Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Go fish

Posted by Rich Sweeney on October 22, 2007

In this week’s RFF Policy Commentary, Harrison Fell and Jim Sanchirico discuss the political economy of regulating US fisheries. As the authors begin, “Overfishing is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. Since no one owns the fish in the ocean, it’s in everyone’s interest to catch them as fast as possible, regardless of present or future damage to fisheries. Overexploitation and inefficient use of marine resources are the direct result of open-access conditions.”

Tellingly, many of the concepts/ dilemmas discussed in this piece can also be seen in the debate about regulating carbon emissions. Stranded costs are a classic refuge for regulation weary utilities. And of course, auctioning versus grandfathering permits is a very hot topic in Washington right now, with Lieberman slowly shifting towards auctions in the past week.

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