Good for Each, Bad for All

From dKosopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Libertarians and right-wingers try to reduce (if not eliminate) the regulatory role of government by arguing that the invisible hand of the market and/or pursuit of our own self-interest creates the greatest benefit for all. But this is an article of faith, which ignores a wide variety of real circumstances, namely the scenario of choices which are "good for each, but bad for all".

The remainder of this page is excerpted from an excellent article by Ernest Partridge which should be read in its entirety here.

"The principle of "good for each, bad for all" was forcefully brought to public attention in 1968 by Garrett Hardin, in his essay The Tragedy of the Commons - which was for a while, the most widely reprinted scientific essay of the time.

Hardin, a biologist, cites as an example a pasture owned in common by residents of a village. The pasture is at "carrying capacity" - the number of sheep is such that the villagers can, with that number, use the pasture indefinitely without reducing the productivity of the land. However, any additional sheep will degrade the pasture and thus its capacity to support livestock.

It thus becomes immediately apparent that any individual who adds a sheep to his personal flock will gain in personal wealth, while, at the same time, by degrading the common resource and the value of the other sheep, he slightly decreases the wealth of every other villager. Each villager is similarly situated. Absent common agreement and enforcement thereof, it is rational for each individual to increase his personal flock, even though, in Hardin's words, "ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons."

In other words: "good for each, bad for all."

The solution? Hardin prescribes "Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon." In other words, the rule of law enforced by government. Each individual agrees to a curtailment of liberty on behalf of the common good - bad for each, good for all."

Personal tools