All common-pool resources are finite
Established from the work of Garrett Hardin (1968), the “tragedy of the commons” is the theory that all common-pool resources (CPR) are finite and are thus in danger of exploitation and eventual destruction. This is especially true in the case of open access commons such as fisheries or water supplies where resources levels are determined by outside forces (such as nature).
Hardin proposed that without governance individual users will exploit these resources in order to maximize their own benefit. If their rate of use is faster than the time it takes for the resource to replenish their actions will lead to the eventual overuse and destruction of the CPR.
Conventional approaches to avoiding the tragedy of the commons included suggesting that the resource be privately or centrally managed so that they were governed and enforced by a centralized body.
However, Ostrom’s intervention of the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (IAD) proved that CPR’s could be managed communally. The IAD provides CPR users a tool with which to discuss and implement a system of rules that helps govern sustainable resource extraction among themselves, ultimately avoiding the tragedy of the commons.