Review of Political Economy vol:21 issue:4 pages:537-547
Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons argument states that resources held in common will inevitably suffer overexploitation and degradation. However, recent contradicting evidence has led theorists to question the soundness of this claim. This paper assesses the accuracy and predictive success of the six essential assumptions of Hardin’s approach. The aim of the paper is to compare the functioning of the tragedy of the commons approach at the local and the international levels, in order to demonstrate that the context we choose affects the applicability of the hypothesis in explaining policy outcomes. The paper compares the validity of the tragedy of the commons hypothesis in three marine cases: California fisheries, modern Oregon fisheries and European Union Common Fisheries Policy. We find that at the local level the tragedy of the commons can be mitigated when a co-management of institutions is achieved, while the EU case shows that the tragedy of the commons is a realistic prediction when dealing with international institutions.