Check out these other AP Macro resources

  •  Watch AP Macro live review streams every week with Fiveable+! 👉 Join Today


The Tragedy of the Commons refers to a commonly occurring phenomenon wherein a public good is overused and thus abused. 

To further illustrate this concept, let me provide an example. 

  • Say a pond is open to all for fishing, that is to say is is non-rival and non-excludable - a public good 🐟
  •  People who live near the pond realize that they can catch however many fish they want from the pond as there are no restrictions in doing so 🎣🎣🎣
  • However, the people realize that if they overfish from the pond, they will reap the benefits while everyone else will suffer the losses
  • As a result, fishermen and women will act in their own self-interest and try to fish for as many fish as possible without giving any concern to the negative consequences of their overfishing
  • A tragedy then occurs, for overfishing has resulted in a near extinction of fish in the pond, causing other prospective fishers to have to seek another pond to fish at

The tragedy in this case, and in every other case of the tragedy of the commons, is that such a negative outcome could have been avoided had people acted in the interest of the common good of all users rather than only according to their self-interest

Did this answer your question?