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Tragedy of the Commons

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Anuj
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Tragedy of the Commons : "A situation where individuals acting independently and rationally according to each's self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource." Common resource being :  atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, energy..

 

Objectivism upholds "Freedom". But does it come with a huge price tag ? 

 

1) Deforestation : Sensing more profitability, companies if need be may wipe out a whole forest region. Every company would be free to do so, unless the forest is owned by somebody. 

2) Toxic Industrial Pollution : Would there be no restrictions on letting out pollutants or chemical hazards into the environment : the seas,the oceans and the atmosphere ?

3) Endangered Animals : Would there be no laws prohibiting hunting of certain endangered animals like Bengal Tiger, Whales, Asian and African Elephants for Ivory ? Hunting animals can be of value to humans. And unless governed, I don't see why individual will not want to gain such a value. There can be instances where such animals would go extinct. 

Above are certain cases where going against the principle of "freedom" and enforcing restrictions, may actually benefit the society in the long run. 

Edited by Anuj
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Have you read The Anti-Industrial Revolution?

Where would the Christmas tree purveyors be if they did not plan and plant ahead of the season?

Have you compared the size of a factory to the size of the world? Where do you think Dow Chemical gets the chemicals from? They already exist in some form in nature. The process of reason allows them to be refined from the already existing natural elements into useful forms. Respect for individual rights should provide the mechanism to prevent demonstrable injury to others.

Consider all the animals consumed by man. Are chickens, pigs and cows endangered? A bit tongue-in-cheek here, but if you're concerned about a particular species, find a way to put them on the menu.

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First, you need to explain why you think irreparably destroying the resources needed by you or or company to profit/survive is rational.  

Second, you will notice that the examples you provide are scenarios in which property rights have been destroyed.

So in one swoop, you eliminate the circumstances that allow rational self interest to even work and then demand that it provide a solution to the irrational scenarios you supply.  

Savages dont value property rights and run through the world consuming resources they can't create or own.  

Answer the question of who owns those forests, animals and oceans and you'll have your answer.

It may also be worth examining your own assumptions about environmentalism and how it relates to man's rational faculty.  Here is a great starting point:

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Evil_Environmentalism.html

Edited by Reasoner
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Have you read The Anti-Industrial Revolution?

No, I haven't yet. Will look into it. 

Where would the Christmas tree purveyors be if they did not plan and plant ahead of the season?

The problem is that people don't plan and plant much as it is a freely occurring yet depleting resource; people are generally short sighted and most of the time do not care much about the long term consequences. The area of forest has always been in a decreasing trend, despite the government : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation#Industrial_era

Have you compared the size of a factory to the size of the world? Where do you think Dow Chemical gets the chemicals from? They already exist in some form in nature. The process of reason allows them to be refined from the already existing natural elements into useful forms. Respect for individual rights should provide the mechanism to prevent demonstrable injury to others.

So, I guess companies will be fined and/or prohibited to let out toxic waste into the rivers and lakes that were/are being used by other people. 

Consider all the animals consumed by man. Are chickens, pigs and cows endangered? A bit tongue-in-cheek here, but if you're concerned about a particular species, find a way to put them on the menu.

Okay. 

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First, you need to explain why you think irreparably destroying the resources needed by you or or company to profit/survive is rational.  

Second, you will notice that the examples you provide are scenarios in which property rights have been destroyed.

First, me and my company may not want to think about rationality involved in irreparably destroying resources. What if we just care about earning immediate money ?

Second, how so ? How does property rights get destroyed when you wipe clean a complete grassland not owned by anybody? How does property rights get destroyed when you hunt down all elephants for Ivory ? 

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No, I haven't yet. Will look into it.

:thumbsup:

The problem is that people don't plan and plant much as it is a freely occurring yet depleting resource; people are generally short sighted and most of the time do not care much about the long term consequences.

What do you suppose causes people not to plan, be short sighted, and/or care about long term consequences?

 

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How does property rights get destroyed when you wipe clean a complete grassland not owned by anybody? How does property rights get destroyed when you hunt down all elephants for Ivory ?

You have it backwards.  These actions tend to be the result of a lack of property rights.  When government exists to enforce individual rights, you have property rights, and someone owns the grassland, and you will find the type of activities you mention are curtailed to the extent that they don't support a higher rational value according to the owner of the property.  

When people have a right to own property, they tend not to want to see it destroyed (in entirety - the christmas tree example above is a perfect one). 

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What do you suppose causes people not to plan, be short sighted, and/or care about long term consequences?

(Quite hesitant to say but) "Selfishness" ? At an Individual's level, a person may think only of his own immediate profit. Why should he worry about resource depletion, when he has all he needs to make money. What if every other person and every other industry thinks like that ? 

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(Quite hesitant to say but) "Selfishness" ? At an Individual's level, a person may think only of his own immediate profit. Why should he worry about resource depletion, when he has all he needs to make money. What if every other person and every other industry thinks like that ? 

From that framework of "selfishness," it does not step back much to consider a broader overview.

Using the example of the Christmas tree business, in Michigan, you would need to purchase the land on which the trees are to be able to cut them down, or make arrangements with the owner to buy the trees.

In the former, once you cut the trees down and sell them, what will you do with the property? You won't recoup the price of the purchase in the sale of the trees. You might be able to break even, or slightly ahead by selling the land after, but there is no guarantee.

In the latter, purchasing the trees does not guarantee you will sell them all, which could leave you short on the immediate profit end.

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