Tragedy of the Commons

September 8, 2009

Good reading yesterday from Star Parker in her column, Our Tragedy of the Commons.

We all know the problem of tragedy of the commons well, even though we might not know it.  It’s the reason why shared refrigerators in work break rooms are disgusting.  We all need a little space in the fridge (benefit), but nobody wants to clean it out for everyone’s benefit (cost) even though a clean fridge is desired by everyone.

Star Parker’s point is that government is our tragedy of the commons with special interests using the government for personal gain with no good check in place against that.  Said another way, concentrated benefits, dispersed costs (see Uncle Sugar’s Auto Mall).

A few key paragraphs from Parker’s column:

President Obama has just submitted a 10-year federal government budget projecting our national debt burden to reach $17 trillion. This is greater than our entire GDP today.

Does anyone think Barack Obama manages his personal finances this way? Or if he were president of his own company that he would be running it this way?

Federal government spending is now twice what it was ten years ago. Can it surprise anyone that over the same period expenditures on lobbying more than doubled and the number of lobbyists in Washington increased 50 percent?

And, to put things into perspective:

A hundred years ago the “public sector” was less than ten percent of our economy. By the 1940’s it was almost one quarter. Soon it will be one half.

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