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Shovelling And The Tragedy Of The Commons

This was posted on NPR. One of the factors that can help explain this is a manifestation of social proof.

We look to others to determine what is acceptable and in this case, with no clearly assigned responsibility, it becomes acceptable do nothing — No one feels responsible for this task.

You’ve done a number of episodes talking about the tragedy of the commons, and how it can be overcome without government intervention. While walking my dog around Philadelphia during the blizzard aftermath, I couldn’t help but notice an interesting trend. Virtually all of the houses with a single occupant or family (as indicated by a single doorbell or knocker) were shoveled clean. Nearly every house with multiple occupants — and most businesses — were unshoveled. This seems like a TOTC in reverse: A common good that requires work to maintain is ignored if there is a diffusion of responsibility.