The Tragedy of the Commons is an article about population problem resolution. In the first part of the article, Hardin talks about solutions and their context in todays and yesterdays world. He puts the argument of technical and non technical solutions in different contexts and weighs their suitability in different circumstances. Bentham’s rule of “the greatest good for the greatest number” is also discussed in the first few paragraphs where Hardin explains the two reasons why it cannot be realized.
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He gives the first reason as a mathematical one i.e. two variables cannot be increased at the same time and the second reason as a biological one that dictates that for any life to proceed there must be energy to sustain it; it is not sufficient to do that for the human race with growing population.
The writer then tries to explain the phenomenon of ‘tragedy in commons’ using a simple example of pastoralists sharing a vast pasture. There would be an increase in the number of cattle up to the point when the cattle will start putting too much pressure on the pasture, and then there would be tragedy because each extra head would mean more pressure on the pasture which would eventually lead to conflict and even extinction (McVay 9).
This system of selection, the writer explains, is used in many areas of our lives in instances where there are limited resources that are not restricted.
A natural means of selection then occurs in the form of overcrowding, queues and so on naturally regulating these struggles and it is put that there is no space (Hardin 15). Hardin then goes on to relate these arguments to pollution and conscience. He brings out the fact that conscience can be used as at tool of regulation but warns that this appeals very differently between different individuals.
Carefully looking at the article, Hardin tries to argue about the different means of self regulation. He focuses on general people regulation, pollution and even legislation. In my opinion Hardin simply wanted to bring out the different ways of regulation yet with a little touch of humor.
He explains that even if a population does not necessarily plan on regulating itself, it is still bound to do so naturally in an order he refers to as the commons (Lloyd 82).
He even refers to Charles Darwin as he explains these points although later in the article he drastically changes his views in a display of contrast in his writing. In his view, everything from politics to basic human processes like breeding can be regulated by as simple a process as appealing to the human conscience in the short term (Smith 428).
There is a lot of contradiction in Hardin’s article though; he goes ahead to warn that use of conscience may be appealing in the short term but may eventually be perceived differently by the people depending on their reflections and inner beliefs (Lack 29).The need for recognition and mutual agreement has also been brought out as necessary towards the end of the article.
In conclusion, Hardin writes that perhaps a simple answer to these population problems is the use of need for necessity and mutual agreement. While accepting that mutual agreement does not mean that everyone would be most comfortable with the resolution. It is perhaps the best way to deal with population problems.
The commons is only viable and agreeable in instances of very low populations with excess resources where competition and destruction is still many years away. The Commons system encourages wastage and irresponsibility even in small societies and should not be adopted in modern society.
Hardin, Garret.“Journal of Heredity.” Science 50(1959):15-20
Lack, Dave The Natural Regulation of Animal Numbers. England :Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1954.
Lloyd, Willie. Two Lectures on the Checks to Population. England: Oxford University Press, 1833.
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McVay,Salome.” Scientific American.” Science13 (1966):5-20
Smith, Arnie. The Wealth of Nations. New York:NEW LIB, 1937