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Mitchell Brister

The Tragedy of the Commons brought forth the issue of breeding and the finite capacity of the earth. This issue isn’t something that most people like to address or really ever do when thinking about the environment. I have to say that I disagree with some points made in the paper. The first point that I disagree with is the assumption that the population is what is really ruining the environment. I believe that before we talk about controlling population and taking away the right to breed, we can make huge strides in the consumption and production of pollution around the world. Pollution is the real issue when looking at the future of mankind. And if the U.S., China, and India could cut down their pollution levels, they can make a drastic change for the earth.

I really don’t see an issue with greater population on earth. I believe that there is plenty of room for more people around the world and food production is only becoming more efficient. Water is another issue, but I really do believe that technology will advance to help us with desalination of ocean water. The real issue I see is the consumption and production of pollution. Before we start talking about taking away a human right, we should do everything else we can. On top of this education and increase access to healthcare will decrease birth rates, helping to lower the rate of population growth.

Oliver Nettere

In Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons he proposes that we live in a finite world. He wrote this piece in the late 60's and now this fact is ever more pressing. As the global population experiences exponential growth and passes the 7 billion mark, the question Hardin proposed if everyone could cut down on their own personal consumption and standard of living would this allow for the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people? While this altruistic idea sounds reasonable, he argues that it is impossible as one variable works at the expense of the other and also that people would take advantage of their own personal well-being in a world wide "tragedy of the commons." Hardin also sees the solution of public relations campaigns and methods of swaying the public opinion (moral sausion) as unrealistic. His idea of the "tragedy of the commons" is something I can easily relate to having spent plenty of time on the publicly accessible National Forests fishing and hunting. The conservation in me says to release the large healthy trout so it can serve its function as broodstock, keeping the streams replenished with future fish and to let the little buck walk so one day he grows up. While this is my view others also spending time in "the commons" may view these same animals as something entirely different -- dinner.

Matthew Inglis

Hardin's argument is strong in its focuses of finite space and the degradation of resources. He makes a good point when he declares the negative consequences of a farmer adding another cattle to its herd - that is that the environment and soil are impacted. On the other hand, the farmer does benefit on an individual level. However, as many have pointed out, this scenario is not one of great relevance to an economist's modern approach.

As Krutilla points out, the changing times have caused a change in the way one should view this 'tragedy' of the commons. Technology has advanced to the point of massive yields in food crops. This technology even goes as far as genetic modification of basic items. At a genetic level, they are being fundamentally altered. This could prove harmful in the long run, but for our purposes, I do believe that this could prove extremely beneficial as well. An example of this would be crops that have minimal negative impact on the environment.

In terms of pollution, Hardin does make another valid point in that pollution is a consequence of population. We are pumping dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere at alarming rates. This, I do not believe, has changed much since Hardin wrote the piece. However, again, the technology (both that is available now and that is being developed) is changing the way in which we can reduce pollution levels. We have recognized the harmful effects of pollution, and we are at least starting to do something about the problem.

It is interesting that the 'tragedy of the commons' has become yet another catch-phrase that is used over and over. At least for the most part, Hardin's ideas and declarations are of merit. What must be done now: we must use the technology available to ensure that we have a sustained livable world in the future.

Mamie Smith

In Krutilla's piece, "Conservation Reconsidered," Krutilla makes a valid point that technology gives a large, exponential boost to industry and makes it incredibly harder to support and preserve the "traditional natural resources sector." He refers to the production possibilities curve and tradeoffs involved in the choice between recreation/scientific research and extractive purposes such as mining, land-clearing for timber, etc. Krutilla points out that the choice with the largest net benefit may not match with the most sustainable option for the environment. This unideal situation, however, seems to only include certain monetary and human-based quantities of costs and benefits, such as money from products produced or money brought in from recreational purposes (money to hike, swim, go on tours or money to park in the parking lot). The hard part, I think, that plays into making these decisions includes finding some quantitative way to measure costs and benefits to other parts of our worldwide community: the other living things (animals, plants, etc.) and their entire ecosystems. After all, even people in the Amazon and other areas of the world who continue living away from “modern society” and even animals and plants deserve a voice; we can’t forget them. Have ecologists found some way to take nature into account, or do they only focus on value measurements/ costs and benefits that pertain to humans. Do they ask in which ways the natural resources would best affect the ecosystems? It seems as though economics, a fairly new discipline of knowledge developed as society has zoomed forward, only includes humans. There are so many factors that play into making decisions and exactly who those decisions affect. Is there a way to further develop economics to better incorporate nature (the world overall, objectively), or has it already included such factors in ways that I don’t fully understand? It makes me wonder about the history of economics, especially as it pertains to environmental awareness and development. After all, economics seems to be a widely quantitative, practical type of analysis, and nature much of the time seems to depend on the more qualitative, subjective, and ethical paths. It’s poets, writers, and artists that so much of the time have the greatest influence on me. How do we most effectively present people with plain, strong facts to actively protect the environment and live in a sustainable way? What exactly defines whether certain ways are more economically or environmentally efficient than others?

Walker Abbott

I agree with many of the above comments that Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" has a few ideas that are out of date. In the 1960s, Hardin was writing in a transitional time in agriculture. Yes, intensive industrial agriculture was on the rise with advances in bio-engineering and machine technology, but it was only the tip of the iceberg at the time.
In regard to food per acre, our agriculture system is incredibly efficient (if one disregards fossil fuel, water, and fertilizer inputs). I think Hardin would still believe that even the current level of advanced technology in agriculture isn't a solution to the earth's carrying capacity. As we know, this is true because our current agriculture model simply will not be sustainable because it relies too heavily on finite resources (fossil fuels, water, etc.).

I enjoyed rereading the portion of the essay that gives the herdsman and cattle example. In light of the interdisciplinary approach of the environmental studies and Econ classes, I love seeing themes reappear in various subjects. Last semester, in a seminar on Leopold, we spent a fair amount of time applying the tragedy of the commons to grazing in the Southwest United States. Overgrazing range is a huge problem, especially on public land. Leopold and Hardin both explore ideas of how to minimize overgrazing and protect the land for the use of the greater good. It seems that while leasing these public lands to cattle farmers is a good source of revenue to be used to manage/ protect other land, what is the point of owning these public lands if they are allowed to be damaged?

In the second half of this reading, "The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited", I struggled to understand Crowe's discussion of values and interests, "interests can always be compromised and accommodated without undermining our very being by sacrificing values." Hardin, in the beginning of the essay, calls for a change in human values as the solution rather than a technical solution. However, where do personal interests and values overlap or contradict each other?

Yishu Liu

From Hardin’s the Tragedy of the Commons, the quote “freedom to bred will bring ruin to all” stuck me the most. It is a bold statement to make and Hardin supported it with some very strong points. However, this statement only stands in some cases. As with everything else in economics, the answer is it depends. For example, China is an example of a country with population control policies. There is a government limit on “freedom to bred”. China’s one-child policy, recently changed to two kids, was very efficient in curbing the fast growing population. The initial decision for the policy was due to the inability to provide enough food for the fast growing Chinese population, which led to many years of famine in China. Since the sanction, the average number of kids per woman has decreased from about 2.5 in 1980 to 1.5 in 2005-2010, compared to 6.3 in 1970s. Like Hardin said, “a finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero”. This is an example of a success story, where command and control regulation has slowed down population growth.

On the other hand, Denmark is having the opposite problem as China. In the past decades, the Danes have been faced with declining birth rates. As of 2012, the average number of children per family is around 1.7. Denmark has not enacted any policies to block the “freedom to bred”. Advancements in sexual education in Danish schools definitely play a factor into the low birth rates. Contrary to the Chinese government, the Danish government is trying to encourage couples to have more kids. They are intervening with population growth through moral suasion and providing incentives for Danes to have more children. For example, the Danish government subsidies the costs of raising a child through helping all families pay for daycare to college. In addition, advertisement campaigns are encouraging Danish couples to “do it for Denmark”. As much as I agree with the need for population control as pointed out by Hardin, I think this is a problem that every country has to tackle by itself. The optimum population is nearly impossible to determine, but I believe we are quickly approaching that number.

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