Tragedy of the Commons

More simply titled, “jackassery.”

The theory believes that humans will usually exploit shared resources, pursuing their own selfish interests.  It was originally proposed in an 1833 essay regarding overgrazing on common land in England.  Ranchers would corral as many of their own cattle, or sheep, onto “the commons” as possible.  The core of the problem warns that the shared parts will be abused and everyone will eventually when grass no longer grows for anyone at all on the commons.

Viewing the church as a shared ventured, the “Tragedy of the Commons” has insight for us.  Being human, we will have a tendency to resort to self will and thus our carnal nature till deprive strength in the entire spiritual concept of Fellowship.  Instead of positive power through “Synergy,” we weaken our vision and hope through a few draining the active flow of potential.


1) Job Descriptions, clarify and not assume committee duties.  Go ahead and list the objectives in summary, bulleted fashion should be sufficient to guide the tasks.  Do whatever you may to kick out any assumptions, which leave vulnerable holes in any venture.

2) Board clarifications – clarify and rule on committee boundaries, like an NFL referee.  An important reason for a “report and permit” emphasis in meetings.  It may be a primitive method, but we should not stray too far from it.  Informing Board is good so they may clarify plans and vision for the rest of the church, but also as a means of keeping everyone honest and on track.  If conflict has been an issue in the past, then make sure the Board Chair/Moderator has a regular checklist for all tasks, and do so before problems may arise.  Be proactive and undercut potential conflict before it can generate steam, Who will do what, when, where; and who will not do what, when and where?

It may feel like you are stating the obvious because you are stating the obvious, but when dealing with humans you must continually remind them about their tasks parameters.  It will keep them on course and expose any selfish preferences which may arise that might tread on another’s work.  Do it like a girlfriend reminding her boyfriend that “after all, we are in a relationship.”  She is smart enough to know that sometimes wayward thinking boys need altering to wayward courses.

3) Shaming:  confronting the “greed is good” influence in our society, which has been eroding social integrity for decades.  Expose it for what it is, selfishness; Shame the adolescent behavior, but with some effect of empathy.

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator

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