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I have chosen to focus on Hardin's piece.
The house I share with six friends attempts to recycle. At the beginning of the year, we had three bins outside of our home for plastic, glass and cans, respectively. As time wore on, the bins became full with the containers, but also with rainwater, critters and dirt from our driveway. We waited too long to take them to the nearby recycling center. By midterms, they were overflowing, full to the brim with much more than plastic, glass and cans. Not one of the seven of us were willing to put the soiled bins in our trunks to take to the center down the road. We each admitted slowly to giving up on recycling. The simple task of taking the bins to the recycling center before they got too full was too much for us to handle, and the bins ended up in the back of a garbage truck and, presumably, at a landfill. The recognized cost we each incurred by allowing these recyclable goods to go into a landfill was not as high as the cost we perceived in taking the time to travel up the road to the recycling center. This serves as a handy example of population’s role in pollution of the commons. Had it been just me, I would probably have taken the recycling before it got too full. But when I felt every housemate had contributed, I lost all sense of accountability. The same, unfortunately, goes for hair in the shower drain and dishes in the sink. As the number of those contributing increases, the sense of responsibility decreases. If, as Hardin writes, the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed, the system in which my home functions is in disarray. We lack the moral responsibility to simply take the recycling because the marginal cost of doing so is larger than the social benefit.

But, just as it would be inappropriate and morally unsuitable to tell my roommates they must move out one by one until our system is properly functioning, it would be inappropriate to tell the world’s population how many children a family can have. This would be a technical solution, but it is simply not feasible. Is reproduction safe as a laissez-faire phenomenon? The hypothetical market, if you will, for population will not clear itself. Those populations that grow exponentially are typically those who are, as Hardin puts it, the most miserable. “A technical solution may be defined as one that requires a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality,” Hardin writes. Is there such thing as a technical solution in economics anymore? Have we moved so far into integrated studies that in order to fix one problem we must first address it within ourselves? We’ve mastered the models that come to equilibrium, but rarely do they fit in with reality. But this recognition that humanity must change to accommodate modern economic improvements cannot keep us from refusing to play the game. Walking away provides no fix for posterity, nor does it for our own generation.

Chantal Iosso

It is obvious that many of mankind’s problems stem from the huge population numbers. I agree with Hardin’s idea that because we live in a welfare state, breeding is unpunishable, and so many people derive a large personal benefit from procreating without bearing the full cost. However, it is extremely unpalatable to withdraw necessities from anyone, as life is considered to be sacred. Restrictions on birth rights would be similarly opposed, but as Hardin’s paper suggested, it is impossible to maximize both human well-being and human population. Because of this, we must choose between unpoliced procreation, or sufficient resources. It would seem that quality of life exceeds quantity of life, but as the controversy around the one child policy in China shows, solutions are difficult to implement.
Fortunately, as countries develop, the birth rate declines, and so it is possible that humans will reach a stable population below the earth’s carrying capacity. It is also likely, as the Krutilla paper suggests, that technological advancements also allow humans to make the most of limited resources, allowing the true carrying capacity to exceed what it would have been. Nonetheless, with some resources, the problem is less their risk of running out but rather the problems that using these resources evolve. For example, the world’s supply of coal, natural gas, etc. is still large. However, using the entirety of these sources would release an unthinkable amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which brings upon many other consequences. For that reason, I find the Krutilla paper overly optimistic. Promise of future innovation is insufficient to validate a continuation of destructive practices.

Paul Callahan

The Tragedy of the Commons addresses a topic many wish to avoid, the fact that increasing population growth is having a negative impact on the world. Hardin shows how the self-interest and greed of humans are what is mainly corrupting society and in turn the environment. For example, the Volkswagen emissions scandal proves how corrupt and self-interested people can be, and how it has an impact on the environment. In order to survive an ever growing population the world cannot be so self-interested but rather unite in order to preserve natural resources and the environment and move towards a goal of indefinite sustainability. The problem with society today though is that people have difficulty not valuing their own interests first and therefore there must be incentives or punishments in order to preserve the environment and increase sustainability.

Alana Babington

I thoroughly enjoyed both pieces, but I particularly liked Hardin’s article. I was unaware if I had previously read the ‘Tragedy of the Commons,’ but quickly realized I had for a poverty course I took as a freshman. I remember discussing the piece with regards to moral aspects of poverty, and specifically education policies to combat the ‘tragedy.’ One of the major tasks of education today should be the creation of an acute awareness of the dangers pf the commons so that people will recognize its many varieties. Looking at the piece in the context of environmental economics brings to light not only just how important understanding the tragedy of the commons is, but also what is encompassed under the word ‘commons.’

In the section ‘Conscience is Self-Eliminating,’ I was slightly confused by his argument. Was he stating he agrees that there should be a cap on families? If so, I must say I agree with the United Nations on this. He said we would feel wrong undermining the UN and their Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but what about the people that whole-heartedly agree that society starts with the family. Yes, I agree this thought process evolved with time, but so have humans. I would like to glimpse inside his brain and see his full thoughts behind his claim. I also find the part where he mentions ‘responsible parenting’ interesting. Does responsible parenting in our day solely mean brith control? I would say no. Responsible parenting is a wide-ranging phrase, incorporating both the responsibility to have children and to care for them responsibly, but also to know when that time is not right for you. I enjoy when Hardin talks about mutual coercion mutually agreed upon. I believe he addresses the need and comprehension of taxes well in this section. In sum, both articles are well-written and highlight important questions.

Phillip Harmon

While reading "Tragedy of the Commons", two things really jumped out at me that I had given little formal thought to but find very important now that I have seen them articulated elsewhere. First, I had never actually focused on the earth as a finite thing in conjunction with the infinite growth trajectory of humans. For me it has always been easy to conceptualize many resources as limited, and I further understood that the continued growth of man is continuing to put increased pressure on nonrenewable and scarce resources. This was the first time, however, that the idea of conflicting population size with resource availability has actually resonated with my mathematical understanding of infinity. For whatever reason I could not help but continually think about the pigeonhole principle in relation to the problems addressed in the reading. Conceptualizing the issues as I would while writing a proof hammered home the author's points for me.

The other component of the writing that really made this real for me was the idea of a problem with no technical solution. Frankly, this notion actually makes me anxious. In day to day life, I find that decision making comes easily if I can find a socially optimal solution to my problems. But when there is no seemingly right answer to a tough problem, especially when numerous parties were involved, I get stressed out. Putting problems caused by shared resources in this frame helped me to personally relate and as result made these problems both more urgent and concerning for me.

Monette Carli

“The Tragedy of the Commons” provides a very interesting perspective on the human right to have children and the welfare state. Hardin implies that the welfare state has encouraged and enabled people who cannot support children on their own to have children regardless. With the presence of a welfare state, those people feel confident that they will receive outside support. This cycle has then lead to a problem of overpopulation. However, I find this argument to be far too oversimplified. In his focus on solely the tragedy of the commons in relation to the welfare state, Hardin fails to address many other variables contributing to overpopulation and does not acknowledge the benefits we receive from the welfare state. For example, I would argue that a more significant contributor to overpopulation is the advancement of modern medicine and the growing average human lifespan. Additionally, the welfare state would be necessary even if limits were placed on the number of children each family can have. The United States has a growing problem of unequal income distribution, stemming from the gap between extremely wealthy individuals and extremely poor individuals. Many of these poorer families would have difficulty supporting just one child. However, such a lack of financial stability does not give anyone the right to tell poor families not to have children. If unequal income distributions exist and if there are families who suffer from financial hardship, the welfare state will always be necessary. The welfare state benefits society by providing poor families with the necessities to help their children grow, thrive, and eventually contribute to society. Finally, Hardin’s negative view of the “freedom to breed” is extremely controversial. Most countries would not be able to gain support for a rule limiting the number of children a family can have, making this a fairly unrealistic policy option.

AJ Witherell

When reading Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons,” I immediately regarded it as a piece primarily written about the over-population of man. I understood the first half of his writing to be an analogy for what he was going to attempt to elaborate on during the second half. Although his herdsman-cattle discussion details the potential danger to natural resources and the environment, I believe his primary purpose of this was to introduce a simpler scenario to represent the overpopulation discussion.

Hardin argues that “freedom in a commons brings to ruin to all,” and that the “freedoms” experienced in this world are bringing humanity to an eventual “ruin.” However, I don’t think that Hardin effectively supported his arguments, it seemed as though he went in circles with a few of his points. He attacks the idea of communal property saying that it presents a danger that is “too horrifying” for us to imagine, and at the same time admits private ownership yields a great “injustice.” In this sense, he admits that each method of monitoring property has its respective pros and cons, but never gives full concrete evidence as to which type of ownership garners the most success (other than his opinion for private ownership). I accept the basis of his theory that a “commons” can be abused, but I also think that, in some instances, lands can be even more abused by private ownership. With this being said, I think that his argument for the effective use of property in the “herdsman” story was more clear and concise because of the simplicity of the scenario. However, I don’t think he elaborated well enough on the theories behind population monitoring. If he doesn’t believe an “invisible hand” will control population at some point, what policies does he suggest be implemented? What methods of coercion will be effective in changing the minds of subsequent generations?


After reading the tragedy of the commons article I sort of entered an ethical dilemma because of the quote "Individuals locked into the logic of the commons are free only to bring on universal ruin; once they see the necessity of mutual coercion, they become free to pursue other goals". The quote, after reading over it a couple times, eventually won me over into agreeing with it. At first i was against it due to the fact that I struggled to imagine a forest I couldn't hike in, an ocean i couldn't fish in, or generally not having access to many of the common areas that I enjoy. but I realized that i also occasionally take them for granted in my treatment of them. But it is precisely the fact that I have a tendency to undervalue the things i have free access to that convinced me i should support coercion in preserving the commons. Like the social contract people form when they create a society, coercion to help preserve the commons sacrifices a marginal amount of personal freedom for the greater good of everyone and creates a situation where the preservation of the commons is much more likely to occur

Robert Lance

Hardin provides a rather interesting take on Lloyd's economic Tragedy of the Commons theory, but is wrong in its application.

His thesis considers the depleting sources of caloric energy in diets, leaving the world too heavily populated to feed. Rather, technical innovations in agricultural production regarding resource efficiency, market access, and genetic engineering have allowed for unprecedented access to food across borders. However, the ultimate fallacy of his argument is that food supplies are considered a "common". If you were to equate public and common resources, the fault lies in that many of the "commons" referenced are rivalrous (cannot be consumed by one without denying consumption to another) and are therefore not truly public. Such goods are why private markets exist (to manage scarcity), and are the entire basis of economic study. Therefore, why is my consumption of bread considered a "tragedy of the commons" if what I am eating is private property? I'm undoubtedly splitting hairs, but to consider food access a strictly public concern is more political than economic in nature.

Furthermore, Garrett Hardin had three kids, and happily contributed to the consumption of scarce resources until the age of 88.

Courtney Freudenthal

In addition to the previous comments from my classmates, I'm most interested in writing about Hardin's article, "The Tragedy of the Commons." Given my background as a philosophy minor I have previously taken a course on Transhumanism and Human Enhancement, in which we touched on the role of eugenics in enhancing human genes. I find Hardin's discussion of the need for restricted birth rates to be worrisome because of the possible unintended consequences that might arise through eugenics. If the worry is that overpopulation will not slow without command and control regulations or economic incentives to discourage births, then my concern is who, meaning what groups of people, will be primarily targeted to discourage or restrict childbirth? Though the intention might be to save humanity from crisis (or extinction), I worry that the method of restricting birth by means of law or economic incentives could largely end up creating eugenics that affect the long run make up of human species as a whole. It seems to me that the fear of unintended consequences should not be taken lightly.

Brianna Rakouska

The tragedy of the commons is a common problem that we observe in our day-to-day lives. From the overuse of a common space by housemates, to the overfishing that our fish populations are facing, it exists on large and small scales. Last semester, we did a fishing simulation after reading the Tragedy of the Commons, and even when we were acutely aware of the effect we were having, our behavior persisted. The gains we were receiving were greater than the marginal losses experienced by everyone. The same thing holds true for common spaces in my house. It is easier for me to leave a mess in the living room or dishes in the sink because I know that my housemates will do the same regardless of if I do or not. On that same thread, it is not beneficial for me to invest my time and effort in keeping it clean because their behavior will continue and quickly diminish the benefit.

One of the largest problems we face with the Tragedy of the Commons is that we don’t know all the costs we are incurring in degrading our environment. As Krutilla details, there are unknown factors in an ecosystem such as cures for cancer or unknown effects on other systems (such as source and sink dynamics) that we cannot fully consider when evaluating costs. As we have seen, population pressure can be alleviated with new technologies, and in some cases environmental services can be replicated, but these come at high costs, both monetary and environmental. For example, as we contaminate our freshwater, we have begun looking for new technologies such as desalination. Desalination plants are expensive to build and use large amounts of carbon based energy, which will enter our atmosphere in large quantities and add to the volume of gasses promoting global climate change. The technologies we should be looking into and investing in should work with and/or mimic natural process so that we can slow our ecosystem depletion.

nicholas george

Garret Hardin uses a pasture for which every herdsman is allowed to use as his primary example of the tragedy of freedom in the commons. Through his scenario each self-interested herdsman logically concludes to add one more animal to his herd because the positive utility of doing so outweighs the negative utility. This leads to over crowding and eventual degradation of the pasture. He says that in most cases (like the population example) that without some form of outside control (or property rights) this leads to misery and ruin. However, my question is: to what extent are people actual rational self-interested thinkes. To what extent does emotion, morality, and even religion guide the decisions that we make. For instance, when Fidel Castro's regime dethroned Batista and took control of Cuba, many Cubans immigrated to the US in the early 60's and 70's. They created communities in which everyone sacrificed to help one another. Although most exiled families had little to give, they gave anyway-- even if it was as small as sharing coffee with a neighbor. Many of these people were extremely poor so the value of keeping the item for one's own family should outweigh sharing it with neighbors, but this was not the case. And, this was not one person, this was the entire cuban american community, all of whom began behaving in ways that were socially optimal instead of privately optimal. In other words, the tough circumstances--poverty, hunger, separation from family--united these people in such a way that what should be irrational behavior became expected and common place (as if there was some law or legislation forcing them to do so. Furthermore, this is not an isolated instance in time. During WWII in Germany, many catholics hid Jews in their homes even at the expense of getting caught and persecuted by Nazis. Essentially, necessity drives people to behave in irrational ways. In class, we discussed how internalizing an externality helps society achieve the socially optimal level of some good. Well in these specific cases, the surrounding situation and contexts became so devastating that families began internalizing external members of the community and perhaps behaved in ways that would otherwise that cynical economists label "irrational." But, if this were the case, then perhaps the as the Tragedy of the commons situations reveals itself in all of its misery, people might be able to come together and behave in a way that is socially optimal instead of privately optimal.

Rainsford Reel

Early in his piece, Krutilla notes that "While such optimistic conclusions were being reached, they were nevertheless accompanied by a caveat that, while we may expect production of goods and services to increase without interruption, the level of living may not necessarily be imporved." Immediately upon reading this quote I began nodding my head in agreement. In a past class, I participated in a group project in which we examined the relationship between a variety of environmental health measures and levels of economic development. What we found was no profound finding (other than perhaps supporting the prior literature), but we determined there was a sort of Kuznet's curve relationship between our variables. That is to say that, initially environmental health is high while economic development (for a nation) is low. As the nation begins to develop, environmental health deteriorates to a point then heals and starts heading back towards its initial levels.
The story behind this that we argued is that often as countries develop, environmental health takes a backseat to industrialization and other manners of development. Once reaching a point where people are content with the economic standing the focus then begins to shift away from economic growth and toward other things, one of which is environmental health.I would argue this is one factor that contributes to the idea of the Tragedy of the Commons. Hardin asks "We want to maximize the good per person; but what is good?" Hardin goes on to note that individuals have differing opinions of what goods are best. This is the key argument why economic development hinders environmental health; as a country develops, more people are focused on money or GDP rather than wilderness, so naturally less care is given to the wilderness.
I would argue that because this relationship has been studied (and there seems to be a pretty clear causal link) we know the pattern that comes. As such, given our current global environmental health, we should combat some of the degradation that comes with economic development.

Parker Kellam

I must admit, though I had often heard of "Tragedy of the Commons," this was the first time I had read it. The small example it touched on about marine resources/ environments got me thinking about the Marine Policy class at Duke last fall. Often we looked through the lens of resource management, and what policies could be identified and possibly instated to secure these resources for generations to come. From the different island cultures we studied, fishing was a way life, so any infringement on their fishing rights was seen as a threat to their welfare... that they might not bounce back... without recognizing that overfishing was much more likely to harm their welfare in the long run. Like Philip, I had never thought of this as an overpopulation issue, but more as a lack of knowledge issue. However, I wonder how the idea of abandoning the freedom to breed would be received in such small communities, especially when children are expected to help serve and support the family from a young age. Sure, one could argue that having a cap on the amount of children each family produced would limit the amount of mouths they had to feed, but I think the cultural shock there, as well as elsewhere, would be great. I certainly did a double take, while reading the paper. I'm curious though if higher access to Tragedy of the Commons in isolated areas would help the people to err on the side of marine policy or other legislative movements instead of reluctance.

Michael Robinson

In many other classes I’ve taken, the tragedy of the commons has often been mentioned. However, all I’ve ever heard about it revolves around the “cattle in the pasture” example. I was interested to learn that much of this essay is actually a defense of population control measures. This shouldn’t be surprising because increasing population and global overcrowding would seem to be the biggest “tragedy” of them all. Hardin seems to have a skeptical view of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” and its ability to solve these problems that relate to optimal population. He dismisses the naïve idea, rightfully in my opinion, that if people are left to their own devices they will choose an optimal population. He mentions that countries with the highest levels of reproduction and no restrictions seem to be the most miserable. I think of places like India and China where environmental resources such as clean water and clean air are becoming more and more scarce because of overpopulation.
As a biology major, I enjoyed seeing Hardin’s biological expertise creep into the essay when he talks about how “conscience is self-eliminating” in the case of population growth and reproduction. This is a classic example of evolutionary theory yet it isn’t entirely obvious. If we assume that some people are genetically-disposed to understanding the consequences of over-reproduction (what Hardin calls “conscience”) and others are genetically-disposed to fecundity regardless of the opposing arguments presented to them, those with “conscience” will reproduce less than those with fecundity. Over many generations, the gene for “conscience” will slowly die out because it confers, by its very nature, less reproductive fitness. Therefore, it is more likely that over-population will be exacerbated by the dominance of mindsets that favor fecundity given there are no restrictions on reproduction. He also mentions that even if “fecundity” or “conscience” aren’t transmitted through germ lines, they are likely to be transmitted exosomatically, or outside the body. I believe what he is referring to is something called Meme Theory or Memetics, in which Darwinian-like selection pressures apply to ideas and ways of thinking, even if they are not based in the genome. These ideas are passed down generation to generation, just like genes. In either case, we seem to be fighting an unwinnable battle against nature when it comes to population control.

Cole Wilbur

After reading “The Tragedy of the Commons”, I came to a bit of a crossroad. The paper speaks to the increasing problem of population growth and what we as a society have to do to combat it. Hardin brings up the point of maximizing human well-being and maximizing human population as being an impossibility. Even if this is the case, I find it hard to grasp the idea of limiting childbirths in a similar way society limits land use or restricts sewage. After reading the whole article, I think that there are other measures to help limit the negative effects of population growth that could be more beneficial to focus on. The first weapon to combat this problem is our continual development of technological advances. I think that it is important for us, as a society, to continue ‘looking forward’ and discovering new ways to utilize our limited resources instead of focusing on ways to limit our current lifestyle. The population will never stop growing, so we must be ready to modernize and discover new methods of survival along with it. Fostering innovative ways to produce new resources or harvest old ones in a more efficient manner could help counter the negative effects of an increasing population by seeing resource supply increase and used more effectively in general. Finally, perhaps society can figure out a way to combine technological improvements with economic incentives so that society will want to help ensure resources are not wasted as we put a focus in learning how to improve our overall resource management to cope with an increasing population.

Jones Veith

The “Tragedy of the Commons” is a piece that has been a part of at least two of my classes here at W&L. From my initial understanding, the tragedy of the commons is the failure of a system due to that system’s reliance on and subsequent depletion of a public resource or good. Additionally, in classes like Intro to Environmental Studies or Geology’s Water Resources, it is quickly explained that the tragedy of the commons can lie in the actions that degrade a resource, and consequently the environment. Hardin offers us the concrete and simple examples of overgrazing land or chemicals polluting drinking water downstream. While these examples illustrate the tragedy in a way that is simple to understand, the issues with a root in the tragedy of the commons are much more complicated. Hardin offers the reader an ancient Chinese proverb, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In many ways, this proverb is still applicable today and is especially relevant to the discussion of not only politics, but also environmental politics. For many reasons, I believe that we live in a post-truth era. In other words, we live in a time where the truth is not the truth unless you believe it. In his writing, Hardin goes on to say that said aforementioned picture could take ten thousand words to explain. Further, it is my opinion that those ten thousand words could argue in favor of or even prove anything. The 2016 Presidential Election is a perfect example of how politics tend (or are trending) to be emotional rather than factual or even rational. So, when it comes to discussing the environment on Capitol Hill, Hardin talks about legislating prohibition and temperance. As Hardin notes, prohibition is easy to legislate, but it becomes harder to legislate temperance. From my experience working on Capitol Hill, there are plenty of initiatives that accomplish goals and influence the public – just in the way taxes and economic incentives can influence a market. Lastly, about Hardin’s point, “Who watches the watcher?” in America, we have systems in place which keep ‘the watcher’ accountable. Specifically, they are things like the nature of our democracy in itself and the Government Accountability Office.

Sal Diaz

Reading "The Tragedy of the Commons" makes me feel optimistic yet powerless in addressing the problem of taking care of common resources. However, I have a suspicion that this may not be the reaction of most people. Though the piece gives much reason to have a pessimistic view of this issue, the section entitled "Recognition of Necessity", in my opinion, reverses the mood. Referring to the modern form of the age old tragedy as being in an "embryonic state" makes me remember a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." The basic fact that we have acknowledges this newer version of an older issue makes me hopeful that it will be resolved.

This does not mean there is not an extremely grim picture presented here. Because "natural selection favors the forces of psychological denial", I am skeptical of what any individual may do to contribute to the solution. After all, it is already clear what the solution is. We must educate people on responsibility and morality and agree on the least harmful solution. And yet, because of our system of government, I see it as highly unlikely that we decide to legislate this form of morality any time soon. After all, the law, for better or worse, is always behind the times. The only realistic manner in which this problem can be solved in our country, in my opinion, is to somehow justify the nearly contradictory ideas of our republic and communal betterment.

ailyn kelly

In regards to the formation of demand, Krutilla writes, "When we consider the remote backcountry landscape, or the wilderness scene 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." I found myself gravitated to this statement and the proceeding paragraph where he examines how specific knowledge and skills derives from ones exposure to certain activities like car camping or canoeing. He believes that future generations then build upon these actions producing “back-packers” or “cross country skiers”. The introduction of these individuals into the market causes an increase in the demand for “wilderness-related” opportunities. Krutilla’s formation of demand highlights the issue of “absence of knowledge” and how this causes an imperfect market. Originally I believed the absence of knowledge centered on people being misinformed or ignorant. However, Krutilla’s statement made me realize that absence of knowledge surrounding natural resources can also be due to lack of experience. I realized my knowledge about the demand for “wilderness-related opportunities” was imperfect not because of misinformation but because of limited experiences. in this market I wouldn’t understand the certain aspects that make a forest, hiking trail, or campsite valuable to certain individuals.

Jalen Twine

I am going to focus on the Hardin piece. I found this piece interesting because it reminded me of a philosophy/business course that I took that focused on the ethics of globalization. We talked about the ethics of poverty and population control was something that came up in this course. I think that the Hardin piece does a great job of illustrating the innate problems that we encounter trying to meet the need for finite resources with ever increasing infinite population growth. It makes sense that the optimal amount of growth for a population is none but as we’ve learned in class, achieving the optimal amount of something can prove to be rather costly. In this case the cost is the liberty to procreate. I agree with an earlier point that described how the nation is somewhat of a welfare state that provides little penalty to over population. As the aforementioned post stated and what we talked about in my ethics course was that it is unethical to willingly not provide the necessities of life to anyone. I think this reading shows the confusing nature of this problem. But as Hardin states, the most miserable populations have greater rates of growth. This reading gave me a more realistic outlook on the problem of population growth. While implementing something like China’s one child policy is controversial and unfeasible because it ideally goes against how our country is, eventually there will have to be maybe some sort of incentivized policy that limits population growth in order to combat this problem.

Elise George

After reading "The Tragedy of the Commons" I felt validated in my disagreement with Adam Smith's "invisible hand" idea. Hardin incorporates the herdsman example, as each one seeks to maximize his utility, he adds more sheep to his herd. While it benefits the individual, all of the herdsman suffer overall from grass depleted fields from overgrazing. As humans act in self- interest, I believe in the majority of instances, it hurts society overall.
This applies to the greatest issue we face today: population. I never observed it from an economic standpoint as Hardin explained that "The optimum population is, then, less than the maximum." Additionally, it is such a difficult problem to address as values, morals, and human rights are taken into account. My question is if we can find a solution to "optimal population" and continuing to appeal to human's self- interest.

Liam Curtin

While this is not the first time I have encountered the Tragedy of the Commons at W&L, this is the first time I have had enough relevant economic background knowledge to fully understand the significance of the argument that Hardin was trying to make. First of all, this is the first time I have seen the "invisible hand" referenced in a negative sense. From what I understood from the essay, the invisible hand in the form of ,human self-interest, is the reason why the tragedy of the commons exists in the first place. In the cattle rancher example, the ranchers only focus on the positive component of increasing the size of his heard, without weighing in the relatively small negatives, which when compounded by the number of ranchers on the commons inevitably leads to the erosion of the land until it is unusable. I can see this idea being put into use with the idea of population in that as the number of humans grow, so does the effect of self interest that leads to a decrease of goods per capita in a finite world. The statement "freedom in a commons brings ruin to all" really resonated with me because it provided a negative connotation to the concept of freedom, which is something I always viewed as infallible.
One question I did have about the the reading was in regard to when Hardin mentioned that growing populations in the world were the most miserable. I have always viewed a growing population as a society that is able to have enough excess goods to provide for an increasing population, which would be a good thing in my opinion. In macroeconomics we learned about the Malthusian Trap, and I feel like a population that is able to break free of the trap is a successful one, like China, which has seen exponential growth in population and GDP in the last few decades.

Amanda Meador

Reading Conservation Reconsidered, I realized similar definitions of the theory of economics and idea of conservation—the allocation of scarce resources. Coming from an environmental background, some of the concepts discussed did not seem to be a reconsideration as I could see derivation in other works I have read. (Understandably as it was issued in 1967). Framing it in a more economic picture, conservation and seems to be the treatment of the environment as a commodity that is scarce in the fact that it is irreplaceable “irrevocable of unique phenomena of nature’ and treatment of such can have irrevocable consequences of individuals.

I liked the outlining of the idea that the utility of nature to man can and probably is increasing but the market cannot readily supply more of it. We are stuck with what we have and the conservation of it is essentially an economic plan and a forecast of utility and value for the future. The discussion of technological advancements as a replacement I think can be defended in some instances and resources but I don’t see the day of replicating an entire destroyed biotic community or extinct species.

In terms of the fight for conservation, I went on a hike today with a woman who works for an AZA accredited zoo. She discussed the criticisms she has received recently after increasing documentations of animal cruelty in parks and zoos and recent works such as ‘Blackfish.’ Even though, she works in an AZA establishment—the most stringently regulated and humane accreditation—misinformed patrons lay out their case. Her response is a learn by doing argument, the classic people will never care about polar bears and climate change if they are not exposed to them and see them in a zoo as a child. Much can be said about this concerning all environmental resources and services. Exposure and appreciation creates a demand that is life lasting and creates value for the future.

James Willey

Krutilla’s Conservation Reconsidered gets at the difficulty in the valuation of passively enjoyed goods and future goods. Leopold would beg us consider this sort of valuation. In pieces such as Thinking like a Mountain; he argues progressing society has to consider the ramifications of current actions for the value of future landscapes. Krutilla incorporates this into his calculation in the form of option value. An aesthetic good like Leopold’s landscapes might have value for a player in a market just by existing, even if they aren’t going to sit quietly in Wisconsin and write down what they see. Personally, I think this is a very important aspect of valuation, for both current resources and future resources. But Krutilla adds an important caveat: Changing tastes leads to tremendous uncertainty in the value of these sorts of resources and thus risks a market failure. It reminds me of a policy discussion about the Tennessee Valley Authority and snail darters. The TVA wanted to build the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River, which would have exterminated the endangered snail darter. The project was blocked by the Supreme court on the legal grounds of the Endangered Species Act (and later allowed by clause on a congressional bill), but begs the same very important question – what if tastes change? At the time it was decided the value of the snail darter species surviving was high, but what if the 2050 generation of Tennessee residents have a much higher value on a reservoir and hydroelectric power and were entirely unsympathetic towards an obscure 3” fish? It’s a tough calculation to make, but I think this example and Krutilla’s argument both show an important weakness in an otherwise noble philosophy.
- James Willey

Will Edmonds

As I read Hardin’s essay from 1968, I began to think about real-world examples of “Tragedy of the Commons” that did not exist in his day. There are some obvious examples of things that have become more serious since the 60s—for instance, ozone depletion, traffic congestion, urban sprawl, etc. However, I tried to think about current real-world “tragedies” that affect me more directly, in a more local manner. Aside from the lack of parking spots available behind my fraternity house, I endeavored to think of something that I unconsciously witness on a daily basis, something that might be less obvious than say, pollution.

What about the Internet? Could there be an application towards the digital world of the 21st century? In order to define something as a true “tragedy” there would need to be a limited resource involved—a term we don’t normally use to define the Internet. Perhaps if people continued to use the Internet as a primary platform for their knowledge and opinions, after significant time, the Internet would lose its credibility as a source of knowledge. If every person in the world posted facts and opinions on the Internet, and people continued to use the Internet as a primary source of information, at one point, the Internet might be overwhelmed with inaccurate information. It would be impossible for an outsider to know fact from fiction, truth from falsity. Considering, today, the level of false content on Wikipedia and other informational websites, it is not too hard to imagine the extreme – a time at which the usable space of the Internet was too cluttered in junk to be useful.

Another, perhaps less imaginative, example of a modern “tragedy” as Hardin defined is satellite space. If we continue to send satellite after satellite into the Earth’s orbit, we will ultimately reach a point when the space available runs out. Satellites would cease to operate productively, and Mankind would be forced to identify a new system to replace satellites’ functionality.

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