‘Tragedy of the Commons’ Essay Sample

Posted on April 5, 2020

When it comes to the tragedy of the commons, the term covers a situation in which a few individuals try to reap the greatest benefit from a given situation, neglecting the wellbeing of the society.
According to the historical facts, the concept of the tragedy of the commons dates back to the era of Aristotle. Before Garrett Hardin provided his viewpoint on the tragedy of the commons in 1968, a famous Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle commented on the basic problems related to resources and public land. In one of his most important treatises, Aristotle suggested that shared assets usually caused mismanagement and exploitation. The Greek philosopher explained that the resources that are common to a great number of people usually receive the least care from those. As a rule, people case about themselves only, while the common interest isn’t taken into account.

In our society today, there are several tragedies of the commons, as described by Garrett Hardin. One of the most popular is the ever-increasing population, while the resources remain the same. The current world population is estimated at seven billion. All these people need various resources, such as air, water and food that are the most essential needs to any human being. The only problem is that even if people somehow manage to increase the resources mentioned above, the situation is not going to change. This is due to severe pollution, especially of such vital resources like fresh air and water (Ostrom et al 56).

With rapid developments in society, some government representatives have taken advantage of their positions and neglected the common man. They have set up industries that are emitting harmful gases into the environment, polluting the air all over the globe. For instance, due to negligence in the industry of oil mining that at times is done in the sea, some part of the substance was spilled to the ocean. Also, at times, the common people don’t really mind about themselves, especially those involved in the fishing industry. They tend to carry out their fishing activities thought the year, which means they do not provide enough time for the young fish to grow. As a result, they end up being depleted, and no fish remains at all.

Garrett Hardin made a serious study of the problem. He found out that it was impossible to come up with many potential technical solutions to this problem, and that the tragedy is inevitable. Therefore, he defined a technical solution as one that requires very little or no change. The only solution offered by Hardin was to privatize the activities. According to Hardin’s statements, if left to the commoners, these activities will be impossible to control (Hardin 32). Even though the society met “The Tragedy of the Commons” with a certain criticism, many suggestions and ideas that Hardin provided caused much controversy. Garrett Hardin was a father of four; however, the American ecologist was an advocate of controversial measures aimed at population control. In particular, Hardin has advocated for forced sterilization methods. The author of Hardin’s First Law of Human Ecology noted that overpopulation is an essential part of the tragedy of the commons. What is more, Hardin called the freedom to breed completely intolerable. He stepped further by stating that forced sterilization was a viable option. At the same time, Hardin was an active advocate of women’s reproductive rights, stating that it was up to women to decide on abortions.

An interesting fact from Garrett Hardin’s life is that he and his wife died in a double suicide. The bodies of Hardin and his wife were found in their home on September 14, 2003. The criminal experts categorized their deaths as double suicide. The latter was supported by the fact that Garrett Hardin and his beloved one were the Hemlock Society members. The organization was famous for its status of assisted suicide advocacy organization. Both Hardin and his wife had poor health. According to the couple’s children, they were aware of the fact that their parents were fans of end-of-life lifestyle, which means they just did what they really wanted to do.

Milton Friedman and Elinor Ostrom are some of the scholars, who opposed the tragedy of the commons and privatization statements provided by Garrett Hardin. Friedman and Ostrom proved that the common people can be responsible for the resources available. The Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom has successfully documented how different communities all over the world manage common resources, irrigation waters, fisheries equitably and sustainably during a long period of time. Milton Friedman, in turn, advocated for unrestricted markets that provide freedom for the common people. These two scholars would offer different solutions to the population problem. Instead of trying to fight the increasing population, they would embrace it and look for solutions that would even work in the future. This, in turn, would save time needed to find further solutions (Hardin 34).

In my opinion, Ellinor Ostom’s approach would work in the best possible manner. Why? Mainly due to the fact that her ideas make every person responsible for each and every action they take. In other words, we all are responsible for the outcome of our deeds. If the privatization continues, the common people tend to be rebellious to authority and will continually oppose and feel degraded.
Another solution would be providing people with full responsibility attached with some rules and regulations, so that whoever breaks them is punished straight away. As a result, the majority of people will be protected.

Capitalism is also known as one of the potential solutions to the tragedy of the commons. According to some experts, people should pay for limited use of some of the common resources. The finances received will be transferred to the common fund.

At the same time, many theorists insist on changing human nature in order to solve the problem discussed by Hardin. In other words, people have to reconsider their nature and behavior in order to become less selfish and greedy. But the truth is that this suggestion did not work in the past. According to the empirical evidence, people can’t become good due to their vicious nature. In other words, ruin is the main goal that every person on earth rush toward. People tend to pursue their own best interests in any environment with the freedom of the commons.

In conclusion, the tragedy of the commons should be one issue, which is discussed in a wider perspective because it affects all the stakeholders involved. At the end of the day, we are the people who suffer the consequences. The tragedy of commons gives us a single logical lesson: when you make use of a common resource, you reduce other people’s enjoyment of it. Due to this damaging externality, all kinds of common resources become used more and more disproportionately. It is the government that should work on potential solutions for the problem by reducing use of common resource by means of taxes or special regulations. On the other hand, the government can sometimes change the status of the common resources to the private one. In other words, the rule of reason principle should be applied.

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