31 January 2011
The Tragedy of the Contemporary Commons
Let's face it; no one grazes their livestock on public land anymore. Lawns are there for aesthetic purposes. Most would rather look at lush, green grass than dusty or muddy dirt. I'm no exception to that. On my daily walk to work, I pass a section of grass just before a frequented 90º turn in the sidewalk where virtually all of the students tread. Not surprisingly, the plot of grass has quickly turned into a section of exposed dirt. Now, it is in everyone's interest for a number of reasons to keep the campus in exquisite condition, not the least of which is that attractive campuses attract good students and faculty which adds to the value of everyone's education in the long-run. However, students (as rational actors) think only of the immediate utility of cutting a couple of steps and a couple seconds from their trip, ignoring the collective benefit of not ruining the lawn. Individualism sucks. Just saying.