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Managing the Commons

by Garrett Hardin and John Baden (editors)

294 pages, paperback, W. H. Freeman, 1977

Managing the Commons is an anthology of essays that explore the implications of Garrett Hardin's classic essay, The Tragedy of the Commons. The essay, reprinted in Managing the Commons, develops the thesis that it is to an individual's advantage to exploit a common resource as thoroughly as possible, and that the implementation of this strategy by many individuals leads to exhaustion of the resource. "Freedom in a commons," says the essay, "brings ruin to all." The essays in Managing the Commons explore the implications of this thesis from many perspectives and suggest some amendments.

Quotes from Managing the Commons

"[B]efore the colonial era in the Sahel, overpasturage was avoided by rules worked out by tribal chiefs. When deep wells were drilled to obtain water the boreholes threw into chaos the traditional system of pasture use based on agreements among tribal chieftains. Thus, we see the tragedy of the commons not as a defect in the concept of a 'commons' but as a result of the disastrous transition period between the loss of an effective bioethic and its replacement by a new bioethic that could once again bring biological realities and human values into a viable balance." --Van Rensselaer Potter, quoted in Garrett Hardin, Ethical Implications of Carrying Capacity

. . .

"A condition has been described under which a business depending on a renewable resource may be run irresponsibly (destroying the resource) and not result in loss of income to all of the businessmen involved. Taking advantage of such a situation has been termed 'killing the goose' and is different from the tragedy of the commons. The characteristic difference is that the long-term economic interests of at least one of the entrepreneurs are not harmed by destroying the resource. . . . This article also indicates that in [those] situations . . . where it may pay to kill the goose, 'industrial self-regulation' is not merely questionable, it is farcical. It is in fact equivalent to a policy of destroying the resource in question. In such situations society is the only possible protector of the resource and any efforts directed to protecting the resource without government intervention are doomed to fail in the long run." --Daniel Fife, Killing the Goose

. . .

"I believe I have demonstrated that the voters are characteristically ill-informed when voting on reducing social costs. Furthermore, their primary concern is with wealth transferred to themselves, rather than with social cost efficiency. Logically, this would mean that democratic government would be inefficient in reducing social costs." -- Gordon Tullock, The Social Costs of Reducing Social Cost

. . .

"One of the most successful institutions in the world today is the Mormon church. This organization has experimented with various institutional designs. Through a gradual process of testing, modification, abandonment, and change, the church has evolved to its present form. One of the earliest Mormon efforts was the development of a communal organization in Jackson County, Missouri, during the years 1831 to 1834. This effort, like many others throughout America at that time, was destined to fail. The logic of common pool resources will be useful in understanding the reasons for this failure. " --Kari Bullock and John Baden , Communes and the Logic of the Commons

. . .

"Another very profound difference between biological and social systems is that in social systems human artifacts are made as a result of human decisions, which are very closely interrelated in human communities. Biologists call an ecosystem in a particular habitat a "community," but the word is a metaphor and a very misleading one. The populations of a biological ecosystem are related by such things as predation, utilization of common food supplies and physical niches. One species may help create a niche for another, but they are not in any strict sense a community. They have no government, and no individual member of the system has an image of the total system, only of a very small fraction of it. Communities of human beings, because of their capacity for communication and shared images, have potentialities for conscious control which is not possessed by biological prehuman ecosystems." --Kenneth E. Boulding, Commons and Community: The Idea of a Public

Table of Contents of Managing the Commons

  1. What Marx Missed, Garrett Hardin
  2. On the Checks to Population, William Forster Lloyd
  3. The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin
  4. Intuition First, Then Rigor, Garrett Hardin
  5. An Algebraic Theory of the Commons, H.V. Muhsam
  6. A Model of the Commons, Jay M. Anderson
  7. Denial and Disguise, Garrett Hardin
  8. The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited, Beryl L. Crowe
  9. An Operational Analysis of "Responsibility", Garrett Hardin
  10. Killing the Goose, Daniel Fife
  11. The Economics of Overexploitation, Colin W. Clark
  12. A Test of the Tragedy of the Commons, James A. Wilson
  13. Ethical Implications of Carrying Capacity, Garrett Hardin
  14. Rewards of Pejoristic Thinking, Garrett Hardin
  15. A Primer for the Management of Common Pool Resources, John Baden
  16. The Social Costs of Reducing Social Cost, Gordon Tullock
  17. A Theory for Institutional Analysis of Common Pool Problems, Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom
  18. Collective Action and the Tragedy of the Commons, Elinor Ostrom
  19. Communes and the Logic of the Commons, Kari Bullock and John Baden
  20. From Free Grass to Fences: Transforming the Commons of the American West, Terry L. Anderson and P. J. Hill
  21. Environmental Resource Management: Public or Private? Robert L. Bish
  22. Property Rights, Environmental Quality, and the Management of National Forests, John Baden and Richard Stroup
  23. Neospartan Hedonists, Adult Toy Aficionados, and the Rationing of Public Lands, John Baden
  24. Population, Ethnicity, and Public Goods: The Logic of Interest-Group Strategy, John Baden
  25. Living on a Lifeboat, Garrett Hardin
  26. Commons and Community: The Idea of a Public, Kenneth E. Boulding

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