Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Garrett Hardin

Picture a pasture open to all. . . . The rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd.  And another; and another. . . . But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons.  Therein is the tragedy.  Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited.
From his 1968 article, "The Tragedy of the Commons" -- which demonstrates (perhaps not intentionally) why private property rights benefit not only those who own property but also those who do not (to paraphrase the great economist and philosopher Friedrich A. von Hayek).  Hardin was an ecologist who once opposed contributing food to famine-ravaged Ethiopia because it would contribute to overpopulation, which he considered to be the true cause of Ethiopia's problems.  Hardin (who had heart problems) and his wife (who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease) committed suicide by drinking hemlock on this date in 2003.

Garrett Hardin in 1986

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