Thursday, August 10, 2006

One thing leads to another

Read Niall Ferguson last week on plastic pollution in the sea, with his reference to the tragedy of commons. He described it thus:

The tragedy is that an area of open pasture will tend to be depleted and eventually destroyed if the benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals, while the costs of exploitation (what economists call the 'negative externalities') are shared.

Not a new idea:

For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. (Aristotle: Politics, 1261b34)

Something is leading me to comparing tragedy in this sense (widely applicable and broad meaning) to tragedy which is the font of much literature. Nothing coming at the moment. The reason for this is my abysmal lack of knowledge of the classics. Who is worst off? Me with some understanding of philosophy and science and a smatttering of the best fiction or the person who has only literature to refer to?

This by David Brin says something to me but I 'm not sure quite what yet.

Other mentions:

The Tragedy of the Commons (links)
The Tragedy of the Commons (MeatballWki)
The Prisoner's Dilemma (Stanford U. Encycl.)
'Lucky-duckies' and the Tragedy of the Commons (from Books & Culture)

A simpler way to tackle this would be to ask what literature includes mention of the tragedy of the commons in some form or another. I can't answer that question (see above).


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