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Analyzing Garret Harding’s Article Essay

This paper seeks to analyze the article “The Tragedy of the Commons” by Hardin (1968). The first part summarizes the main thesis by identifying the principle or principles that Hardin used to explain the Tragedy as he defines it. The second part describes how Hardin’s thesis would apply to production of smog pollutants in California. 2. Summary and Application 2. 1. Summary

The paper article talks about the tragedy of the commons which has contradicted the “invisible hand” that was described by Adam Smith that would managed things for people by just allowing man’s selfishness to keep on profiting without realizing that the same could be helping people in the process. The tragedy of the commons is therefore preventing the operation of the market or certain individuals from fully attaining what is good for these individuals because of the inevitable overpopulation.

However the author has also acknowledged ways or factors under which the tragedy of commons could be neutralized such the existence of private property in support of that man’s selfishness in accordance with Smith’s theory. He also mentioned other factors that may have either supported to weaken the tragedy of commons. He therefore still sees a solution to the tragedy, which is the relinquishment of freedom to breed by the commons. Such can be done by some intervention of those who have the power like the state.

The thesis of the Hardin (1968) further asserts that the problem on overpopulation has no technical solution for there is nothing to maximize. He noted the fact the people are concerned about the problem of overpopulation and that the same people would try the ways to avoid the evils of such situation but without giving up the pleasure that they have now. The author asserted the fact the people would want to make everything possible where plans could be growing or developing any source of food that will solve the problem caused by the overpopulation.

Hardin asserted about the absence of technical solution to the problem as in winning the game of tick-tack-toe. He concluded that the simplest summary of the analysis of man’s problem in population is that the commons could justify their existence only under conditions of low-population density. Thus he argued that given the fact the population has increased, these commons have to be abandoned in one aspect. According to Hardin, the first way to abandon them can be done food gathering, enclosing farm land, restricting pastures and in hunting and fishing areas.

He also saw the commons as a place for waste disposal that would justify their abandonment. Since the author also values human freedom preservation, it was his position that to preserve and nurture the more important kinds of freedom, the solution is to give up the freedom to breed from these commons as soon as possible. 2. 2 Application to the Production of Smog Pollutants in California This part of the paper will define “Commons” in the case of the smog pollutants in California as those people that may be part of the creating the problems of smog pollution in California, who may or may not be aware of the solution or cause of the problem.

Individuals or non-commons may be those that are not part of the common which could be exemplified by the group described by Hardin which espouses the relinquishment of freedom to breed in order to arrest the tragedy of overpopulation caused and who believes that there are no technical solutions to problem. Since the case of pollution is related to overpopulation which according to Hardin has caused the problem, the non-commons extends their argument in this part that opt to give up still the freedom to breed for commons.

This part describes also the problem in terms of the different view from the commons, the non-commons or individual In terms of the commons, the problem of smog Production is a problem that could be technologically solved. Hence these commons would argue for the need for the production of cars that would be equipment of the capability of reduced or smog pollutants (Vannijnatten and Lambright, 2001; Dooley, 2002)). This could be evident in the case of what is being required now of new cars from California.

Newer cars starting with 2009 model will be required to have label that contains a level as to tier ranks in terms of environmental impact. The information is designed to provide consumers with the practical information that could contribute to their being responsible decision makers in the use of environment friendly vehicles while satisfying or meeting the needs of these people to move around (Environment News Service, 2009). The label used for environmental performance will include a scale of 1-10 for global warming scores and smog score.

The higher score on both scales will show that the car is more environment friendly car. With average normal score of 5 on both scales, the values of the decision makers will also show how they will value the environment will also be reflective of scores recorded (Environment News Service, 2009). Electric cars are noted to earn higher ratings than non-electric cars on both score thereby indicating the role of technology (Environment News Service, 2009). This would provide a strong argument against that of Hardin (1968) that there is no technical solution to the problem.

It could be argued that electric cars evolved from gasoline cars and therefore consumers may be deemed to have become more responsible to the environment. In terms of the individual interests, as espoused by Garrett Hardin (1968), the solution is non-technical that one can never minimized or maximized that point where there could acceptable smog pollutant level. From this view, the problem comes from the commons in the case of production of smog pollutants and not from non-commons which do not see themselves as part of the problem.

Hardin’s viewed that there are indeed people causing smog pollutants in California which may not be prevented from having better cars due to the bias that there is no technical solution to the problem. The solution could not be found therefore under the principle developed as viewed by commons that more efficient cars could be produced but rather in stopping the freedom to breed commons which will prevent the problem created in the production of smog pollutant in California.

Hardin under his own view would rather therefore go for stopping the breeding of the commons who keep on violating the rights of individuals because of the enclosures or certain advantages or favors given to these commons. The solution could include calling for government actions to deny seeming shout for more rights and liberties by the commons. In the article on Tragedy of the commons, Hardin (2008) also attacked the fact that every favor given to the commons is a deprivation of somebody’s personal liberty.

He argued that while infringements made in the past could be accepted by him and the believers of his cause, he could only now see the abuse of infringement made because of the cries for rights and freedom are made by commons. He saw the benefits given to the commons are a way of robbing against the non-commons. He further saw only universal ruin if the logic of the commons would continue to be upheld. For this purpose the author saw only the need for true freedom that is based on recognition of necessity.

If this principle is applied to the smog pollutants in California, Hardin would see hopeless of having smog free cars and that the cost of regulation for smog free cars could only be caused by the commons. If Hardin’s position is to be sustained, this would amount to prohibiting rather the commons to not having cars any more by government actions since these non-commons would not want to share life with the commons who will eventually cause overpopulation. Hardin (1968) also argued in the article that the most important aspect of necessity is the present need to recognize the necessity of abandoning the commons in breeding.

Since he saw the absence of technical solution to the problem the misery of overpopulation would necessarily come along with all related evils. He posited that freedom to breed will bring ruin to all. In effect, Hardin would want to address still the issue of overpopulation since all the issue of pollution according to him is also cause by population. In terms of collective interest, people need to co-exist together whether commons or non-commons because they only live in one land surface — the earth which provides life for everybody.

The right of co-existence happens because the ethical theory of social justice demands that one must practice what is just and fair to everybody concerned. To have peaceful-coexistence, there must be an intention of each of the commons or the individuals to sacrifice some of their rights for the survival of both. The resulting conflict, if not solved, will put humans into a level of what is contentious as instinctively, the instinct for survival is as old as life itself (Fikes, 2001). Each person whether common or non-common has rights and obligations to discharge if each is to live together harmoniously.

While it is true that smog production would be dangerous to the environment and the common may occupy a bigger share in the total number of the population, it could be easily accepted that they could be wipe out on earth so that only the non-common shall live. To determine whether indeed a technical solution is possible, there is a need to understand the nature of smog which is a kind of air pollution caused them the petrochemical reaction of sunlight with volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen when released into the atmosphere.

The same is therefore normally observed in automobile operation. To attain smog free objective, California used smog score by ranking each vehicles pollutant’s levels in terms of non-methane organic gases and oxides of nitrogen in relation to other vehicles within the current model year. Within the scale of 1 to 10, the California scale assigns 10 to be the cleanest while the average score 5 (Environment News Service, 2009). This could therefore testify to the creation of technical solutions that would solve the problem of smog production in California.

This again will provide strong argument against the position taken by the Hardin (1968) on the absence of technical solution. Another proof of this evolution in technology is in the light of the belief that car model before 2006 would fall below the smog score of one. An action for more stringent standards must be viewed as a way of creating solution that would satisfy the collective interest of both commons and non-commons. The fact of smog inspection involves knowing whether Hydrocarbons, Nitrous Oxides or Carbon Monoxides (SmogTips, Inc, 2009) are present since these chemicals are identified for the production of smog.

The fact the human knowledge has identified these chemicals from a long list of other known chemicals must speak further as evidence of technical solution to the problem of pollution. 3. Conclusion This paper concludes that the thesis of Hardin (1968) on lack of technical solution to the problem of smog pollutants in California is not rue. This paper has found moves in California to control the production of smog pollutants. The thesis may have raised some points that consider in effect the tragedy caused by the commons where the author has even attacked the theory of universal human rights.

The view of the author is in favor individualist orientation and subscribes to the ideal of selfish genes. However, as society has evolved, the individualists have lived together with the commons for centuries and although the position of Hardin may be logical at some points, this paper takes exception to the assertion that there is no technical solution to problems. There is a solution because humanity is forever looking for ways to solve its problems whether the scientist may come from commons or not.


Dooley, E. (2002) Fifty Years Later: Clearing the Air over the London Smog; Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110 Environment News Service (2009) New California Cars Display Smog, Global Warming Scores, {www document} URL, http://www. ens-newswire. com/ens/jan2009/2009-01-02-092. asp, Accessed January 29, 2009 Fikes, T. (2001) Evolutionary Psychology as Computational Theory in the Cognitive Sciences; Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 29

Hardin, Garrett (1968) “The Tragedy of the Commons”, {www document} URL http://www. sciencemag. org/cgi/content/full/162/3859/1243, Accessed January 29, 2009 SmogTips, Inc (2009) How to pass the California emissions test. 3-Part Test. , {www document} URL http://www. smogtips. com/passing_inspection. cfm, Accessed January 29, 2009 Vannijnatten and Lambright (2001); North American Smog: Science-Policy Linkages across Multiple Boundaries Canadian-American Public Policy

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