An effort would be made in this essay to argue that the commons is the most optimal mode of property arrangement as it has the ability of providing pragmatic solutions for reducing the problem of inequity in the distribution of and access to basic resources in societies.
The first phase of the essay will deal with the influence of Hardin’s article “The Tragedy of the Commons” on current property arrangement and the justification for Private Property Policy. It will lay out a critique of private property arrangement. The second section will provide a standpoint to explain why there is a great need to find a better policy framework to replace the current property regime due to its failures. This analysis will concurrently underscore how the concept of privatisation has failed to ensure equitable distribution of, and access to basic resources. The third part of the essay will argue that the commons is the optimal policy framework for managing scare resources. It will simultaneously discuss how the common property regime provides communities with direct access to basic resources through local participatory governance. The final section of the essay will conclude that the aforementioned analysis is still sufficient to support the claim the commons is the optimal property arrangement for scarce resources.
I. HARDIN’S “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS”: THE JUSTIFICATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY POLICY.
Since the publication of Garrett Hardin’s infamous article “The Tragedy of the Commons” in 1968, it served as a basis for policy formulations guideline in most countries in prioritizing private or state control over resources rather than leaving them open for the community to exploit. The ramification of this article has had a considerable influence on resource policy around the globe. Hardin (1968) argues that on a resource where modern concept of property ownership, either in the form of public or private, is absent commoners tend to overuse the resource to satisfy their personal interest by overlooking future gains from the property. He supports his argument by the example of an open to-all pastureland. In the pastureland, the “rational herdsman” would try to maximize his benefit by adding more animal in the herd, as the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal would work as an incentive or “positive utility”. Hardin justifies such action on the ground that each individual would pursue “his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons” (Hardin, 1968). The action by the first rational herdsman worsens the situation of the others by limiting their opportunity to improve their situation by a particular appropriation and by no longer being able to use freely what they previously could. Such a situation gives rise to an unhealthy competition, where every rational herdsman, without knowing the intention of others, wants to maximize one’s personal benefit by adding more animals in the common pastureland. Such tendency on the part of the herdsmen results in overgrazing and eventual destruction of their future income potentials from the land.