The perception of an infinite and endless goods

The English economist Adam Smith once wrote in
his book Wealth of Nations, “Men like all other animals, naturally multiply
in proportion to the means of their subsistence.” Those immortal words of Adam Smith seem to
have been in the mind of Garret Hardin when he penned his much-debated essay about
the problem of human over breeding and the ill-conceived idea of utility
maximization for one’s own gains at the expense of others in what he
called “The
Tragedy of the Commons,” and questioned the perception of an infinite
and endless goods in the world. Hardin also scrutinized the wisdom of overpopulating as a means
of maximizing one’s utility in a world where
the existing resource is limited and far too scarce. In his argument, Hardin challenged
the myth that says the more population a nation has the better future that
awaits, by pointing out the poor living conditions that exist in regions where
such practice is the norm. One of the most compelling evidence of Hardin’s
argument against uncontrolled population growth is laid to bare, however, when
he argued that “the most rapidly growing
populations on earth are (in general) the most miserable,”
hence the inaccuracy of such believes (Hardin 1244).

            Although Hardin accepts his view of
a finite world with exhaustible resources is up for debate, he does not, nonetheless
believe that the current trajectory of population growth is going to be
sustainable in the long run. Hardin believes that such untethered population
growth, coupled with the freedom to breed and the existence of the welfare
state would indeed, lead to misery and depletion of public good resources, thus
causing ruins, hastening a scenario of doomsday for all. The solution to such
multilayer problem requires the precipitation of many actors acknowledges Hardin
and gives few suggestions as starting points. For example, Hardin believes that
educating societies about the nature of limited resources in the world, privatizing
any publicly own commons or setting up a system where the right to access the
commons is appropriated. Hardin also believes that limiting the welfare state
by way of restraining the freedom to breed as a means of maximizing one’s
utility in the commons would take some restrains away from the commons.

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Another subject that Hardin’s
essay tackled is the issue of pollution in a time of private property and
personal rights. Hardin argues that while polluters don’t necessarily
deplete the commons by way of extracting existing resources, they are
nonetheless exploiting public goods by contaminating what is already scarce
resources in the commons. Hardin further explains how Industrialization coupled
with population increase among other things are the main culprits that are
destroying the social construct of the environment. Hardin’s
argument here implies that often times, the individual’s
rational behavior could lead to collective destruction outcome for everyone else.
This part of Hardin’s argument illustrates the phenomenon
that came with the industrialization of the 20th century where
states and other transnational organization began to exploit the commons by
either blasting dirty bombs in the environment or setting up large factories
that omitted dirty chemicals and other toxic wastes into the air and rivers in
order to maximize their utility in the commons. In a period where private
property, territorial rights, and state sovereignty are all at the forefront of
environmental and climate issues, a solution to such problem seems far-fetched
and hard to envision, concedes Hardin. Nonetheless, Hardin believes that
passing laws against such pollution or imposing certain fees on polluters might
mitigate the environmental damage or at least make it less incentive for those actors
to undertake such tasks in the first place. 

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