Shining the light on the transgressor, is one way out of tragedy of commons



I was watching John Gerezema's TED talk on the - post crisis consumer in US of A and he talks about how the recession has brought about a change in consumer values that is perhaps for the better.

For one, the consumer now looks for value. Instead of mindlessly consuming.

For two, the consumer now looks for values. The company that brought him his goods can not be operating unethically or exploiting the system anymore. He perhaps sees the relationship between that and his current plight.

For three, the consumer is into durable living. It is not about use and throw. For the first time, the american consumer, now on an average, keeps his vehicle for more than 9 years. It is not about living beyond his means. For the first time, the american consumers are using more debit cards than credit cards.

But most interestingly, the consumer is into cooperative consumerism. Cooperative consumerism is about taking up relevant causes, by joining hands. In unity lies a strong voice. The voice that comes to be because people choose to be a community rather than a bunch of lone individuals. This is quiet a departure from the lone cowboy american.

In fact, the most amazing thing about the americans - atleast to me - is their ability to get down to earth, quickly again. Did I mention that 30% of all houseowners built their own houses this year?

Here is the aha! that struck me, from this cooperative consumerism.

Cooperative consumerism can extend into using peer pressure to work our way, out of the hole that 'tragedy of commons' has created. Not do anything about other than simply measure it and make it available. The collective would take care of the rest.

In the milk story, a lamp near the well would have ensured that the person pouring water into well would hesitate, because 3 people in the line behind him, would see him doing this.

Closer home, if you take the traffic example - If you broke the traffic line and a loud automated beep at the junction let you - and fellow sufferers - know that you had just  jumped the line, chances are that you would not do it the next time. Not because you can not listen to the beep, but because others would listen to you, breaking the line and give you the look.

Similarly take the garbage throwing housewives example. If a vacant plot has become a garbage dump and the plot owner installed a proxmity sensor at the site, so that a buzzer would beep when someone approached the plot. A loud beep at the plot would signal to the neighbourhood  - everytime a garbage thrower was at work. She would hesitate too!

So much, for the use of 'technology' to build solutions that can help fight tragedy of commons. Anything that will bring the transgressor into the eyes of his community. Photographic evidence is another way. Good old peer pressure, administered with the help of a community facilitator will work wonders too.

Essentially, what is needed, is a means of letting atleast a few others in the community know, whenever, a particular person breaks the desired norm.

What says you?

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