The global commons are global natural resources not particular to any one state, such as the atmosphere, the oceans and the fish in them. Valuable as they are to individual users and to the collective as a whole, free commons deter ameliorative or preventive action by individual users since that is perceived as conferring advantages and benefits on those users who fail to participate in such ameliorative action. Since nature is assumed to be a public good, destruction of forests, for example, goes unchecked although these negatively affect micro-regional, national and global environmental levels where this impact is ignored in the interest of immediate industrial gains.
Energy production, for example, yields valuable services whose allocation in the economic system is, like goods and services in general, effectively handled through the market place and property rights (in a market-oriented society). But the residual mass of these energy resources, after use, flows back into the common-property resources, within or across countries, namely into the atmosphere or into water systems. When access to such waste refuses is unimpeded and free, overuse and degradation is the inevitable result.
The incentives in the economic system fail conspicuously in controlling the exploitation of common property resources, however well it works in promoting the production and distribution of resources based on access to such resources.
If overuse and degradation of environmental resources are frequently the inevitable consequences of the weaknesses of of traditional, free-market regimes, centrally planned economic systems do not seem to have produced a formula for rational environmental management either.