Monday, April 28, 2008

Tragedy of the common teaspoon

Washington Post:
Epidemiologists at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia, once found an unusual way to study a "tragedy of the commons" -- a conundrum that pits individual interests against the collective good.
Although teaspoons disappeared from all common areas at the Burnet Institute, Aitken said they disappeared more slowly from common areas used by people who worked closely together -- who had long-term relationships of trust -- compared with communal areas used by strangers.
Shankar Vedantum applies the tragedy of the commons to Obama, Hillary and Narcism:
What should you do? Pulling out of the race means giving up your dream -- when you think you are the better choice. Staying in risks collective disaster.

The fault line in this dilemma -- the interests of a candidate pitted against the collective interest of his or her party -- shows up in many economic and political domains and is sometimes called the "tragedy of the commons." Individuals embroiled in similar dilemmas find them impossible to solve on their own, because they are confronted by a Hobson's Choice: Act selfishly and cause collective disaster, or act altruistically and aid someone else who is acting selfishly. Either way, selfishness wins.


Blogger nzm said...

People have no control over teaspoon migration; escape to a spoonoid planet and resistentialism are equally plausible explanations.

Does this imply that teaspoons may also have their own selfish motives?

7:25 AM  
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