Term to describe those people who ruin it for the rest.
July 5, 2009 1:33 PM   Subscribe

vocab-filter: Is there a vocabulary word or term to describe a service or an act of generosity that is ceased by its maintainers because a small, select group broke the rules ?

(Anecdote: I became inspired to ask this question, after hearing that city-maintained recycling bins were removed at a location because people were dumping non-recyclables in and around the bins. I am writing about the issue in my blog and became curious about this).

Additionally, would there a different term if a majority of people were not following the rules, as opposed to just a small, select few ?

I first thought that this would be a tragedy of the commons but I found it to be different because there is not a finite resource (i.e. clean water) that is being exploited.
posted by fizzix to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster:
Ack. The headline and the body can be a bit conflicting: I'm looking for the term to describe the act or service, not the people who caused the service to cease.
posted by fizzix at 1:35 PM on July 5, 2009

Wouldn't the phrase "one apple spoils the bunch" be applicable here? You should get some mileage out of calling the litter-bugs "rotten apples."
posted by oddman at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2009

I would go with oddman's formulation, and follow it up with "this is why we can't have nice things".
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:44 PM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

Abrogate is derived from the Latin abrogare, "to repeal a law." Abrogate is most often used in formal situations to refer to the termination of a law, treaty, custom, or agreement.
posted by foooooogasm at 1:46 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, revocate.
posted by foooooogasm at 1:48 PM on July 5, 2009

Also, unpromise.
posted by foooooogasm at 1:49 PM on July 5, 2009

I first thought that this would be a tragedy of the commons but I found it to be different because there is not a finite resource (i.e. clean water) that is being exploited.

I think this is a tragedy of the commons issue, because the people breaking the rules are making exceptions for themselves to the duties that are generally applicable to all, for the responsible use of the resource (the resource being the city's provision of recycling facilities).
posted by jayder at 1:52 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, decertify, countermand, renege, recind, adeem, annul, renounce, and unswear, but nothing really specific to charity.
posted by foooooogasm at 2:06 PM on July 5, 2009

I actually do think that "tragedy of the commons" is an apt description of the phenomenon at work here: limiting the application of that phrase to only scarce resources may be strictly correct, but it's immediately understandable in this case as well.

Not sure what you'd call it when the commons are roped off, though.
posted by adamrice at 2:15 PM on July 5, 2009

I'm going to go with "forfeit".
posted by effluvia at 2:28 PM on July 5, 2009

"Ruining it for the rest of us."
posted by martens at 2:36 PM on July 5, 2009

I believe the technical term is "pooping on a party."
posted by miss lynnster at 3:17 PM on July 5, 2009

The concept of collective punishment comes in handy here, but as it's a war crime, something less strong should be used instead.
posted by salvia at 3:44 PM on July 5, 2009

The reason to not call this a tragedy of the commons is not that the resource isn't finite, but that the resource isn't being ruined from overuse. The tragedy of the commons is that when a resource is offered freely to a community, the community members use that resource beyond the efficient point. This sounds more like stupidity and/or littering. Personally I like "this is why we can't have nice things."
posted by telegraph at 3:49 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by rokusan at 3:55 PM on July 5, 2009

Personally I like "this is why we can't have nice things."

I like it, too, but I think the questioner was asking for an actual term to denote the phenomenon, not an internet meme that is usually just a smart-ass reply to an event that one doesn't like.
posted by jayder at 3:57 PM on July 5, 2009

Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs?

Shitting the pool?
posted by Ghidorah at 4:01 PM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: A more succinct definition might be "to punish the majority for the actions of a minority." That's similar to what you're getting at. I can't think of a word meaning this off the top of my head, but I'll mention it in case it puts someone else in the right track. I'll keep thinking.
posted by pemberkins at 4:53 PM on July 5, 2009

Not all resources are natural resources. If you consider "city infrastructure set up to collect recyclable materials" a limited resource, then this is a tragedy of the commons. Clearly that public resource was being used beyond the efficient point.
posted by idiopath at 5:07 PM on July 5, 2009

This is going to haunt me all night. I just read through the script of Dead Poet's Society, which is what the question reminds me of. No term there that was helpful.

I'm now looking re:factionalism, or for a word that describes an action taken against a faction (or the contentious minority within a larger group), but coming up trumps.

I know you're there, damn word. And I will find you!
posted by foooooogasm at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2009

One article refers to this general phenomenon as "whole group discipline" (context: taking away everybody's recess because one child misbehaved). Sadly, Googling "whole group discipline" did not turn up many more uses of this phrase. Is there anyone out there familiar with classroom management techniques that knows another, more common word or phrase for this technique?
posted by pemberkins at 5:41 PM on July 5, 2009

Reclaim, repossess, replevin, reprive, revocate are more like taking something back, not stopping. Stanch means to stop, but is not specific enough.

Discontinue is plain (discontinuance, discontinuation, discontinued, discontinuer), but it is specific to something that comes to an end after happening regularly or ends something that has been happening regularly, but for any cause, not a factional rule breaking.
posted by foooooogasm at 6:00 PM on July 5, 2009

posted by Afroblanco at 7:02 PM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: Yeah, pemberkins, that's where I was going with the "collective punishment" thing.... "collective loss of privilege?" "Whole group privilege removal?" "Collective revocation?" "Whole group revocation?" We could still use a great verb that means not just "to take away a privilege or offer" but also "~ as a result of abuse or misuse."
posted by salvia at 7:46 PM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: Salvia - if I Google "collective punishment classroom" (no quotes), it turns up the odd mention of the phrase "collective punishment" in reference to the classroom discipline issue I mentioned. So, there's at least a little evidence that people use the phrase outside of the context of wars. I suspect that you hit the nail on the head, and "collective punishment" is the best, or at least most common, way there is to describe this idea (even though it is most commonly used in the context of the war crime).
posted by pemberkins at 8:13 PM on July 5, 2009

Economics and Poli Sci term the phenomenon, the "free rider problem."
posted by GPF at 10:56 AM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster:
Thanks for all of the answers.

Salvia's and pemberkins' mentions of collective punishment would work the best although it is not as clear as I would have hoped.

I'll leave this unmarked (of best answers) and encourage any more future answers but I especially appreciate those responses.
posted by fizzix at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2009

I came here to give GPF's answer, so I'll second it.
posted by SamuelBowman at 3:15 AM on July 7, 2009

« Older Cheap Honeymoon from the Southeast?   |   Is there a gadget that's good enough for birth... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.