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Tragedy of the commons

In economics, pollution is an example of a tragedy of the commons. Everyone can pollute, and the polluter doesn't always pay. One man's medicine is another one's poison. While you may enjoy loud music, it might annoy your neighbours. But so long as they don't bother asking you to turn it down, you can pretend you don't know.

Once upon a time, there was a quiet neighbourhood. All the surrounding streets got installed speed-bumps to slow down traffic in the area. When drivers got to straight roads that didn't have speed-bumps, they sped.

Some youngsters bought new motorcycles and decided to use one of the bump-free roads as a race course. When one neighbour complained, the youngsters raced even more frequently. They were beyond control.

Almost all residents were annoyed. It wasn't against the law to race on the quiet road. There was a speed limit, but it's hard to catch these bikers who speed only for less than a minute on this short road.

One day, the racing stopped.

One of the youngsters had died in an accident. His father, a driving instructor, banned his other sons and friends from ever riding motorcycles again. But this will not bring back his oldest son.

The residents finally got their peace.

But will this prevent other youngsters from repeating history?

18 September 2002 Wednesday

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