Magazine article The American Conservative

Old and Right

Magazine article The American Conservative

Old and Right

Article excerpt

Why are the cattle in a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn and cropped differently from the adjoining enclosures? No inequality, in respect of natural or acquired fertility, will account for the phenomenon. The difference depends on the difference of the way in which an increase of stock in the two cases affects the circumstances of the author of the increase. If a person puts more cattle into his own field, the amount of subsistence which they consume will be deducted from that which was at the command of his original stock; and, if, before, there was no more than a sufficiency of pasture, he reaps no benefits from the additional cattle, what is gained in one way being lost in another. But if he puts more cattle on a common, the food which they consume forms a deduction which is shared between all the cattle, as well as that of others as his own, in proportion to their number, and only a small part of it is taken from his own cattle. …

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