Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

The Pilgrims knew tragedy of the commons

Posted by Daniel Hall on November 22, 2007

I feel compelled to link to this John Stossel article about the first Thanksgiving, given this blog’s name:

When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

They nearly all starved.

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. …

What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons.

H/T: N. Gregory Mankiw.

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