Tim Harford has an interesting article on the subject of the tragedy of the commons, contrasting Garrett Hardin, who invented the phrase, with Lin Ostrom (a comparison which is in Ms Ostrom's favour).
Ms Ostrom clearly had more to say and thought more deeply about this issue than Mr Hardin. There is no inevitable tragedy that applies at all times and in all places. But local politics and judicial decisions can conspire to create tragedies, as this week's Economist points out.
The Firth of Clyde been had rich in fish stocks and sustained a profitable fishing industry. But the rules were loosened by government and courts so that by 2010 "two marine biologists predicted, on the basis of historic catch data, that the Clyde was about to become Britain’s first “ecological desert”" In response, "the current Scottish government, run by the Scottish National Party, [which] has strong ties to the fishing industry... commissioned a rival study of the fishery. Published last year, this judged the phrase “ecological desert” an overstatement; yet it agreed that there were hardly any fish in the Clyde worth catching." The sad story is here.