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Patrick McCarron

In many econ classes and electives beyond intro to Macro and Micro and Micro and Macro theory, we find that traditional economic models do not always represent the real world. Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" offers further support of this notion.

Hardin first uses population growth to describe the Tragedy of the Commons: uncapped population growth encouraged by the excessive welfare state allows parents to have as many children as they want. If parents can't provide for their kids, the state will. But this leads to the Malthusian catastrophe--too many people and too little resources, i.e. a complete depletion of natural resources. In more general terms, if people act out of their own self-interests in the consumption of natural resources, supply decreases and demand increases even further until the resource is completely depleted.

Traditional economics models fail to account for the nuances of the tragedy of the commons. Who are the 'moral' economic players, who realize the danger of the tragedy of the commons? Who are those who are resource-greedy with no regard to limits in resources? How do we account for both types of players in a supply and demand or indifference curve model? How could we possibly model the circumstances leading to a Malthusian catastrophe? How can 'management' change these models?

Murray Manley

In ninth grade biology class, one of the first things students learn is about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the concept of natural selection. I find natural selection to be particularly interesting, especially because it applies to almost every species except, to some extent, humans. In the textbooks, we usually see the classic example of the population distribution of the white rabbit and brown rabbits in the arctic. Because of the snowy environment, it is ideal for prey to blend with the environment to best ensure survival; therefore, the white rabbits flourish and the brown rabbits slowly die off as natural selection works its magic to ensure survival. However, humans have learned to beat the system. Over the course of time, we have become a slave to the welfare systems, only one of the many factors that contributes to the abnormality that is the 7 billion strong human population.

The question remains: is there something that can be done about the practically overflowing population of the human race? Is there a market solution or an incentive to protect our precious natural resources and prevent the downward spiral of the tragedy of the commons? As much as we like to think of the world as infinite and the environmental changes as not affecting us, the issue of population and the tragedy of the commons is something that can’t be ignored for much longer.

Hardin poses the question of how to legislate temperance? And his question is valid. Unfortunately, posing strict laws and caps on population is hard to enforce and causes a growing discontentment in the population. What if China eliminated the one child law and allocated the resources to enforce the law elsewhere, creating an incentive to lower population. How do lawmakers and economists account for different preferences of people and religious practices that prevent some couples from engaging in contraception? Will there ever be an effective solution? Could more research and education about population growth, effective contraception, and incentives to have fewer kids help, if at all? I am certainly not qualified to answer these questions, and unfortunately we are crunched for time to solve the problem of over-population before we are too late.

Cara Hayes

The world population today has over 7 billion people, which is nearly two times greater than it was in 1965, three years before Garret Hardin wrote the Tragedy of the Commons. It is predicted by the United Nations that by 2050, the world population will be nearly 10 billion people. As Hardin predicted, “space” is still not a viable escape for this growing population so room on Earth is “finite”, meaning overpopulation will eventually overwhelm our planet. So are we the next dinosaurs, destined for permanent extinction?

Reading the Tragedy of the Commons, it seems that Hardin identifies the source of the population conundrum as resulting from freedom to breed and freedom of the commons. He says, “To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone has an equal right to commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.” This made me think of China, the most populated country in the world with around 1.36 billion people, which recently repealed its one child policy after 36 years. This policy was very controversial for many reasons, one of which is that it isn’t right for a government to dictate how families chose to grow. The reason the Chinese government chose to repeal the policy was not because of the moral implications but rather to balance out the aging population. While allowing families to have two children is widely considered a good thing, is this greater freedom to breed in China going accelerate population growth even more?

Hardin would surely argues yes and that, although “it is painful to have to deny categorically the validity of this right,” education could help make people realize “the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed.” Whether its through education or economic incentives such as tax breaks to families with fewer children, or making birth control more readily available, there is a moral imperative to explore the options that could limit population growth. Without any efforts to change the current situation, depletion of the commons and an uninhabitable planet are unavoidable.

Ali Norton

I found Hardin’s discussion of maximum population and population growth to be dense. Can a population be experiencing positive growth but not be approaching its optimum? This notion led me to consider the issue of scarcity of or lack of available resources to sustain a growing human population. When considering the optimum population level are we also examining the quality of life experienced by the population- a standard difficult to universally quantify. For instance, today, could a population that is experiencing rapid growth and low standards of living be below its optimal level, but begin approaching its optimal level if it absorbs excess resources from other populations and thus obtains the additional resources necessary to support the population. I consider this question in the context of the issue of population growth in many developing countries, especially considering that high fertility rates tend to be a characteristic of developing nations. In accordance with this characteristic, the 2015 Human Development Report predicts that the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 with most of the growth coming from developing countries (6.0 bn to 8.2 bn). According to the reports predictions, these numbers imply that 85% of the world population will live in developing countries in 2050. This is a staggering statistic when considering the world population and quality of life and leads to the question of how this growing population will be supported, especially in regions and countries within which resources are already scarce or unavailable.

Bennett Henson

As earth’s population grows exponentially, we have the desire to spread out, conquering new lands and establishing new cities, harvesting the resources necessary to feed our insatiable desire to grow as a species. As we grow and expand we are, have, and will, permanently destroying millennia old ecosystems and environments in order to harvest the resources necessary to sustain and grow. This trend will inevitably result in the overpopulation of the earth and the destruction of many non-replaceable resources. The relative freedom we have to use these resources may seem beneficial in the short term, but will result in less resources available in the future. Not only are we destroying our own resources by abusing the commons, we are destroying the resources of future generations. As Krutilla says in "Conservation Reconsidered" we are eating away at resources that may be immensely more valuable in the future. Potential cancer curing roots and plants may be unknowingly destroyed in order to make room for business offices or subdivisions. It is difficult to assess the value of nature when we can not predict the technological advancements and the necessities of the future, so it is better to err on the safe side and conserve as much land as we can before it is lost forever.

The conservation of potentially invaluable lands butts heads with our innate desire to breed and start families, to grow and expand, but the long term costs associated with unearthing a wetland in order to put in retirement homes may vastly outweigh the short term benefits. Humans habitually forego long term benefits (especially if their generation will never realize these benefits) in order to reap smaller, but more immediate, benefits. As population continues to grow the destruction of environments will continue to expand as well. Hardin's command and control viewpoint on breeding may seem ridiculous at the time, but could possibly prevent the extermination of our species in the future.

As Ali notes, the majority of current rapid population growth is occurring in resource rich developing nations. One possible strategy to curtail population growth and conserve these valuable is to enhance education in these developing countries so that parents have less incentive to have more children. Not only would this result in lower population growth, it would result in a more educated and conscientious population as well as spur economic and societal development in the relative short term. The combination of short term and long term benefits associated with educational advancement make this a plausible solution to the Malthusian dilemma.

Rachel Stone

Like Cara, reading the Tragedy of the Commons made me think of China's one-child policy, a policy which, according to a PBS article, "created a demographic wave that is beginning to crash on the economy." While I do not disagree with Hardin that depletion of the commons is a real threat with our ever-growing global population, I think there are other factors to consider before arguing solely in favor of population restrictions. The three primary sources of growth in an economy are labor, capital and productivity. In development economics last term, we spent a lot of time discussing how increasing productivity might help develop nations. Using China as an example, a country whose productivity skyrocketed in recent decades, this population restriction might seriously threaten the economic success to which they have grown accustomed. Because of the one-child policy, which was enacted in 1980, labor will not be an area of growth for an entire generation. In fact, the working-age population in China is expected to decline in the coming years due to the policy. While this might be good for the world's population problem, it is likely not good for China's economy. The question now is whether or not the increasingly smaller working-age population will be able to support not only China's large economy, but also their aging parents.

All that being said, China ended its one-child policy last fall in favor of a two-child policy. However, the world will have to grapple with the change significantly increasing the global population in the coming years. According to the PBS article, the UN and the Population Reference Bureau are estimating the two-child policy will add 23.4 million extra people to the population by 2050. And Chinese officials are saying the number will be closer to 30 million. Although Hardin argued "the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed," we should learn from China's example. We need to study the potential implications of different population policies on the global economy before enacting restrictions like the one-child policy.

Elizabeth Wolf

While certainly both "The Tragedy of the Commons" and "Conservation Reconsidered" address several complicated issues in the field of environmental economics, one of the prevailing themes in both of these papers is the concept that temporal choice cannot be analyzed independently when attempting to model the natural environment and its relationship to capital markets. When an economic decision is made during a time period, it often irreversibly affects two time periods - the present one and the future one. For example, a tree cut down today is one less tree in that present forest, but this action also robs the future forest of that tree (assuming it has not been replanted, which is a different scenario).

Krutilla cites Davidson, Adams, and Seneca's argument that there is an "interaction between present and future demand functions, which will result in a public good externality, as present demand enters into the utility function of future users" (782). However, "present action [must be] compatible with the attainment of future state of affairs" (785). This poses a challenge specific to environmental economics - the one in which both present and future states are unknown in full and choices are intertemporal and often irreversible. While Krutilla also notes that landscape rehabilitation process has experienced stark technological advances in the recent past, these tactics are still insufficient in recreating the natural environment, independent of the often irrevocable damage done to species as the topography is also being altered. In essence, preservation is easier than replication.

Just as Krutilla highlights the inability of environmental economics to be divided into clean time periods, and the idea that the choices made in one time period affect that time period, all future time periods, and are often permanent, Hardin highlights a similar school of thinking - namely his claim that there "is no technical solution." Hardin also assumes that space (and by default its resources) is finite and that allocation decisions must be made. In his classic "commons" scenario, due to the imbalance of benefit and cost (as a function of shared grazing land) the farmer adds to his herd without thought of the present or future environmental impact. He argues that the "invisible hand" does not account for depleteable assets. In essence, Hardin's argument is much like Krutilla's - the classic free market model does not adequately account for the intertemporal and depleteable nature of natural resources and there are no clearly defined answers that suggest a way to manage the natural environment in all of its functions for this time period and the next with limited information on both.

Jonah M Mackay

In my opinion, the implications of Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" are deeply problematic. I do not disagree with the logic he is using, nor the economics behind his arguments, but I find the conclusions that he draws to be unacceptable. Specifically, his views on the family unit and reproduction.

Hardin clearly believes that personal liberty is a necessary sacrifice in order to close off the commons. This may be true, but to what extent do we allow this to continue? Is there a line in the sand where we draw the extent of abandoning the commons? Isn't the commons necessary at a certain point to avoid things like eugenics? I feel as though the paper leads to troubling moral questions - questions that Hardin largely glosses over.

Relinquishing the freedom to breed also seems like a far to drastic measure. It seems as though programs or laws could be created that disincentivize breeding - finding a solution to our problem of overpopulation and exponential growth in a way that does not so drastically shake the foundations of our society.

Is the commons bad? Yes. But much like other externalities I believe that there is a solution that can reduce the problems - potentially drastically - but not in a way that compromises who we are, and the basis of our core values.

Amanda Wahlers

Like most other people, I find myself unable to resist commenting on the unapologetically bold stance taken by Hardin in "The Tragedy of the Commons". As I read the piece, I found myself focusing not on the question of “Should we limit population growth?” but “How should we limit population growth?”.

Hardin says ‘hard pass’ to moral suasion, and seems as though he may be advocating for command and control regulations. In this case economic incentives (such as an increasing tax on each child that is born, for example) seem as thought they might lead to a society in which wealthier individuals could literally purchase the right to reproduce (not necessarily because they value offspring more, but simply because they have more money and can afford not to change their behavior). Offering subsidies to people who have one or zero children may be a more palatable alternative, but since the benefits from their choice to forgo having offspring would be widespread and long-term, revenues to fund such a subsidy would need to be generated through higher taxes or some other immediate means of funding (not that this is necessarily a deal-breaker, but it might pose a challenge).

Still, even if society chose to institute a command and control regulation for the sake of avoiding discriminating against people on the basis of income (since a fixed subsidy would likely prove more enticing to an impoverished person than a wealthy one), what would be the costs of enforcement? Would people who break the law pay with prison time (causing the loss of a productive member of society) or with fines (affecting individuals much the same as a tax- with wealthy people willing to pay the fine and move on)? If society accepts that the government can mandate vaccinations for the sake of health in the general population then how different would it be to accept mandatory vasectomies? (This question really made me think about Hardin’s section on social arrangements that are already a part of status quo.)

There would be so many challenges to the issue of limiting population growth- there would be disputes on the grounds of religious beliefs and on the grounds of personal freedoms and rights. However, Hardin argues that “the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed.” The world is in such a state that continuing as we have been may very well lead to the extinction of thousands of species, depletion of the world's natural resources, the destruction of vital ecosystems, and ultimately to catastrophic damage to the planet’s ability to support humanity at anywhere near the current population level. I love that this paper takes a step back from the messy details of “limiting population growth” and asks us to compare our thoughts on the issue to our thoughts on the most morally reprehensible acts (murder, for example) that no argument on the basis of religious beliefs or personal freedoms and rights prevents us from taking action against.

Maddi Boireau

In Krutilla's article, he mentions how a market has "kind of" developed in the realm of nature conservancy where Nature Conservancy purchases land that is threatened in order to protect it. He goes on to explain how this market is imperfect and cannot be sustained. I, however don't really see the how this market will never be sustainable. He even says that "the resources used in a manner compatible with preserving the natural environment have no close substitutes." To me this just means that the market is very inelastic. People are either going to use the resources to benefit the environment or use the resources to benefit themselves. Unfortunately, often the two cannot or simply don't overlap.
I think, given time, a market could develop surrounding Nature Conservancy. The key word here is 'time,' which is something we don't have. The earth is deteriorating and as cliché as it sounds we need to take some action. The question now is what type of action? I can tell you now that some 20 year old enviro major whose Econ knowledge is solely based on Econ 101 is not the person to figure it out. Maybe thousands of 20 year olds, from many disciplines can but I truly believe there are enough environmental economists and geologists and environmental philosphers in the world right now to do so. We lack urgency. There are not enough people who see that "the quality of the physical environment is deteriorating" at an alarming rate. There are some things we, without being economists, geologists, or philosphers can address one being the main issue explored in Tragedy of the Commons, population growth.
Like Cara, one of my first thoughts was China. They were able to control their population rate through government intervention. We see the population in China today and we have to ask ourselves what it would have been had the population rate not reduced by half. Yes, the one-child policy had it's problems including infanticide but it was a case-study. There are problems with every first attempt. I think the problem is entitlement. Even Hardin's article mentions that "we breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons." I think this quote can go even farther back where we aren't yet talking about the rights of people being born and the rights they feel to the commons but people simply breed with the belief that we all have the right to produce as much offspring as possible.
Theoretically producing offspring is only necessary to keep your species alive and to pass on your genes, we are no longer a species that needs to procreate in numbers to make sure at least one of your offspring stays alive. That thought is simply naive. Hardin said it best, "Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all."

Jacob Strauss

As many people have mentioned, China's family planning policies are what come to mind while reading the "Tragedy of the Commons." While the policies were typically viewed as a human rights violation in the Western world, they retained a high popularity rate in China until the end, and in my own anecdotal experience it was difficult to find someone from the cities that opposed it. However, evidence from developing countries in South America and Africa shows that economic development and investments in education are viable methods for controlling population growth, and China would have seen a decrease in population growth without implementing the restrictions. In addition, the policies failed to prevent widespread environment damage, and China will struggle with conservation and rebuilding habitats for decades.

To combine both articles, it would seem investments in education and environmental protection would be able to go some way in accomplishing what each author is advocating for, but it's difficult to tell exactly how much of a difference it will make down the road. Residents of developing countries will value a higher standard of living and income over less pollution, and the US doesn't have any room to criticize with an extremely high per capita rate of emissions.

Matt Parker

As Jacob pointed out, there is an interesting correlation between education levels and family size. According to the population reference bureau, 97% of the growth in population that occurred between 2011 and 2012 could be attributed to developing countries. Furthermore, in many developing countries, women with no education tend to have families twice as large as their educated counterparts. It seems then that investment in human capital in developing countries, especially among women, could become a necessary step in slowing population growth.

The notion of financial incentives for smaller family sizes is interesting although there already is a huge financial incentive for smaller families (raising a child up until the age of 18 usually costs between $250,000 and $300,000). Unfortunately, enforcing family sizes in the Western hemisphere is likely an idea that will be rejected up until the situation is too extreme to correct, because infringing on family rights is considered one of the most extreme violations.

William Bannister

What I thought was most fascinating while reading "The Tragedy of the Commons" was seeing the state of affairs in 1968, and then comparing them to the scale of the problems today's world faces.
I believe that Hardin made many relevant points regarding overpopulation and the problems it would subsequently cause the planet, but his views are naturally outdated, as he couldn't possibly predict the scale of technological advancement that the planet has experienced over the last 50 years. The main example that comes to my mind is food production, and Hardin's idea that the world is finite. Hardin mentions that it would be "impossible" to make everyone live off of the basic "maintenance of life" quantity of calories (1600) in order to conserve the finite amount of goods in the world, as that would require no extracurricular work being done by anyone - an unlikely scenario. However, understandably, Hardin does not take into account the Human population's ability to develop new technology and methods of staying alive, especially the advancements we have seen in recent times. For instance, wheat yields in developing countries have increased by 200% within the last 35 years. This is just one example showing the extent to which the efficiency and scale of food production has changed in recent history, and in this knowledge, it makes Hardin's views on the effects of overpopulation on finite goods flawed.

Hugh Gooding

Although written nearly fifty years ago, Krutilla's insight into human nature and tendencies toward natural and limited resources remains accurate and relevant. I found his discussion of technology and its connection with natural resources especially intriguing considering the time at which he wrote this piece. In the 1960s, Krutilla points out that although technology plays an important role in extracting and depleting natural resources, it is also a vital component in protecting and replenishing these resources. He says that technology continues to progress at a rate which allows extraction of resources to be more efficient and less intrusive and harmful to the natural environment. He hints that technology's goal is aimed at the ability to extract with minimal to no harm to the environment. He warns that we run into danger by seeing technology as more than a preservation tool. Technology will never have the power to reproduce or replicate a natural habitat, as the "supply of natural phenomena is virtually inelastic." I view this as a message for us to not overstep our bounds with the powers afforded to us by technology. We must use technology for what we know it is capable of, and that is providing protection for these natural resources so that future generations are able to also use and benefit from it. If we lose sight of technology's capabilities, there will be "significant limitations on reproducing it in the future should we fail to preserve it [now]." As important and useful as technology is at providing protective amenities to these natural habitats and resources, we must utilize its abilities to preserve rather than reproduce. This is a revolutionary insight for the 1960s, and it remains strongly relevant today.

Mackenzie Dalton

Like William pointed out, Hardin's examples do seem a little outdated but I still feel as if they are relevant to today's issues. As we increase the population, everyone's "per-capita share of world's goods must decrease" (Hardin, 1968). Although we can create much more food with current technologies, the quality of these goods is decreasing as Hardin predicted. Our food is highly processed and some are genetically modified which decreases the nutritional value of these foods. We are damaging our land more as we expand unsustainable agricultural techniques. Soil quality and nutrition has decreased which lessens the quality of our food that is grown in the poor soil. So as Hardin shows, although we have many technological advancements, we decrease the benefit for everyone as we exploit these finite resources. Bentham's "greatest good for the greatest number of people" isn't reached with new technological advancements. Yes, these advancements help improve people's lives in different ways but, unfortunately it still can never be reached. As a society we must figure out a way to balance caring for the growing population but by not exploiting our limited resources as much. We can manage the "commons" to help benefit everyone rather than decrease everyone's benefit.

Spencer Payne

I really enjoyed reading Hardin’s article about how the tragedy of the commons principle applies to global population challenges. His logic and reasoning is grounded in economic thought, and he certainly makes a strong case for passing child-capping legislation. I especially liked the part of the article where says that even though his proposal would further infringe on the commons, it is no different than previous restrictions that are accepted — that “it is [only] the newly proposed infringements that we vigorously oppose; cries of "rights" and "freedom" fill the air.” This passage legitimizes his assertions and encourages his critics to keep an open mind.

But while I was reading Hardin’s article, I could not help but think that his views on natural resources are a bit dated. He argues that they are finite — which, to a degree, they are. However, I do not believe that a growing population will create conditions such that everyone’s consumption behaviors must be tightly regulated even some 50 years after this article was written. This shortcoming can likely be explained by the fact that Hardin, like Will said, did not expect food production technology to improve to the degree that it has.

Of course, that is not to say that the fact that Hardin’s article was published in 1968 renders it completely passé. For while his argument for limiting births on the grounds that an exorbitant population will consume all of the Earth’s natural resources falls flat because of today’s technological advancements, it may have merit on the grounds that limiting the world’s population may help reduce global pollution. Perhaps the best way to test this hypothesis would be to study China’s annual emissions over the next few years. Using data from before the “one-child” policy was lifted as a benchmark, empirical studies down the road may be able to determine that an increase in the Chinese population is strongly correlated with an increase in its pollution — which would certainly suggest that limiting population is a means to combat global emissions struggles.

Sierra Tamm

When John Krutilla mentioned option demand I was intrigued. The idea of willingness to pay for the option of using something in my opinion means that what you are willing to pay for must hold even more value than something you could pay for and use immediately. Additionally, he asks if people are willing to pay for the option to use these things, then why has a market not been established for the preservation of the environment? This made me wonder if it is actually the case that a market has yet to develop. Krutilla points out the market for medicinal plants. I think that while people want to preserve the Amazon for several reasons, one of them is for the option to still be able to find new plants that can be used in the medical field. Also, I would argue that people who invest in and use eco-tourism are often helping to keep areas around where they are preserved. This means that while they are using the service that they are paying for, the entirety of what they pay for is being preserved for future generations. The successful preservation of our environment is necessary because it is inelastic. Once the goods are gone there is no way for us to reproduce something as diverse as the Amazon. It will just be gone.

Benie Bolohan

In biology, students tend to learn that each species has its carrying capacity and that a generalized population graph for any given species grows at a decreasing rate until it finally levels off at that carrying capacity. This graph is a simplified model used to explain broad-spectrum theories, just as is done in economics. That being said, there are certain assumptions we take for granted in these models—assumptions we do not always address. For example, we assume that the environment is a constant, meaning that the food supply stays the same, predator populations do not fluctuate greatly, and so on. If any of these assumptions were no longer true, those individuals that were the best suited to survive would continue to propagate and, over time, the species would adapted. None of the species we studied in biology had learned to adapt their environment to suit their needs. That is what humans have done. We take pride in being well-educated, having a high-level, well-respected job, accumulating wealth, being “civilized,” and more, but has that all had a positive effect on our species?
In my anthropology course, we learned that the more economically developed a society becomes, the more removed from nature it becomes as well. In economic classes, students learn how to best manage an economy through fiscal and monetary policies in order to ensure a “strong and healthy” economy or to help developing countries grow their economies quickly. In other words, we learn how to be more removed from our natural environment. This has had both benefits and costs for society. On the one hand, we have increased the standard of living from decades, and even centuries, ago. We have developed advanced technology that has improved medicine and the average life expectancy greatly, systemized food production in such a way as to support a greater population, and created methods for travelling and communicating internationally. On the other hand, we have created higher expectations for what life has to offer and we have developed a system in which we incentivize people to be as profitable and productive as possible. Human nature is, as Hardin points out, self-centered. We want to consume the most we can while paying the least possible. We want a life of grandeur and luxury, and we strive towards this goal the best we can.
But what happens when we reach the point where there are too many people to support our current lifestyles for everyone? We are competitive and we have our goals—we want to strive for better, not worse. We do not want to give up what we already have, we want to consume more. It is this question that I think Hardin pushes us to ask ourselves, because, while logical, it is slightly too abstract to truly imagine implementing in the real world. If the world is truly finite, we can only expand to a certain point. Our environment-adapting behavior can only delay this question for so long. We have grown accustomed to what we already have and seek the new, but at some point this will have to end, won’t it?

Lilly Grella

As I began reading the Tragedy of the Commons article, I assumed it would be something similar to the many other Tragedy of the Commons articles I have read, referencing the overfishing and overgrazing yet producing no good solution. But I ran across this quote and got very intrigued by the article. Hardin in the section, What shall we maximize?, says: “A finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero”. This quote seems understandable and seemingly predictable, but as I continued with the reading I realized this goes completely against the common idea of exponential population growth. Malthus provides a solution: eating children. Obviously this is not the route we wish to take once the exponential growth becomes too much, but something must be done.

As Hardin references, the trade off between population and quality of life must stay in the right direction. Quality of life should not be minimized. Thus we come to the conclusion that there has to be some form of population moderation. There are two main options: command and control and economic incentive. Command and control, the more blunt of the two, has been in place in China with the one child policy and even though this has decreased the population substantially there are so many unintended consequences that seems to harm more than less. On the other hand, an economic incentive seems to be a choice that may work.

To delve into the type of economic incentive to put in place, one very important piece of information must be taken into consideration. People’s motivations to have children are not the same everywhere and in every situation. They differ by gender, economic circumstances, culture, and age, among many other factors. The solution thus cannot be one-size-fits-all; rather it must cater to a wide variety of thoughts and tastes when it comes to childbearing.

Emily Rollo

I agree with Hardin’s idea that the problem with the rapidly growing population of the world cannot be solved technically. However, I am unsure if I agree with his idea that if we dismiss the fact that the world can only hold a finite human population, then humans will become increasingly miserable. One of his main points is that in order to relinquish the commons, we must address the issue of breeding. I had similar thoughts to previous comments about China’s one-child policy. Are the people of China really happier that they cannot reproduce more than once in their lifetime? According to some reports, it seems as though it has made them more miserable, something that Hardin believes people should be if they keep breeding and increasing the population. Their frustrations with this policy have led to more than just their unhappiness. It could be linked to economic hardships, which creates more anxiety in humans, something Hardin also points out to be “desirable.”

With that being said, I agree to some level with Hardin on the issue of pollution. The human population is self-interested in every way, including the ways in which we dispose of wastes. If the costs of emptying wastes is cheaper than cleansing the wastes before disposing them, then the rational, self-interested human will choose the more harmful behavior. It’s a simple economic idea. Laws and encouragements can help alleviate the consequences of pollution. China is another example of this. After 30 years of sacrificing the environment for economic gains, their government has reinvented their environmental protection laws. Yes, I’m sure these new laws have helped the nation in great ways. But since an increasing population density leads to poor pollution strategies, according to Hardin, the fact that China has been trying to cut their population with the one child policy may also be helping. However, this policy brings misery to the people, while cutting pollution rates. To me, the problem of the exponentially growing population seems cyclical and there really is not one perfect solution.

Alison Peacock

Regarding the piece, “Conservation Reconsidered,” I found the notion of option demand very interesting. Krutilla explains this to be a “willingness to pay for retaining an option to use an area or facility that would be difficult or impossible to replace and for which no close substitute is available.” He goes on to say that even if there is no current use for the area or facility, we should still strive to protect it in case a need for it arises in the near future. Though Krutilla points out that there are cases of a market for option demands, it seems like a very difficult concept to quantify. The option value seems more sentimental than a concrete term to use in a market. If we are saving natural resources or protecting certain areas of the world, which we have no current use for, how do we assign a value to that entity? How can we predict the future worth of a product without knowing what the use is? Though I see the validity of his argument, I struggle to see how it is effective in a market setting. The market for retaining an option seems to have faults. While there are private organizations which will purchase land as a way to preserve it, there are high risks when its comes to these types of investments. There is no true way to predict the value of this land in the future, and this absence of knowledge will likely deter many potential investors. Krutilla also discuses the issue with the land being a public good, which people may attempt to eliminate the cost themselves by hoping others will step in to protect the land.

Krutilla also goes in depth on the idea that present generations can stimulate demand for recreational activities for future generations. Any resource-based recreational activity increases in value if the present population understands, knows how to use it, and passes this knowledge down to its children. If our current generation can teach the next few generations about these recreational activities, it is more likely that these next generations will be willing to protect the resources. Krutilla explains that “we consider the remote backcountry landscape…as the object of experience and enjoyment, we recognize that utility from the experience depends predominantly upon the prior acquisition of technical skill and specialized knowledge.” If we want the future society to appreciate nature and the recreational services it provides, it falls upon our shoulders to show children how to correctly use it. This is a simple concept to understand, but in my personal experience, I worry that it may be hard to get the future population to indulge in outdoor activities. With younger siblings, it is easy to compare how I spent my childhood and how my 10 year-old and 11 year-old sisters spend theirs. With so much technology at their fingertips, my siblings spend more time inside than outside. I worry that they value technology over nature and what it has to offer. If we hope to keep increasing the value of outdoor activities, we need to be proactive in pushing our children to spend time outside. Coinciding with this, our education system should emphasis the values of natural recourses and conserving nature. If we start teaching the younger population, they will grow into a more informed population, who can then take on the task of protecting the environment as well.

Benjamin Bayles

I found the philosophical questions presented in the tragedy of commons to be my favorite aspect of both readings. “Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited,” I feel was both interesting and demonstrated the issue extremely well. I was more intrigued however by the quote “the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed.” There are countless examples of this throughout society aside from those presented, (ie. racism, slavery, footbinding, childhood marriges, etc.) where something is found acceptable at the time only to be considered nearly evil in the future. This adds an additional confounding variable to making policy because not only do you have to account for what is moral today, but be cognizant of what may be considered moral in the future.

Use of fossil fuels is a clear example of something that is, in todays world, considered not only moral, but perfectly acceptable by most. It is easy to see however, a day where burning or wasting natures non-renewable resources will be as sinful and inexcusable as many of the actions of the past we so harshly condemn. Certainly some may already feel this way, but I wonder if this will become the norm as the adverse effects begin to make larger impacts.

Shlomo Honig

The pattern of exponential growth the human population has experienced since the Industrial Revolution is unlike any externality, I think, that the world has ever seen or will ever encounter. Hardin makes it very clear that people should not be expected to comply with policies that do not benefit them personally (especially in the short run). While I firmly agree that the choice to reproduce is a biological right that no governing body should be able to monopolize or even regulate, the trajectory of our current population growth will cause our carrying capacity to be well-surpassed, resulting in a lowered standard of living that would dissatisfy most people (assuming the equal distribution of resources).
Even with ongoing advances in technology, the fact remains that last year there were 80 million more mouths to feed than the year before. Nearly all population projection models for the next 50-100 years provide a low, medium, and high scenario. I find it intriguing how some people – including most of the people who firmly support not regulating the right to reproduce - are optimistic that we will be able to stay under even the medium population projection. Even more astonishing is how many models show our growth rate approaching 0.10% by 2100. Of course, these models are just models, and they do not explicitly state the policies and intervention necessary on a worldwide scale to bring about this drastic change. The reason for this is that we don’t know exactly what to do yet. But like Hardin says, “we can never do nothing.”
Is an economic solution feasible? Potentially, although this requires making it more costly to potential parents to have a child than it is worth to them, which would first necessitate some comprehensive analysis of how much having a child is actually worth – a value that is difficult to place considering it is a human life we are talking about here, and this value is sure to vary with family, culture, country, and many other variables. Could such a policy really achieve the desirable “mutual coercion” that Hardin mentions? In his example, Hardin states how people grudgingly pay taxes “to escape the horror of the commons.” While that is reasonable, taxes also support government programs, infrastructure, education, defense, and science – things that people tangibly benefit from. I find it far less likely for someone to relinquish their right to breed since they won’t actually feel that they are benefitting from this decision.
Additionally, there is no way to enforce such a policy. And what of a fine for noncompliance? Are we really going to fine people a certain amount of money for having a child, and can we really expect this to be fair considering it will favor the wealthy? The sooner that people globally realize that when everyone takes from the commons it hurts society collectively, the better the chance we have to decrease the population growth rate of our species in a humane manner. This requires both education and rationality.
An interesting yet very relevant idea from Krutilla’s piece is that a large problem stems from people thinking they are being rational decision makers by “thinking at the margin.” But when this type of thinking does not take into account maximizing future utility, we overexploit resources in the context of their future use, all the while thinking the market is efficient. At the same time, the question arises as to whether we should really cut back on resource use today if people don’t concurrently change their breeding and consumption habits. Wouldn’t this just facilitate the availability of more resources for unsustainable population growth in the near future? This is just a thought, but I think it is worth discussing.

Ashby Gatens

I found John Krutilla's discussion regarding the need to increase the populous' appreciation for land and natural resources such as the Grand Canyon to be the most interesting aspect of his article. Whether or not the average American makes use of theses resources recreationally, they will continue to be preserved. Therefore, if the use and enjoyment of these resources increases, the overall utility of each person will increase. The first problem in achieving this though, is the cost. Running government programs to promote/ advertise, or incentive use of preserved outdoor spaces, while utility increasing, are also expensive. Additionally, recreational use of national parks and forests would decrease the value of them if they are not used sparingly and cautiously, which would counteract their preservation. While I agree that preserving these resources and increasing people's enjoyment of them is important, it is not without cots if not executed cautiously.

Additionally, I found it interesting that in many ways, Hardin’s article and the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons directly contradicts the notion of the “invisible hand.” While the “invisible hand” asserts that people acting in their own best interest will keep the market in tack, and is therefore beneficial, the Tragedy of the Commons maintains that people acting in their own best interest will deplete the Earth of valuable natural resources, and therefore it is a detriment. While I believe that the cases for both are made very well, how/if they coexist when they seem to suggest such different outcomes from seemingly similar behavior.

Morgan Trimas

The "Tragedy of the Commons" is something I have read a few times for various classes and it always strikes me as to how something written in the 1960s can still be so commonly referred to today. As a few of my classmates have pointed out above, some of Hardin's ideas are out of date. He seems to be wary of the idea of coming close to the carrying capacity of the earth and even supports pursuing laws for 'birth caps', so to speak. However, as evidenced by the ever-growing population, we have not yet reached our carrying capacity. In my opinion, it is much more valuable and important to pursue environmental sustainabilility, because would it not be better to have a larger, environmentally conscious generation than a smaller one that promotes environmental degradation?
Hardin also promotes the idea of laws governing every action associated with a moral decision and he quotes John Adams-that we must have a "government of laws and not men". However, I believe a more proper answer would be to take a nuanced position regarding all environmental issues, both of public and private land. Besides, are all laws not written by man himself?
While many of Hardin's claims may be bold and stir unrest, I think part of his point was to write a piece that would cause pause and concern. As members of this planet, we need to understand that eventually our resources will run out, our standard of living will be decreased, and the gap between the poor and the wealthy will continue to dramatically increase unless we begin to conserve and use our resources sustainably. Hardin argues that we need to abandon our preconceived notions of freedom and understand that in order to be truly free and avoid the tragedy of the commons, we need to accept mutual coercion-abandoning the commons for environmetally minded decisions.

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