More on Public Goods - "Commons"

Following up on the previous post, it's worth mentioning something called "commons", a day to day word that's become quite important since we have all become more conscious of scarce resources. In economics, commons refers to natural (and also cultural) resources available to all members of a society. These resources are held in common, rather than privately. A good example, often quoted, is grazing rights for animals.

A lot has been written about the difference between public and common goods. Perhaps the simplest way to compare them is to note that public goods are generally best administered by a government and commons by the stakeholders. However, this is not a hard and fast rule.

A particular topic within that of commons is the so-called "tragedy of the commons" which describes a situation in which users pursue individual interests without regard to a more general benefit or loss. Again, the most telling examples are taken from agriculture - grazing causing destruction of grassland, water sources being exhausted - but there are many others. This is a subject worth looking into and people are increasingly interested in it.


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