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Who will do it?

I found this on somebody's desk. It illustrates what it's like working in a company for too long. Equally it reminds me of what it was like sharing a big house.

There are four people named everybody, somebody, anybody, and nobody.

Everybody was sure that somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but nobody did.

Somebody got angry about that because it was everybody's job.

Everybody thought that anybody could do it, but nobody realised that everybody wouldn't do it.

So it ended up that everybody blamed somebody when nobody did what anybody could have done.

This reflects the tragedy of the commons - or what economists call the public good or the public bad.

As my mother and I walk through the lovely parks in London, I am grateful that they exist - and I willingly pay my council tax to help keep them clean and available.

But recalling those good old days of sharing a house full of students, I can't help wincing at the thought of the moldy and smelly refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. Nobody wanted to take the blame or the responsibility. Everybody wanted to use what's common but nobody wanted to maintain it.

20 July 2002 Saturday

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