The tradeoff of the commons

R. Preston McAfee, Alan D. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We develop a model of scarce, renewable resources to study the commons problem. We show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, property rights can often be less efficient than a commons. In particular, we study two effects: (1) waste which arises when individuals expend resources to use a resource unavailable due to congestion and (2) the risk of underutilization of the resource. We provide necessary and sufficient conditions for each effect to dominate the other when the cost of determining the availability of a resource is low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-353
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Appointments
  • Office hours
  • Property rights
  • Reservations
  • Tragedy of the commons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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