Contrary to what most people may think, the tragedy of the commons was never caused by the ‘infamous’ “ homus economicus.”
Actually, it has always been, and will continue to be for quite a while, thanks to the homus economicus that progress has been achieved!
Because it is precisely due to the individual economic interest that most people are willing to take on new challenges on a daily basis.
So, where is the ‘culprit’ of the tragedy of the commons?
The culprit is the short-sightedness of the homus economicus, or his time-frame!
When the economic interest of all those involved in any given tragedy of the commons is extended far enough into the future, the tragedy is no longer, for all have a vested interest in preserving their commons.
As opposed to what may be considered the best strategy in game theory (i.e., be the first to defect) where there is a clear beginning and end, reality has no end and, therefore there is no ‘reward’ for defecting, quite to the contrary!
Given the greatest tragedy of the commons in the 21st century -nope! I’m not talking about global warming, for that is what the most powerful vested interests would like- I’m talking about the real greatest tragedy of the commons in today’s day and age, namely, the loss of humanity! Exemplified not only by the toxicity in the global commons, but more importantly, in the minds of so many “leaders.”
Tackling global warming, through the lucrative business of carbon bonds trading, and/or recognizing -and compensating- for the benefits generated by the lungs of the world (i.e., Amazonia), seems a rather simple endeavor compared to the problem of tackling the loss of humanity.
So, how should we, society as a whole, deal with this ever-growing malady?
The only long-term solution I can think of is by going back to the basics of the fabric of society, namely, the family.
Is it only by instilling moral, ethical, and spiritual values in the current and new generations that a glimpse of hope could be seen in the horizon of our greatest commons, our blue pale dot in the universe!
JC Wandemberg Ph.D.
President & Founder
About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.