man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land.Finally, however…social stability becomes a reality. At thispoint the…commons remorselessly generates a tragedy. Asa rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximise hisgain…[by understanding the commons in terms of utilitythere is] one negative and one positive component: (1) thepositive component is a function of the increment of oneanimal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds fromthe sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly+ 1 (2) the negative component is a function of theadditional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since,however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all theherdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a faction of – 1.’
Thus we see thefutility of utility. The herdsman concludes that the fractionalutility versus the more positive utility leaves only the optionof adding another animal to the herd. Every herdsmanshares the same problem and, since they share the samerational capacities, they will gravitate towards the samesolution. The negative utility tells us that the commons islimited however, the rationality of the system dictates thateach herdsman must increase without limits. Hardinconcludes ‘ruin is the destination toward which all men rush,each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes
Garret Hardin, ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’
162 (1968) p. 1244.