Scholar
  22. Bromley, D. W., and Cernea, M. M. (1989). The management of common property natural resources. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Discussion Paper No. 57.Google Scholar
  23. Bromley, D. W., and Chapagain, D. P. (1984). The village against the center: Resource depletion in South Asia.American Journal of Agricultural Economics 66: 868–873.Google Scholar
  24. Campbell, B., and Godoy, R. A. (1986). Commonfield agriculture: The Andes and medieval England compared. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 323–358.Google Scholar
  25. Charles, A. (1988). Fishery socioeconomics: A survey.Land Economics 64: 276–295.Google Scholar
  26. Ciriacy-Wantrup, S. V., and Bishop, R. C. (1975). “Common property” as a concept in natural resource policy.Natural Resources Journal 15: 713–727.Google Scholar
  27. Clark, C. W. (1973). The economics of overexploitation.Science 181: 630–634.Google Scholar
  28. Cordell, J. (ed.) (1989).A Sea of Small Boats. Cultural Survival, Inc., Cambridge.Google Scholar
  29. Cox, S. J. B. (1985). No tragedy on the commons.Environmental Ethics 7: 49–61.Google Scholar
  30. Cuyvers, L. (1984).Ocean Uses and Their Regulation. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  31. Dahlman, C. (1980).The Open Field System and Beyond: A Property Rights Analysis of an Economic Institution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  32. Dani, A. A., Gibbs, C. J. N., and Bromley, D. W. (1987).Institutional Development for Local Management of Rural Resources. East-West Center, Honolulu.Google Scholar
  33. Dasgupta, P. S. (1983).The Control of Resources. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  34. Demsetz, H. (1967). Toward a theory of property rights.American Economic Review 57: 347–359.Google Scholar
  35. Feeny, D. H. (1982).The Political Economy of Productivity: Thai Agricultural Development, 1880–1975. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.Google Scholar
  36. Feeny, D. H. (1988a). Agricultural expansion and forest depletion in Thailand, 1900–1975. In Richards, J. F. and Tucker, R. (eds.),World Forests in the Twentieth Century. Duke University Press, Durham, pp. 112–143, 281–287.Google Scholar
  37. Feeny, D. H. (1988b). The demand for and supply of institutional arrangements. In Ostrom, V., Feeny, D., and Picht, H. (eds.),Rethinking Institutional Analysis and Development: Issues, Alternatives and Choices. Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, San Francisco, pp. 159–209.Google Scholar
  38. Feeny, D. H. (1989). Where do we go from here?: Implications for the research agenda. McMaster University Department of Economics Working Paper 89-18.Google Scholar
  39. Feit, H. A. (1986). James Bay Cree Indian management and moral considerations of fur bearers. InNative People and Renewable Resource Management. Alberta Society of Professional Biologists, Edmonton, pp. 49–65.Google Scholar
  40. Feit, H. A. (1987). North American native hunting and management of moose populations.Swedish Wildlife Research Viltervy (Suppl. 1): 25–42.Google Scholar
  41. Fenoaltea, S. (1988). Transaction costs, Whig history, and the common fields.Politics and Society 16: 171–240.Google Scholar
  42. Fortmann, L., and Bruce, J. W. (eds.). (1988).Whose Trees? Proprietary Dimensions of Forestry. Westview, Boulder.Google Scholar
  43. Fortmann, L., and Roe, E. M. (1986). Common property management of water in Botswana. National Research Coucnil, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 161–180.Google Scholar
  44. Gadgil, M. (1985). Cultural evolution of ecological prudence.Landscape Planning 12: 285–299.Google Scholar
  45. Gadgil, M. (1987). Diversity: Cultural and ecological.Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2(12): 369–373.Google Scholar
  46. Gadgil, M., and Iyer, P. (1989). On the diversification of common property resource use by the Indian society, in Berkes, F. (ed.),Common Property Resources. Belhaven, London, pp. 240–255.Google Scholar
  47. Gibbs, C. J. N., and Bromley, D. W. (1989). Institutional arrangements for management of rural resources: Common-property regimes. In Berkes, F. (ed.),Common Property Resources. Belhaven, London, pp. 22–32.Google Scholar
  48. Godwin, R. K., and Shepard, W. B. (1979). Forcing squares, triangles and ellipses into a circular paradigm: The use of the commons dilemma in examining the allocation of common resources.Western Political Quarterly 32: 265–277.Google Scholar
  49. Gordon, J. S. (1954). The economic theory of a common-property resource: The fishery.Journal of Political Economy 62: 124–142.Google Scholar
  50. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons.Science 162: 1243–1248.Google Scholar
  51. Hardin, G. (1978). Political requirements for preserving our common heritage. In Brokaw, H. P. (ed.),Wildlife and America. Council on Environmental Quality, Washington, D.C., pp. 310–317.Google Scholar
  52. Hardin, G. (1979). Why plant a redwood tree? In Miller, G. T. (ed.),Living in the Environment (2nd Ed.). Wadsworth, Belmont, pp. 206–207.Google Scholar
  53. Hardin, G., and Baden, J. (eds.) (1977).Managing the Commons. Freemen, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  54. Jacobs, P., and Munro, D. A. (eds.) (1987).Conservation with Equity. Strategies for Sustainable Development. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Cambridge.Google Scholar
  55. Jodha, N. S. (1985). Population growth and the decline of common property resources in Rajasthan India.Population and Development Review 11: 247–264.Google Scholar
  56. Jodha, N. S. (1987). A case study of degradation of common property resources in India. In Blaikie, P., and Brookfield, H. (eds.),Land Degradation and Society. Methuen, London, pp. 196–207.Google Scholar
  57. Johannes, R. E. (1978). Traditional marine conservation methods in Oceania and their demise.Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 9: 349–364.Google Scholar
  58. Johannes, R. E. (1982). Traditional conservation methods and protected marine areas in Oceania.Ambio 11: 258–261.Google Scholar
  59. Johnson, D., and Anderson, D. (eds.) (1988).The Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from Northeast African History. Crook, London.Google Scholar
  60. Libecap, G. D. (1986). Government policies on property rights to land: U.S. implications for agricultural development in Mexico.Agricultural History 60: 32–49.Google Scholar
  61. Libecap, G. D., and Wiggins, S. N. (1985). The influence of private contractual failure on regulations: The case of oil field unitization.Journal of Political Economy 93: 690–714.Google Scholar
  62. Lineberry, R. (1983).Government in America (2nd Ed.). Little Brown, Boston.Google Scholar
  63. Lloyd, W. F. (1968).Lectures on Population, Value, Poor-laws, and Rent. Delivered in the University of Oxford during the Years 1832, 1833, 1834, 1835, and 1836. Reprints of Economic Classics, Kelley, New York.Google Scholar
  64. Maass, A., and Anderson, R. L. (1978).And the Desert Shall Rejoice. Conflict, Growth and Justice in Arid Environments. MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  65. Marchak, M. P. (1987). Uncommon property. In Marchak, P., Guppy, N., and McMullan, J. (eds.),Uncommon Property: The Fishing and Fish Processing Industries in British Columbia. Methuen, Toronto, pp. 3–31.Google Scholar
  66. Marchak, M. P. (1988–1989). What happens when common property becomes uncommon?BC Studies 80: 3–23.Google Scholar
  67. Marchak, M. P., Guppy, N., and McMullan, J. (eds.) (1987).Uncommon Property: The Fishing and Fish-Processing Industry in British Columbia. Methuen, Toronto.Google Scholar
  68. Matthews, R. (1988). Federal licensing policies for the Atlantic inshore fishery and their implementation in Newfoundland, 1973–1981.Acadiensis 17: 83–108.Google Scholar
  69. McCay, B. J. (1978). Systems ecology, people, ecology and the anthropology of fishing communities.Human Ecology 6: 397–422.Google Scholar
  70. McCay, B. J. (1980). A fishermen's cooperative, limited: Indigenous resource management in a complex society.Anthropological Quarterly 53: 29–38.Google Scholar
  71. McCay, B. J. (1987). The culture of the commoners. Historical observations on Old and New World fisheries. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 195–216.Google Scholar
  72. McCay, B. J. (1988). Muddling through the clam beds: Cooperative management of New Jersey's hard clam spawner sanctuaries.Journal of Shellfish Research 7: 327–340.Google Scholar
  73. McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.) (1987).The Question of the Commons. The culture and Ecology of Communal Resources. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  74. McCloskey, D. N. (1976). English open fields as behavior toward risk.Research in Economic History 1: 124–170.Google Scholar
  75. McEvoy, A. F. (1986).The Fisherman's Problem: Ecology and Law in the California Fisheries, 1850–1980. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  76. McEvoy, A. F. (1988). Toward an interactive theory of nature and culture: Ecology, production, and cognition in the California fishing industry. In Worster, D. (ed.),The Ends of the Earth: Perspective on Modern Environmental History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 211–229.Google Scholar
  77. McKean, M. A. (1982). The Japanese experience with scarcity: Management of traditional commons lands.Environmental Review 6: 63–88.Google Scholar
  78. McKean, M. A. (1986). Management of traditional common lands (iriaichi) in Japan. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 533–589.Google Scholar
  79. Moore, J. A. (1985). Science as a way of knowing — human ecology.American Zoologist 25: 483–637.Google Scholar
  80. National Research Council (1986).Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  81. Nebel, B. J. (1987).Environmental Science (2nd Ed.). Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  82. Netting, R., Netting, McC. (1976). What Alpine peasants have in common: Observations in communal tenure in a Swiss village.Human Ecology 4: 135–146.Google Scholar
  83. Oakerson, R. J. (1986). A model for the analysis of common property problems. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 13–30.Google Scholar
  84. Ostrom, E. (1986). Issues of definition and theory: Some conclusions and hypotheses. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. pp. 599–615.Google Scholar
  85. Ostrom, E. (1987). Institutional arrangements for resolving the commons dilemma: Some contending approaches. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 250–265.Google Scholar
  86. Ostrom, E. (1988). Institutional arrangements and the commons dilemma. In Ostrom, V., Feeny, D., and Picht, H. (eds.),Rethinking Institutional Analysis and Development. Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, San Francisco, pp. 101–139.Google Scholar
  87. Ostrom, E.Governing the Commons. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  88. Peters, P. E. (1987). Embedded systems and rooted models: The grazing lands of Botswana and the commons debate. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 171–194.Google Scholar
  89. Pinkerton, E. (ed.) (1989).Co-operative Management of Local Fisheries. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.Google Scholar
  90. Potter, V. R. (1974). The tragedy of the Sahel commons.Science 185: 813.Google Scholar
  91. Regier, H. A., and Grima, A. P. (1985). Fishery reserve allocation: An explanatory essay.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 42: 845–859.Google Scholar
  92. Repetto, R. (ed.) (1985).The Global Possible. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  93. Repetto, R. (1986).World Enough and Time. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  94. Ruddle, K. (1987). Administration and conflict management in Japanese coastal fisheries. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 273.Google Scholar
  95. Ruddle, K. (1989). Solving the common property dilemma. Village fisheries rights in Japanese coastal waters. In Berkes, F. (ed.),Common Property Resources. Belhaven, London, pp. 168–184.Google Scholar
  96. Ruddle, K., and Akimichi, T. (eds.) (1984).Maritime Institutions in the Western Pacific. National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.Google Scholar
  97. Ruddle, K., and Johannes, R. E. (eds.) (1985).The Traditional Knowledge and Management of Coastal Systems in Asia and the Pacific. Unesco, Jakarta.Google Scholar
  98. Schumacher, E. F. (1979).Good Work. Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  99. Scott, A. D. (1955). The fishery: The objectives of sole ownership.Journal of Political Economy 63: 116–124.Google Scholar
  100. Smith, M. E. (1988). Fisheries risk in modern contest.Maritime Anthropological Studies 1: 29–48.Google Scholar
  101. Talbot, L. M. (1986). Rangeland destruction in East Africa.Population and Development Review 12: 441–452.Google Scholar
  102. Thompson, F. P. (1975).Whigs and Hunters. Lane, London.Google Scholar
  103. Thomson, J. R., Feeny, D. H., and Oakerson, R. J. (1986). Institutional dynamics: The evolution and dissolution of common property resource management. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 392–424.Google Scholar
  104. Thomson, J. R., Feeny, D. H., and Oakerson, R. J. (1989). Institutional dynamics: The evolution and dissolution of common property resource management. McMaster University Department of Economics Working Paper 89-17.Google Scholar
  105. Vondal, P. J. (1987). The common swamplands of Southeastern Borneo: Multiple use, management, and conflict. In McCay, B. J., and Acheson, J. M. (eds.),The Question of the Commons. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 231–249.Google Scholar
  106. Wade, R. (1986). Common property reserve arrangement in South Indian villages. National Research Council, Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 231–257.Google Scholar
  107. Wade, R. (1987).Village Republics: Economic Conditions for Collective Action in South India. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  108. West, B. J., and Shlesinger, M. (1990). The noise in natural phenomena.American Scientist 78: 40–45.Google Scholar
  109. Wiggins, S. N., and Libecap, G. D. (1985). Oil field unitization: Contractual failure in the presence of imperfect information.American Economic Review 75: 368–385.Google Scholar
  110. World Commission on Environment and Development (1987).Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  111. World Conservation Strategy (1980).World Conservation Strategy: Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development. IUCN/UNEP/WWF, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland.Google Scholar
  112. World Resources Institute (1988).World Resources 1988–1989. Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Feeny
    • 1
  • Fikret Berkes
    • 2
  • Bonnie J. McCay
    • 3
  • James M. Acheson
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Economics and Clinical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Urban and Environmental StudiesBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  3. 3.Departments of Human Ecology and AnthropologyRutgers UniversityNew Brunswick
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MaineOrono

Personalised recommendations