Showing posts from May, 2015

Democracy is a Tragedy of the Commons

A tragedy of the commons exists when there are individual incentives to act against the collective interest. Peeing in a swimming pool is a good example of a tragedy of the commons. If you pee in a swimming pool, the pee quickly disperses through the water. If you are the only one peeing in the pool, it has little effect on you. If a hundred other people use the pool and many of them pee in the water, the water quality is degraded so that all swimmers are affected. The urine interacts with the chlorine to produce noxious chemicals that irritate skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Everyone would prefer to swim in clean water, and would be willing to not pee in the water in exchange for this benefit. However, there is no incentive to not pee in the water. The cost of an individual peeing in the water is shared by everyone. The benefit (the convenience) goes to the individual alone. Thus, each individual has an incentive to pee in the water. So, everyone pees in the water, and everyo