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Unformatted text preview: Topic 3: The Tragedy of the Commons I. The concept The Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin, 1968, excerpted from Science v. 162 pp. 1243-1248. The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy. As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component. 1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1. 2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decisionmaking herdsman is only a (small) fraction of -1. negative utility for any particular decisionmaking herdsman is only a (small) fraction of -1....
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This note was uploaded on 09/02/2009 for the course GEO 302C taught by Professor Yang during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.
- Spring '08