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Article Review: The Trategy of the Commons: by Hardin S (2007)

Updated on October 25, 2013

Hardin, (2007) in his article the “tragedy of the commons” explains that the tragedy of the commons takes place when every member in a particular team society takes advantage of being involved in such action in the sense that if all are involved, then they will all suffer. The author argues that overpopulation and Pollution are structured in the same way. According to him, the world population tends to increase exponentially or geometrically. The exponential growth of human population subsequently leads to the decrease of the world’s core resources. Humanity must be made to understand that the world is finite. He observes that, a lot more people think either that the world is infinite or that they do not understand its nature, failure to understand that the real nature of the world will only assist in adding to the increment of human misery.

Hardin perceives that the tragedy of commons is more of depicted in the pollution menace being experienced in the world. Pollution according to him, occurs not because of the decrease of natural resources but due to input of chemicals, sewerage, heat and radio active waste products into water systems, harmful fumes into the air as well as sight obstruction. Hardin continues to add that the issue of pollution that is being experienced in the world is the outcome of overpopulation. Citing an example from his early years as a boy, he explains that “how an individual disposed his waste products did not pose a concern to the society”. This was backed by a popular myth which was also supported by his grandfather that “ flowing water purifies itself every ten minutes”. This myth was however, overruled gradually as the world population continued to increase. He opines that “as the world population continued to divulge, the biological and chemical recycling processes became too overloaded, and this is what necessitated an introduction of property rights”.

Hardin has a strong perception that by appealing to their own consciences, individuals may not be able to solve the issue of world pollution. Those societies, which advocate for the common use of resources through reliance of individual conscience apparently results into a selection that favor individuals who either lack social conscience or harbors consciences that are self centered. To state it differently, appealing to conscience to commons establishes a selective system that is inclined to the gene and idea reproductions by people who may not be contented by the needs of the society in the control of the use of the society’s core resources that are commonly held. The disastrous impact of cultural selection for personal characteristics who misuses the environment is so significant to the sense that the issue now is not concerned on whether the common political system should be abandoned by the society but rather, how and when should it be abandoned. In accordance to this author, the holding of resources by the commons mostly results into mismanagement since some individuals are self centered and therefore, it should be eliminated in favor of socialism or privatism where resources are sustainably and economically held.

According to Hardin, the idea brought forth by Adam Smitt that an individual who is interested towards benefitting himself or herself was apparently led by an invisible hand to assist in meeting the public interest was flawed. He goes on to credit his opinion by arguing that the author or the followers of that statement did not prove anywhere the truthfulness of his assertion. By writing that a self centered individual was led by an invisible hand to promote public interest was in essence, an interference of positive action that is framed on analysis of rational concepts. Furthermore, this tendency assumes that all decisions made by an individual is ultimately for the best interest of the society, a fact which is cannot be logical. If people takes this assumption as correct, then it might contribute to the promotion of the policy of leisure’s fare, where people do not want to work hard for the common good and instead depend on others to think and work for them.

Harding says that mutual coercion that is mutually agreed upon by indviduals is poised to solve the pollution issues caused by overpopulation. However, the aspect of individuals mutually agreeing to coercion does not mean that they ought to always enjoy it. He uses an example of tax payments, which do not augur well to many people but which they all agree as necessary in favoring their consciousness. People have instituted, though grumblingly, the aspect of tax and other devices of coercion in order to evade the problems associated with the commons. Since this system has been beneficial in solving many issues, there is no doubt that it will also reduce pollution issue if effectively implemented.

We have been facing a challenge between choosing a society where individuals willingly sacrifice and offer themselves for the society’s interests and the society where a group of people work for their own interests in a selfish manner. In effectively solving the current world problems caused by overpopulation, we need to replace the prevalent ethic of personal rights with the common good ethic. In definition, the common good consists of all the social systems, environment and institutions where all people depend in benefiting them. Apparently, the common good does not just occur spontaneously. It is brought about by creating and maintaining cooperation among a group of people. For instance, making a park to be devoid of litter does not depend on a single individual but is the responsibility of everyone who uses such a park.


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