Tragedy of the Commons

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The article “Tragedy of the Commons” explains Hardin’s theory that a misguided or mistaken use of the human ethics is catastrophic and will result in what he called “Tragedy of the Commons”. In this article, Hardin explains that “commons” are resources shared by the society as a whole with access to that “commons” without restrictions. Those are resources with maximum capacity and limit to support its usage. In his example on the herdsman, Hardin demonstrated the irrational behavior and unethical thinking of an individual for his own advantage to increase his demands on the commons.

The result of this absurdity in behavior and unethical thinking maximized the capacity and consumption limit of that “commons” thus everyone who have access to that “commons” equally shared the harmful affect the “Tragedy to the Commons”. In the article “Tragedy of the Commons”, Hardin, claims that “human problems” have classes and cannot be resolved through science and technology, instead it will just generate another problem. In this article Hardin relates the theory of the “Tragedy of the Commons” to other parts of the environment such as the national parks and pollution.

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National Parks are open for everyone without limitation such as the “Yosemite Valley”. As population grew, the park gets crowded and the enjoyment the visitors previously experienced started to degrade thus devalue the importance and significance of the park itself. Hardin had mentioned several options to treat the park as commons to bring back its value and significance to the people as their national park. To mention one was to keep it public property but allocate the right to enter them which obviously will cause conflict to those taxpayers accessing the park and contributed to its construction.

The options Hardin had mentioned needs to be given attention to maintain and protect the National Park from exploitation. According to Hardin pollution was another aspect of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. Pollution affects the air we breathe and the water that surrounds us. Such as waste and toxic chemicals, oil spills, dumpster. Humans often times failed to recognized the responsibility of preventing pollution and maintaining the air we breathe. This is unpreventable as much as it is uncontrollable.

After all this is a “free enterprise”. The irresponsible thinking of a tax payer that disposing his waste is cheaper than cleaning them makes this problem unpreventable and uncontrollable. Maybe the tax payer has a different perspective than what the law imposed. Passing a law or coercive action such as penalty and prohibition is the only solution. As we all know, the ocean’s resources are becoming limited as humans continue to treat the oceans as commons and continue to exploit it.

According to Hardin they still stick to the philosophy of the commons “freedom of the seas” and continued to catch vast amount of fish to their own advantage regardless of the fact that some of the marine species are now endangered and overtime will become “extinct” (Hardin). In this article Hardin applied the theory of the “Tragedy of the Commons” to “the growth of the population” and its effects on the earths limited resources. He claimed technology cannot resolve this problem.

It is the participation and cooperation by the society as a whole (people and the government) and not just by the individual itself alone. To achieve positive results means giving up something you enjoy or minimizing the usage. People refuse to give up something they enjoy for the success of the whole. He described the ruinous result of the misguided use of ethics and ignoring the ethics that lies in the word “freedom” as in “freedom of the commons”. According to Hardin the rapid of the growth of population if not controlled will result in “population exploitation”.

This will have negative impacts on the earth’s natural resources such as water, energy and food and will occupy every inch of the earth’s space. To add to this, it can result in famine, poverty, unemployment, inequalities, and deviance which could result in war. Poverty will result in famine and deviance will result in war, and both will result in death. According to Hardin the continued growth in population will crash the system which supports the whole nation. Although unavoidable, non-endless growth is a threat to the nation.

It is the result of the individual’s misguided practice of moral principles and techniques. The only way it can be corrected and prevented is the application of social, biological and political theories. According to Hardin, “Freedom to Breed is Intolerable”. Humans who consciously reproduce to gain benefit to its own interest (expand family tree to the next generation) but lack the resources to feed them brought additional misery to the nation especially if these children will vanish from the face of the earth because of starvation.

According to Hardin, this will be the chastisement for “over breeding” as they did it to themselves. Ignoring this problem will result in misery. Today the present population is the most difficult and moral problem facing the world. Hardin explains that our society is committed totally to a welfare state which faces another part of the tragedy of the commons if aggravated. According to Hardin, the earth is “finite” and everything that surrounds it is finite. To name a few are biological resources and fuels.

Public or private land will eventually become commons with the growth in the population. The continued growth of the population will exploit the environment. Population is exceeding the land and the earth’s resources. Per Hardin, those who maximize their material consumption contributes to the increase exploitation of the commons” and everyone who takes away resources from all other living things on earth. Deforestation, global warming, over-fishing, population exploitation, “ozone depletion” are all national issues.

They are the result of human’s irrational and misguided or mistaken use of ethics which became the “Tragedy of the Commons” (Hardin 1968). Hardin (1968) finally noted that the simple way to analyze and justify the problem of human populations is “under the condition of low-population density”. As population increase it generates another issue which diverts our attention to another aspect, thus abandoning the commons. There are aspects of the commons that needs more attention. Although some restrictions were already imposed, some still awaits for completion.

According to Hardin we still have a long way to go from legalizing the commons in the issue of pleasure such as propagation of sound waves in public places which according to Hardin (1968) “pollution of advertising”. According to Hardin (1968) we need to recognize the most significant aspect of necessity, the “necessity of abandoning the commons in breeding”. If ignored, “freedom to breed” will bring disaster. While there are no solutions to this problem yet, Hardin opposed the idea of an attempt to advertise the use of conscience and apply responsible parenthood.

According to Hardin in the long run it will result in anxiety. Touching the subject of commons always involves violation of someone’s personal freedom. These are violations that are strongly opposed; “”cries” for rights and “freedom””. While bank robbers were persecuted, these people sheltered into the logic of the commons have freedom to bring universal disaster and free to pursue other goals once they see the necessity of mutual coercion (Hardin 1968). Freedom is the recognition of necessity” (Hegel). “”The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed”, and that very soon” (Hardin 1968), “Freedom is the recognition of necessity” (Hegel). To put an end to this “education must reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed” (Hardin). Reference: “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Garrett Hardin, Science, 162(1968):1243-1248.

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Tragedy of the Commons. (2018, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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