Management of open resources orcommon resources has been an issue of debate for the past decades to presentday. ‘Commons’ are any resource that can be used or that is owned by thecommunity as a whole. These are resources difficult to enclose. In other words,the ‘commons’ are the land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole ofa community for instance, nature in all its forms fisheries, oil fields,climate systems is seen as commons (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A.
, 2014, p. 54). “Tragedy of thecommons” is a concept by Garrett Hardin in the 1960s which parabolicallyexplains the idea of the ‘commons’ through a pasture. The parable was about farmers using a pasturewhich was open to all. As rational beings, each farmer will seek to increasetheir own utility by increasing his herd, and by pursuing their ownself-satisfaction, it is expected that each farmer will try to keep as manyanimals as possible on the pasture (Hardin, 1968).
Eventually overgrazing orover exploitation of a resource. This is the tragedy. In a world with finiteresources, freedom in a ‘commons’ brings ruin to all, and it can take just oneselfish person to break the equilibrium (Hardin, 1968).
In present day, the article byHardin is used to understand the relations between society and the environment.It is in the vain of two critical aspects that Hardin puts forward which helpsto understand political ecology around resource conflict issues. These twocritical elements are the management of open resources through the state orprivatization of these resources. These conflicts can be around such issues ofsustainable use of natural resources which are difficult to enclose. Hardinbelieves in what he said to be mutual coercion mutually agreed upon (Robbins,P., Hintz, J.
, Moore, S. A., 2014), which is a form ofa social arrangement or a type of an enforcement mechanism that’s createsresponsibility of some sort through coercion in order to gain control over theoverexploitation of resources.State management and privatizationof natural resources are theoretical approaches that Hardin believed that theycan facilitate gain of control over the use of resources as he asserted that conscienceand goodwill were useless, there was some need of a form of coercion to gaincontrol. However, Harding believed in privatization more than state managementas he said they may also fail, viewing privatization as the best solutionavailable.
To avoid the tragedy of the commons, ‘commons’ must be madenon-common through the power of law and property (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A.
, 2014). The underlyingassumption behind these two proposed solutions is central to incentives receivedby the care takers of the environment though internalizing externalities sothat cost of poor decision making around resource use is felt internally by thestate or private owners to eliminate free riders. However, at the time whenHardin’s concept was gaining popularity, a parallel open resource management systememerged from Ostrom. This was management of open access of natural resources bycollective action (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A.
, 2014). The underlyingdiscovery that was made by Ostrom was that instead of property rights or thestate managing resources there was a form of institutions that controlledresource user’s behavior to be sustainable when using the resource.Institutions are defined rules and norms governing collective action and thesecan be formal or informal for instance how a human behave in a society maybeconstrained by cultural norms and beliefs. Hence, her argument was that someresources around the world could be managed by applying logic instead oftyrannical repressing laws.
Ostrom preferred institutions inmanaging common resources as she argued that privatization would allowintensive use of resources as property owner would seek to maximize theirprofits or gains. Though this would lead to economic growth it would lead tothe unhygienic socio-ecological spheres of life and this can be best beexemplified though primitive accumulation. Which is the seizure of naturalresources by the capitalist, a natural resource which was a common resource (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S.
A., 2014). This has a negativeimpact to the society and to the environment at it created huge inequality gapsand overexploitation of resources which was a time bomb. Thus, for Ostrombelieved in the management of common resources through local or communalinstitutions.Though both Hardin and Ostrom agreethat some form of management/control is necessary for the sustainability of an openresource. They both agree that a monitoring system is required, though Ostrom favorsbottom-up approaches rather than state management which is more authoritarian.
Moreover, she argues that theoutcome of the tragedy of the commons can be different if the users of a commonresource cooperate and be open to each other. She assumes that for effective managementof commons there should be a conflict resolution mechanism between users (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014). This socialmechanism is effective in the sense that there are possibilities of samecomplains in between users so if cooperation is allowed it will be a low costof solving grievances rather that inviting higher order governing bodies. Thus,this self-governance mechanism is effective and efficient as it is local based,and it is the users that knows best about the resources, also it will be collectiveand democratic.