Bruce Yandle on the Tragedy of the Commons and the Implications for Environmental Regulation

PRINT

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Bruce Yandle on the Tragedy of the Commons and the Implications for Environmental Regulation and consider these questions.

1. What does Yandle mean by his analogy of a "hummingbird economy"? How does this analogy tie into his definition of a commons?

2. Interviewer Roberts suggests that there are actually two "tragedies" of the commons. What are these two tragedies, and how are they related?

3. What sorts of "simple institutional changes" does Yandle suggest could alleviate commons problems and help to conserve resources?

4. Yandle suggests that historical examples of true tragedies of the commons are in fact quite rare. Why is this? Do you agree?

5. What are some of the circumstances which make property rights costly to establish?

6. Yandle distinguishes between performance standards and technology-based standards in his discussion of regulations aimed at alleviating commons problems. What is the difference between these two types of standards, and what are the different effects they can have?

7. What is the difference between common and civil, or statutory, law? What different sorts of ownership incentives are provided by each?

8. Both Roberts and Yandle agree that air and water quality have improved since the legislative tidal wave of the 1970s. How do they explain this? Do such improvements indeed denounce the argument for common law?

9. What is Yandle's explanation for the removal of common law rights in the United States over the past several decades?