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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/1116/the-problem-of-the-commons/

The problem of the commons

November 18, 2003 by

Phillip Bagus today shows that Mises came before Hardin in the discussion of the problem of the commons. Let me also add Aristotle and Thucydides:

  • That all persons call the same thing mine in the sense in which each does so may be a fine thing, but it is impracticable; or if the words are taken in the other sense, such a unity in no way conduces to harmony.  And there is another objection to the proposal.  For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.  Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual.  For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill; as in families many attendants are often less useful than a few. (Aristotle, Politics, 1262a30-37)
  • [T]hey devote a very small fraction of the time to the consideration of any public object, most of it to the prosecution of their own objects.  Meanwhile, each fancies that no harm will come to his neglect, that it is the business of somebody else to look after this or that for him; and so, by the same notion being entertained by all separately, the common cause imperceptibly decays. (Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, bk. I, sec. 141).

Posted by Tibor R. Machan


Chris Watkins October 26, 2009 at 1:27 am

The link to Phillip Bagus today is broken. I assume this is it: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WeThePeopleCoalition/message/3113 – but it would be nice to have access to it on this site so I could be sure the Creative Commons Attribution license applies.

Iain January 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

So if someone objects to “unfettered individual liberty” because of the problem of the commons the response should be, “private property.”

Carter September 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm

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