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The Tragedy of the Commons

            What is politics? In general, politics is a widely understood term, and one that usually induces thoughts of governments, states, and international relations. It explains the behavior of nations, encompasses many different political ideologies, and on occasion it is blamed as the cause of wars and corruption. The actual meaning of politics however, is complex and debatable, and should not be oversimplified. Formally, politics is, "the activity through which people make, preserve, and amend the general rules under which they live.".
             Basically, politics is the way in which groups of people cooperate and make decisions for a usually larger group of people. To better understand the concept of politics, one must first also understand the concept of the "tragedy of the commons" and the problem of "collective action." The tragedy of the commons is an idea first developed by Garrett Hardin. Hardin describes this theory through a metaphor, in which many herdsmen release their cattle onto the same public pasture land. Connected to the tragedy of the commons is the game theory. The game theory is pictured usually as a matrix and it can help individuals, or even nations, decide on a strategy based on what they think their oppositions strategy will be.
             Collective action is when individuals with the same goals, or self-interests, collaborate to achieve their goals, and in politics this usually concerns the distribution of public goods. The problem with collective action is that it tends to fail the larger the group is, and individuals in the group have incentive to "free-ride" to achieve their personal goals. The idea of the tragedy of the commons, game theory, and the problem of collective action combined can be useful in understanding politics as a whole.
             The tragedy of the commons was first published in 1968, and since then it has been applied to social, economic, and political situations.

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