look up any word, like plopping:
 
1.
The term has its origins in the sharing of grazing land in a given community, called "the commons", in Britain. An individual farmer could increase his or her profits by using more of the commons than others. The other farmers would then follow suite, leading to the overexploitation and destruction of that land.

In its modern usage, the phrase is used as a metaphor to the above, referring to the exploitation of a common resource. In game theory it is used as an example of how, in a given situation, every individual can choose to do what is best for their own interests and still produce the worst sum result for the whole. See also: prisoner's dilemna.

The most common and effective way to negotiate this problem is private ownership. Another way is heavy regulation and the imposition of sanctions on violators.
usage: When big companies pollute the air, it's just another example of the tragedy of the commons.
by terribly trite March 04, 2004
 
2.
When a finite resource is exploited by one and all, with the rationale that if I don't exploit it my brother will. The end result is the exhaustion of that resource. i.e. hoarding.
The massacre of the buffalo in America by early settlers for sheer sport, was a completely unneccessary tragedy of the commons.
by Tony Pease August 28, 2003
 
3.
The unfortunate predicament caused when a public resource, such as a natural resource like land or game, is consumed by everyone but maintained by no one.

Everyone feels they have the right to consume because they are part of the public, but no one feels it their responsibility to maintain it because they are not individually accountable.
by Anonymous September 01, 2003
 
4.
The fact that unregulated resources that are held in common are exploited to the point where they lose their usefulness.

Commonly used to argue that having any resources (parks, etc.) held in common will always lead to their destruction. Especially by libertarians and people who want corporate welfare.
We could make this publically-owned pristine forest into a public park Governor, but that would only lead to the tragedy of the commons. Let's sell it to the logging intrests instead! Since they'll have ownership over the land, they'll have good reason to take care of it.
by Colonoscopy October 30, 2003
 
5.
The idea that since no one owns a common are (e.g., a public park) that no one takes care of it
The rundown condition of the park was another example of the tragedy of the commons
by Robbo August 27, 2003
 
6.
Literally, this means what happens when something shared by all gets abused.
I.E. everyone lets their dogs poo all over Central Park becuase they can all use it and none of em own it or have to take care of it.
by Home-mang August 26, 2003
 
7.
A situation where the overuse or abuse by some of a resource that lies in the public domain leads to the loss of use of the resource for everyone.
When Fred let his sheep graze on the public square, he caused a real tragedy of the commons . . . now where are the college students supposed to go to play frisbee?
by Julia August 27, 2003