#20 Tragedy Of The Commons

"The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action. " - Wikipedia

Fish example: The fish in the ocean. Each of us wants more fish for ourselves, but if we take too much, fish populations drop below sustainable levels and the fish populations go extinct. This depleting of a resource (fish) is the result of each person taking more in the short-term than that is sustainable in the long-term.

Bottled water example: Each of us wants convenience when we are away from home, so we buy new recyclable bottles filled with water to get this convenience. If each person drinks a bottle a day, they will produce 365 empty bottles a year. If 10% of the Canadian population did this, then they would have 1.3 billion empty bottles every year. If just 0.1% of those bottles escapes the recycling process that's 1.3 million bottles going into our oceans and landfills. Unfortunately, the real numbers are much worst. 

"More than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world.....Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean." - The Guardian


The Tragedy of The Commons. We are selfish beings. We consume things with our own short-term benefit in mind with no thought of the long-term consequences to ourselves or to the world. How could we?

Thinking long-term, thinking beyond our present is something we are not designed to do. Long-term thinking is not in our biology. We are short-term survival experts. It's from our savage heritage. Surviving today the best we can is what our brains were designed to do.

But it is this savage biology that holds us back. We cannot just live for today. We have to live with tomorrow in mind. 


Humans have created advancements in technology, medicine and living standards where we no longer have to think as much about surviving til tomorrow. 

Never in history has this been possible until now. It's no wonder we are still acting and consuming the way our ancestors did to survive one more day.

It is time to shift our minds to the long-term.

"Optimizing for the self in the short-term isn't optimizing for anyone in the long-term."


Of course, I'm going to tie this back to saving money.

If we are thinking long-term, we need to ask ourselves, how can I be happy in the long-term?

The answer.

If you have sustainable financial resources you can eliminate one more thing from your everyday thoughts. 

We've mostly eliminated having to think:

...about food

...about shelter

and if we can eliminate having to think about money. We can focus on things that make us happy. We can focus on keeping our bodies in good health. We can focus on things that we believe are good for ourselves, society, our families and our communities.

Try Saving Money in the short-term.

Optimize Your Life for the long-term.

It's the less savage thing to do.


Save Money Retire Early is written by Jon Lo, a barely 30 something change optimist, and personal finance guy. I believe anyone can be rich or poor, it's what you save that makes the difference.

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