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The Tragedy Of The Commons

"'Scarcity' is the relation between limited means and unlimited desire."   John Locke

Once upon a time there was a little farm town. In the center of town was an area called the commons, and everyone was free to use it as they saw fit. Because it was so grassy, many of the farmers brought their cows and horses there to graze. Because everyone respected the commons, and everyone shared, the commons were a wonderful resource for everyone involved.

Well, one day a farmer got to thinking. "You know, I could let my cows graze here all day, and then I could use more of my own land for growing crops. And why not? The commons are big enough to feed my two cows and plenty more." And so, he brought his two little cows into the commons and let them graze all day.

The other farmers saw what was going on, and realized instantly the logic of it. Each of them only had a cow or two, so they each reasoned that their little cows would leave plenty left over for everyone else.

Well, the days went on, and before long there were twenty cows all living on the commons. Soon there just wasn't enough grass to go around. Not only that, there were piles of cow dung everywhere, and quite frankly, the commons started to stink. In fact, the cows all died of methane poisoning, the farmers all went bankrupt. Then some slick looking corporate types bought all the land and built a giant shopping mall right on top of the commons.

The End

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