Aristotle once said: “For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.” These words, written more than 2,000 years ago, still ring true today—that is, if a recent USA Today article about air travel is any proof. Its headline, “Airlines Need to Reduce Overscheduling,” glared at me one morning as I waited for a flight that was, of course, delayed. The article quoted the outgoing FAA administrator’s grim pronouncements about egregious overscheduling at congested airports across the country. Naturally, none of this is news to anyone who flies on a regular basis. The problem gets worse daily as harried travelers crowd onto overbooked planes and wait on overcrowded runways across the country.
Garrett Hardin also addressed this issue in his 1968 essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Historically, the commons refers to a limited but commonly held resource, such as a field or pasture owned in common by various individuals, each of whom also owns animals that graze there. As long as there’s grass for grazing, each person continues to pursue his or her own self-interest, until the capacity of the commons is exhausted. By the time this happens, however, everyone’s sheep has suffered.
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