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Garrett Hardin - A Look At Human Reproduction and Immigration and Why a World Food Bank is Not a True Solution

Updated on November 21, 2011
Garrett Hardin (April 21, 1915 – September 14, 2003).  Hardin posed a lot of theories that stirred debate on controversial subjects.
Garrett Hardin (April 21, 1915 – September 14, 2003). Hardin posed a lot of theories that stirred debate on controversial subjects.

Who was Garrett Hardin?

My disclaimer: Although I am not necessarily promoting all of Dr. Hardin's ideals, I believe it's important to be aware of those who promote ideals and theories as well as understanding what those ideals and theories were. For decades, people have been searching and reaching for solutions concerning world hunger and the effects of overpopulation on our planet.

Hardin studied zoology at the University of Chicago and microbiology at Stanford University. From 1963 to 1978, he was the Professor of Human Ecology at the University of California. A passionate subject of his was that of overpopulation. One of his popular articles was Tragedy of the Commons. This piece was published in 1968 and basically focused on the effects of what occurs or can occur when certain groups work on a problem for their own selfish interests without regard for all groups as a whole.

What I found to be ironic was the manner in which his life ended. At the age of 88, he had a heart ailment and his wife who was 81 suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease. They both committed suicide, and a week after their 62nd wedding anniversary.


Garrett Hardin had sound reasons why human reproduction and immigration should be controlled, and why the concept of a world food bank should not be implemented. Hardin persuasively contended that a world food bank and unrestricted immigration will eventually bring this world to environmental ruin. I feel that until critical solutions to the ever-growing and existing problems of hunger and immigration are shouldered, there will always be the absurdly rich versus the critically poor.

In Hardin's Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor published in 1974, he began his discussion with the metaphorical notion that we [rich nations] are within a lifeboat, and the poorer nations are drifting aimlessly around us while hoping to be lifted into this boat. One way we tried to deal with this dilemma was through the Food Peace Program. In examining this program, Hardin felt that while the concept was an honorable one, the plan was not based on the right reasons; that government or other special interest groups that design strategies to help feed the poor do so mainly for selfish gains. He did contend that although the farmers, shippers and middle men all made a handsome profit, the average U.S. citizen paid for this plan through taxation. Hardin maintained that if a world food bank was implemented, poorer nations would become dependent on such a plan. He assessed that thought these programs are great business for richer nations, there remains the question of the long-term effects on the unfortunate and uneducated nations. Wealthy countries will contribute to this food bank, and poor countries will consistently deplete that bank. Balance will never be attained as poorer nations will always suffer. Hardin implies that we need to teach these countries to be independent and instruct them in methods of population control. Therefore, a world food bank is not a true solution.

A second argument that Hardin pointed out is relative to the immigrant situation. He stated that unrestricted immigration would "move people to food" and eventually speed up the destruction of the environment in the rich countries. He stated supporters of unrestricted immigration are employers, who for selfish reasons, want cheap labor for their shameful job offerings. He stated some factions such as the ACLU and some church organizations grimace at the injustice of these employers. These organizations are afraid to speak out for fear of being labeled racists. Hardin does not believe we should return the wealth of the land and the land itself to the descendants of Native Americans, simply because we are all basically descended from immigrants. In fact, Hardin states that the failure to implement restrictions will lead to environmental ruin.

It seems obvious that if richer nations continue to feed poor nations, a dependency is created. A solution to the problem of hunger should be dealt with initially. Feeding the poor is helpful, but an ongoing problem of the hunger itself needs to be solved, and part of the solutions lies within education.

A comparison could be made between the world food bank and one of the popular diet organizations which asserts that it motivates individuals through education. In the short run, people who reach their goals can discontinue the meetings and weekly payments; and, through self-discipline, maintain the end result of that education. Unfortunately, it does not work that way for everyone. Some individuals attend for years sporadically only to become dependent on the plan. The solution may not be in what the diet organization offers to its members, but in resolving the underlying problems of weight control. In the long run, this plan could cost its members more than just their money.


With respect to immigration, employers who use immigrants to perform degrading tasks are a national disgrace. I feel that groups who oppose this practice are correct in arguing their views from a moral standpoint. I also feel these groups experience guilt for what they have and others do not. Every do-gooder wants to help those who are starving or are persecuted. We can certainly assume that there are enough resources and technology to feed and clothe the world, and while there is truth in the saying that charity begins at home, we live in a country plagued by greed and selfishness. The wealth may prefer to keep their worldly goods and ignore the problem entirely, but that is not the solution.

Any kind of change encompasses a certain amount of fear, but the wealthy and the poor alike must learn to overcome that fear and move toward a solution - together. In a "perfect" world, there would be no hunger, the nations would resolve immigration problems, and the resources needed to maintain our planet would be available to all.

This would be an ideal world if serious answers to the problems of hunger and immigration were debated by strong voices of all nations. This would be an ideal world if the rich gave to the poor without any obligation of a return favor being imposed. It is an ideal thought to help feed the poor; to help the persecuted immigrant find a home; and to provide all unlearned nations with the technology and education necessary to maintain the already existing resources within our environments.

This article contains a copyrighted image obtained from the Garrett Hardin Historical Society, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The image used is to help promote the understanding of who Garrett Hardin was. I believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law and is intended for an educational purpose. In order to use the copyrighted image from this article for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. I have permission to use the image under "fair use."


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