Letter to the Editor
Icannot let pass the challenge to Garrett Hardin's 'Tragedy of the Commons' (Sustainable Economics Dec 2008). Ian Angus gets two things right. Real commons do get managed properly, and private property is not, or at least not necessarily the answer. But what Angus overlooks was actually missed by Hardin himself: that the 'Tragedy' actually occurs in real situations as the climax of a process of expansion.
Is Angus aware of the history of Easter Island, which played out Hardin's theoretical concept in grisly detail?This happens because once the potential for expansion occurs, for example on Easter Island and for us in the world as a whole, exploitation inevitably takes a competitive, individualistic course. Even on Easter Island, the communal solutions to which Angus refers were beginning to develop by the Time Captain Cook took a Polynesian interpreter in 1774, but not in time to prevent exactly what Hardin predicted.