« Welcome to Econ 255 | Main | Link from Twitter »



Sarah Michalik

I understood the point that was made in the Conservation Reconsidered paper regarding option demand. However, the author then posed a question asking why a market hasn't developed for this type of demand. I did not understand how the author answered this question and was wondering if anyone could explain to me why a market hasn't developed for option demand.

Megan Axelrod

Hardin’s thesis is that the overpopulation problem is solvable, but requires that humans give up “the privileges they now enjoy”. Essentially, the population problem “cannot be solved in a technical way”.
Hardin says that we must consider the world to have finite space, meaning eventually we will run out of room. The author doesn’t give a time frame; however, he implies that without a solution the world is heading into an age where population growth will have to equal zero. Hardin uses this conclusion to demonstrate that it is impossible to achieve “the greatest good for the greatest number” in this scenario. In this world maximizing the population leads to humans being required to live off of the bare minimum, and to minimize extraneous pleasure. He points out that the maximum good for each person varies. Life requires that people weigh pleasurable items and what items are necessary for survival.
Hardin demonstrates that just because humans desire more of something the optimal level is not necessarily more. In fact, that is where the tragedy of the commons arises, when humans desire more profit and overuse natural resources. In the scenario he offers, the herdsman gains all of the benefit from adding additional animals and none of the cost from over grazing. The herdsman gains utility from grazing more animals and will disregard the common good. Essentially, men are selfish and will pursue their own personal interests.
An additional problem that Hardin does not mention is that humans are not fond of temperance and politicians are elected by constituents who they rely on to keep their jobs. The author is skeptical about a supposed “right to breed”. Hardin suggests that because governments provide benefits to keep children from starving to death impoverished parents do not feel pressure to stop producing more children. There are long-term disadvantages to appealing to individual’s conscience to stop breeding. That means a smaller part of the adult population will be responsible for a larger percentage of the offspring. The double bind that occurs with the commons is something that also occurs in the game Prisoner’s Dilemma. Prisoners assume that since they don’t know what the other is doing that it is in their best interest to rat the other out, or in this case exploit the commons. Hardin advocates for coercion to keep people from breeding. The issues with this argument arise from past history. For example, the eugenics movement tried to stop the supposedly inferior parts of the population from reproducing. This particular incident demonstrates that when humans try to legislate other human’s ability to reproduce immorality can occur. A particular concern is that politics is commonly filled with affluent men, not necessarily the lower classes. As a result, legislation is more skewed towards protecting the upper classes. Subsequently, legislation can oppress whole groups of people. This is concerning given Harden’s hypothesis that the government needs to legislate against over breeding.

Charlotte Keesler

Hardin's application of Adam Smith's theory of the invisible hand to the issue of population control is an interesting and provoking one. It brings into question the ability of humans to effectively optimize their situation when there is the possibility of self-sacrifice at hand. This is an extreme example that allows us to truly consider the reality of mankind's optimization abilities in the face of "the tragedy of the commons".

Later on in the peice, Hardin uses the example of the bank as something that is not considered to be a commons, and thus bank robbers are persecuted when they treat it as though its funds were publicly available. This example made me question whether or not there was a way in which policy could be created in order to force people to internalize the damage to the commons as -1 to balance the +1 of an additional animal. If this were possible, than the herdsmen would not keep adding animals to their herd until all the animals starved from overgrazing. Although it might be "cheating the game", it makes sense that an arrangement could be made in which the damage to society was equal to the benefit to the individual, and thus the tragedy of the commons could be avoided.

Nina Preston

I was surprised to find that the complete work of Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” adamantly argued against human rights, specifically the right to breed. His paper ends saying “Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all” after repeatedly mentioning how population growth has contributed to the abuse of the commons and depletion of natural resources. Hardin asks his readers to reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN in 1976) in order to defend ourselves against our enemy, population growth. He attributes rapid population growth to the “miserable,” yet such growth is nearly inevitable at a global scale. His request for zero growth rate is unattainable despite his suggestion that the government should stop providing benefits to protect children from starving. The example that Megan provided above, comparing Hardin's argument to the eugenics movement, highlighted my initial thoughts of injustice after reading through Hardin's document. I believe there is a more immediate threat of social upheaval if legislation is implemented to limit breeding (even if the resulting availability of resources would supposedly benefit society overall).

Jerry Qiu

In Hardin’s paper, it seems that the author offers a critique of overpopulation and calls to abandon “commons in breeding.” Hardin, as well as comments above, both suggest that overpopulation is a moral issue instead of a technical one. He argues that overpopulation has no technical solutions and requires a change in behavior. What interests me in the paper is that he criticizes Adam Smith’s “the invisible hand” theory that individuals are capable of maximizing their own interest. In the paper he also mentions not everyone should have equal rights to the commons. Then how would his idea of “coercion” that is “mutually agreed upon” be exercised in reality?

On top of that, Hardin provides no factual evidence at all to support his overly simplified model. In his herder example, he gives a very strong assumption that the herder always wants more “as a rational being.” Besides being rational, the herder’s desire for short-term profit would also have to outweigh his long-term profit. However this is hardly the case in the reality. I think Hardin is not describing farming communities in this example, but instead he is describing the behaviors of capitalist corporations that are purely driven by profits.

Gabriella Kitch

To return to Sarah's question regarding Krutilla's answer to why a market has not developed for option demand, I believe the author does hesitantly answer the question in saying that if a natural area is seen as threatend, an organization such as the Nature Conservancy will buy such land. However, although such an option demand for natural features has developed Krutilla points out that the market is "grossly imperfect". From what I gathered, the imperfections in the market come from lack of knowledge of the investors about what makes the piece of land more deserving of conservation than others, the lack of knowledge of what part of the land will be given to scientific research, and the fact that the preserved land is not intended for just local use and therefore incurs issues that all public goods do. Does that answer your question?

What I found most interesting in Krutilla's essay is his ultimate policy plan, which would take into consideration both the demand to use the land for scientific research/education and also the demand of those interested in outdoor recreation. It seems odd to me that he has left out the demand for land to remain untouched. Although it seems like Krutilla places value on untouched nature in saying that as time continues, the value of nature features will be compounded, however his policy plan does not seem to reflect this notion. Is he claiming that in order to receive benefit from the natural feature, individuals must actively participate in them? Will this outdoor recreation will leave the natural feature unchanged? Or, more simply, is he claiming that outdoor recreation and complete preservation fall under the same category? If so does that give either category the appropriate attention for such a policy objective?

Ram Raval

There are several things I found interesting about both Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" and the comments posted by others in reaction.

First, I was intrigued by Hardin's implementation of Adam Smith's work into his argument, as he appears to fall into the category of individuals who, as we discussed a few classes ago, seem to hold an overly reductive understanding of Smith's work. Indeed, it appears as though Hardin only understands Smith's work to advocate for the eventual public good formed by the self-promoting actions of individuals. In using this assumption to attempt to explain why laissez-faire policies now govern our reproductive behavior, Hardin neglects the basic fact that Smith's work referenced specifically markets. The "invisible hand" appears to promote public good because the self-promoting actions of two or more parties work together to create a favorable outcome for both in economic theory. When dealing with population growth, there is no such interaction between multiple parties. Additionally, it seems doubtful that individuals even consider the effect that the number of children they have will have on the rest of the world. Hardin's analysis assumes that an individual recognizes this negative impact on the rest of the world and values the positive impact on their own lives above the negative consequence. Also, in my opinion, society follows laissez-faire in regards to reproduction more so because of a reluctance to regulate rights to one's body rather than due to a firm belief in the workings of the "invisible hand." Also, Hardin's article reminded me of Malthusian concepts discussed in my Macroeconomics course. While income per capita was once constant due to limited resources available, the Industrial Revolution changed this trend and led to a sharp increase in income per capita in some nations and a sharp decrease in others. In my opinion, this change brought upon by the Industrial Revolution also caused the dramatically rising population growth that is present today, for societies have learned to no longer be limited by natural resources.

This brings me to my next point. I thought it was extremely interesting that Nina focused her response on the oddness of Hardin's proposal to reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights due to the fact that for some reason, I did not consider this during my reading. In fact, when I read the article, I was so interested in the theory of the tragedy of the commons that I simply followed through with Hardin's logic without considering the implications of his proposal. I found the argument interesting primarily because of the fact that while it, in my opinion, fails to provide an adequate explanation behind the failures of population control, it does explain relatively well the fact that we continue to engage in actions that harm the environment. While we are aware that polluting, driving fuel inefficient vehicles, using excessive water, etc. are examples of harmful behavior, we continue to do so because the private benefits are more appealing than the social costs. In this sense, I truly enjoyed this article due to the fact that it seemed to provide a psychological and behavioral economics-like approach towards the issues that will be discussed in this course. The "tragedy of the commons" is in a sense similar to the psychological topic of diffusion of responsibility. This lack of responsibility we tend to take appears to thus be a trend in human nature, and it would be interesting to research what methods could potentially be effective in increasing the assumption of responsibility. Moral suasion, economic incentives, and command and control measures appear to force this assumption of responsibility, but the psychological phenomenon still exists.

Caitlin Kaloostian

Hardin rejects the prospect that enhanced technology for food production will allow an indefinite increase in population when he states, "a finite world can support only a finite population." It sounds as if he believes society can’t grow simultaneously in both material quality and population. Also, according to quantitative data, both factors cannot be maximized at once. Throughout his essay, he establishes that, "the optimum population is, then, less than the maximum." However, I believe society would have difficulty in freely choosing to limit population, which would pose unintentional issues along the way. For example, something must limit reproduction whether it’s the government, or the individual conscience. Although this can mean sacrificing the freedom to continually procreate, it may also present more important freedoms otherwise not able to surface. This said, it would also need to be a global endeavor, for a handful of individuals aren’t going to make the huge impact we may need in the near future.

Matt Hedberg

I think a comparison of the two papers is interesting. Each paper raises points that need to be learned and factored into many decisions in the coming years, but the authors have very different ideas. Maybe not so much different in the sense of opposing, but both arrive at a similar conclusion by using far different paths. On one hand, Hardin drills the idea of “little to no breeding” into his reader. He says the number one, overarching problem in the tragedy of the commons is overpopulation. On the other hand, Krutilla calls his readers into acting in the best interest of future generations, acknowledging their future presence and great numbers. Krutilla calls for a “reserve” of land that will provide the most ecological, biological, and recreational diversity for generations to come. He harps on the human’s goal to pass on one’s “estate” to future generations of offspring so that they, too, can enjoy the same resources and utilities that present generations enjoy today. While Krutilla pushes readers towards support of future generations by reserving productive land and resources for them, Hardin addresses the problem from the other end, pushing readers to severely reduce the size of future populations so there’s less need for a “reserve” in the first place. Personally, I find this difference thought provoking. What if we did both? Could we fix the tragedy of the commons problem in even fewer generations? Do we want future generations to enjoy the same things we do now, or should we strive to give them even more?

Also, on page 782 of Krutilla’s paper, I don’t understand how he thinks an influx of car campers will result in an increase in people doing things that require more technical skills. It seems to me that to make more technical, specialized activities more popular, people would have to have interest in those things as opposed to activities that require less time, skill, and effort. Can someone explain this one to me?

Xiaoxiang Yang

I definitely agree with Garrett Hardin's notion that overpopulation is a problem that cannot be solved simply by technological advancement. Technological advancements can only increase the endowment of the commons. But as the population continues to grow, all available resources will eventually still be used up. And because the population tends to grow geometrically, in the long run, people's quality of life will tend to decrease at a even faster pace as the increase in capacity of the commons created by new technologies cannot keep up with the increasing population growth rate. Therefore, it leads to his suggestion that the only way to control the population growth is to implement a mutually agreed coercion. This can be achieved by either enforcing a law to remove the commons in breading or internalizing the costs of over-breeding through some economic incentives such as taxes. Even this suggestion might sound immoral, it actually might be the only way to stop over-breeding and maintain a certain level of living quality. In factor, such methods might have already been used in some countries in the past. For example, in China, government has established a law over the last several decades specifically saying that families who have more than one child will be fined and parents can even lose their jobs. Not surprisingly, this harsh law indeed successful slowed down China's population growth. Thus, I think this argument comes down to a moral level. It depends on whether we think it is ethical or not to restrict people's certain rights in order to preserve the benefits to everybody. Hence, this coercion must be mutually agreed on by every member in the society.

Alejandro Paniagua

In Conservation Reconsidered, the author talked about various thought provoking subjects, these are one of the few I found interesting and the questions that I came up form reading the arguments:

Part of this article tried to describe how natural resources that could be preserved can be valued in order to evaluate if the resources are being allocated efficiently. Even though a monetary price could be attributed to the natural resource, in most cases this value come from the demand from people’s willingness to pay to preserve the natural resource. This however is based on people's ability to pay, which therefore limits their willingness to preserve something. Therefore how accurate can the demand be to retain the environmental resource and then should this “price” be compared to the monetary value associated with the net income from invasive practices that would forever damage the environment considering that an irreversible damage is a cost paid by everyone (but how can this damage be quantified?).
Another aspect that the article mentions was the value of botanical specimens for medical purposes or even learning about the natural science. But how can someone quantify what this value is? Is a land is being sold which contains valued botanical specimens how can one calculate the value of this specimens and should this value by passed to the price of the land? The same applies for knowledge: how can learning from an ecosystem be given a value and can this value be passed to the price of the land itself? So if a price or a value cannot be assigned, can a market arise, should a market arise?
This article also mentions that we need to identify a minim reserve to avoid adverse consequences for humans. This selfish statement focuses on human welfare but is it our duty to protect other species and therefore do what is best for everything not just for us? Who is to decide what is an effective management of resources, what the value of these resources are, and if we should act always in our interest?

caroline hutchinson

Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons is an incredibly interesting and thought provoking piece that I have read before in short detail but never fully. Having now read the entire piece, I see why this work is considered to be so controversial. Hardin argues that the “common” of breeding must be completely abolished. While I agree that overpopulation is a huge environmental issue and although it is tough to breach for moral reasons it should be considered in policy—I do not agree with Hardin in saying that freedom to procreate should be entirely eliminated.

One specifically interesting point that Hardin raises is that no technical solution can help to mollify the issues of overpopulation, which means that some change must be made that affects human morality issues in order to solve the problem of over population. However, although there would be no complete and technical solution to this problem, other less wholly agreed upon solutions could be raised as long as a majority of the population accepted them. I think that the most effective solution to curb overpopulation would be an economic incentive to encourage people to have fewer children but not outwardly make it illegal or eliminate breeding altogether. Although this would raise some negative moral issues, it would solve myriad environmental issues that stem from overpopulation making the benefits greater than the costs in a cost-benefit economic analysis. This would encourage the population to slow down on procreating while still allowing them the option to do so if they please. Positive solutions would be seen on both sides. Other options should also be considered to create the most effective solution that is “mutually agreed” upon by a whole population.

Rachana Ghimire

In “Conservation Reconsidered” by John V. Krutilla, I thought it was interesting the way he laid out how we don’t know all the science behind the natural environment, so it is hard to put a price on it per se. For example, he gives an instance about how different natural plants are being used for medicinal purposes. In fact, half of the new medicines currently being made are from different natural plants that we wouldn’t necessarily have if biodiversity was low. Hence, we cannot really predict the future value of biodiversity in the environment. This was another interesting concept that that Krutilla kept mentioning. He brings up the future repeatedly throughout his paper to demonstrate that we do not necessarily know what is going to happen, so is it better to be safe rather than sorry? And do we have a moral obligation to future generations to conserve the environment? Going back to the medicine example, future generations may need different plants to combat the different diseases that may plague society. If we do not conserve the environment well, the chemicals that they need in a particular plant might not exist. This is something that I feel that economists do not really delve into as much, but they are important questions to consider when thinking about conservation for the future, even if it is from an ethical stand-point.

Bobby DeStefano

I found Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons to be very interesting. As many of my classmates have mentioned in previous post his stance on over-population is controversial as well as thought provoking. Before reading this paper, I had not thought of issues like over-population and pollution as examples of tragedy of the commons. But after reading this paper, these issues clearly are and that we as rational people will not act to help solve these issues individual and that our current institution and laws are unable to combat these issues. I also found it interesting after explaining why over-population and pollution are tragedy of the commons that Hardin went on to state why current thoughts on how to over come these issues would not work.

Tommy McThenia

In Krutilla's piece, he cites the work of Davidson, Adams, and Seneca, who examine the formations of demand. These authors suggest that if facilities and opportunities are made available, demand for these activities will increase over time as people come to enjoy them. They cite water sports as an example, and Krutilla ties this concept into his ideals of conservation.

To me, this suggests that connecting individuals with nature and the environments around them would make conservation efforts more productive. This may seem intuitively obvious, but it is not clearly evident that environmentalists are acting in this direction. From my experience in Neuro-Econ, the importance of attachment and emotion in decision making cannot be overstated. While nature is abstract and sometimes foreign, all measures made to connect consumers emotionally with the world around them will facilitate more demand for nature, and increase the demand for conservation. I know Prof. Casey has looked into this idea with his studies of wale sharks, but this idea should be understood and embraced by environmentalists uniformly. Like it or not, humans are inherently selfish creatures. The best way to overcome our natural selfishness is to align our interests, and developing an emotional attachment to the outdoors through experience could be an effective way of doing this.

Timothy Evan

I found Hardin's adaptation of Hegel to be quite interesting. The idea that "Freedom is the recognition of necessity" does underlie many of the laws which govern our society. However, I do disagree with his application of this idea to population growth and control. Malthus did say that population grows exponentially while food production grows linearly - but this has been disproved by the rapid growth of food production in the 20th century. The percent of our population employed in agriculture has declined, even as agricultural yields have risen. Further, given the fact that many countries still lag behind the US in terms of agricultural productivity, means that the global food supply could be vastly expanded to meet increased demand. This, coupled with the reality that as nations reach developed status (e.g. the US, Europe, Japan) family size and thereby population growth declines, means that policies using coercion to reduce population growth are largely unnecessary.

Andy Roberts

Krutilla's paper posed a very logical approach for comparing the costs and benefits of conserving natural resources. Through his analysis of the ambitious assertion that "technological progress had compensated quite adequately for the depletion of...natural resource stocks," Krutilla dismisses this notion with the inevitability of environmental degradation. Current generations must therefore determine an optimal balance between development and preservation. Throughout the article, the manner in which Kruitlla ascribes value to natural resources is often quite vague, but one way in which he suggests we determine this value is through the notion of option demand. He emphasizes the value of natural biota and its ability to reintroduce genetic traits that are often lost in modern day genetic engineering in agriculture. I am not sure this is the best example for manifesting the concept of demand option, for I imagine that the large agriculture firms conducting the genetic engineering would inherently have a vested interest in preserving the source of their research, and therefore the threat of destruction of these ecosystems would be mitigated. To answer Matt's question on the value of car camping, I believe he his implying that to gain this appreciation for nature and its enjoyment through technical skills, one must first be afforded the exposure to nature in general. Through exposure to nature and the many associated adrenaline-pumping activities, one would be able to gain an increasingly great appreciation for the natural environment, whereby conducting these technical activities provides an increasingly intimate connection with nature.

Grant Przybyla

When Hardin wrote the Tragedy of the Commons in 1968, the world's population was far smaller, our technology less advanced, and our ability to produce food far less efficient. Even assuming that technological gains continue in the agricultural field, which, I think, is a safe assumption, the fact still remains that we cannot produce an infinite amount of food, and therefore can only sustain a finite population. One of the main points Hardin discusses is Bentham's goal of "the greatest good for the greatest number." As Hardin points out, we cannot maximize both variables here (population and quality of life) at the same time. If we focus solely on producing more food to allow for more people, then the overall quality of life decreases for most people as problems of overcrowding, poverty, and scarcity set in. Given these restraints, I think it is better to focus on maximizing quality of life instead of quantity. I therefore agree with Hardin, and believe that it is prudent to legislate temperance. While it does seem preferable to not have government policies restricting the number of children a couple can have, I believe that China’s introduction of such a policy in the late 1970s was ultimately a very good decision that prevented, or at least lessened, starvation and famine. I also agree with Hardin on the other points he makes that are not population based, but similar in concept. For example, while it seems wonderful that the US allows unrestricted visiting to National Parks, I believe that it would be more beneficial to partially restrict access in some way in order to ensure their preservation.

Matthew Inglis

Hardin makes a compelling argument about finite space and the degradation of resources. When a farmer is considering the marginal benefit of adding a cattle, it seems Hardin's scenario does negatively affect the environment and soil while positively affecting the farmer. However, in today's society, the scenario is less accurate or perhaps less pertinent. As the added section, "Tragedy of the Commons Revisited" discusses, society is not the same as it was before. With this assumption of changed ways, I look at technology of today in comparison to technology of before. In this relatively short time span, technology has greatly improved, allowing for higher yielding crops through genetic modification of food. I would not be surprised if eventually science aided in the creation of food that has an extremely high yield and also does not permanently impact soil/the environment.

Moving to a new area, I look at pollution. Granted, from Hardin's piece, pollution is still similar today as it was then. But as we discussed in class, there seem to be future technological advances that are not too far from reality such as a way to extract energy from coal without using combustion. If and when this comes to be, the continued use of fossil fuels will no longer pollute the environment. As a result, Hardin's statement, "The pollution problem is a consequence of population" (Tragedy of the Commons) would remain valid for pollution in general, but not this very prominent type. I believe that if this is possible, then other activities that contribute to our pollution levels can also be altered to reduce the amount created. Wind and solar powers also give hope to energy sources that do not negatively impact the environment.

HeeJu Jang

As Xiaoxiang has already mentioned in his comment, the Chinese government had implemented the one child policy as its 'mutually coercive' means to control the domestic population size. What a lot of people seem to forget is that the government had to partially abandon the very policy due to the projected (or already happening) slow down of economy as a consequence of the repressed population growth. This example, I believe, illustrates whether Hardin's theoretical suggestion is feasible in real life.

Furthermore, Hardin himself acknowledges that we are yet to discover the optimum level of population. To me, any political attempts to restrict the freedom to breed (let alone the morality of such actions) when we are not even sure of our exact goal seems rather counterproductive.

Lastly (since no one seems to point out this), the 'revised' version of the Tragedy of the Commons provided an argument that made me almost gasp. Basically, its author Beryl Crowe asserts that it is impossible in today's world to create and enforce mutually coercive responsibilities because many states have lost its monopoly on coercive force. It will be easier for others to read this his own words: "Coercive force which is centered in the modern state cannot be sustained in the face of the active resistance of some...[portion] of population unless the state is willing to embark on a deliberate policy of genocide directed against the value dissident groups". It is true that many nations have seen the trend of decentralization in which the power of federal/central government has been diffused to that of local, smaller institutions/groups. However, I do not believe that this diffusion of power does not necessarily translate into the loss of democracy as Crowe seems to believe. Yes, people today may have more means such as lobbying to influence the legislative decisions, but that does not mean that they are suddenly going to revolt in order to repeal traffic law. If I completely misinterpreted Crowe's argument, please correct me in your comment.

Katherine Hodges

Since the general thesis and issues covered by Hardin have been discussed at length above, I am going to focus on two smaller points he makes that struck me.

1. "The morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed.”
Hardin states this in the context of temperance. We may act the same way we did hundreds of years ago, but our actions can be immoral now. I found this point to be concerning, but also nuanced. First, I question if polluting the environment immoral? If so, would the same acts of pollutions have been immoral in the past? I don’t believe that pollution is a moral issue right now, however, some may disagree. But, I do believe that morals can and should be viewed not only in the culture of the time, but also in the overall system of the time period.

2. "The belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action."
While Hardin makes a good argument supporting the tragedy of the commons, I don’t know if he provides suitable alternatives. How can we arbitrarily state that one person is more entitled to the commons? Is it by wealth, family, status, or education? No matter the kind of commons, whether pollution or population, there is an existing establishment that provides for the rights to the commons. This was discussed in the context of mutually agreed upon mutual coercion. I find it difficult to believe that in all societies the mutually agreed upon mutual coercion results in ideal outcomes for all parties.

Zebrina Maloy

I completely agree with what Caroline Hutchinson said in her post. I found Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons to be extremely profound and intriguing. After reading the entire piece, I feel like I have a broader understanding of the message that Hardin is trying to portray to readers. Overpopulation is increasingly becoming a problem for societies all over the world. Many economists, scientists and scholars have argued back-and-forth about the ways that we can combat this ever-growing issue. Hardin provides readers with another degree of understanding about the issue while providing solutions to the problem that society is currently facing. One solution he posed was how we should—and need to—eliminate the freedom to procreate with one another. Even though this solution would have the desired results, I do not feel like it is the best way to go about solving the problem of overpopulation. For one thing, I feel like it would be extremely difficult to force people not to breed with one another and it would take time for this policy to be fully implemented. Since humans respond best to offerings or some form of encouragements, I feel like it would be best to provide people with incentives. This would serve the purpose of convincing them to slow down the high amounts of procreations that are taking place in society. If people were told that they would be rewarded a certain amount of money if they agree not to propagate, I feel like there would be a relatively large amount of individuals who would agree not to do so. In addition to providing people with incentives, we should also make sure that they are well educated on the subject of procreation and its effect on the ever-growing populations. This would hopefully get them to see the bigger picture as to why it is vital for reproduction amongst societies to slow down because overpopulation is becoming more and more of a problem. The more people that are educated about the dire effects overpopulations have on society, the more people would be willing to compromise for the well-being of others, our society and the planet we call home.

Philip Anderson

In Krutilla's article he gives an example of market failure for rare land or endangered species. Specifically, he examines option demand, and explains a very interesting instance of the free rider problem associated with public goods. A public good has two main characteristics: non exclusive and non rival. In this case, the market fails for option demand because the good is not exclusive. In option demand, someone's willingness to pay perhaps could only reflect that the good (the species, the grand canyon etc.) exists. As mentioned in the article, people gain utility just by knowing that a certain species exists, or that the grand canyon is still there. So, if someone in Georgia purchases an option regarding the grand canyon, they have no way to exclude a local who did not pay from also receiving benefit. Option demand seems very integral to look at when evaluating why private and social returns of rare occurrences in nature are asymmetric. People all over the world gain substantial sentimental benefit from the existence of the Grand Canyon, Yet, as Krutilla points out, there are a lot of problems when a quantity of a public good is determined by the private market.

I also enjoyed Krutilla's discussion and conclusions about changes of tastes and the "asymmetric implications of technology." The irrevocability aspect of rare occurrences in nature creates the inelasticity. So, as time proceeds, the relative value of these rare goods should increase as more and more manufactured goods are made. If his theory about increases in future demand for natural environments due to changing tastes and increased appreciation is correct, rare occurrences in nature should greatly increase in value. This is a very optimistic outlook that I haven't really thought about. It is easy to think about preferences as constant throughout time but that is obviously not the case. Preferences change over time. Being able to discount all of the future utility from a certain good to the present is the key in order to make a "rational" decision. But obviously it is extremely hard to be accurate in that calculation.

Danielle Hurley

After reading the section "Freedom to Breed is Intolerable" from Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons, though I at times found his language harsh, I agree with him. I think about our world's overpopulation every now and then and, while I am frustrated by it, I see few solutions. Hardin suggests, as many others before me have pointed out, that we reject viewing the ability to reproduce as a right because it is one that has been abused. When a child is "on the way," most individuals or couples or families consider whether they are financially stable - "Will we have enough money to buy enough food...pay for clothes...pay for colleges...provide the best opportunities..." Such thoughts are surrounded by an individual's/couple's concern as to whether they might have enough money. But what they don't think about is whether there will even be enough or any resources to purchase. Sure, it's pretty uncomfortable saying that along with Hardin, I believe reproduction should be controlled. After all, it is often a personal decision and regulating that would be argued against as quite invasive. But if we don't start thinking about appropriate and of truly effective strategies to control the ever-increasing human population, there may not be any more human population. And that could come sooner rather than later. Hardin wrote this piece in the 1960s and we're in the 2010s. Though education regarding this issue has increased since Hardin's time, there are few effective changes that have been made. So, how should we go about changing how man approaches reproduction? Command/control, moral suasion, economic incentive? Probably a bit of them all. Again, it's uncomfortable arguing that an individual's ability to breed should be controlled and regulated, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.

Mary Frances White

I think the interesting thing about Hardin is that his ideas to the Tragedy of the Commons is so applicable to multiple disciplines. Even though it focuses on population control, I have read this piece for multiple classes regarding politics, biologically, philosophy and each time get something out of it. For instance, the bigger the 'commons', the less of a accountability each person feels.
While Hardin puts his ideas in such a simple realm but when you think about you, yourself making these sacrifices in different contexts. This relates to the prisoner's dilemma as well. In both situations, when one defects, it makes it much harder on the rest.

The comments to this entry are closed.