The tragedy of the commons is a term used in environmental science to describe a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action. The concept originated in an essay written in 1833 by the British economist William Forster Lloyd, who used a hypothetical example of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land (also known as a "common") in Great Britain and Ireland. The concept became widely known as the "tragedy of the commons" over a century later due to an article written by the American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin in 1968. In this modern economic context, commons is taken to mean any shared and unregulated resource such as atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, roads and highways, or even an office refrigerator.
It has been argued that the very term "tragedy of the commons" is a misnomer since "the commons" referred to land resources with rights jointly owned by members of a community, and no individual outside the community had any access to the resource. However, the term is now used in social science and economics when describing a problem where all individuals have equal and open access to a resource. Hence, "tragedy of open access regimes" or simply "the open access problem" are more apt terms.
The "tragedy of the commons" is often cited in connection with sustainable development, meshing economic growth and environmental protection, as well as in the debate over global warming. It has also been used in analyzing behavior in the fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, game theory, politics, taxation and sociology.
Although common resource systems have been known to collapse due to overuse (such as in over-fishing), many examples have existed and still do exist where members of a community with access to a common resource co-operate or regulate to exploit those resources prudently without collapse. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for demonstrating exactly this concept in her book Governing the Commons, which included examples of how local communities were able to do this without top-down regulations.
In 1833, the English economist William Forster Lloyd published a pamphlet which included a hypothetical example of over-use of a common resource. This was the situation of cattle herders sharing a common parcel of land on which they are each entitled to let their cows graze, as was the custom in English villages. He postulated that if a herder put more than his allotted number of cattle on the common, overgrazing could result. For each additional animal, a herder could receive additional benefits, but the whole group shared damage to the commons. If all herders made this individually rational economic decision, the common could be depleted or even destroyed, to the detriment of all.
|The Tragedy of the Commons|
|Presented||13 December 1968|
In 1968, ecologist Garrett Hardin explored this social dilemma in his article "The Tragedy of the Commons", published in the journal Science. The essay derived its title from the pamphlet by Lloyd, which he cites, on the over-grazing of common land.
Hardin discussed problems that cannot be solved by technical means, as distinct from those with solutions that require "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 focused on human population growth, the use of the Earth's natural resources, and the welfare state. Hardin argued that if individuals relied on themselves alone, and not on the relationship of society and man, then the number of children had by each family would not be of public concern. Parents breeding excessively would leave fewer descendants because they would be unable to provide for each child adequately. Such negative feedback is found in the animal kingdom. Hardin said that if the children of improvident parents starved to death, if overbreeding was its own punishment, then there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families. Hardin blamed the welfare state for allowing the tragedy of the commons; where the state provides for children and supports overbreeding as a fundamental human right, Malthusian catastrophe is inevitable. Consequently, in his article, Hardin lamented the following proposal from the United Nations:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. [Article 16] It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself, and cannot be made by anyone else.
In addition, Hardin also pointed out the problem of individuals acting in rational self-interest by claiming that if all members in a group used common resources for their own gain and with no regard for others, all resources would still eventually be depleted. Overall, Hardin argued against relying on conscience as a means of policing commons, suggesting that this favors selfish individuals – often known as free riders – over those who are more altruistic.
In the context of avoiding over-exploitation of common resources, Hardin concluded by restating Hegel's maxim (which was quoted by Engels), "freedom is the recognition of necessity". He suggested that "freedom" completes the tragedy of the commons. By recognizing resources as commons in the first place, and by recognizing that, as such, they require management, Hardin believed that humans "can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms".
Hardin's article was the start of the modern use of "Commons" as a term connoting a shared resource. As Frank van Laerhoven & Elinor Ostrom have stated: "Prior to the publication of Hardin’s article on the tragedy of the commons (1968), titles containing the words 'the commons', 'common pool resources,' or 'common property' were very rare in the academic literature." They go on to say: "In 2002, Barrett and Mabry conducted a major survey of biologists to determine which publications in the twentieth century had become classic books or benchmark publications in biology. They report that Hardin’s 1968 article was the one having the greatest career impact on biologists and is the most frequently cited".
Like Lloyd and Thomas Malthus before him, Hardin was primarily interested in the problem of human population growth. But in his essay, he also focused on the use of larger (though finite) resources such as the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, as well as pointing out the "negative commons" of pollution (i.e., instead of dealing with the deliberate privatization of a positive resource, a "negative commons" deals with the deliberate commonization of a negative cost, pollution).
As a metaphor, the tragedy of the commons should not be taken too literally. The "tragedy" is not in the word's conventional or theatric sense, nor a condemnation of the processes that lead to it. Similarly, Hardin's use of "commons" has frequently been misunderstood, leading him to later remark that he should have titled his work "The Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons".
The metaphor illustrates the argument that free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately reduces the resource through over-exploitation, temporarily or permanently. This occurs because the benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals or groups, each of whom is motivated to maximize use of the resource to the point in which they become reliant on it, while the costs of the exploitation are borne by all those to whom the resource is available (which may be a wider class of individuals than those who are exploiting it). This, in turn, causes demand for the resource to increase, which causes the problem to snowball until the resource collapses (even if it retains a capacity to recover). The rate at which depletion of the resource is realized depends primarily on three factors: the number of users wanting to consume the common in question, the consumptiveness of their uses, and the relative robustness of the common.
The same concept is sometimes called the "tragedy of the fishers", because fishing too many fish before or during breeding could cause stocks to plummet.
The tragedy of the commons can be considered in relation to environmental issues such as sustainability. The commons dilemma stands as a model for a great variety of resource problems in society today, such as water, forests, fish, and non-renewable energy sources such as oil and coal.
Situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include the overfishing and destruction of the Grand Banks, the destruction of salmon runs on rivers that have been dammed – most prominently in modern times on the Columbia River in the Northwest United States, and historically in North Atlantic rivers – the devastation of the sturgeon fishery – in modern Russia, but historically in the United States as well – and, in terms of water supply, the limited water available in arid regions (e.g., the area of the Aral Sea) and the Los Angeles water system supply, especially at Mono Lake and Owens Lake.
In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. Negative externalities are a well-known feature of the "tragedy of the commons". For example, driving cars has many negative externalities; these include pollution, carbon emissions, and traffic accidents. Every time 'Person A' gets in a car, it becomes more likely that 'Person Z' – and millions of others – will suffer in each of those areas. Economists often urge the government to adopt policies that "internalize" an externality.
More general examples (some alluded to by Hardin) of potential and actual tragedies include:
A parallel was drawn recently between the tragedy of the commons and the competing behaviour of parasites that through acting selfishly eventually diminish or destroy their common host. The idea has also been applied to areas such as the evolution of virulence or sexual conflict, where males may fatally harm females when competing for matings. It is also raised as a question in studies of social insects, where scientists wish to understand why insect workers do not undermine the "common good" by laying eggs of their own and causing a breakdown of the society.
The idea of evolutionary suicide, where adaptation at the level of the individual causes the whole species or population to be driven extinct, can be seen as an extreme form of an evolutionary tragedy of the commons. From an evolutionary point of view, the creation of the tragedy of the commons in pathogenic microbes may provide us with advanced therapeutic methods.
The commons dilemma is a specific class of social dilemma in which people's short-term selfish interests are at odds with long-term group interests and the common good. In academia, a range of related terminology has also been used as shorthand for the theory or aspects of it, including resource dilemma, take-some dilemma, and common pool resource.
Commons dilemma researchers have studied conditions under which groups and communities are likely to under- or over-harvest common resources in both the laboratory and field. Research programs have concentrated on a number of motivational, strategic, and structural factors that might be conducive to management of commons.
In game theory, which constructs mathematical models for individuals' behavior in strategic situations, the corresponding "game", developed by Hardin, is known as the Commonize Costs – Privatize Profits Game (CC–PP game).
Kopelman, Weber, & Messick (2002), in a review of the experimental research on cooperation in commons dilemmas, identify nine classes of independent variables that influence cooperation in commons dilemmas: social motives, gender, payoff structure, uncertainty, power and status, group size, communication, causes, and frames. They organize these classes and distinguish between psychological individual differences (stable personality traits) and situational factors (the environment). Situational factors include both the task (social and decision structure) and the perception of the task.
Empirical findings support the theoretical argument that the cultural group is a critical factor that needs to be studied in the context of situational variables. Rather than behaving in line with economic incentives, people are likely to approach the decision to cooperate with an appropriateness framework. An expanded, four factor model of the Logic of Appropriateness, suggests that the cooperation is better explained by the question: "What does a person like me (identity) do (rules) in a situation like this (recognition) given this culture (group)?"
Strategic factors also matter in commons dilemmas. One often-studied strategic factor is the order in which people take harvests from the resource. In simultaneous play, all people harvest at the same time, whereas in sequential play people harvest from the pool according to a predetermined sequence – first, second, third, etc. There is a clear order effect in the latter games: the harvests of those who come first – the leaders – are higher than the harvest of those coming later – the followers. The interpretation of this effect is that the first players feel entitled to take more. With sequential play, individuals adopt a first come-first served rule, whereas with simultaneous play people may adopt an equality rule. Another strategic factor is the ability to build up reputations. Research found that people take less from the common pool in public situations than in anonymous private situations. Moreover, those who harvest less gain greater prestige and influence within their group.
Much research has focused on when and why people would like to structurally rearrange the commons to prevent a tragedy. Hardin stated in his analysis of the tragedy of the commons that "Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all." One of the proposed solutions is to appoint a leader to regulate access to the common. Groups are more likely to endorse a leader when a common resource is being depleted and when managing a common resource is perceived as a difficult task. Groups prefer leaders who are elected, democratic, and prototypical of the group, and these leader types are more successful in enforcing cooperation. A general aversion to autocratic leadership exists, although it may be an effective solution, possibly because of the fear of power abuse and corruption.
The provision of rewards and punishments may also be effective in preserving common resources. Selective punishments for overuse can be effective in promoting domestic water and energy conservation – for example, through installing water and electricity meters in houses. Selective rewards work, provided that they are open to everyone. An experimental carpool lane in the Netherlands failed because car commuters did not feel they were able to organize a carpool. The rewards do not have to be tangible. In Canada, utilities considered putting "smiley faces" on electricity bills of customers below the average consumption of that customer's neighborhood.
Articulating solutions to the tragedy of the commons is one of the main problems of political philosophy. In many situations, locals implement (often complex) social schemes that work well. The best governmental solution may be to do nothing. When these fail, there are many possible governmental solutions such as privatization, internalizing the externalities, and regulation.
Sometimes the best governmental solution may be to do nothing. Robert Axelrod contends that even self-interested individuals will often find ways to cooperate, because collective restraint serves both the collective and individual interests. Anthropologist G. N. Appell criticized those who cited Hardin to "impos[e] their own economic and environmental rationality on other social systems of which they have incomplete understanding and knowledge."
Political scientist Elinor Ostrom, who was awarded 2009's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her work on the issue, and others revisited Hardin's work in 1999. They found the tragedy of the commons not as prevalent or as difficult to solve as Hardin maintained, since locals have often come up with solutions to the commons problem themselves. For example, it was found that a commons in the Swiss Alps has been run by a collective of farmers there to their mutual and individual benefit since 1517, in spite of the farmers also having access to their own farmland. In general, it is in the interest of the users of a commons to keep them functioning and so complex social schemes are often invented by the users for maintaining them at optimum efficiency.
Similarly, geographer Douglas L. Johnson remarks that many nomadic pastoralist societies of Africa and the Middle East in fact "balanced local stocking ratios against seasonal rangeland conditions in ways that were ecologically sound", reflecting a desire for lower risk rather than higher profit; in spite of this, it was often the case that "the nomad was blamed for problems that were not of his own making and were a product of alien forces." Independently finding precedent in the opinions of previous scholars such as Ibn Khaldun as well as common currency in antagonistic cultural attitudes towards non-sedentary peoples, governments and international organizations have made use of Hardin's work to help justify restrictions on land access and the eventual sedentarization of pastoral nomads despite its weak empirical basis. Examining relations between historically nomadic Bedouin Arabs and the Syrian state in the 20th century, Dawn Chatty notes that "Hardin's argument […] was curiously accepted as the fundamental explanation for the degradation of the steppe land" in development schemes for the arid interior of the country, downplaying the larger role of agricultural overexploitation in desertification as it melded with prevailing nationalist ideology which viewed nomads as socially backward and economically harmful.
Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues looked at how real-world communities manage communal resources, such as fisheries, land irrigation systems, and farmlands, and they identified a number of factors conducive to successful resource management. One factor is the resource itself; resources with definable boundaries (e.g., land) can be preserved much more easily. A second factor is resource dependence; there must be a perceptible threat of resource depletion, and it must be difficult to find substitutes. The third is the presence of a community; small and stable populations with a thick social network and social norms promoting conservation do better. A final condition is that there be appropriate community-based rules and procedures in place with built-in incentives for responsible use and punishments for overuse. When the commons is taken over by non-locals, those solutions can no longer be used.
Governmental solutions may be necessary when the above conditions are not met (such as a community being too big or too unstable to provide a thick social network). Examples of government regulation include privatization, regulation, and internalizing the externalities.
One solution for some resources is to convert common good into private property, giving the new owner an incentive to enforce its sustainability. Libertarians and classical liberals cite the tragedy of the commons as an example of what happens when Lockean property rights to homestead resources are prohibited by a government. They argue that the solution to the tragedy of the commons is to allow individuals to take over the property rights of a resource, that is, to privatize it.
In England, this solution was attempted in the Inclosure Acts.
In a typical example, governmental regulations can limit the amount of a common good that is available for use by any individual. Permit systems for extractive economic activities including mining, fishing, hunting, livestock raising and timber extraction are examples of this approach. Similarly, limits to pollution are examples of governmental intervention on behalf of the commons. This idea is used by the United Nations Moon Treaty, Outer Space Treaty and Law of the Sea Treaty as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Convention which involves the international law principle that designates some areas or resources the Common Heritage of Mankind.
In Hardin's essay, he proposed that the solution to the problem of overpopulation must be based on "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon" and result in "relinquishing the freedom to breed". Hardin discussed this topic further in a 1979 book, Managing the Commons, co-written with John A. Baden. He framed this prescription in terms of needing to restrict the "reproductive right", to safeguard all other rights. Several countries have a variety of population control laws in place.
German historian Joachim Radkau thought Hardin advocates strict management of common goods via increased government involvement or international regulation bodies. An asserted impending "tragedy of the commons" is frequently warned of as a consequence of the adoption of policies which restrict private property and espouse expansion of public property.
Privatization works when the person who owns the property (or rights of access to that property) pays the full price of its exploitation. As discussed above negative externalities (negative results, such as air or water pollution, that do not proportionately affect the user of the resource) is often a feature driving the tragedy of the commons. Internalizing the externalities, in other words ensuring that the users of resource pay for all of the consequences of its use, can provide an alternate solution between privatization and regulation. One example is gasoline taxes which are intended to include both the cost of road maintenance and of air pollution. This solution can provide the flexibility of privatization while minimizing the amount of government oversight and overhead that is needed.
The environmentalist Derrick Jensen claims the tragedy of the commons is used as propaganda for private ownership. He says it has been used by the political right wing to hasten the final enclosure of the "common resources" of third world and indigenous people worldwide, as a part of the Washington Consensus. He argues that in true situations, those who abuse the commons would have been warned to desist and if they failed would have punitive sanctions against them. He says that rather than being called "The Tragedy of the Commons", it should be called "the Tragedy of the Failure of the Commons".
The geographer David Harvey has a similar criticism, noting that "The dispossession of indigenous populations in North America by 'productive' colonists, for instance, was justified because indigenous populations did not produce value", and asks generally: "Why, for instance, do we not focus in Hardin's metaphor on the individual ownership of the cattle rather than on the pasture as a common?"
Hardin's work was also criticised as historically inaccurate in failing to account for the demographic transition, and for failing to distinguish between common property and open access resources. In a similar vein, Carl Dahlman argues that commons were effectively managed to prevent overgrazing. Likewise, Susan Jane Buck Cox argues that the common land example used to argue this economic concept is on very weak historical ground, and misrepresents what she terms was actually the "triumph of the commons": the successful common usage of land for many centuries. She argues that social changes and agricultural innovation, and not the behaviour of the commoners, led to the demise of the commons.
Some authors, like Yochai Benkler, say that with the rise of the Internet and digitalisation, an economics system based on commons becomes possible again. He wrote in his book The Wealth of Networks in 2006 that cheap computing power plus networks enable people to produce valuable products through non-commercial processes of interaction: "as human beings and as social beings, rather than as market actors through the price system". He uses the term 'networked information economy' to describe a "system of production, distribution, and consumption of information goods characterized by decentralized individual action carried out through widely distributed, nonmarket means that do not depend on market strategies." He also coined the term 'commons-based peer production' to describe collaborative efforts based on sharing information. Examples of commons-based peer production are free and open source software and open-source hardware.
In certain cases, exploiting a resource more may be a good thing. Carol M. Rose, in a 1986 article, discussed the concept of the "comedy of the commons", where the public property in question exhibits "increasing returns to scale" in usage (hence the phrase, "the more the merrier"), in that the more people use the resource, the higher the benefit to each one. Rose cites as examples commerce and group recreational activities. According to Rose, public resources with the "comedic" characteristic may suffer from under-investment rather than over usage.
it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons.
some have argued that it may be inferred from the rights to privacy, conscience, health and well-being set forth in various United Nation's conventions […] Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children (United Nations, 1968)
The Harvard legal scholar Yochai Benkler has called this phenomenon 'commons-based peer production'.
The Commonize Costs–Privatize Profits Game (or CC–PP Game) is a concept developed by the ecologist Garrett Hardin to describe a "game" (in the game theory sense) widely played in matters of resource allocation. The concept is Hardin’s interpretation of the closely related phenomenon known as the tragedy of the commons, and is referred to in political discourse as "privatizing profits and socializing losses."
The CC–PP Game originally appeared in Hardin’s book titled Filters against Folly: How To Survive Despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent which was published in 1986.Players of the CC–PP Game aim to commonize the costs (or externalities) generated by their activities across the wider community, while privatizing all profits (financial or otherwise) to themselves. The individual does not broadcast that they are playing the game in order to continue profiting.Hardin related the CC–PP Game to ecological problems such mining, groundwater overdraft, cattle ranching and other actions that cause the depletion of natural resources or an increase in pollution.Common-pool resource
In economics, a common-pool resource (CPR) is a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system (e.g. an irrigation system or fishing grounds), whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use. Unlike pure public goods, common pool resources face problems of congestion or overuse, because they are subtractable. A common-pool resource typically consists of a core resource (e.g. water or fish), which defines the stock variable, while providing a limited quantity of extractable fringe units, which defines the flow variable. While the core resource is to be protected or nurtured in order to allow for its continuous exploitation, the fringe units can be harvested or consumed.Common good (economics)
Common goods are defined in economics as goods that are rivalrous and non-excludable. Thus, they constitute one of the four main types based on the criteria:
whether the consumption of a good by one person precludes its consumption by another person (rivalrousness)
whether it is possible to prevent people (consumers) who have not paid for it from having access to it (excludability)One modern example is climate stability. Classic examples of common goods are water and air. Water and air can be polluted: water flows can be tapped beyond sustainability, and air is often used in combustion, whether by motor vehicles, smokers, factories, wood fires. In the production process these resources and others are changed into finished products such as food, shoes, toys, furniture, cars, houses and televisions. Another example of a private exploitation treated as a renewable resource and commonly cited have been trees or timber at critical stages, oil, mined metals, and crops. Fish stocks in international waters are also cited often. In this latter example, when fish are withdrawn from the water without any limits being imposed, living stocks of fish are likely to be depleted for any later fishermen. To describe situations in which economic users withdraw resources to secure short-term gains without regard for the long-term consequences, the term tragedy of the commons was coined. For example, forest exploitation leads to barren lands, and overfishing leads to a reduction of overall fish stocks, both of which eventually result in diminishing yields to be withdrawn periodically.
Debates about sustainability can be both philosophical and scientific. However, wise-use advocates consider common goods that are an exploitable form of a renewable resource, such as fish stocks, grazing land, etc., to be sustainable in the following two cases:
As long as demand for the goods withdrawn from the common good does not exceed a certain level, future yields are not diminished and the common good as such is being preserved as a 'sustainable' level.
If access to the common good is regulated at the community level by restricting exploitation to community members and by imposing limits to the quantity of goods being withdrawn from the common good, the tragedy of the commons may be avoided. Common goods that are sustained through an institutional arrangement of this kind are referred to as common-pool resources.Commons
The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practice) employed for a governance mechanism.
Commons can be also defined as a social practice of governing a resource not by state or market but by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates .Environmental ethics
Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecotheology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography.
There are many ethical decisions that human beings make with respect to the environment. For example:
Should humans continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?
Why should humans continue to propagate its species, and life itself?
Should humans continue to make gasoline-powered vehicles?
What environmental obligations do humans need to keep for future generations?
Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the convenience of humanity?
How should humans best use and conserve the space environment to secure and expand life?
What role can Planetary Boundaries play in reshaping the human-earth relationship?The academic field of environmental ethics grew up in response to the works of Rachel Carson and Murray Bookchin and events such as the first Earth Day in 1970, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Two papers published in Science had a crucial impact: Lynn White's "The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis" (March 1967) and Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" (December 1968). Also influential was Garett Hardin's later essay called "Exploring New Ethics for Survival", as well as an essay by Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac, called "The Land Ethic," in which Leopold explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were philosophical (1949).The first international academic journals in this field emerged from North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s – the US-based journal Environmental Ethics in 1979 and the Canadian-based journal The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy in 1983. The first British based journal of this kind, Environmental Values, was launched in 1992.Ethical egoism
Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.
Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.
Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.
Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism. These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.Free-rider problem
In the social sciences, the free-rider problem occurs when those who benefit from resources, public goods, or services do not pay for them, which results in an underprovision of those goods or services. For example, a free-rider may frequently ask for available parking lots (public goods) from those who have already paid for them, in order to benefit from free parking. That is, the free-rider may use the parking even more than the others without paying a penny. The free-rider problem is the question of how to limit free riding and its negative effects in these situations. The free-rider problem may occur when property rights are not clearly defined and imposed.The free-rider problem is common with goods which are non-excludable, including public goods and situations of the Tragedy of the Commons.
Although the term "free rider" was first used in economic theory of public goods, similar concepts have been applied to other contexts, including collective bargaining, antitrust law, psychology and political science. For example, some individuals in a team or community may reduce their contributions or performance if they believe that one or more other members of the group may free ride.Garrett Hardin
Garrett James Hardin (April 21, 1915 – September 14, 2003) was an American ecologist and philosopher who warned of the dangers of human overpopulation. His exposition of the tragedy of the commons, in a famous 1968 paper in Science, called attention to "the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment". He is also known for Hardin's First Law of Human Ecology: "We can never do merely one thing. Any intrusion into nature has numerous effects, many of which are unpredictable."John Baden
John A. Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) based in Bozeman, Montana.
In 1977 Baden co-authored Managing the Commons with Garrett Hardin, the author of the essay "The Tragedy of the Commons". The book, which is currently out of print, is a collection of articles exploring the themes raised in Hardin's original essay.Leecher (computing)
In computing and specifically Internet, a leech is one who benefits, usually deliberately, from others' information or effort but does not offer anything in return, or makes only token offerings in an attempt to avoid being called a leech. In economics, this type of behavior is called "free riding" and is associated with the free rider problem.
Depending on context, leeching does not necessarily refer to illegal use of computer resources, but often instead to greedy use according to etiquette: to wit, using too much of what is freely given without contributing a reasonable amount back to the community that provides it.
The name derives from the leech, an animal that sucks blood and then tries to leave unnoticed. Other terms are used, such as "freeloader" and "sponge", but leech is the most common.NetLogo
NetLogo is an agent-based programming language and integrated modeling environment.Nice Guys Finish First
Nice Guys Finish First (BBC Horizon television series) is a 1986 documentary by Richard Dawkins which discusses selfishness and cooperation, arguing that evolution often favors co-operative behaviour, and focusing especially on the tit for tat strategy of the prisoner's dilemma game. The film is approximately 45 minutes long and was produced by Jeremy Taylor.
The twelfth chapter in Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene (added in the second edition, 1989) is also named Nice Guys Finish First and explores similar material.Overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Continued overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource. The term applies to natural resources such as: wild medicinal plants, grazing pastures, game animals, fish stocks, forests, and water aquifers.
In ecology, overexploitation describes one of the five main activities threatening global biodiversity. Ecologists use the term to describe populations that are harvested at a rate that is unsustainable, given their natural rates of mortality and capacities for reproduction. This can result in extinction at the population level and even extinction of whole species. In conservation biology the term is usually used in the context of human economic activity that involves the taking of biological resources, or organisms, in larger numbers than their populations can withstand. The term is also used and defined somewhat differently in fisheries, hydrology and natural resource management.
Overexploitation can lead to resource destruction, including extinctions. However it is also possible for overexploitation to be sustainable, as discussed below in the section on fisheries. In the context of fishing, the term overfishing can be used instead of overexploitation, as can overgrazing in stock management, overlogging in forest management, overdrafting in aquifer management, and endangered species in species monitoring. Overexploitation is not an activity limited to humans. Introduced predators and herbivores, for example, can overexploit native flora and fauna.Overfishing
Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from a body of water at a rate that the species cannot replenish in time, resulting in those species either becoming depleted or very underpopulated in that given area. Overfishing has spread all over the globe and has been present for centuries.
Overfishing can occur in water bodies of any sizes, such as ponds, rivers, lakes or oceans, and can result in resource depletion, reduced biological growth rates and low biomass levels. Sustained overfishing can lead to critical depensation, where the fish population is no longer able to sustain itself. Some forms of overfishing, such as the overfishing of sharks, has led to the upset of entire marine ecosystems.The ability of a fishery to recover from overfishing depends on whether the ecosystem's conditions are suitable for the recovery. Dramatic changes in species composition can result in an ecosystem shift, where other equilibrium energy flows involve species compositions different from those that had been present before the depletion of the original fish stock. For example, once trout have been overfished, carp might take over in a way that makes it impossible for the trout to re-establish a breeding population.Pastoralism
Pastoralism is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as cattle, camels, goats, yaks, llamas, reindeers, horses and sheep.
"Pastoralism" often has a mobile aspect but this can take many forms and be at different scales. Sedentary pastoralism is becoming more common as the hardening of political borders, expansion of crop agriculture, and building of fences reduces ability to move. Mobile pastoralism includes moving herds distances in search of fresh pasture and water, something that can occur daily or even within a few hours, to transhumance, where animals are moved seasonally, to nomadism, where pastoralists and families move with the animals year-round. In sedentary pastoralism, or pastoral farming, pastoralists grow crops and improve pastures for their livestock. One example is a savanna area where pastoralists and their animals gather when rainwater is abundant and the pasture is rich, then scatter during the drying of the savanna. . Another is the movement of livestock from summer pastures in lowlands, to montane pastures in the summer where grass is green and plentiful during the dry season . Grazing in woodlands and forests may be referred to as silvopastoralism .
Pastoralist herds interact with their environment, and mediate human relations with the environment as a way of turning uncultivated plants like wild grass into consumable, high quality, food. In many places, grazing herds on savannas and woodlands can help maintain the biodiversity of the savannas and prevent them from evolving into dense shrublands or forests. Grazing and browsing at the appropriate levels often can increase biodiversity in Mediterranean climate regions , . Pastoralists may also use fire to make ecosystems more suitable for grazing and browsing animals. For instance, the Turkana people of northwest Kenya use fire to prevent the invasion of the savanna by woody plant species. Biomass of the domesticated and wild animals was increased by a higher quality of grass.Pastoralism is found in many variations throughout the world, generally where enviornmental charactersitics such as aridity, poor soils, cold or hot temperature, and lack of water make crop growing difficult or impossible. Pastoralism remains a way of life in Africa, the Tibetan plateau, the Eurasian steppes, the Andes, Patagonia, the Pampas, Australia, and other many other places. Composition of herds, management practices, social organization and all other aspects of pastoralism vary between areas and between social groups. Many traditional practices have also had to adapt to the changing circumstance of the modern world, including climatic conditions affecting the availability of grasses and the loss of mobility over large landscapes. Ranches of the United States and sheep stations and cattle stations of Australia are seen by some as modern variations.Science and technology studies
Science and technology studies, or science, technology and society studies (both abbreviated STS) is the study of how society, politics, and culture affect scientific research and technological innovation, and how these, in turn, affect society, politics and culture.The Hangman (poem)
"The Hangman" is a poem written by Maurice Ogden in 1951 and first published in 1954 in Masses and Mainstream magazine under the pseudonym "Jack Denoya". Its plot concerns a hangman who arrives in a town and executes the citizens one by one. As each citizen is executed, the others are afraid to object out of fear that they will be next. Finally there is nobody remaining in the town except the hangman and the narrator of the poem. The narrator is then executed by the hangman, as by then there is no one left who will defend him.
The poem contains four-line stanzas with the rhyming pattern AABB.
The poem is usually cited as an indictment of those who stand idly by while others commit grave evil or injustice, such as during the Holocaust. The story it tells is very similar to that of the famous statement "First they came for the Socialists..." that has been attributed to the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller as early as 1946. The poem may be interpreted as an attack on McCarthyism, a possibility since the first use of the term "McCarthyism" came on March 29, 1950, in a political cartoon by Herblock of the Washington Post.Tragedy of the anticommons
The tragedy of the anticommons is a type of coordination breakdown, in which a single resource has numerous rightsholders who prevent others from using it, frustrating what would be a socially desirable outcome. It is a mirror-image of the older concept of tragedy of the commons, in which numerous rights holders' combined use exceeds the capacity of a resource and depletes or destroys it. The "tragedy of the anticommons" covers a range of coordination failures including patent thickets, and submarine patents. Overcoming these breakdowns can be difficult, but there are assorted means, including eminent domain, laches, patent pools, or other licensing organizations.The term originally appeared in Michael Heller's 1998 article of the same name and is the thesis of his 2008 book. The model was formalized by James M. Buchanan and Yong Yoon. In a 1998 Science article, Heller and Rebecca Eisenberg, while not disputing the role of patents in general in motivating invention and disclosure, argue that biomedical research was one of several key areas where competing patent rights could actually prevent useful and affordable products from reaching the marketplace.Tyranny of small decisions
The tyranny of small decisions is a phenomenon explored in an essay of the same name, published in 1966 by the American economist Alfred E. Kahn. The article describes a situation in which a number of decisions, individually small in size and time perspective, cumulatively result in an outcome which is not optimal nor desired. It is a situation where a series of small, individually rational decisions can negatively change the context of subsequent choices, even to the point where desired alternatives are irreversibly destroyed. Kahn described the problem as a common issue in market economics which can lead to market failure. The concept has since been extended to areas other than economic ones, such as environmental degradation, political elections and health outcomes.A classic example of the tyranny of small decisions is the tragedy of the commons, described by Garrett Hardin in 1968 as a situation where a number of herders graze cows on a commons. The herders each act independently in what they perceive to be their own rational self-interest, ultimately depleting their shared limited resource, even though it is clear that it is not in any herder's long-term interest for this to happen.
Topics in game theory