Antibiotic resistance-a potent example of a ‘Tragedy of the Commons’

The Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin, 1968 was a seminal work. His central idea concerns ‘resources’ held in common, that degrade or diminish if left to the self interest of individuals.  He argues that the problems that arise with allocation and preservation of such resources cannot be solved by technical answers alone – most importantly, a change in attitudes and behaviour towards a cooperative/collaborative approach is required.

Antimicrobials represent a scarce resource that is unlikely to be replenished in the short term to a significant degree by new drug discovery (technical fix). Antibiotic resistance represents a Tragedy  of the Commons in Hardin’s sense.  Antimicrobial stewardship seeks to persuade prescribers to collectively preserve the antibiotic resource through collaborative action that has potential to benefit individual patients and the wider public health.


  1. […] both represent public health endeavours that bring individual and collective benefit (see Tragedy of the Commons) particularly with the waning of antimicrobial effectiveness. This objective broadly […]


  2. […] The global antimicrobial resistance dilemma we face is truly a ‘Tragedy of the Commons‘ : […]


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