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[P]
The Real Tragedy of the Commons

By Jonathan Walther in Op-Ed
Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 02:43:23 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In 1968, Science magazine published The Tragedy of the Commons, by Garrett Hardin. The article struck a resonant chord; it gave a fresh and modern face to the discredited alarmism of Thomas Malthus. Today there is hardly a school-child who has not been carefully taught about the tragedy of the commons, and had explained to him why human cooperation and sharing do not work in practice. Unfortunately for the trusting student, not only does this fly in the face of historical fact, but it has led to a wide-spread amnesia about the true tragedy of the commons: the Enclosure Movement.


We all know the story of the tragedy of the commons. It goes like this:

Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. 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. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

The problem with that scenario is this: it never happened! If a person over-grazed his cattle, he had to deal with the other herders. Grazing your cattle on common ground is not something that one can easily do in secret. In addition, if the author of that scenario could imagine it, then so could the herdsmen, and being rational, they would have taken steps to make sure it didn't happen. The scenarios assumptions about the reasoning powers of the laboring classes are quite telling.

Commons, or as they were known in mainland Europe, "Communes", were bits of land that members of a community had rights on. Commons, in the form being discussed here, existed since the 1300's. They worked very well, for the people that were members of them. The modern day disdain for "commoners" came mostly from the ruling classes, who didn't like anything that reduced their personal power, which the existance of Commons did.

Time passed though. Capitalism took its toll; large land-owners arose and consolidated small plots of land into large, industrial farms. Then they turned their eyes to the Common land. Now, admittedly, the system of land in common did not maximize the yield of the land. But it did provide enough to give nice livings to the members of the community.

The large landowners pushed through legislation to enclose common land everywhere. Initially all community members got a plot of this enclosed land. But the value of the land in common was greater than the sum of its parts. People who could make a living with the unenclosed common land no longer could make do with the tiny plot of land they got in return. After a couple decades the results were in: the poor were no longer self-supporting; they had been forced by economic pressures to sell their land and become wage-slaves in the slums of surrounding cities, or for the large land-owners.

In Scotland the situation was even worse; the small holders were massacred or forcibly deported as the highlands were enclosed by favorites of the King for the growing of sheep in what were called the Highland Clearances.

This quote from English Farming Past and Present, by Lord Ernle (Fifth edition, 1936) describes the Tragedy of the Commons in unequivocal terms:

The material loss inflicted on the poor was great: still more serious was the moral damage. It is probably true that the commons had attracted to their borders numbers of the idle and dissolute. But it is equally certain that they also afforded to hard-working and thrifty peasants the means of supplementing their weekly wages. They gave the man who enjoyed rights of common, and lived near enough to use them, an interest in the land and the hope of acquiring a larger interest. They encouraged his thrift and fostered his independence. Men who had grazing rights hoarded their money to buy a cow. They enabled wage-earners to keep live-stock, which was something of their own. They gave them fuel, instead of driving them to the baker for every sort of cooking. They formed the lowest rung in the social ladder, by which the successful commoner might hope to climb to the occupation of a holding suited to his capital. Now the commons were gone, and the farms which replaced them were too large to be attainable. Contemporary writers who comment on the increasing degradation of the labouring classes too often treat as its causes changes which were really its consequences. They note the increase of drunkenness, but forget that the occupation of the labourer's idle moments was gone; they attack the mischievous practice of giving children tea, but forget that milk was no longer procurable; they condemn the rising generation as incapable for farm labour, but forget that the parents no longer occupied land on which their children could learn to work; they deplore the helplessness of the modern wives of cottagers who had become dependent on the village baker, but forget that they were now obliged to buy flour, and had lost their free fuel; they denounce their improvident marriages, but forget that the motive of thrift was removed. The results were the hopelessness, the indifference, and the moral deterioration of the landless labourer. "Go," says Arthur Young in Annals of Agriculture, (vol. xxxvi. p. 508) and On Wastes (1801, pp. 12, 13), "to an ale-house kitchen of an old enclosed country, and there you will see the origin of poverty and the poor-rates. For whom are they to be sober? For whom are they to save? (such are their questions). For the parish? If I am diligent, shall I have leave to build a cottage? If I am sober, shall I have land for a cow? If I am frugal, shall I have half an acre of potatoes? You offer no motives; you have nothing but a parish officer and a workhouse. Bring me another pot." The same point is urged, with less vivacity and picturesqueness of statement, by the best writers of the day, especially by Howlett and Davies.

I posit that this is the real tragedy of the commons; that masses of people who, proud but poor, had their freedom, independance, and were beholden to nobody, were transformed by the enclosure and privatization of their land into non-free people, people who depended on the charity of the wealthy for jobs, wages, and access to their own alienated labor.

Another important historical analysisis is that contained in Pierre Joseph-Proudhon's letter to Monsieur Blanqui, entitled Second Memoir: What is Property?. He shows how enclosure led to similar effects back in the days of the Roman Empire.

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Poll
Which model of selfishness works best?
o Nietzsche 29%
o Ayn Rand 13%
o Adam Smith 14%
o Trotsky 5%
o Bakunin 9%
o Jesus Christ 28%

Votes: 144
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Tragedy of the Commons
o Highland Clearances
o English Farming Past and Present
o alienated labor
o Second Memoir: What is Property?
o Also by Jonathan Walther


Display: Sort:
The Real Tragedy of the Commons | 164 comments (145 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
-1 for blatant socialist platitudes. (1.81 / 27) (#2)
by Mr Incorrigible on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 10:07:46 PM EST

You know, if your penultimate paragraph didn't read like something Marx and Engels pulled out of their typewriter and crumpled while writing The Communist Manifesto then I would have voted for section.

--
I know I'm a cheeky bastard. My lady tells me so.


Yeah! (4.55 / 9) (#7)
by carbon on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 10:35:56 PM EST

How dare he make blatent references to socialism! He should've made them subliminal references instead. What an amateur!


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Subliminal messages. (3.20 / 5) (#9)
by Mr Incorrigible on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 11:10:59 PM EST

He should have recorded his rant as an Ogg Vorbis file in such a way that if you played it backwards you would hear, over and over again, "Workers of the world unite!"

--
I know I'm a cheeky bastard. My lady tells me so.


[ Parent ]
"Workers of the world unite!" (none / 0) (#59)
by luser on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:05:32 PM EST

Can you say "trade union"?

[ Parent ]
-1 dump it. (1.62 / 27) (#3)
by dvchaos on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 10:08:02 PM EST

I lost interest after the first two lines, because I for one I was not taught about Thomas Malthus at school, and quite frankly, I don't care to learn about it either.

--
RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
K5 (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by Spendocrat on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 05:41:51 PM EST

is not here to make up for deficiencies in your education.

[ Parent ]
I applaud you... (4.66 / 3) (#57)
by wilson on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 07:52:51 PM EST

...for your willful ignorance. It takes chutzpah to stand up and shout "my education is lacking and I want it to stay that way". To further this aim, you might consider not reading K5 (or anything else, for that matter) in the future.

For the rest of us, Malthus' theories were, along with Mendel's, key elements in the synthesis of Darwin's ideas on evolution. Perhaps you can cheerily claim no knowledge of them either.

[ Parent ]

Irritated,,, (none / 0) (#89)
by Kintanon on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 12:07:56 PM EST

Now I'm annoyed that this was NEVER studied in my history classes in HS. Wow, my highschool really did seriously suck hardcore...

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

Deliberate ignorance has never been cooler. (none / 0) (#67)
by NFW on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:22:47 PM EST

You got the [b]mad[/b] ostrich skillz boyee.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

War is Peace (4.50 / 2) (#106)
by jayhawk88 on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 03:47:43 PM EST

Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

You probably didn't read that book either, so don't worry too much about it.

Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web? -- John Ashcroft
[ Parent ]
MLP (3.20 / 5) (#6)
by dr k on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 10:16:24 PM EST

Filed under humor.


Destroy all trusted users!

Barbed Wire (1.80 / 10) (#10)
by DLWormwood on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 11:14:21 PM EST

I wonder if the history of the "taming" of the USian west can assert or discredit this argument?
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
changes in the land (2.00 / 4) (#12)
by turmeric on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 12:18:44 AM EST

a book about english individual cattle raising vs. the indians style of hunting wild deer in common hunting grounds

[ Parent ]
Tradgedy of the commons (2.50 / 14) (#11)
by jann on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 11:32:06 PM EST

you miss a point ... is the commons about the internal management (through force as you describes) of the commons by the poor or about society as a whole.

I put it to you that ... Society is where we should look. Consider that society is interested in obtaining the maximum possible yeild from land that is availible to it for farming. If we divide up land such that there is individual ownership and responsibility, and institute a system of laws to ensure that this property ownership is enforced we have a system that encourages the maximum possible yeild from land without hostilities. As a result people can concentrate upon providing food and not beating up on the individuals who are overgrazing the "common" area.

Greater yeild results in lower costs of food and surplus of supply resulting in trade and freedom (do do things other than farming such as scientific and artistic endeavours ... and war but that is deviating from my point) which is in societies interest. From societial change there are always winners and loosers. The poor lost but society won. Excess in food production facilitated "alms to the poor" as it could not have existed otherwise, so they had a minor victory as well ... it beats starving which is what they were doing before.

The real tradgedy of the commons is happening right now. The re-commonisation of private land. As an example: The old english lords posessed land which has been managed for hundreds of years by the family that owned those lands. These lands were respected by the owners as they had a historical and familial tie to that land ... uncle Ed hunted in that forest, as did his father and his father etc so lets not re-develope. As a result of that ownership much forest has remained pristine and untouched ... but now, with the demise of the "royalty" and the "landed gentry" that land is being sold off (as a result of excessive land tax and estate duties ... giving its value back to the commoners) and redeveloped. The result is that britan is loosing even more of it scarse forrests as "the commoners" once again are given access to that land. Who really looses? The public when all their history and heritage is destroyed.

How does common land get treated ... without respect that it is due. Need proof ... do you litter in your back yard? do people litter in the park?

As far as alienation of labour et al ... need I point to the USSR.

J

Strawman (4.60 / 15) (#14)
by marx on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 12:23:07 AM EST

Come on, the point of the article was not to propose complete socialism. "The tragedy of the commons" is usually used to demonstrate that all communal ownership is wrong. The article showed that communal ownership sometimes works well, and even has been an integral part of the creation of society today.

As for your littering example, it's simply false. Sweden has a culture of communal usage of nature in general, and even though everyone is allowed to make use of forests and the wilderness, people don't litter.

I don't think this has to do with strictly how property ownership and usage is regulated. It's about culture. If people are brought up to believe that the only thing that matters is personal property, then they will abuse common property. If people are brought up to believe in commun property and solidarity, then they will take care of common property. So essentially "the tragedy of the commons" can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perhaps this is changing, but it's at least true for older generations, who were not so Americanized. As an example, my father used to instinctively pick up trash in parks, try to fix vandalized road signs, etc. I don't think even older people have this "instinct" in the US.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Your strawman (1.20 / 5) (#42)
by dipierro on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 03:42:53 PM EST

"The tragedy of the commons" is usually used to demonstrate that all communal ownership is wrong.


No it isn't.



[ Parent ]
i guess the poll is too intellectual (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by nex on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 06:35:54 AM EST

it was forseeable that most users would be familiar with only one or two choices and select one of those. the correct approach, of course, would have been to make sure one understands the question first (googling bakunin, rand, ...) before answering. however, that's quite a lot of work.

btw, i don't want to consider selecting nietzsche as long as it's misspelled, hope that's corrected soon ;-)

Spelling of Nietzsche (none / 0) (#18)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 07:20:01 AM EST

Oh dear. You caught that problem 6 hours after the article had left Edit mode. I'm always getting caught by that i before e rule. Feh. Thanks for pointing out the error. Maybe a nice admin person reading this will correct the spelling on that poll entry.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
six hours ago i'd been asleep for just 2 hours :-) (none / 0) (#23)
by nex on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:45:14 AM EST

i sent them an e-mail before i posted the comment above. then i went to the kitchen and expected it to be fixed after lunch time. but, you know, the time difference is a bitch ;-)

[ Parent ]
forget the i before e rule (3.50 / 2) (#72)
by oska on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 10:06:54 PM EST

i'd suggest you forget about the "i before e except after c" rule

firstly, because there are numerous exceptions to the rule in english

i.e.

e before i :

weigh,
neighbor,
sleigh,
neither,
weird,
foreign,
leisure,
either,
seize,
forfeit,
protein,
caffeine,
heifer,
...

and i before e after c :

science,
efficient,
sufficient,
...

secondly, because it is meant only to apply to english (where it fails) and Nietzsche is a german name (as is Einstein).

in german they have a very simple system which is

'ie' for when you want to denote a long 'e' sound
as in the english 'see'

'ei' for when you want to denote a long 'i' sound
as in the english 'eye'

i don't know of any exception to this rule in pure german (however i am neither fluent nor an expert)

[ Parent ]

Never say die... (none / 0) (#82)
by PingvinRich on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 06:39:14 AM EST

...is what I was taught at school. In other words, Germans pronounce the second of the two letters ie or ei.
"Don't tell him, Pike!"
[ Parent ]
the rule I learned... (4.00 / 2) (#88)
by machine on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 12:06:58 PM EST

...was 'i before e except after c or when sounding like a as in neighbour or weigh'.

Which seems to catch a bunch of the exceptions to just 'i before e except after c'.



[ Parent ]
A Couple of Things (4.33 / 9) (#19)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:02:41 AM EST

Nice article. The enormous suffering and turmoil caused by agricultural enclosure is often overlooked. In particular, Americans tend to be completely ignorant of it, because their land was settled after enclosed farming became the norm.

I want to make two points, one picky and one less so. The picky point is that the highland clearances were rather different. They were a consequence of military defeat in the Jacobite rebellion on 1745, and can be understood as part of the determined program to extend the writ of the British government into the far north that happened at that time. The commisioners of the estates, who were responsible for the clearings themselves, were not simply the King's favourites. They were, by and large, Scots, and in the case of the non-Jacobite clans they were the hereditary chiefs, who traditionally would have cared for their people. That just makes it worse, of course.

The second point is that the enclosure, at least in England, was motivated by a desire to increase the productivity of farmland, and feed the cities, which had already started to grow. It was impossible, under the communal management that preceded it, for the more enterprising peasants to manage their land efficiently. The enclosed land was not, in fact, distributed unfairly. What produced the grossly inequitable results was that the vast majority of the new landowners were not ready to manage their own land, or very wise about the commercial world. They continued to farm inefficiently, and put their money in banks that promptly folded. By and large they either became tennant farmers or ended up in the cities.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate

babies (5.00 / 1) (#123)
by christfokkar on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 09:36:33 AM EST

The second point is that the enclosure, at least in England, was motivated by a desire to increase the productivity of farmland, and feed the cities, which had already started to grow. It was impossible, under the communal management that preceded it, for the more enterprising peasants to manage their land efficiently.

So in other words, the peasants lost their land because other people decided to have babies?

Great for the peasants.

Also, please define "enterprising." I interpret that word to mean "long-term sustainable development."

[ Parent ]
What ? (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:57:44 PM EST

The peasants lost their land because of a combination of factors. It isn't possible to locate a single factor. Enclosure was initiated because of increasing demand for food, which was due to an increase in population *and* migration, but it wasn't inherent in that that all peasants would lose out. That happened because of a combination of skullduggery, poor financial regulation, lack of education, and bad luck. Not *all* the peasants lost their land, by a long way. Those who didn't often ended up becoming minor gentry.

"Enterprising" clearly doesn't mean "long term sustainable development", because "enterprising" is an adjective (applied in this case to a group of people), and "long term sustainable development" is a noun phrase. I assume you were trying to make some kind of point, but cannot work out what it can have been. I suggest you get a dictionary for next time.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Externalities (4.68 / 22) (#21)
by Dest on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:16:39 AM EST

What you speak of is known as "externalities" in economics. Simply put, the cost of producing something depends on a few factors -- land, labour, capital, entrepreneurial skill. From these you can figure out a cost for producing a given item, and consequently (given such things as economies of scale) a supply curve. This tells the producer how much must be produced to break even (this would be the point at which the producer would enter the market; if the quantity demanded fell below this point for the producer he would leave the market). Now, being a rational being, he wants to maximize his profit -- lets say he really like Kuro5hin and wants to make enough money to support a decent lifestyle, donating the remains to Rusty to keep K5 going. Now, for the sake of argument, lets assume a by-product of his mystery product is some sort of pollutant, we'll call it "x". It costs him nothing to just throw x out the back door, and not deal with it and, indeed, it's cheaper than having someone else come over and take it away for him. This is exactly what he does.

If no one did anything he'd destroy the environment around him, and we'd have a giant multinational K5 with enough spare change that it actually paid people to post. This is where the government steps in. The government walks over to Mr Producer and says, "Hey, enough of that now. It's going to cost you $20 per barrel to throw that out the back door. It costs us money to clean it up, you know!". Our Producer shrugs, and thinks a moment. He realizes that, hey, the disposal guy only charges $10 a barrel to get rid of x. He promptly calls the disposal agency and has a regular pickup scheduled to avoid paying the $20 fee the government has proposed. The government has just done what is known as "internalizing the externalities".

The cost of polluting is now transferred to the producer, and in the end to the consumer, who realizes that it's too expensive at the higher prices and stops buying so many. Our producer sees the quantity demanded at the new price drops below the amount at which he'd break even, so he sells the factory and gets into a new business.

Anyway, the point of all this was just to demonstrate that things such as externalities do exist, and that they need to be dealt with. There's some winners and losers, the environment and citizens of the country win, K5 loses out on the money train. Externalities are merely things which the market cannot attach a price to, so it falls to the government to attach a price. Markets, afterall, aren't perfect.

Your example of the commons was merely trying to explain the same concept I just did. You've missed the forest for the trees.

----
Dest

"Bah. You have no taste, you won't be getting better than tofurkey bukkake." -- Ni

Please consider this comment a 6 rating <nt> (none / 0) (#91)
by CodeWright on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 12:52:11 PM EST



--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
The problem with being short sighted (3.76 / 13) (#24)
by gnovos on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:22:49 AM EST

Analogies like the commons in your example are flawed, but you seemed to miss the glaring reason why...

In the example above, the herdsman is intentionally built in such a way that he must fail.  If he really were completely profit maximizing, then the best choice for him would not to be to add any more sheep, but instead to have one sheep and then go and kill each and every sheep herder who is competeing with him.  At that point he can set a price of infinity for his single sheep.

He doesn't do that, of course, because he somehow understands that there are rules governing the killing of sheep herders, and that he himself may be killed.  He also knows that it would be impossible to sustain the world on one sheep, even if he does get to end up as king of the planet, it would be worthless to him.

So now we know he understands certian concepts outside of the scope of the situation.  Why then is the only concept that he can't comprehend that of the detrimental results of overgrazing?

The answer is simple, just becuase whoever created this hypothetical situation did so for the sole purpose of proving his point, and not to show any sort of logical formula against the commons.

Here, I'll do the same thing:

First lets pick what we think is bad, how about at-home Pizza Delivery.  Now lets give our characters short sighted, impossible motivation, such as all pizza delivery drivers have a thirst for human brains.  Add in another motivation, such as people are bound by law to open thier doors when the doorbell rings.  

Ok, now it becomes very simple to see how pizza delivery is INHERANTLY wrong, because it forces people to open thier doors to these brain eating lunatics and get thier heads cracked open, qed.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen

Infinite price? (4.33 / 3) (#45)
by Blarney on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 04:07:03 PM EST

, but instead to have one sheep and then go and kill each and every sheep herder who is competeing with him. At that point he can set a price of infinity for his single sheep...

He also knows that it would be impossible to sustain the world on one sheep, even if he does get to end up as king of the planet, it would be worthless to him.

A sheep only has a finite value, and nobody will trade the entire world for one sheep. Even if the sheep was the last edible object in the world, it would not feed a man for more than a few days. Certainly billions of people would not bother trading all their posessions for a few micrograms of mutton, either, as such an amount of food wouldn't make any difference to them. They'd eat each other first!

There is only one Mona Lisa - and it is valued very highly. However, nobody is proposing to turn the entire world over to the French in exchange for it. Even if we all sent everything we own to France, how would this allow us to really enjoy the painting? Only a finite amount of people can stand in front of it and admire it at any given time. Prices cannot be infinite.

In the United States, the shortage of medical care is considered a major problem. The price of a major surgery, uninsured, is roughly equal to everything that most families can raise by selling all their possessions. "Financial Aid" payment programs do exist, which only proves this point that the price ends up being as much as the patient and his family can raise - the price is reduced to the amount available. Though one might expect that a man would pay an "infinite price" to save his own life, in fact the price is limited by his resources - and the hospital makes maximum profit by accepting this maximum amount of payment.

In conclusion, there are no infinite prices.

[ Parent ]

even more than that (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by DrSbaitso on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 08:27:00 PM EST

he's wrong about what price to charge anyway. given that you have one sheep, the only way you'd charge an infinite price is if the demand curve for it was infinitely high at Q=1. probably, someone would be willing to pay a LOT for the only sheep in town, perhaps a thousand pounds, or whatever currency they used back then. that would be the most the homicidal sheepherder could sell his sheep for. Then he'd have to worry about the families of the men he slaughtered. perhaps he could use his thousand pounds for effective defense :)


Aeroflot Airlines: You Have Made the Right Choice!
---Advertising slogan for the only airline in the USSR
[ Parent ]
Greed (none / 0) (#53)
by chbm on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 05:41:59 PM EST

> So now we know he understands certian concepts outside of the scope of the situation.  Why then is the only concept that he can't comprehend that of the detrimental results of overgrazing?

We have n herdsman. We'll call 1 George and the rest Vlad. George is at about two thirds of his life and being an experiencied herdsman knows exactly what the land can and cannot take. George and the Vlads live hapily herding their sheep but George is greedy and lack the moral fiber to keep his greed controled. Also, he knows perfectly well overgrazing will kill the field in the long term but what heck, he won't be around in the long term so he might as well enjoy it.
So George starts to increase his herd ever so slightly, at first the Vlads don't notice but when he starts showing up the common market they smell something wrong going on. The reason why George stoped going to the common market is he has started to strike secret agrements with the buyers  undercuting his fellow herdsman. Fast forward to when the Vlads can hardly make a living and George is old and filthy rich. The Vlads look at their meager herds and nearly depleted land and decide it's time to go to war but George has enough money to hire mercenaries and kill a few Vlads as example. Fast forward to when the Vlads die from famine, George is dead of heart failure and his children are runing out of money. The End.

> Here, I'll do the same thing:
> [blah blah blah]

I thought you said you were going to do the same thing, not some idiotic mockup.

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
[ Parent ]

Doesn't hold. (5.00 / 2) (#73)
by gnovos on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 10:12:36 PM EST

So why doesn't george's greed cause him to murder his fellow herdsmen?  I'm serious.  If his only motivation is greed, then it should make perfect sense to him to go and make sure he is the only sheep supplier in the area, right?

Obviously, there is something that is keeping him honest.  Sure, it may be the law, but that doesn't even really hold either, because there are ways to kill without getting caught (perhaps not easy, but can be done).  Why wouldn't George try really hard to have his fellows secretly murdered at every opportunity?  for that matter, why wouldn't he try as hard as he could to cheat and steal from his customers without even needing to go through the step of actually selling sheep?

The problem I have with your argument is that obviously George is intelligent enough to understand how to subtely plan a complete takeover of the commons, but cannot think far enough ahead to understand that his children are as good as dead when there is not enough food to feed anyone.


A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

It does (4.00 / 1) (#102)
by chbm on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:47:55 PM EST

> So why doesn't george's greed cause him to murder his fellow herdsmen?

Because George isn't stupid. George knows he could probably kill a some Vlads till the rest come for him. Instead he is being stealth, making his ways fairly unnoticed and most of all not annoy his collegues enough to make them take action.

> understand that his children are as good as dead when there is not enough food to feed anyone.

His children can become bankers and be quite succefull if they aren't spoiled lazy brats. It's the way it works.

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
[ Parent ]

Children need families someday (5.00 / 1) (#160)
by gnovos on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:24:16 AM EST

His children can become bankers and be quite succefull if they aren't spoiled lazy brats. It's the way it works.

The children of this guy are going to want to have themselves a family some day, they can't marry money, right?  Well, now who are they going to marry if all the vlads have been murdered off?  George's greed eventually end his genetic line.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

Re: Doesn't hold. (1.00 / 1) (#157)
by sreeram on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:42:48 PM EST

So why doesn't george's greed cause him to murder his fellow herdsmen? I'm serious. If his only motivation is greed, then it should make perfect sense to him to go and make sure he is the only sheep supplier in the area, right?

That's exactly the point of the Tragedy of the Commons. The only way you are going to rein in people from abusing the commons is to legislate temperance.

In this case, there are laws that forbid George from murdering the Vlads. So, that abuse is prevented (or atleast deterred). But such laws don't exist to prevent overgrazing. Which is why abuses due to overgrazing result.

Read Hardin's essay again. He shows clearly that an appeal to conscience just doesn't work. You need to legislate it.



[ Parent ]
Braaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnns! (5.00 / 1) (#104)
by Fon2d2 on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 03:26:26 PM EST

Braaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnns!

[ Parent ]
um I learned about it referring to fishing (4.16 / 6) (#31)
by nodsmasher on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 02:13:02 PM EST

not cattle, and over fishing is a very good example because it happens all the time, that's probably how you should have explained it if you wanted your example to work, not this crazy Scottish thing that is pretty complicated
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
History of Land Taxes (4.00 / 8) (#32)
by ip4noman on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 02:26:34 PM EST

Very nice article. Couple of comments.

The one problem that I have with the Tragedy of the Commons as explained by Hardin, *assumes* the notion of property ownership, specifically, chattel property. Chattel being "movable property", things with eyes and a brain, cows, slaves, etc.

There is a fundamental problem with the notion of "property rights" in all forms. The way I see things, there is but one basic right, the right to live and be free. I believe that all creatures with eyes and a brain were endowed by their creator with this one unalienable right. All creatures are born of equal right to live and be free. All else flows from this. True rights are *inclusive*, that is, all creatures get to enjoy them. Rights are intrinsic, innate, non-transferrable, non-forfeitable.

The problem with property rights is that they are *exclusive*, that is, they only work when there is a class of owners which enjoy the commonly expressed "rights of possession, use, and destruction of the property, at the exclusion of all others". Property rights cannot be true rights, due to this inequity.

The history is quite interesting. Originally, there was no notion of "property ownership". You wandered around, found some land that no one was using, picked whatever berries you needed (and later, farmed the land), and defended it against intruders.

Somewhere around the 11th century A.D. (I encourage history buffs to correct me on this date), the British Empire developed a legal framwork for Imperialism, which we still live under. Based on the Bible, they asserted the the Supreme and Most Holy Christian God created the earth, and therefore "owned" the land. God appointed the King to be his personal representive on earth, and the King appointed his Lords, a brutal band of pillaging thugs who took this strategy all across Europe.

So here was the deal: All of a sudden this guy shows up claiming to be God's representitive. He claims ownership to your land, in the name of God and the British Empire. He offers you this generous bargain: for a small Tithe (tithe and tax long ago were synonyms) of 10% of all of your (and your neighbor's) crops, for the term of FOREVER, the Land Lord would lease this property back to you. As the King's representitive, this Lord would serve as the Sovereign (law maker) for you (formerly free, now a serf), and you must swear allegiance to this Lord, promising to be "his man" in a solemn ceremony called "paying homage", where you would bow before the Lord, and he would gently touch you on each shoulder with his sabre.

But why would you accept such a lousy deal? Because if you didn't, the Lord would not be so gentle with his sabre in the vicinity of your neck.

So, it is interesting to me that there is a great commonality in Tithing, Land Taxes, and Rent. Because we still suffer Land Taxes and Rent even today, we are more akin to serfs than free men and women.

Also interesting to me is that we have, in large part, the symbiotic relationship between the Christian Church and government to thank for this system.



--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
property rights (none / 0) (#33)
by inadeepsleep on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 02:44:06 PM EST

So, you think that it's wrong for me to own a dog? Or perhaps more correctly, that it would be an oxymoron?


[ Parent ]
Animal companions or prisoners? (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by ip4noman on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:31:14 PM EST

I wouldn't call it an oxymornon to own a dog. An oxymoron is a self-contradiction, like "jumbo-shrimp" or "military intelligence". But I would call the claim of ownership of things-with-eyes-and-a-brain morally defunct.

Things-with-eyes-and-a-brain are "persons" in my book: autonomous agents, sentient creatures born free of equal right and of equal beauty in the eyes of their creator.

Pets are either prisoners held against their will, or animal companions who choose to live with humans. It all depends on the circumstances.

At this point in my life, I prefer not to have companions who are not here voluntarily, which excludes all but humans. I especially find it contridictory for "animal lovers" to feed their beloved companions little tins of *other* dead animals.

--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
[ Parent ]
oxymoron (none / 0) (#78)
by inadeepsleep on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 01:12:25 AM EST

Well, I can respect that as a consistent and reasoned position, even if I think it's a little wacky.

Except for the definition of oxymoron detail.  If you believe that all creatures are endowed with the inalienable right to live and be free, then I would say that being an owned free creature is an oxymoron.


[ Parent ]

How True! (none / 0) (#94)
by ip4noman on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 01:39:43 PM EST

I didn't see it until you explained it.

--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
[ Parent ]
What then... (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by CodeWright on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 01:34:26 PM EST

would you propose that their carnivorous pets eat?

Should someone with a pet snake or a pet tiger feed their pet carrots?

You have made a mildly amusing political statement that ignores nature and reality -- namely, that animals eat other animals.

Or should carnivores be put to death as "immoral beasts"?

If not, then why not? If a beast may eat a beast, then may not a man eat another beast?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
That's why it's wacky (3.00 / 1) (#99)
by inadeepsleep on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:20:35 PM EST

No eating meat or eggs or milk or honey, no wearing leather, no doing business with those who do. No culling the deer herds in state parks; better to let them all starve in the winter. No building new houses, because it takes away someone else's habitat. Taken to it's logical conclusion, you'd end up living like a pre-historical hunter-gatherer. Or just a gatherer/farmer, I guess. And you know what they do? Slash and burn baby!

I can imagine that someone with that point of view would respond to you by saying that we are more "evolved" than the lower animals, and don't have to eat meat. But they really don't take it to it's logical conclusion. Eventually, if he thinks about it enough, he will. And then he will become a conservative.


[ Parent ]

Of course *I* know that... (none / 0) (#109)
by CodeWright on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 08:09:36 PM EST

...but I wanted to make *him* say it. :P :)

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
He has to come to that conclusion by himself. n/t (none / 0) (#115)
by inadeepsleep on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 12:24:20 AM EST




[ Parent ]
The british empire invented property (none / 0) (#49)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 04:56:31 PM EST

in the 11th century? LoL. Right. After all, Pharoh didn't have the concept of "what's mine is mine", nor did the emperors of China, nor Sargon for that matter.

Jeez, dude - "property" was invented in the split second after Thog the caveman realized his spear worked as well on people as it did on deer.


--
Once one sock is sucked, the other sock will remain forever unsucked.


[ Parent ]

...please, don't call that 'history' (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by atomico on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 06:06:56 AM EST

I think what you are trying to describe here is the feudal society, which evolved in western Europe in early medieval times - before the 11th century and in a certainly much bigger area than England. Don't forget that England was a rather marginal country at the time, borrowing a lot of social and law concepts from the continent, especially from France. Anyway, each European country had its own version of feudalism. None of them was related with what today is generally understood by 'Imperialism', not even in the so-called Sacred Roman-Germanic Empire.

Of course, land property probably dates from the early Paleolithic - or even before: not only humans know what is a 'hunting territory'...

[ Parent ]

Tread lightly (1.00 / 1) (#108)
by Eccles on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 05:27:36 PM EST

So how do you walk around without stepping on bugs and depriving those li'l ants of their right to work to death? Just curious.

[ Parent ]
Silent Theft (4.50 / 12) (#37)
by akb on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 02:56:59 PM EST

David Bollier wrote a book called Silent Theft that provides many examples of the modern enclosure movement in the embodiement of out of control market fundamentalists privatizing public assets such as intellectual property, public lands, and the radio spectrum.  Here's a review by Ralph Nader.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net

What is the alternative ? (4.50 / 2) (#48)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 04:42:26 PM EST

It's all very well to point out that public properties are being turned over to private ownership. It is quite another thing to demonstrate that that is necessarily bad, or rather, that some other regime would be better.

Generally speaking, as the original tragedy of the commons argument illustrates, private ownership leads to better and more responsible management. It seems quite reasonable for the government to sell rights over resources that are newly capable of being exploited, such as frequency spectrum.

That isn't to say that private ownership is always the right regulatory regime, or that all creations of new property rights are good. Retrospective extension of the copyright term is a particularly flagrant example of a new property right that cannot possibly be in the public interest. Some extensions of patents seem to be similarly problematic.

It seems to be pointless whinging, though, to complain about the creation of new property rights in and of itself. The test that needs to be applied is whether they are in the public interest, not merely whether something is moving from public to private management.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

"pointless whinging" and alternatives (4.80 / 5) (#55)
by akb on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 06:12:31 PM EST

I don't think the author of ST engages in "pointless whinging" and I think its rather rude of you to assert that about him or myself.  Rather, he gives specific examples of market fundamentalists privatizing for their own benefit what is public to the detriment of society at large, usually by manipulating the political system to ignore externalities that society picks up the tab for.  

Alternative often take the form of just ending these abuses, ie, don't extend copyright terms, don't fund mineral exploitation on public land at a loss, don't privatize publicly funded research via patents or NDAs, don't sell our schools to Pepsi to make kids hyperactive, unhealthy, and stuffed with advertisements, etc.

There are proactive alternatives as well, open access to network elements that occupy the public rights of way, a spectrum tax to fund public media and political campaigns, digitize the holdings of the Library of Congress, open the radio spectrum for unlicensed uses and smaller licensees (like LPFM), require as part of the municpal zoning process public spaces, free software, reform the patent system, etc.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

No, you're completely wrong. (3.50 / 4) (#39)
by gr3y on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 03:08:47 PM EST

The tragedy of the commons is that a person has no reason to avoid using more resources than he or she needs. It is taken as given that there is a limit on the resources available, the truth of proposition which I shall not debate here.

The tragedy of the commons cannot be reduced to an argument against the privatization of land or, by extension, property.

What you describe in your argument is a consequence, perhaps, of the loss of the commons. It is not a tragedy, any more than is any other change from an agrarian, rural society to an increasingly specialized urban society. Would you refer to the "tragedy" of declining morality caused by increased dependence on fossil fuels? No, you wouldn't, unless you were born in the 1900s, because you take it as a given. But it did occur. It was a "tragedy" in its own right in its own time.

A tragedy is: a nine year-old child lying face-down in a pool of its own blood from random sniper fire; a tragedy is senseless and unfair. A tragedy is not: a change in a way of life (usually to support population increase) which forced people to change to accomodate it.

However, because I think your article will spur interesting debate, I have voted +1 section. But I recommend you re-title your article "The consequences of the loss of the commons", or some such.

Note: this comment was reposted from an "editorial" comment I made earlier because it was invisible otherwise.

I am a disruptive technology.

tragedy (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by earlydaysofsin on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 06:57:21 PM EST

Actually i prefered the original articles definition of tragedy, it has a sense of inevitability, it is sobering and often provides perspective but is not sad. I would say the senseless death of a living thing was apalling or horrific but not tragic ... but then again perhaps if one takes a broad enough perspective these things are both horrific and tragic

[ Parent ]
inevitability... (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by gr3y on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 09:03:07 PM EST

I do not believe the tragedy of the commons is unavoidable. I believe the consequences of irrational logic can be avoided by people who understand that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, and are willing to act on that basis. If that entails treating one or more members of society like noisy brat children, and taking their M&Ms away to teach them cause and effect, so be it.

But there are some people who simply can't be taught anything. They don't want to learn. And that's why we have the huge body of law we have. It's also why the Prisoner's Dilemma and Tragedy of the Commons are still taught in schools - they're still relevant.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

Overfishing and Buffalo herds (4.68 / 16) (#40)
by Anatta on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 03:11:33 PM EST

The tragedy of the commons doesn't happen? Huh?

Overfishing is the classic example of a real tragedy of the commons happening all over the world right now. Because the ocean is a rather big place and fish move around inside of it, it is relatively easy for one fishing boat not to know what another fishing boat is doing 5 miles away. Fish are a common resource, and all over the world, fishermen are overfishing and stocks are dangerously low. Each individual fisherman has incentive to catch as many fish as he can before other fishermen catch the same fish. To solve the problem, we now have perverse government programs such as paying fishermen not to fish or reducing the number of days fishing is allowed, which are rather clunky solutions (and according to this article, "In the Alaskan halibut fishery of the 1980s, the number of fishing days went from 160 to 2 with no decline in harvests.") Compare this scenario to cattle farming. Property rights are secure for cattle farming, and there is no tragedy of the commons.

Places like Iceland and New Zealand have implemented a tradable property rights scheme which has successfully alleviated much of the overfishing problem. For a good explanation of how overfishing works, and the benefits (and costs) of privatizaiton, see this study and the linked documents.

You could also look at buffalo populations in the United States. There were no property rights on buffalo herds, and they were hunted to very near extinction. No one had incentive to save or sustain the population. Again, compare that to a cattle herd with secure property rights. Now that buffalo are privately owned, they have come back, and in some cases are even being reintroduced into the wild. Here is a quote:

Consider the demise of the wild buffalo in the early American west. Buffalo were not legally owned by anybody, so they were ripe for the taking. The private economic cost of harvesting a buffalo consisted only of time, shot and powder and, if hides were sent to the east, shipping costs. Yet these were only the private costs and not the full social costs. An owner of cattle who decides to slaughter his animals must bear, in addition to the cost of slaughter, the costs of the loss of the cow as a breeding animal and its loss for future use. These property losses would be taken into account by the owner in considering whether or not to kill the animal.

This is not so with the hunter of wild buffalo. A buffalo not taken today might be taken by someone else tomorrow. As a result, the private costs of killing a buffalo are much less than the social costs. Unlike the situation for cattle, the kill rate for buffalo will be higher than warranted by the actual social costs of the kill. As a result, the buffalo were fast disappearing in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds, because they were being killed much faster than they could naturally replace themselves.

One approach to the problem of the disappearing buffalo then, would have been to create a legal, enforceable property right in buffalo. This might or might not have been technologically feasible in the last century. The owners of a herd would have had to be able to fence it in, or to follow the herd around to protect it from other hunters. Currently buffalo thrive on some ranches in Montana and have been reintroduced into the wild on the Oklahoma prairie.

The tragedy of the commons is a very real problem.


My Music

Is it having a commons or culture? (5.00 / 4) (#44)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 03:54:15 PM EST

Overfishing is the classic example of a real tragedy of the commons happening all over the world right now.

Yes, it certainly seems to be so on the face of it - too many people fish and the fish disappear.

Compare this scenario to cattle farming. Property rights are secure for cattle farming, and there is no tragedy of the commons.

Don't be so sure of that - do a google search for "cattle overgrazing" and see the various pages that come up about overgrazing on federal land - meanwhile, the underground aquifiers in the Plains continue to dwindle.

You could also look at buffalo populations in the United States. There were no property rights on buffalo herds, and they were hunted to very near extinction.

Except ... these herds had existed for many, many years before the railroads and the white hunters came. No one owned them. And yet they had not been hunted to extinction.

This raises the question - is it that these animals were owned by no one that caused their demise, or was it something about the cultural make up of the white hunters that caused them to hunt the buffalo to extinction, even when they could not eat or utilize but a small percentage of the animals they were shooting? (The point about someone else shooting them instead is moot, as these hunters were basically shooting them for the hell of it and to deprive the Plains Indians of a relied upon resource. There were more than enough for everyone to use for awhile.) Is it human nature that causes things like this, or is it the nature of Western culture?

As a result, the private costs of killing a buffalo are much less than the social costs.

I suspect that part of the problem here is that there's an artificial distinction in the Western mind between private costs and social costs. Eventually, if social cost become severe enough, they become severe private costs, also. The Plains Indians knew this and didn't hunt the buffalo to near-extinction. We didn't and now there's only a few left.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Population (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 04:29:04 PM EST

Is it human nature that causes things like this, or is it the nature of Western culture?

I would go with the view that it is human nature under some circumstances. There are clear cases of non-Western societies that exhausted their natural environment and collapsed. Several Polynesian Islands, most especially Easter Island, were completely deforrested. Similar things happened in the Middle East: ever wonder how land that was the first known site of agriculture became semi-desert ?

As far as I can see, it seems to be a consequence of high population. When a society becomes able to support a high population, at least in the short term, it needs to be more careful about husbanding its resources. That means someone has to be in charge of working out how to use them. Creating tradable private property rights seems to be the most effective way of doing that, under most circumstances.

The Plains Indians knew this and didn't hunt the buffalo to near-extinction

I'm more than a little suspicious of this business about how fluffy and environmentally aware American Indians were. It doesn't fit with what we know about better documented societies. The trouble is, we have next to no knowledge about pre-Columbian North America. What we do have, suggests it was significantly more agricultural and more settled than the stereotype of the plains indian warrior would suggest. What we can also guess, is that by the time Europeans started routinely travelling west - hundred of years are 1492 - the population had probably already been decimated. After all, populations in South America and on the east coast were. See above about population levels and the environment.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Eh? (none / 0) (#50)
by lb008d on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 05:15:00 PM EST

Read here for an interesting theory about the fate of aboriginal americans. Basically, there were many more alive at the time of the first conquistadores, and their decimation was mainly due to disease brought by the Spanish and Portugese.

When I asked him what he thought the population of the Americas was before Columbus, he insisted that any answer would be speculation and made me promise not to print what he was going to say next. Then he named a figure that forty years ago would have caused a commotion.

This area in archaeology is going through some interesting changes.

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

What do you mean "eh ?" ? (none / 0) (#51)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 05:22:27 PM EST

Nothing I said is inconsistent with what you said, or that Atlantic article. Indeed, I think I probably had the latter in the back of my mind when writing it.

I certainly wasn't arguing with the academic consensus (although the article rather suggests there isn't one). Rather, I was arguing with the common belief that prior to Columbus, North America was filled will peaceful, ecologically aware, hunting, gathering Noble Savages.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Just for the record ... (4.50 / 2) (#71)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 10:02:17 PM EST

... I wasn't arguing that the Plains Indians were ultra ecologically aware people; of course, the actions of North Americans have had negative impacts throughout thousands of years. What I will argue is that they didn't get up in the morning and say, "Hey, Jeb, I bet you a fifth of Jack Daniels I can plug 200 buffalo today ..." and people from our culture were. The massacre of the buffalo was wanton and mad.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
No argument ... (none / 0) (#79)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 04:46:18 AM EST

... with that. It was just that you said the Indians *knew* overhunting would be a problem. I suspect they didn't: there just weren't enough of them (after 1492), and they didn't have horses (until 1492).

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 0) (#63)
by Anatta on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:51:12 PM EST

Don't be so sure of that - do a google search for "cattle overgrazing" and see the various pages that come up about overgrazing on federal land - meanwhile, the underground aquifiers in the Plains continue to dwindle.

You've just strengthened my point. Federal land is common land, essentially. It's not used as private property in the typical sense, and those who use it don't necessarily pay the costs associated with their use of it. That's exactly why I argue for the privatization of federal lands.

The Plains Indians knew this and didn't hunt the buffalo to near-extinction. We didn't and now there's only a few left.

Speculating on the Plains Indians in pre-Columbian times is a complex matter, as the Atlantic article someone else referenced explains. That said, many argue that the Native Americans had extensive property rights systems in place, so it is not surprising that they did not overhunt the buffalo.

Regardless, the idea that the tragedy of the commons is a myth designed to keep the man down is adequacy.org-worthy.


My Music
[ Parent ]

Hold on (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by pyramid termite on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:57:12 PM EST

Regardless, the idea that the tragedy of the commons is a myth designed to keep the man down is adequacy.org-worthy.

That's a gross misreading of what the article said - what he said is that the illustration of the commons has been taken out of context of the culture and politics of the times, and that's a legitimate point.

Another legitimate point is that just because situations similar to the tragedy of the commons exist, and I don't deny they do, that people are incapable of devising means to prevent this from happening and they cannot do this through common means, or a combination of private and public means.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Buffalo (none / 0) (#54)
by swr on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 05:53:48 PM EST

You could also look at buffalo populations in the United States. There were no property rights on buffalo herds, and they were hunted to very near extinction. No one had incentive to save or sustain the population.

This ignores the fact that the natives had been hunting buffalo for thousands of years with no such problems.

The buffalo were slaughtered by European immigrants who had quite a disdain for the natives who depended on that commons. If the natives had divided up the land into privately-owned farms and contained the buffalo there, the results would have been the same.



[ Parent ]
Population Density (none / 0) (#101)
by CENGEL3 on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:40:39 PM EST

The natives had a far smaller popoulation and placed far less demand on the herds because there was no advantage to them individualy to kill more then they could individualy eat or wear.

This is not to detract anything from the American Indians cultural reverence for nature which I find highly admirable.

However for the American Indian, slaughtering more animals then they individualy could consume would provide no individual benefit whatsoever.

Therefore the same motivations did not exist for them as did for individual European hunters and this coupled with a low population density meant that they did not deplete the buffalo herds.

Really that particular example has far less to do with "communal" vs "private" property then it does with population density and sophistication of goods in hunter/gatherer vs technological societies (IMO)

[ Parent ]

You assume (4.50 / 2) (#111)
by aphrael on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 08:34:38 PM EST

that the herds were slaughtered for an economically productive purpose. Everything i've read on the subject suggests that they were not --- they were not consumed, they were not exported, they were not used, they were simply destroyed, for no particular reason.

[ Parent ]
Different from what I've read (none / 0) (#124)
by CENGEL3 on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 10:39:57 AM EST

I haven't read extensively on the subject but everything I've read indicated that they were slaughtered for thier hides. The meat was left to rot but the hides feteched a good price in the East and were sold there.

This is similar to what happened with Rhino's in Africa during this century. They were slaughtered for their horns but the rest of the body was left to rot.

For commercial buffalo hunters this made alot of economic sense (in the short term) else they wouldn't have been out there shooting them. Gunpowder costs money, those hunters made thier living off of shooting and skinning the buffalo.

Of course people other then commercial hunters did kill buffalo. Ranchers shot them to cutdown on grazing competetion for cattle and homesteaders occasionaly shot them to deny thier use to native americans (whom they feared). All these things made "economic sense" to the individuals engaged in such activity.

But it was really the commercial hunter that was the bane of the buffalo.

If the natives had prior to the Europeans arrival been able to gain signficant economic advantage from slaughtering more then they could consume then I question whether the buffalo would have survived to that time. Remember the horse was native to North America as well, but had been driven to extinction long before Europeans had ever arrived.

Much as K5 readers seem to enjoy deriding western culture and civilization... greed and shortsitedness are human foibles... there is nothing uniquely "Western" about them.

[ Parent ]

Buffalo and Fish. (5.00 / 3) (#62)
by cdyer on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:37:46 PM EST

The problem of the analogy with Buffalo and Fish is that buffalo and fish were/are not held in a community trust. They are a public resource, which is quite different from a commons. In a commons, there is a community interest at stake, and local regulations, custom, and neighborly opinion can regulate the behavior of transgressors who endanger the health of the commons. Buffalo and fish, being held in public, are not regulated at all. This removes the sense of obligation people tend to feel in a communal setting. Community is the mediator between Public and Private which allows for things like commonses to exist without tragedy. For more on this tripartite distinction between Public, community and private, check out Wendell Berry's collection of essays, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community (Pantheon Books: New York, 1993).



[ Parent ]
Fishing is not Regulated? (none / 0) (#75)
by bodrius on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 10:25:14 PM EST

And here I thought there were lots of lawyers and a government bureaucracy dealing with regulations on precisely fishing and "aquaculture".

At least that seems to be the case in many countries.

Maybe it depends on the country. Or the state, in the case of federalized nations like the US.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

golly I must not have read very clearly (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by pantagruel on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 08:01:31 AM EST

Because I could have sworn that the Tragedy of the Commons referred to in the article was in relation to Hardin's analogy.

The argument that the Tragedy of the Common's never happened was in relation to that article.

There is a very perceptible difference between the Common's defined by Hardin and those which you would like to use as the starting point for your argument and that difference is one of scale.

quoted from the article 'Grazing your cattle on common ground is not something that one can easily do in secret' whereas I believe that overfishing an area, especially an area which is one you are not expected to fish in at all(as often is the case with such abuses of the international Commons), is a practice that people can still do with some chance of non-detection although advancements in technology will surely increase the chance of detection, someday soon perhaps to the same chance of overgrazing one's cattle Common grounds.



[ Parent ]
Tragedy of commons outside my house (4.75 / 8) (#41)
by Rainy on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 03:22:44 PM EST

There's a car alarm going off right now. The owner is apparently not close enough to hear it. It's been on for at least 10 minutes.

When first alarms came out, I hear, they were extremely efficient at scaring off thieves. Now they aren't, they just open the lock and everybody around thinks he's the owner. To be fair, they can be useful if the owner is not far.

Anyway, the thing is that to the car owner, securing his car like this is worth the price of the alarm. Annoyance of hundreds of people who will have to listen to the damn thing costs nothing to him.

I think people miss one thing about the historical tragedy of the commons: it wasn't *destroying* these fields, it merely made them less productive.

You got a bunch of peasants who well understand overgrazing is no good, so they put some limits on how much you can graze, etc. But these limits are much trickier to set than with one owner - you have to take in consideration how large each owners' herd is, what is his slice of ownership, you have to track how much everybody uses it, etc.

At the same time, people would try to outgraze their neighbors even a little bit.

All things added together, you'd have a field not 100% overgrazed but maybe 25% overgrazed, whereas a single-owned field could be maybe 5% overgrazed or undergrazed.

Don't get me wrong, though, it's not like I'm against communism - I read "The Dispossessed" and I liked how she built that world.. hey, I'd live there in a jiffy, even with hunger and all. Which isn't necessary, though - I think she just had to add it as a plot device and so as not to make it a sugary world of sunshine and lollipops, and maybe to make a point that EVEN IF there's hunger, it's STILL much better than what we have - and it's not like we don't have hunger, either.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

someone ought to start a service (4.40 / 5) (#61)
by svillee on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:20:12 PM EST

If you hear a car alarm going off over and over, you call this service. For a modest fee, they'll come by and steal the car. :-)

[ Parent ]

right on, small correction (none / 0) (#85)
by Rainy on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 09:49:30 AM EST

*you* should get paid for alerting them since they'll make money off that car. :P
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
More Insidious (none / 0) (#77)
by Dolohov on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 11:54:03 PM EST

Chances are, the owner is sitting just like you and complaining about the alarm. Most car owners I know have no idea what their car alarm sounds like, and wouldn't know it if they heard it. The ubiquity of these alarms may well have caused the owner to not even check.

[ Parent ]
Missing poll option (4.16 / 6) (#43)
by dipierro on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 03:44:53 PM EST

Nash

historical perspective (4.00 / 4) (#47)
by kvillinge on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 04:37:52 PM EST

Sweden had common fields outside the small villages until the 1700s. Through a reform of the parliament, communal land was split into individual land. The reason? The real tragedy of the commons is its lower productivity compared with individual plots of land.

The tragedy of the common does not teach us that human cooperation does not work, in fact, it is the exact opposite.



Only if labor has no value (none / 0) (#159)
by RyoCokey on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:27:07 PM EST

Small plots may have higher production, but the labor efficiency is much lower, i.e. you have useful individuals tied up making marginally more production. Unless your only goal is greater food production, your society would underperform in every other field. Furthermore, without the scientific research that a diversified economy allows, eventually the collective efficiency would fall below that of individual efficiency, had it been implemented at an earlier time.



The issue here is not the facts; Right - so how does this apply to Mr. Scott Ritter?
[
Parent ]
What is property (1.50 / 2) (#58)
by IriseLenoir on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:02:38 PM EST


"liberty is the mother of order, not its daughter" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Proudhon - What is property (5.00 / 7) (#60)
by IriseLenoir on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:10:25 PM EST

You can read the full text of Proudhon's masterpiece online in it's original form (in French) too, but try to get it in a library, reading books online is a pain... It is not a very long book and is really worth reading!

He was not an advocate of State Socialism at all and was called a "petty bourgeois" by Marx (which is somewhat ironic for someone who wanted to abolish property to be called that by someone who wanted to centralize it.) Property is what he calls the "right of windfall"; he is not attacking your right of possession, i.e. to inhabit a home of your own and not be disturbed, your right of access to the means of production, etc. He made the point that liberty is only achievable in equality, not only of right, but of opportunity. He called for the rule of reason, he called for anarchy. After this mostly metaphysical demonstration (but with many examples), go read the Anarchist FAQ for more on how this could translate to actual social organization. No, the book is not perfect, but I think the myth of property could not be better revealed for what it is.

P.S.: Sorry for the empty comment, I'm having problems with composite, a textarea add-on for Mozilla...



"liberty is the mother of order, not its daughter" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Project Gutenberg or www.archive.org ... (none / 0) (#113)
by pyramid termite on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 10:08:51 PM EST

... has it in English for those of us who don't know French.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
showing my age (5.00 / 2) (#64)
by svillee on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 08:56:52 PM EST

I am one of those rare people who, as a child, was not taught about "The Tragedy of the Commons". Not surprising though, as it had not been written yet. In what grade is it usually taught? I'd love to see if my nephew (now a fifth grader) has learned it. Anyway, thanks for filling in this hole in my education.

As I recall, the motivation for enclosures in England had to do with the Norfolk four-course system. This was a crop rotation system designed to increase yields. Certain seasons were specifically designated for growing fodder crops, and the farmer wanted only his own cattle feeding on it.

I believe I learned it during the 10th grade (n/t) (none / 0) (#65)
by electricmonk on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:03:18 PM EST


--
"There are only so many ways one can ask [Jon Katz] what it's like to be buried to the balls in a screaming seven-year-old" - Ian
[ Parent ]

And what year was that? (none / 0) (#66)
by NFW on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:15:47 PM EST

For those few of us who don't know how old you are...


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

AP History (none / 0) (#76)
by J'raxis on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 11:40:54 PM EST

I learnt about it in an AP History class in 1998–99.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Tragedy of the spammers (4.27 / 11) (#69)
by NFW on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 09:31:55 PM EST

Cost to send one message to 1,000,000 recipients: $13

Positive response rate: 0.003%

Revenue from 30 responses @ $25 each: $750

Cost of annoying 999,997 people: $0

Profit: $737


--
Got birds?


oops (none / 0) (#100)
by NFW on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:35:09 PM EST

That would be 999,970 annoyed people...


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Kin Selection Is Ignored Yet Again (4.11 / 9) (#74)
by Baldrson on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 10:20:12 PM EST

The debate between capitalism and communism/socialism is a false dichotomy. The clans of Scotland that were cleared by the nobility were primarily attacked not because they held land but because they provided an alternative to identification with state, nation and/or religion: kinship. Cromwell actually burned the genealogies of Scotland just prior to readmitting the Jews to England and decades subsequent to the lowland clearances that was the real source of migration from the Borders to northern Ireland and the New World by the Scotch Irish. The mercantile forces of sea-going firms like the Dutch East India Company would demand identification not with land and kin, but with a larger manifest destiny for Europeans and their adopted religions from the region where Jews originated before their mercantile tradition dispersed them throughout Europe.

We still can't get a handle on kin identity as an alternative to Bolshevism or Capitalism (Jacob Schiff is a beautiful one to examine in this light) because of this monopoly on kin identity held by Jews which advances wherever Christianity advanced within Europe's trade routes.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


Clarification please (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by CodeWright on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 01:44:55 PM EST

I think I understood what you were saying until this:
because of this monopoly on kin identity held by Jews which advances wherever Christianity advanced within Europe's trade routes
Could you please expand on that?

Also, isn't kin identity still a strong factor in the management of capital for Chinese-Americans, Arab-Americans, Indian-Americans (i.e., from India), and some other ethnic groups in the US?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Cohesion and Culture (5.00 / 2) (#132)
by Baldrson on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 07:31:33 PM EST

Although the doctrines of Judaism are diverse enough to allow many genetic strategies, DNA measurement validates the core patriline laws of at least the Cohanim priesthood to ancient times. They also validate the matriline laws but only subsequent to European diaspora -- probably subsequent to their alliances with the Goths. What we appear to have is a patriline that migrated throughout Europe's trade routes and mated with the daughters of local city/court elites (probably scholars' daughters) and then kept their genes to themselves (outside of occasional court Jews getting into the nobility some how) pretty much until the Enlightenment/Reformation. After that there were some intermarriages and those have actually increased to the present day but the tribal identity of Judaism persists as do the DNA patterns of the core Cohanim populations. This contrasts with the Christianization process that developed throughout Europe. As it progressed it destroyed the identities first first of tribes, then clans and finally of the nations. The destruction is now so complete that the official position of the "Scottish National Party" is that it vigorously opposes "nationalism" and actively promoting the "enrichment of Scottish culture" through non-European immigration. Amazing double speak, no?

Kin identity in new immigrants to the US has a long history with some ethnic groups enjoying more kin identity than others upon entry to the culture. However the only European group to maintain a strong kin identity beyond the first few generations in the US has been Jews. There is something highly individualistic about the European character that is easily exploited to disband kin structures -- more so the further north you go probably due to the natural environment's selective pressures in those marginal habitats requiring a good deal of independence. This while Jews lead opposition to "nationalism" among others in an explicit attempt to stop a resurgence of "anti-Semitism", "fascism" and/or "Naziism". The most impressive act of this leadership was Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy which was avowedly to serve Jewish interests and even to "suppress Naziism" in post WW II America despite America's pro-Jewish role against Nazzism in WW II. This process, culminating in the 1965 reform, opened up America to a flood of non-European immigrants while reducing the allowances for north and west European immigrants. It is not at all clear that these non-European immigrants are going to be as individualistic as the prior European immigrants were and there is evidence from African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Chinese Americans that despite much greater acceptance in the mainstream culture they are ethnic groups with a greater cohesion than Europeans.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#133)
by CodeWright on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 10:09:45 PM EST

aren't there also European bloodlines which have remained cohesive over long periods?

The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha comes to mind, as do the Anjou, Rothschild, and Merovingian bloodlines...

So, in terms of "famous" ethnic bloodlines, aren't those the equivalent to the ethnic bloodlines of Cohen, Levin, etc?

If, as you assert, the core of the Hebrew ethnicity has consistently maintained their bloodlines over time, it implies that more than just the famous lines, like the Cohens, have remained intact.

Comparably, then, there are non-famous European bloodlines which have remained intact over time (for example, I know my own family lines all the way back to 1066).

I guess what I am saying is that it's still not clear to me what you meant by saying that there is a Jewish monopoly of kin identity...

As someone with a significant Scots/Irish heritage, I detect no lack of kin identity in my own ancestry....

So, although I appreciate the time you took trying to asnwer my question, I ask you again: can you clarify what you meant by "monopoly"?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
cohesiveness (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by nomoreh1b on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 12:21:40 AM EST

aren't there also European bloodlines which have remained cohesive over long periods?

The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha comes to mind, as do the Anjou, Rothschild, and Merovingian bloodlines... Keep in mind that the Rothschild family is Jewish-and according to the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" the Merovingian dynasty has roots in the Jewish community. The fact that two of the groups you came up with as "cohesive" have roots in a tiny minority is IMHO quite significant.

As someone with a significant Scots/Irish heritage, I detect no lack of kin identity in my own ancestry....

Most folks of Scotch-Irish ancestry that I know(I also qualify on this count) barely even know they are Scotch-Irish.

So, although I appreciate the time you took trying to asnwer my question, I ask you again: can you clarify what you meant by "monopoly"?

I can't speak for Baldrson here, but my own view:
The Jewish community has the ability to maintain functioning institutions for their community over time. There is a lively network of things like Yeshivas that specifically service the Jewish community. The most prominent schools founded by other groups that were in the US early on, now barely have any descendents of the founders there any more except for a few tokens. Princeton University, for example, was founded specifically as a Presbyterian seminary aimed to provide ministers for the Scotch-Irish settlers in North America(Presbyterians originated in the Calvinist Church of Scotland-and the founders of Princeton were quite concerned that Scots were reverting to heathenism and heresy in the wilderness).

My point is that there is something very different going on here: the Jewish community has a good track record of maintaining institutions that serve their community without apology-whereas the major institutions founded by the Scotch Irish community in North America seem to wind up getting used more to the benefit of other communities in a few generations.

Originally, scots started out with strong clan identities that were very much tied up with genealogical records and tribal mythology. A big part of the point of the imposition of Calvinism was to break down clan identities and focus those fierce loyalties on something that outsiders could use to their advantage. Cromwell(puritans were heavily Calvinist in their influence) systematically destoyed genealogical records for example.

The hypocrisy of the Jewish community here can I think be summed up in the cliche "what is mine is mine-and what is yours is ours" when it comes to areas that community senses as particularly strategic. Educational institutions at which ethnically defined communities could focus resources on their best and brightest came under special attack for example as "bigoted" "bastions of WASP privilege" by elements of the Jewish community-at the same time other elements in that community were working hard to build their own excellent educational insitutions focused almost exclusively on their own community.

Unlike Baldrson, I personally am a graduate of a well-known college in which the largest single ethnic group has historically been Jewish(about 40% while I was there). I personally found the experience to be an extremely isolating, difficult experience and wouldn't recommend it. It is one thing to be immersed in a hostile culture as an adult-it is another thing to do this as someone just entering adulthood. I honestly came out of the experience with the feeling that big chunks of my classmates and professors were quite bigoted in subtle ways-and would find ways to work "diversity" to their kin's advantage. I don't think this was intentional, but some environments seem to systematically select for hypocrisy in ideas and nature.



[ Parent ]

Embrace & extend? (none / 0) (#146)
by CodeWright on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 12:46:06 PM EST

Call yourself jewish and start a private school?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
don't think it would work (none / 0) (#163)
by nomoreh1b on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 01:44:34 AM EST

Call yourself jewish and start a private school?

Well, one of the major strategies for acheiving fertility among the older populations that settled the US has been joining the Mormon Church. One of the features of the LDS/Mormons is that when men join, they are declared an "honorary member of a tribe of Israel"--another of the major elements here is that Mormons don't do anything to buck the powers that be--which means among other things that the Bishops(i.e. the guys that figure out what to do with the 10% tithes members donate) are specifically forbidden from using those funds to help pull kids from abusive public school situation(i.e. start private schools).

The Citadel and Bob Jones University are examples of two attempts to maintain private schools that kept older traditions-and served the founding populations of the United States. These institutions got all kind of abuse until they towed the line(as did the LDS too for that matter). I don't think that "calling yourself Jewish" would do anything except invite attention.

Homeschooling and distance education/ certification are helping these problems a bit. I don't think in the present climate that it is possible to do anything on any scale that doesn't conform to establishment views on political correctness without opening yourself up for all kinds of abuse--unless you happen to be one of the favored minorities(i.e. Farrakhan or Rabbi schiller can run all-black or all-Jewish schools and do just fine, but if someone tried running an all Scotch-Irish school, they'd get shut down).

[ Parent ]

Hypocrites (5.00 / 2) (#139)
by Baldrson on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:55:53 AM EST

Strangely enough they make games of hazard a serious occupation even when sober, and so venturesome are they about gaining or losing, that, when every other resource has failed, on the last and final throw they stake the freedom of their own persons. The loser goes into voluntary slavery; though the younger and stronger, he suffers himself to be bound and sold. Such is their stubborn persistency in a bad practice; they themselves call it honor.
Tacitus in Germania

So you get a people like that to agree on their sacred honor and immortal souls to:

...if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek.

...love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you.

... etc.

while you, yourself, retain all rights and privileges of normal existence among them and I think it is safe to say you have crippled them so severely that the only way they can survive is to be ruled by those either not proclaiming their code of conduct -- or by hypocrites -- or by both. If they are hypocrites they're less likely to be direct kin.

In the case of the Scottish clans I think the nobles were hypocrites who were somewhat related to those they absolved of responsibility for the above conduct by hiring priests who would be the intermediaries to the scriptures -- telling them what they had agreed to so as not to 'confuse' them with the clearly unconditional pacifism and submission to all who demanded it of them. When the clans were taken apart and priests replaced by direct interpretation of scripture by these sorts of people they would naturally go with the doctrines actually written and frequently become pacifists like the Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, etc. in order to retain honor, or they would go hysterical as they normally would die before dishonoring themselves. Christianity was basically psychological torture to genetically honorable demographies -- torture that could be brought to bear at the whim of ruling elites -- torture to which Jews were immune and which Jews had actually originated.

Now, I'll agree that there were those who retained some kin identification through all this, however hobbled, hysterical and dependent on literate cultures to defuse the scriptural nerve toxin -- however the fact remains that Jews were not subject to this doctrine and by vitue of controlling much of the scholarship of the scripture able to weild enormous influence on events like the Protestant Reformation as well as the original texts of the New Testament.

It is only since non-Christian (European) cultures have been entering the west in large numbers that Jews have lost their monopoly position on anything approaching rational evolutionary identity. So to that extent the 'monopoly' is no longer available to them -- but it was so available during the vast majority of the Christian era even up until just the 1970s or 80s.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

still not understanding... (none / 0) (#145)
by CodeWright on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 12:11:31 PM EST

Now, I'll agree that there were those who retained some kin identification through all this, however hobbled, hysterical and dependent on literate cultures to defuse the scriptural nerve toxin
I don't know about your background, but my Scots/Irish ancestors have preserved a rich oral history that describes my family lines all the way back to the Norman invasion of Albion.

As a child, I was told stories of all kinds of folk in my ancestry (a David Barnett who was a farmer in Oklahoma, had his farm destroyed by battle in the Civil War, snuck north to join the Union Army, was captured by the Confederates, escaped, was conscripted by the Confederates, escaped, was conscripted by the Union, and finished the war as a one-legged, one-eyed Colonel who went back to his farm; an Abraham Beard who settled in Jamestown in 1612; even a de Bard from the Scottish lowlands who saved William III from being gored by a boar; in fact, a whole slew of MacElroys, Parkers, Beards, Barnetts, etc... all with their own stories, great or small)

If those families whose ancestry interlinks with my own have preserved an oral history of several hundred years, I would be surprised if others did not also exist....

Apologies, but I guess I *still* don't understand the monopoly. How did it manifest itself and, if it was a monopoly, how was my own heritage preserved?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Try this (4.00 / 1) (#148)
by Baldrson on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:19:55 PM EST

Search google for "jewish singles".

Then search google for "scotch irish singles".

There is a lot more to preserving heritage than handing down stores of ancestors.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

Demographics (none / 0) (#151)
by CodeWright on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:21:09 PM EST

Doesn't that just imply a higher world Jewish population than Scotch-Irish?

After the Diaspora, the Hebrew people went all over the place, thriving in cities. The Scotch-Irish, with the exception of colonizing the New World in droves, have been mostly confined to the British Isles.

If anything, doesn't the relative lack of growth in Scotch-Irish populations owe itself to Norse invasions (the Dane Geld, ca. 700AD-900AD) and English persecution, a la Edward I and his successors, to the present day? (which really means Norman persecution -- hence, again, Norse?) In that context, the bone to pick should be with the Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians.
There is a lot more to preserving heritage than handing down stor[i]es of ancestors.
I thought you were decyring a jewish monopoly on kinship identity at the beginning of this thread (not "preserving heritage")?

Just using my own (Scotch-Irish) heritage as an example, every year the Beard clan has several huge family reunions (geographically distributed) with hundreds of attendees each. On top of that, I am able to trace my ancestry through oral history for hundreds of years. Those things together certainly seem to fit the bill of kinship identity (thus seeming to be an exception to the asserted monopoly).

Also, if you want to shift topic from your assertion of "monopoly on kinship identity" (which I still haven't seen proven as a "monopoly") to "preserving heritage", I also don't see how what I have described could be construed as not preserving heritage. What else is required to "preserve heritage"?

Call me dense, but I'm having trouble seeing where you're going (in terms of proving your point) with all this...?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
You're Having Trouble With Intellectual Honesty (none / 0) (#152)
by Baldrson on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:30:58 PM EST

Having 29,300 hits for "jewish singles" and 0 hits for "scotch irish singles" does not lead an intellectually honest person to ask the question "Doesn't that just imply a higher world Jewish population than Scotch-Irish?"

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

Ad hominem + strawman (none / 0) (#153)
by CodeWright on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:52:30 PM EST

I have no problems with intellectual honesty -- but someone resorting to ad hominem personal attacks and strawmen does.

Furthermore, when I did the requested searches via google, I found approximately the same 29,300 for jewish singles, but about 1300 for scots-irish singles -- hence my response discussing the comparative sizes of the populations (nevermind that the assumptions in the search are not sufficient to base a strong argument -- a much better demographic analysis could be done).

And you *still* haven't sufficiently defined your terms... I am actually interested in trying to understand what you were trying to say, but I can't seem to get a grip on exactly what that is.

Would you please answer my questions directly rather than obliquely?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
A Great Deal of Trouble With Intellectual Honesty (5.00 / 2) (#155)
by Baldrson on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:24:58 PM EST

Although I specified the search for the exact phrase "jewish singles" vs "scotch irish singles" (or "scots irish singles") for a reason, and a very good one at that (looking for the number of organizations set up to service those identities, we can even give you the benefit of the doubt and accept your incorrect numbers of 29,300 vs 1,300 and there is still the gross arithmetic error of claiming that the ratio of 22:1 is indicative of the "world-wide" population ratio of Jews to Scotch Irish (or Scots Irish).

You appear uninterested in emperical data supporting the hypothesis that in your very own case of Scotch Irish identity there is a gross distortion of vital institutions such as mating toward Jewish kin identity and away from Scotch (or Scots) Irish identity.

You have been provided ample historic information on the origin of anti-kinship memetic systems originating with Jews being used by hypocritical elites along with Jewish merchants to cripple the kinship-based identity of folks from Europe, particularly Protestant areas of Europe, as well as the example of Ivy League schools founded by said Protestant heritage identities no longer being attended by those of that heritage to the degree one would expect of any sort of intact kin identity -- and the voluminous historical data from Kevin MacDonald about Jewish involvement in immigration reform successfully pursued with the expressed purpose of disrupting kin identity in the kin-groups in question.

Its easy to see your interests are in other clear communication.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

I believe... (5.00 / 1) (#162)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 01:33:19 AM EST

...CodeWright was just trying to coax you into saying in plain English that what you object to is 'race mixing'.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Monopoly (none / 0) (#164)
by nomoreh1b on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:44:45 AM EST

Apologies, but I guess I *still* don't understand the monopoly. How did it manifest itself and, if it was a monopoly, how was my own heritage preserved?

how typical do you think your experience is? Personally, I know a lot more Scots-Irish folks that think of themselves as the literal descendents of Adam and Eve than folks who know anything much about their fairly recent ancestors.

What is more important here IMHO is that when you get to relatively old "family history" the only thing that is readily available are the church histories. Big issue there: these are pretty much fabrications that arose to support recent arrivals.

One big point for example that has been pretty established: The Basque and the Welsh have some very similar genetic charactersitics-so similar that they _ought_ to be speaking very similar languages--but they don't. Now, if they don't this means that one of them has most likely been culturally imperialized(i.e. like the native americans that speak spanish in South America)--except here there isn't much in the way of any consciousness of this process of colonization. The bulk of Welshmen really do identify with things like Christianity or political correctness far more than they do do people that "look like them". The real monopoly IMHO comes into play when looking at things like really old history--the kind of history that lots of folks share in common(and that is the kind of history that wars frequently get fought about).

Today you may see some Welsh or Scots-Irish pagans out there researching languages and what not trying to get back to their roots-but they typically don't have many kids--when you do see communities of Scotch Irish(most of the early Welsh BTW got that label put on them BTW-only a few later arrivals kept much in the way of a separate identity) that are out there having kids with folks that "look like them" it usually involves a lot of heavy Christan morality that obligates folks to do things like go over to the middle east and kill folks that have done their tribe no particular harm.

I think it is really cool that your personal family history goes back several hundred years. What I'm saying here is that as a group, this is something the scotch irish in the US have largely lost. How many S-I kids know anything much about the clearances? If they know anything about that,how has their view of the context of those events been shaped? Tribal peoples generally have clearly identifiable and shared stories about their major migrations-and the major authorities of that history are part of the tribe-I don't see that among the Scotch-Irish. I see a people that are rather divided and have a sort of collective amnesia-it is as though they didn't have a history until waves of invaders like the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans-and more recently Jews arrived on the scene. The very term "Celt" was orinally used to describe a people that arrived in Britain 2500-3000 years ago. Most of the genetic heritage of modern day Britons dates before that time-but what people identify with are things like the English Language, Christian religion, televisions. The ultimate authority that influences how they feel--and make important decisions has realy little to do with their ancient ancestors.

[ Parent ]

The Crime Line (3.75 / 12) (#80)
by dave emberton on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 05:46:55 AM EST

The impoverishment of the commoners happened because society did (and still does) draw a distinction between profit and crime.

A "successful" business works by ripping people off to a small enough degree that society accepts it. Crime is really just an unacceptable level of profit. Children learn that some injustice is necessary, but you can't go too far or be too obvious about it. The implied message is, greed is bad but greed is good.

The fact that there is a crime line at all is the reason why people in our society just keep getting poorer. Instead of all injustice being seen for what it is, minor injustices are seen as acceptable profit.

All these little intentional profits add up over time, and the people who are more ruthless than others end up with an irrationally large amount of stuff. So the wealth tends to gravitate towards an ever smaller, ever richer minority. Pervasive profit-motivation polarizes all the transactions towards mass impoverishment.

I believe it's a cultural thing. If kids are trained that *no* profit/theft is acceptable, then the socialist ideal might be achieved. This is related to the Buddhist precept "take only what is given." (Imagine if everyone in society was embarrassed and shunned if they profited from a trade!) But as long as the imaginary line between profit and crime exists, the commons can never succeed.

The Original Sinful Profit? (3.80 / 5) (#86)
by OzJuggler on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 09:55:53 AM EST

Put it another way... how small does a crime have to be for it to become an acceptable level of profit?

How does this have any reality in the service economy?? Does your Einstein-esque notion of Crime=Profit·c² have any meaning at all if the activity in question does not involve a monetary system? If I value the cost to me of ironing my clothes to be so great that I am willing to fix up your web site for you if you iron them for me, then how can you say for sure as to who is getting ripped off in such a deal? What is money other than a common unit of measurement for personal values? How do you feel what my personal values are anyway? Caveat emptor, and commencing trade is the de facto signal of an equitable deal.

I won't deny that excessive profiteering is wrong - it's unchecked greed. What I do deny is that all profit is an injustice no matter how small. How on earth can you attract or cope with growth if you do not have a profit?

Maybe you should be clear about whether your "profit" includes non-monetary intangible benefits. Basically, "fair exchange is no robbery", but you interpret this to literally mean that the Customer gets no less than what they pay for... even though this is sometimes not actually possible for the Supplier to achieve - even if they wanted to. (eg- growth of supply to meet demand.)
If you are arguing for a world in which there is no fundamental difference between suppliers and customers, then we already have that. The customer is whomever is giving up the cash in return for something that isn't cash. A cash for cash transaction would be pointless, and a non-cash/non-cash transaction is immune to any profiteering since it's up to each party in the deal to get whatever they want while giving as little as they can. Consumers vote with their wallets.

How do you resolve the gap between the morally indefensible nature of crime, and the purely material world of monetary profit? Which of my dollar coins is the evil one? Where is your Original Profit Sin?

I'm sorry; I started off thinking your Profit Line notion was a very attractive meme and I instinctively felt it had some merit, especially with the appeal to Bhuddism. It is a very interesting idea, hence the 5 I gave to your post. Hell, I'd actually like to believe your idea. But the more I thought about it critically, the more ridiculous it seemed to become. Can you plug these holes for me please?
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
[ Parent ]

Hole plugging (4.00 / 6) (#114)
by dave emberton on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 12:00:53 AM EST

It isn't really that ridiculous. Here's my thesis: in an economy where all the players aspire to fair trade, not wanting to pay too little or charge too much, then any incidental profit is evenly distributed and has no net effect on the distribution of wealth. Our system isn't like that, to varying degrees. Everyone is seeking profit, and because profit is (by definition) getting more than you really deserve from a transaction, then wealth is systematically funneled towards a wealthy elite. If I make a cheeseburger and it costs me 2.50 to produce, then convince you to buy it for 3.00, I've essentially taken 50 cents from you that I didn't really need. In our society, where small injustices of this kind are accepted as normal, I've made a 50 cent profit and you wouldn't likely try to get that money back from me, due to the socialized nature of the transaction. If however I simply remove 50 cents from your pocket and claim that it is now mine, this is considered socially unacceptable profit. It enters the realm of theft, even though the net result is the same as the original scenario. Crime of property is deemed theft rather than profit either because of an issue or consent, or rudeness of magnitude. The greater the pursuit of profit, the more the economy tends toward a pyramidal distribution. In the absence of profit motivation, wealth would vibrate around the economy much like ripples on the surface of the ocean. Not collecting in any particular place but rather being distributed evenly. The position of the crime line, set by agreement, determines the level of economic inequality in society. Where all intentional profit is shunned, no individual or group has the opportunity to unduly accumulate through trade. Therefore, trade returns to a needs-based activity and the profit dimension collapses. I believe it.

[ Parent ]
Not the same at all (3.33 / 3) (#137)
by kerinsky on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 12:50:46 AM EST

You state that the net result is the same between selling a burger at 50 cents profit and stealing 50 cents.  That's simply not true.  If you steal 50 cents then you have the money AND you still have the burger.  You can claim the burger is worth the same as the $2.50 that you so kindly didn't steal, but this is obviously false.  Nobody would buy $2.50 for $3.00, plenty of people would buy a burger for $3.00. Nobody would go out of their way to buy $3.00 for $3.00 either, but people will buy $3.01 for $3.00.

In general someone won't buy something unless it's worth more to them than the money they're spending.  People in general may be stupid and/or hold things to be more valuable than you but that doesn't mean they're being stolen from.

It would also be near impossible to replace the potential for profit as the motivation for startups, inventions and research that have a large upfront cost and delayed viability.  If there is no profit then how do new ideas that can't compete here and now get the resources to develop?  If there is only incedental profit how does it get funneled to such endevours?  At present fuel cells are basically useless. With a few billion dollars in development they may well replace the internal combustion engine.  People are spending that money because they want to get rich.  As a side effect you may get cleaner air.

If you think money is theft, then don't have money.  If you really want to in America you can go live at a shelter, eat at a soup kitchen and spend your days in a library with no cost internet access.  In this horrible capitolist society you can actually survive without having to work.

-=-
Aconclusionissimplytheplacewhereyougottiredofthinking.
[ Parent ]

Cost and Profit (4.50 / 2) (#142)
by brantsj on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:46:14 AM EST

Generally, the cost of production - $2.50/burger - includes a 'fair' return on the time and labor involved as well as the cost of the physical components. The producer can live comfortably selling burgers at $2.50. If he can sell them for $3.00, it indicates the existence of some quirk in the socio/economic system that allows him to extract an 'unearned' 50 cents from the system. The quirk might be quite benign - His burgers are so delicious folks are willing to pay extra; or it could be quite nasty - he is part of a food distribution monopoly that enables gouging of the customers. Either way it is excess profit and feeds greeed.

[ Parent ]
Some interesting points. (3.00 / 2) (#147)
by dave emberton on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:19:23 PM EST

Firstly, I would like to argue that people buy 2.50 for 3.00 all the time. That's what a profit margin is.

Apple Computer makes, roughly, a 27% profit per quarter. This means that Apple's customers spent 27% more for products than they were actually worth. You can try to introduce some nebulous idea here of the customer's idea of value being separate from the actual value, but how can that be? We can see clearly on paper that it was worth X (price - 27% on average). The customer's misconception does not alter X's value whatsoever. To imagine so is simply to rationalize the idea that it's ok to overcharge people as long as they're blissfully deluded.

A business can break even, still pay staff and still pump money into research. But businesses don't seek to break even, they seek to profit.

The conceit of the profit culture is that if everyone's a little greedy, they'll all be looked after. If you look at the trends in wealth distribution worldwide, this is clearly not the case.

Socialized stealing is still stealing.

[ Parent ]

Interesting defenition (3.33 / 3) (#156)
by kerinsky on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:31:50 PM EST

You're defenition of worth seems silly and rather useless. I prefer my words to have practical and usefull meanings. You say that something is only worth what it costs to produce. So if I'm starving to death and I have $100, that burger is only worth what it cost to produce. On the other hand if I just ate an entire pizza and I'm stuffed that burger should still be worth $2.50, even though I can't eat it?

Under your concept of worth how do you explain why people sometimes buy that burger for $3.00 while at other times they don't? Why do they only buy one burger? Even if you sold it for $0.50, almost nobody would buy more than they could eat at a single sitting. Under your defentition people would make a profit of $2.00 off every burger they buy, yet they still only buy one or two. Why?

The logical extension of your arguements is that a three week old burger is worth more than a fresh one because it includes the cost of production as well as the cost of three weeks storage. Even if you just leave it out on a counter under a heat lamp for three weeks instead of freezing it there is a cost associated with it taking up that space. So a rancid three week old burger would be worth more than a fresh one! How does that make sense?

And then there's currency itself to explain. It costs far less than a dollar to produce a dollar bill. That dollar bill is "worth" at most five cents. So really when I give you three dollar bills for a hamburger that cost $2.50 to make I'm robbing you! *I* make the profit. Those three dollar bills are only worth $0.15, I just made a $2.35 profit and I can laugh at that moron at the burger stand who thinks that he got something out of the deal.

The basic fact is that the value of an object is not an inherent property of that object. Value varies from person to person. I'm not legally allowed to drive without wearing glasses in my state. Those glasses are worth a lot more to me than they would be to someone with 20/20 vision. And if I got laser eye surgery my glasses would become worth less as well. But none of that changes their cost of production.

Maybe I'm just really, really dense and don't get what you're saying. It just seems so wrong to me that I find it hard to believe that anyone can believe what I think you're saying.

-=-
Aconclusionissimplytheplacewhereyougottiredofthinking.
[ Parent ]

i disagree.... (3.83 / 6) (#87)
by z84976 on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 09:56:16 AM EST

Crime is really just an unacceptable level of profit.

I disagree. A sales transaction is an agreement between two parties: a buyer and a seller. A crime is rarely an agreement: the criminal performs some offense, usually without the prior knowledge or consent of the victim. Quite a bit different, I think. There might be room to argue that in a restricted market economy, sometimes a vendor takes criminal advantage of a buyer (profiteering, etc), but in a healthy market economy the variety of choices available will, as a rule, naturally prevent this. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but to equate the healthy exchange of goods/ideas as crime on a small scale is just purely inaccurate.

[ Parent ]

Why the previous poster is a tool (4.28 / 7) (#90)
by Zonko on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 12:29:34 PM EST

Unfortunately, your argument that profit is crime is based on a flawed assumption: you assume that any item has a single, fixed, intrinsic value. If this is the case, than any transaction has a "winner" and a "loser" -> just like crime.

In reality, this is silly. To take the most extreme case, suppose the two of us are stranded on a desert island. You possess 500 gallons of water, and I possess 500 loaves of bread. Clearly, a gallon of water is now worth vastly more to me - having none- than you. This, not "crime", is the basis for all trade. Both of us would profit from the transaction!! Well wasn't that an interesting insight. The businessmen you despise are creating wealth by trade!

For a somewhat less extreme case, I just bought two Seagate Barracuda IVs from newegg.com, for which I paid 216$ plu shipping and handling. Clearly, since I paid the money, I decided that I would rather have two hard drives than 216$. Clearly, since newegg.com shipped me the drives, they decided that they would rather have the money than the drives. Therefore, we both profited.

I will admit that the concept of trade increasing real wealth is a little hard to understand. For a more detailed treatment, read "The Fatal Conceit" by F. A. Hayek.

anthony

[ Parent ]
water slave (4.20 / 5) (#98)
by brantsj on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:07:40 PM EST

If I have all the water, you will be dying of thirst long before I am dying of hunger - at that point you will gladly 'trade' all your bread for a drink. Then you will be my slave for water and bread. Pray tell how we both have profited.

[ Parent ]
I think not (5.00 / 1) (#125)
by memfree on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 10:49:42 AM EST

If you won't sell me your water for my bread, I will destroy it (burn it, soak it in the ocean and let fish eat it, whatever). It only has limited value to me, and I'm certainly not going to leave it for you to use after I've died of thirst.

Hrm. Actually, I'm interested enough in my continued life and freedom that as soon as you tell me you refuse to trade, I simply sigh, act bummed out and hope for rescue.... until you've fallen asleep. I then kill you out of a sense of self defense. You've demonstrated your willingness to put us both into harm, and you may be crazed -- or just so immoral that I'll fear for my safety. Sure, night-time assisinations are immoral, too, but I TRIED to bargin first, and if my life is on the line...yeah, I'd kill someone rather than die.

[ Parent ]

Economic Power (5.00 / 1) (#127)
by brantsj on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 01:45:35 PM EST

In a life and death situation physical power certainly becomes a factor. To keep this discussion somewhat in the realm of fable - where the drama on the island in some significant way relates to the broader economic reality - we have to assume that each party has the power to maintain and control its assets. Then we're back to whether you want to die or essentially surrender your assets and live in servitude. Some would argue that's the position of many a working man today.

[ Parent ]
on the fable level (4.00 / 1) (#143)
by memfree on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:48:34 AM EST

The first part of my reply was more of the fable level, but the second part qualifies in the "destroy towers/invade Afghanistan/bomb Iraq" sorta way.

Again, if I cannot trade my resource for the resource I need, I destroy it rather than give it away because it has lost value. *IF* powers are equal, we both lose, but that is generally not the case. In the documentary Life and Debt they show archival news footage of Jamaican dairy producers dumping their milk when they could not sell it (because the US imported dry milk to sell BELOW COST). They fare as badly as you'd expect. The farmers lose the waiting game because they can't wait as long as the US can (similar to Wal-Mart illegally undercutting local competitors until the locals go bankrupt, whereupon Wal-Mart can raise its prices some, but continue underpaying the workers). The US has its own milk and money (bread and water), AND is physically more powerful than Jamaica.

Perhaps the gulf war is a better example (though that introduces a third party). Kuwait has oil, but needs money/food from the US. The US needs oil. When Kuwait stops producing (because of war), the US fights rather than give up a needed resource that it doesn't possess. The controlling power then attempts to destroy the oil fields rather than suffer a complete loss.

With the second part, I'm saying that factions may get tired of being stuck in losing positions and lash out. If you don't think the WTC attack is a good example, try the American or French Revolutions.

[ Parent ]

Silk glove (3.33 / 3) (#144)
by brantsj on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:07:01 AM EST

The very real possibility of rebellion or revolution generally causes those dominating vital resources to mask their iron fist in a silk glove. A few strokes often work better than a smack. Capitalists are very good at this - just look at all the comments on how wonderful economic exchange/trade is. Perhaps in the abstract, but in the real world Power has its way and the commoner is as much a slave as any serf.

[ Parent ]
Silly. . ! (3.33 / 3) (#121)
by Fantastic Lad on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 06:18:59 AM EST

The programmed behavior hammered into people from birth is that an economic system of bartering must exist at all!

How about, instead of, If you Give me some Bread I'll Give you some Water, instead I see that you're thirsty and so give you water because I have some and you don't. Not because I am seeking to gain benefit other than to preserve and promote your life in order that you can do the same for me should I need it?

While this will result in you hopefully reciprocating by giving me bread should I need it, there is a subtle but important difference in the mood of the engagement. One embodies the essence of giving and the other is the essence of taking.

--Then what if we decided to work together to collectively increase our chances of survival on the island rather than hurt our chances by constantly trying to bottle up energy and commodisize it? --Ought I let you die if you did not have enough material goods or services to offer should I deem saving you from starvation, or quick-sand or sickness or drowning, etc., be worth more than you could pay?

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

If everybody worked in the essence of giving, then the life energy of the world would circulate easily and unfettered by greed. The current headspace many people apply to commerce is by its very nature fucked up, selfish and world-destroying.

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

Selfishness is not unnatural (5.00 / 2) (#138)
by kerinsky on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:18:18 AM EST

When you say "One embodies the essence of giving and the other is the essence of taking" I can only assume that by the word other you mean an economic system of bartering. Two people consenting to a trade of items the essence of taking? Wouldn't the essence of taking simply be to take the item you desire with no regard to it's owner?

I'd gladly join your utpoia if I could trust people. But I can't. I don't even trust myself that much. Read the book "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. Be a skeptic and challenge it's conclusions and arguements, but consider it's case. Selfishness is more likely to survive under adverse conditions and humans have evolved from millions of years of adverse conditions. Selfishness istself is natural, not fucked up. People hold selfishness to be bad automatically because that too is a programmed behavior hammered into you from birth. Maybe everyone wants you to be less selfish so they can exploit you more!

Selfishness may not be the best system, but at least it's stable in the long run. Under your system any individual can reap great benefits by not cooperating. Until you can show me a way to remove that benefit from being selfish I'd have to be very naive to start acting like you suggest.

-=-
Aconclusionissimplytheplacewhereyougottiredofthinking.
[ Parent ]

Ahh! This is definitely the crux, isn't it! (4.00 / 2) (#141)
by Fantastic Lad on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 06:08:05 AM EST

Selfishness may not be the best system, but at least it's stable in the long run. Under your system any individual can reap great benefits by not cooperating. Until you can show me a way to remove that benefit from being selfish I'd have to be very naive to start acting like you suggest.

Ah yes. Game-theory. The Prisoner's Dilemma and all that.

Aside from the fact that people have memories and can chose to disassociate from somebody when they are discovered to be selfish bastards, (leaving them out in the cold, so to speak, which I think is a reasonably good solution to the selfishness problem), aside from that. . .

Try this on for size. . .

Life in this reality is by its very nature, selfish. We kill to eat. We take. We revel in self-pleasure at the expense of others, even if the exchange is a subtle one.

To dip into the metaphysical and my own personal opinions on the matter, this reality is just a step on a greater journey. Indulging in total selfishness will erode and eventually destroy the soul entirely. The other direction of this road is to reach upward to one's higher self. The universe, I believe, is a giant school and the many, many lives we each live in this kind of service-to-self reality, are lessons in how to behave. We can choose to rise or to seek the ultimate self-destruction, dissolution of the soul.

When one is finally sated with all the wonders of this reality; when one has burned off the mountains of bad Karma collected from selfish living, a soul can think about moving onward and upward.

So how you solve the Island dilemma, or the question of commerce, is a deeply personal question which only you can figure out. We are all at different stages of learning, and believe it or not, I think it is probably very important to go through all permutations of the lesson in order to know it properly, to recognize much of its futility.

Not the most straight forward of answers, is it?

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

The Human Condition? (3.60 / 5) (#84)
by OzJuggler on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 08:22:05 AM EST

Good discussion of the Tragedy of the Commons. My only minor quibble with it is possibly due to a lack of understanding on my part; I feel this article should have had a different title, given that this topic is usually discussed in theoretical/philosophical terms (as a general architecture for society), rather than as being an actual event that occurred in Britain (as you have done). In other words, you start off giving the impression that there can be a general objection to the widely stated Tragedy of a virtual Commons, but you wind up talking about an actual tragedy to an actual Commons, which is a different (and weaker) proposition.
But that's not what I really want to talk about. The reductionist in me is yearning to find some deeper truth...

I think that the Tragedy of the Commons is simply a consequence of The Human Condition.

Well that deserves some justification...

I believe, as others do, that the Human Condition is a basic conflict of interest between the Self and Society. It is a frustration that arises when we are faced with a choice between doing good for ourselves, and doing good for other people. Love, Pride, Depression, the lot. I haven't found any examples of human behaviour that would fall into the realm of The Human Condition which cannot be explained by this Self/Others dilemma, but if you've got `em, bring `em on. :)

Now that you know what I mean by Human Condition, hopefully you can see why the tragedy of the commons is an instance of it. Being an organism, we want to be biologically successful, but where does one draw the line in favour of others? It isn't just about the present of course. The Me/Them dilemma applies to 'Us Now' / 'Us Ten Years From Now', since the tradeoff between profit now versus the ability to produce/harvest on a long basis sustainably is a decision that has no material gain for the present society if it surrenders short-term production in favour of long term sustainability.

So I thought I'd throw this one open to the masses. Is the inefficiency and corruption alleged to occur in the Tragedy of The Commons scenario merely the result of a deeper Human Condition?

------------------------

P.S.: I can already think of quite a few objections to this proposition. For one thing the Human Condition might be more adequately restated as the Sentient Social Being Condition, since I'm sure that dogs can be feel Love and Depression, but that tigers cannot since they're not really social animals. Add some Nagel (what is it like to be a bat) to the mix and the whole issue of "uniquely human" experience becomes merely speculative - how do we know its uniquely human? So forgive the inaccuracy of the term 'Human Condition', but my question about TToTC still stands.
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.

Commons & Privates: Distributing wealth fairly (4.14 / 7) (#92)
by polygrok on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 01:23:53 PM EST

This post comes from a "Well what can we do about it" slant.

1. THE SITUATION.

We can agree that the tragedy of the commons exists.

We can also agree that the society's preferred solution of "Enclosure", or "privatisation" does work in so far as it preserves and protects the enclosed resource.

However, we can also agree that "Enclosure" or "Privatisation" of resources impoverishes society by concentrating that resource in the hands of a small minority of wealthy and powerful individuals, leading to a large majority of impoverished individuals.

We can also see that controlling the distribution and use of resources centrally does not work very efficiently and leads to unpleasant losses of freedom.

We can see all of the above from past experience.

2. THE PROBLEM.

We seem to beleive that neither of the current popular solutions (Communist/Dictatorial centralised control or Western big-business dominated capitalism) is an optimal solution to the problem of resource generation/ control/ distribution.

Does it need to be like this? Can we have a society in which resources are both protected/efficiently generated and fairly distributed? Can this be done without direct legislation or the centralised control of "Big Government".

3. THE OPTIONS.

I believe that it is possible to have both private ownership and fair distribution of resources, and in a system that has none of the clunky inefficiencies of Socialist/Communist central rule, and none of the windfall-like resource autoconcentrating effects of traditional Western societies.

Furthermore I believe that it is possible to achieve this goal without threatening our freedoms or our happiness.

I do not know how this would work exactly, but I do believe that it is possible, and I am open to suggestions about how it might be done. What I do know, however, is that the solution will probably be novel and innovative.

4. A PROPOSAL

The line of thinking that I have been pursuing is as follows:

  1. SCOPE OF WORKS.
  2. A. Human society is complex. Engineering it from scratch is beyond our current (but not our future) capabilities.
  3. B. Our current (Western) system has evolved over the years and (more or less) works.
  4. C. Let us tinker with the current system now and wait for our sociological/economic understanding to improve before trying to redesign society from scratch. (A la Marx).
  5. TOOLS AVAILABLE.
  6. A. The creation, control and flow of resources through society is a dynamical system.
  7. B. This system is influenced/driven by a combination of economics, psychology, sociology, economics and physics.
  8. C. Taxation, legislation, cultural engineering and physical engineering are the only real controls that we have.
  9. D. We would be wise to make use of all the tools we have at our disposal.
  10. SPECIFICATION OF THE PROBLEM.
  11. A. The current system has some good things going for it, but also some bad things. Let us try to fix the bad things without damaging the good things.
  12. B. The bad things are: Windfall (unearned) profits, and the tendancy of the rich to get richer (Autoconcentration of resources.)
  13. C. The good things are: The reward of harder/ smarter working and the encouragement of the innovation of useful technologies.
  14. SPECIFICATION OF THE SOLUTION.
Let us use Taxation, legislation, cultural engineering and physical engineering to prevent Windfall gains and the Autoconcentration of resources.
  1. A Tax the rich according to the degree of autoconcentration, and donate the proceeds to the productive/ innovative in the form of investments or loans. (Who decides though? - whoever is best at making investments and loans of course!).
  2. B Restrict the use of wealth, so that only so much of it can be spent on personal standard-of-living. Any "excess" wealth that an individual has must be spent/invested wisely, with extra sanctions that can be imposed if investments are foolish. (Proceeds of those sanctions to go to those who invest wisely).
  3. C Persuade those with resources to give/lend to the productive/ innovative by using advertising techniques. Educate those with resources how to identify those who are productive/ innovative better. Educate all on how to be more productive/ innovative and give all the confidence and self-esteem to do their best.
  4. D Invent a technology that easily identifies and tracks the productivity of a given individual and makes it easy for those with resources/capital to distribute those resources wisely, or alternatively invent a technology that empowers and organises the consumer to enable them to dictate terms to the producer.
  5. PROBLEMS WITH THE SOLUTION.
The solution only attempts to deal with un-"fair"-ness of wealth/resource distribution. It makes no attempt to equalise wealth, but merely attempts to direct it towards those who might use it better.

The solution also only attempts to deal with inequities of finance and resource. It does not deal with inequities due
to imbalances of power. (Although money and power often go hand in hand.)

-1, Sicko (1.75 / 4) (#103)
by ubu on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:50:26 PM EST

C. Let us tinker with the current system now and wait for our sociological/economic understanding to improve before trying to redesign society from scratch.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
this already exists (none / 0) (#158)
by Nelziq on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:58:58 PM EST

This is not a very radical suggestion. It is essentially describing what a mixed market economy either as it exists now or as it could be with a few changes. A Tax the rich according to the degree of autoconcentration, and donate the proceeds to the productive/ innovative in the form of investments or loans. (Who decides though? - whoever is best at making investments and loans of course!). Progressive taxation systems essentially do this. We have this to a limited extent, especially considering that wealthy individuals and corporation recieve proportianately more value from the governemnt in the form of favorable regulation (an effect of our campaign finance system). Its not inconcievable that we could have a truely progessive tax system based on autoconcentration by taxing Capital gains at a higher rate and by taxing land. B Restrict the use of wealth, so that only so much of it can be spent on personal standard-of-living. Any "excess" wealth that an individual has must be spent/invested wisely, with extra sanctions that can be imposed if investments are foolish. (Proceeds of those sanctions to go to those who invest wisely). again, progressive taxation reduces the amount of money spent on ones own standard of living. the current capital markets system already rewards wise investment and punishes foolish ones. D Invent a technology that easily identifies and tracks the productivity of a given individual and makes it easy for those with resources/capital to distribute those resources wisely, or alternatively invent a technology that empowers and organises the consumer to enable them to dictate terms to the producer. free markets suppposedly do this

[ Parent ]
Simple Challenge for All Persuasive Essays (3.07 / 13) (#96)
by ubu on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 01:50:47 PM EST

The large landowners pushed through legislation to enclose common land everywhere. Initially all community members got a plot of this enclosed land. But the value of the land in common was greater than the sum of it's parts. People who could make a living with the unenclosed common land no longer could make do with the tiny plot of land they got in return. After a couple decades the results were in: the poor were no longer self-supporting; they had been forced by economic pressures to sell their land and become wage-slaves in the slums of surrounding cities, or for the large land-owners.

And thus, apparently, you feel you have waved your hand and sufficiently demonstrated that privatization is a net loss? Are Kuro5hin's readers such dupes, that you can say, "Capitalism happened" and everybody takes for granted that the evils you describe are real?

No. Your article barely even begins to scratch the surface of this topic, a tendency which I find with irritating frequency in the Progressive Left. You show me that real privatization of the Commons results in a net loss of wealth, and I'll concede the point. You have a long, long, long way to go, my friend.

My simple challenge for soi-disant persuasive essays on Kuro5hin is the following: fucking persuade me of something. We have enough Angrydot types spewing on and on, blithely ignorant of their very own presuppositions. It would be nice if you spent more than one smoky paragraph justifying what is your central thesis: that the Commons is a better provider than private, enclosed property. Particularly when you admit in direct language that "the system of land in common did not maximize the yield of the land".

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
Oh please (4.50 / 2) (#117)
by egh on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 12:31:28 AM EST

Welcome to the other side of things. This is how it usually is, only reversed. It is enough to demonstrate that something will increase the presence of the capitalist market in our lives for it to be labeled as a good thing. Spare us. And what, it isn't enough what he has said? Would you rather be an independent farmer, or a factor slave? I know which one you'd rather be, even if you don't. And, frankly, I myself am not as concerned about a "net increase in wealth" as I am with the quality of life. This is a far more complicated question. But, having said that, the fact that enclosure took away some the autonomy and freedom of the peasants makes it in my mind a bad thing.

[ Parent ]
Heh (3.00 / 4) (#118)
by ubu on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 02:19:34 AM EST

Would you rather be an independent farmer, or a factor slave?

Back-breaking 12-hour workday, bare subsistence, and all the kids working alongside all day from age 6? Or steady wage, grocery, laundry, and indoor plumbing? Gosh, that's a really tough fucking choice. Why don't you look around at your peers and see for yourself what lifestyle they've chosen.

I realize that a pedant like yourself doesn't give much credence to free, voluntary choices, but really... was this supposed to be some kind of rhetorical question? Because it is... it just doesn't have the obvious answer you expect.

Incidentally, the use of the word "slave" to describe free working-class people is a rhetorical device and nothing more. But in the context above, it sounds almost as though you mean it in earnest. I question your most fundamental powers of objective judgment.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Nonsense. (3.66 / 6) (#119)
by Fantastic Lad on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 05:19:51 AM EST

Back-breaking 12-hour workday, bare subsistence, and all the kids working alongside all day from age 6?

Nonsense. These are examples of more capitalist crap.

A friend of mine when he was a boy, spent several months living alone in the woods with only his clothes, a pair of boots, a hunting knife and his pet dog. He described a bit of work building a base camp but when that was done, he lived directly off the land and worked perhaps 5 hours a week. --Not per day; per week. Kill one beastie, and you live like a king. Oddly enough, this is about the same length of time the average aboriginal Australian works too. 4 hours a week.

Things only became more difficult when people settled into one place to become agricultural and strive for profit! --There's a HUGE difference in the amount of work one has to do farming depending on whether their aim is merely to sustain themselves, or sell mountains of over-produced goods at market.

The early American pioneers had it additionally tough because they were jumping into a situation where there was no infrastructure; the land had to be cleared and tilled before any crops could grow regardless of their end intent. There was TONS of setting up to do, and it WAS backbreaking, and many of the early settlers were farming for the first time since they grew up in Europe in other trades. So it was pretty awful, but it was not the norm. The stories of back breaking work you are thinking of, most likely stem from these pioneer days, which I don't think is accurate historical referencing.

Incidentally, the use of the word "slave" to describe free working-class people is a rhetorical device and nothing more. But in the context above, it sounds almost as though you mean it in earnest. I question your most fundamental powers of objective judgment.

Maybe in your neighborhood this is true. But I call having to commute and toil 9 hour days in jobs most people hate doing in order merely to stay alive, striving on average to attain goals which exist only in the narrowest of recommended bandwidths, usually involving the purchase of the stupid incentive prizes, (cars, stereo equipment, beer, etc.), which TV tells us will make us happy. . . When compared to a 4 hour week, I call that worse than slavery. I call it cruel and unusual! Though, what better chains to slap on the slave than those which prevent the slave from believing that there could be anything better?

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

Heh (2.50 / 6) (#128)
by ubu on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 02:55:19 PM EST

Nonsense. These are examples of more capitalist crap.

Ah, I see. Rousseau Lad wants to lecture me.

Not per day; per week. Kill one beastie, and you live like a king.

Kill and eat one "beastie" per week and you have an excellent prescription for all sorts of nutrition deficiencies. Which doctor did your friend visit, out there, for his scurvy? Oh, but he lived like a king, I see.

You're really so naive as to think that man is better off in the State of Nature? That's so half-witted. I am sorry.

Things only became more difficult when people settled into one place to become agricultural and strive for profit!

Actually, things become hundreds of times easier. That's the whole point of social cooperation. You know, division of labor, aggregation of labor, economies of scale, etc. But then, I'm just talking more capitalist crap! What the hell do I know about society? Your man, all alone in the forest, having his Robinson Crusoe moment, lives "like a king".

Quick couple of questions: how much time did your friend spend on making clothes? Shelter? Medical supplies? Paper for writing? How much time spent travelling to communicate with other people? How much time spent cleaning himself and sanitizing his environment?

How long was he out there, exactly?

C'mon, you're not really this dumb.

The stories of back breaking work you are thinking of, most likely stem from these pioneer days, which I don't think is accurate historical referencing.

Sorry, I think this is a probably a case of "you have no fucking clue what you're talking about". Spend some time reading a book or perhaps a children's magazine. Find something on the topic of "life on a farm in the 1500s". Actually, pick any time period you like, life on the farm has always been hellish work and endless sweat.

I suspect you're actually the Dauphin, young sir, magically transported through time for the sake of this conversation. Everything you know of agriculture you learned from the Romantic and Rococo paintings of comfortable, bright pastoral scenes, which surround you in the urban palace you inhabit -- a palace which, incidentally, for all its grandeur is actually far less comfortable than one of our modern abodes. But I digress; wouldn't it be nice to be a shepherd, lying indolently in the tall grass, gazing at clouds and dreaming of the fair farm lass churning butter down the little country lane? Ha ha ha! Silly prince!

But I call having to commute and toil 9 hour days in jobs most people hate doing in order merely to stay alive

Oh, God help us. What, are you going to starve to death, pansy? No, you're not, because much as your pathetic whining ass vexes me I'm not going to let that happen. After all, we're not living in the goddamned woods surrounded by hundreds of miles of goddamned overgrown forest threatened by the elements. I can afford to be generous because in Society life is easy. And if you think otherwise you have got some really fucking difficult lessons ahead of you.

So head on out for the great outdoors and give it your best shot, Davy Crockett. Take your standard-issue Army Survival Guide and plenty of toothpaste because it's going to be a long-ass time before you invent more on your own.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Yahoo!! (1.00 / 1) (#134)
by scoobytech on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 10:18:18 PM EST

lol  Ubu, I must say that I haven't read much of your commentary before on K5, but this has certainly been an entertaining thread. ::))  I'm not going to argue either side, because arguing with human beings is as futile as discussing the idealism and ultimate implausibility of Kant's Categorical Imperative with my shoe.  It's a waste of time for me to even try to persuade you or anyone else of anything...people do not want to be persuaded.  They want to be amused and uplifted and enraged and generally distracted/entertained/led by the hand.  I would hope you would not argue against this as a general trend in the modern society described throughout your previous posts.

At the ripe old age of 25 I have become content to watch the "whole shithouse go up in flames", to quote Jim Morrison.  The probability of it coming to fruition in my lifetime is next to 0, things are still to stable, but that's OK, because eventually it will.  This is our means of manifest destiny. It is our legacy as a species.  We build, destroy, and rebuild in hopes of getting it right the next time.  *Note that I do not believe this will convince anyone of anything...I'm assuming most K5 readers would probably agree with this sentence in basic principle.  If not, whatever. ::)

The root of our problems is us.  The Earth is benign, the world around us balanced.  Our balind faith in our ideals/goals/dreams/aspirations/cynicism/hate/etc comforts and poisons us.  That is the real beauty of "intelligence", it's paradoxical nature.  Capitalism makes a society rich while planting the seeds for its moral bankruptcy(see Enron, WorldCom, The Beatles, etc).  That's what makes it so much damn fun!

As long as we are here, our problems will be here to occupy us.  I just hope there is no afterlife, so that I can finally get some farging peace and quiet!  I digress.

I do find your retorts entertaining and hope that you will dissect this post as well.  I do not claim to be operating on the same level as you intellectually, so I look forward to being fired upon by a superior.  Call me a masochist, but it's fun to be sniped at on forums.  Places like K5 are where the elite intelligencia come to vent their frustrations, after all.  So Ubu, vent away. ::D

[ Parent ]

Thanks (3.50 / 2) (#136)
by ubu on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 12:36:23 AM EST

It's a waste of time for me to even try to persuade you or anyone else of anything...people do not want to be persuaded.

That is a true statement. Only time, experience, and events can persuade an individual. I am merely here to wage my futile War on Stupidity, in my own little way.

The root of our problems is us. The Earth is benign, the world around us balanced.

Yes, and no. The root of our problems is both in us, and in the Earth around us. The basic difficulties of human survival are manifest both in his own limitations and likewise in the corrupted -- even natural -- environment he inhabits. Sharks will attack and kill a Man. Is that because Man provokes them? Pests will destroy crops and livestock. Is that because Man shouldn't engage in agriculture? Natural phenomena will destroy entire cities. Is that because cities are inherently prone to such destruction?

The situation in which Man existentially finds himself can be described any number of ways, but I find it most revealing to see it in terms of the fallen Creation described by Genesis. We can see, almost as though glimpsing out of the corners of our eyes, the patterns which ought to occur, but everywhere we look those patterns are corrupted: Men are wicked, and Creation is rotten.

Your worldview is one of fatalism and futility. Mine is optimistic: "We know that the whole Creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time..." When redemptive history is complete we will know the fullness of Creation's original perfect purpose.

Capitalism makes a society rich while planting the seeds for its moral bankruptcy(see Enron, WorldCom, The Beatles, etc).

Mankind contains the seeds of his own moral bankruptcy. Capitalism is not the author of these things. How could it possibly be so? We can pin enough moral imperfection on Man without having to blame inanimate social patterns such as free commerce. Examine your causality, for a moment, and ask yourself whether the Socialism of Jean Chretien or of Tony Blair can make any claims whatsoever of moral purity.

I do not claim to be operating on the same level as you intellectually, so I look forward to being fired upon by a superior.

As Bertrand Russell famously said, "So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." I find that statement compelling, albeit for reasons altogether opposed to Russell's original thrust of meaning.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
will wonders never cease! (none / 0) (#149)
by scoobytech on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:20:45 PM EST

Now I am truly surprised!  A creationist?  On K5?  Maybe the apocalypse truly is upon us. :;))  I am a staunch atheist...you could almost call me a god-concept-hater.  Note the lowercase 'g'.  All gods are bad gods are the only gods I know. :;) Regardless of this, I can understand your drive to thwart stupidity in the world, but I might suggest you dull your sword a bit.  I can see your point, but some of your other posts come across as unfiltered hostility, which no one is going to respond well to.

I am certainly a fatalist.  We all have to die of something after all and anyone who has studied history, even in passing, should be able to predict where the current dominant societal structure is headed.  Greed begets misery and human nature begets greed.  Under it all, we are more concerned with "mine" rather than "ours" in this society(in all modern societies?), so there is no escaping the gluttony of the few and the starvation of the many.  I would assert that this is the natural order of things in an intellectual animal.  As soon as a species recognizes the "I" concept as a human perceives "me", it seems only a matter of time before it will realize the "mine" and so begin the race to make everything its own.

I would also argue that nature in and of itself is not a 'problem'.  It is a benign background before which life's dramas are played out.  Man, as a part of nature and not exclusive of it, is subject to being eaten as He should be.  We broke the rules when we fashioned tools and started taking lives the easy way. ::)  When our species began to surpass our rivals, we naturally began to look at the world in terms of us and everything else.  I believe, and this is a total rip-off of Buddhist/Taoist idealogy(and more recently the Romantic poets of yesteryear), that it is this lack of balance and disconnection from nature that causes us a vast majority of our problems.  If Man were to accept his place as just another animal, the "hardships" of animal life become intrinsic components of daily existence.  I think this is what an earlier post was getting at.  Now don't get me wrong, I know all too well that returning to a balanced state with the world around us in that most Eastern sense is impossible, so we must take the only other natural course.  We must totally dominate the world around us.  It is toward this end that I think we are working, but I cannot see tyranny over our domain leading to a happy ending.  Picture it as a son beating upon his mother until her every decision is his to make and you'll understand where I'm coming from.  Not a lot to be optimistic about in that, is there?

[ Parent ]

Ahh. A loud one, I see. . . (3.33 / 3) (#140)
by Fantastic Lad on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 05:36:35 AM EST

Kill and eat one "beastie" per week and you have an excellent prescription for all sorts of nutrition deficiencies. Which doctor did your friend visit, out there, for his scurvy? Oh, but he lived like a king, I see.

You are making assumptions, which I suppose is to be expected from such an incredibly over-inflated ego as yours; while one of the larger I've seen of late, you are, as is often the case with garden variety blow-hards, one who has a reasonable intellect but who dares too far with it. Hubris, my friend. And please don't quote philosophers and painters at me. It shows up your patchwork brand of 'self-confidence' rather clearly for what it is. But getting back to your point. . .

About half of what my friend ate was vegetable. Berries, roots, leaf salads, etc. The rest was rabbit and fish. A well rounded diet, all in all. The dog did most of her own hunting.

how much time did your friend spend on making clothes? Shelter? Medical supplies? Paper for writing? How much time spent traveling to communicate with other people? How much time spent cleaning himself and sanitizing his environment? How long was he out there, exactly?

On that particular occasion, he was out for about 3 months in the Summer. He came back before winter. He kept and cured the skins of several rabbits, and actually did collect some medicinal plants; because that's an area of interest for him. Traveling to communicate with people? No need in his situation, really. Cleaning himself and sanitizing his environment? He was near a water supply and I expect he shat the way most animals do. The Forest seemed to manage.

Essentially, what you are implying is that doing all these other tasks would make life miserable and back-breaking. --Well, sure, as I've said, this is so for the agricultural profit-based society you seem to be suggesting is the 'only' and 'best' way. But consider the native Americans. Hunter-gatherers had a much more pleasant life. Come winter, there is still hunting and it is not so difficult to store foods for a season. Blankets and warm clothes last a long time and can be made well. (One is not born on to the forest floor, expected to make clothes; one can bundle up in clothes grandma made when she was a kid.) Paper for writing is only necessary if you lose a story-teller's abilities; if you lose your ability to learn directly from elders.

Such systems worked wonderfully in the times and places they did; people were fulfilled, happy, wise and long-lived. And while there was always work to be done, it was rarely endlessly back-breaking and crippling; out of balance with comfort as it is for most people today.

Actually, things become hundreds of times easier. That's the whole point of social cooperation. You know, division of labor, aggregation of labor, economies of scale, etc. But then, I'm just talking more capitalist crap! What the hell do I know about society? Your man, all alone in the forest, having his Robinson Crusoe moment, lives "like a king".

Okay. . . Even though you took no time to think before writing this glib remark, I'll take the time to answer it as though you WERE using your brain. . .

Half of what you just described is NOT capitalism. I have no problem with Social Cooperation. I slute it! It can and has worked marvelously without any need for the other half of what you are describing, which when taken out of proportion, (or at worst, by its very nature), is most definitely Capitalist Crap; greed through unreasonable and unfair exploitation. Sometimes a scale of economy can slide so far out of balance that the end result undermines the original purpose of the intended product. (That is, life can be made very miserable by doing very efficiently something which was designed originally to make life better. Efficiency at all costs leaves out certain values of the human condition. So why do so many people uphold such systems as being beyond criticism? Answer: if those systems make a FEW lives better, then who cares about the people on the third world factory floor?)

Find something on the topic of "life on a farm in the 1500s". Actually, pick any time period you like, life on the farm has always been hellish work and endless sweat.

Well, to a degree, this is true for certain reasons. --Particularly if all sources you are referring to were written by people similarly entranced by the 'wonders' of the modern age, or by arrogants of your caliber. Believe it or not, pioneer farming was much more work for the reasons I mentioned. In any case, I made no claim that farming large plots of land was easy; particularly when such plots were often owned by the rich and tilled by serfs who did not reap the full benefits of their labor. (More Capitalist Crap) Perhaps you ought to do some more reading. . .

I suspect you're actually the Dauphin, young sir, magically transported through time for the sake of this conversation. Everything you know of agriculture you learned from the Romantic and Rococo paintings of comfortable, bright pastoral scenes, which surround you in the urban palace you inhabit -- a palace which, incidentally, for all its grandeur is actually far less comfortable than one of our modern abodes. But I digress; wouldn't it be nice to be a shepherd, lying indolently in the tall grass, gazing at clouds and dreaming of the fair farm lass churning butter down the little country lane? Ha ha ha! Silly prince!

Hm. There are two types of writer; some people write primarily in order to aggrandize themselves in the eyes of the public. They write to compete. They write to win. They will bend rules, play dirty, and they will lie, because they are NOT writing primarily to share knowledge and to learn. The selfish and selfless.

Oh, God help us. What, are you going to starve to death, pansy? No, you're not, because much as your pathetic whining ass vexes me I'm not going to let that happen. After all, we're not living in the goddamned woods surrounded by hundreds of miles of goddamned overgrown forest threatened by the elements. I can afford to be generous because in Society life is easy. And if you think otherwise you have got some really fucking difficult lessons ahead of you.

So head on out for the great outdoors and give it your best shot, Davy Crockett. Take your standard-issue Army Survival Guide and plenty of toothpaste because it's going to be a long-ass time before you invent more on your own.

Hm. Well, perhaps there's hope for you. But you MUST do something about that ego problem of yours. It'll hold you back, even as it is doing now. As for tooth paste. . ? In cultures where it is standard practice to rinse out the mouth with water after eating, the rates of tooth decay are about in keeping with developed nations. May not be minty fresh, but their teeth won't have the brown spots resulting from dental-fluorosis that yours will in another twenty years.

You might try brushing with baking soda. Cheep. Simple. Highly effective, and best of all, non-toxic. But then you'd have to read outside the imposed borders to learn stuff like that, wouldn't you? And one would have to be quite confident in one's sense of self to even question such issues. . .

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

One question (4.00 / 1) (#150)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 02:38:24 PM EST

If your friend only worked 5 hours a week, what did he do the rest of the time? No books to read? No internet? No TV? (okay, that might not be so bad) It sounds to me like there'd be nothing to do except scratch his fleas!
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Net loss of wealth? (4.00 / 2) (#130)
by p3d0 on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 03:28:07 PM EST

I don't think a net loss of wealth is relevant. It's about the distribution of wealth away from the poor toward the rich land-owners.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
It is still happening. (4.71 / 7) (#97)
by the womble on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 02:03:26 PM EST

In many developing countries it is happening now. The land of the poor is taken away. Sometimes it is to make way for large scale agriculture, but also by other development - dams, factories, housing etc. Their title to what they have traditionally used is frequently not documented so they may get nothing, and even when they do get some compensation it is invariably inadequate.

the system of land in common did not maximize the yield of the land

I wonder about this. Large scale agriculture produces a high yield of a single crop, common land (both presently in developing coutries and historically in Europe) is likely to produce several different outputs, so the high yield needs to be compared the combined value of these outputs. I doubt that the real economic value of common land is measured as much of it lies outside the formal economy (if a herdsman grazes an animal on common land and eats it himself, the value does not show up in the GDP numbers).

Maximized yield - by which measure? (3.00 / 1) (#161)
by wytcld on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:07:49 PM EST

the system of land in common did not maximize the yield of the land

I wonder about this.

Good thing to wonder about. Intensive small-scale organic agriculture is much more productive per acre than industrial monoculture. It's much less productive per man hour - but note we're in a world with an excess of men and a dwindling supply of land.

Of course, that's a different topic than that of the commons. But it's a strong argument for what we'd consider peasant-style rather than industrial farming, and the commons as a component of or adjunct to a peasant-style farming scheme may very well make sense. Belief in property is entirely consistent with a belief that it should be well-distributed, and a portion of it held by communities rather than individuals. Progress in the science of agriculture should not be confused with particular schemes of industrial production, either.

[ Parent ]

Now wait a minute. (3.80 / 5) (#105)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 03:41:51 PM EST

If the herdsmen "take steps to make sure it didn't happen", those steps would have to be something like "you cannot graze as much as you want. Instead, each person will only be allowed a certain quota of grazing".

In other words... the herdsmen have collectively solved the problem by setting up a system of property rights in grazing quotas. It's harder to enforce than the system where you fence off the land and give everyone property rights in a different physical section, but it's still property rights.

If people were equations (4.00 / 2) (#129)
by p3d0 on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 03:25:34 PM EST

If people were just dumb automata that followed simple rules, then you'd be right. I think the point is that communities formed that had a sense of responsibility among each other. (It can't be a coincidence that "comminity" is so similar to "commune", that mainland-European word for the commons.)
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Good job, bitch (3.06 / 16) (#107)
by ubu on Mon Sep 30, 2002 at 05:25:44 PM EST

You write a socialist story, and then rate your own commenters a '1' if they're property-rights advocates, and a '5' if they're socialists. Meanwhile you engage none of your critics and post a single comment in the forum, that in regard to a spelling error.

This is definitely the way to be taken seriously. Keep up the good work!

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
Interesting (3.00 / 2) (#116)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 12:29:00 AM EST

An ancestor of mine was thrown out of Scotland for stealing land. Maybe he was really just defending land he orginally owned.

By the way, I never heard of the Tragedy of the Commons. Is this something they talk about in Europe or something?

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour

Property rights (4.75 / 4) (#120)
by zero0s on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 06:01:59 AM EST

I think the lesson that can be learned from the "tragedy of the commons" story is that cooperation and sharing clearly can work in practice, but the key to avoiding the tragedy outcome is strong communal property rights, well defended in law.

Consider:

  • The herdsmen with their pasture - when they communally owned the right to the common ground, then it was used and managed in a sustainable way. It was only when that right was removed that the system fell apart, and the herdsmen ended up with nothing.
  • If a fishing cooperative had well defended rights to the fishing in a particular area, then there's no way that they would fish the area to destruction, it would be in their interest to manage it for long term stability. This investment of theirs would only happen though if they had confidence that their rights on the area would be defended in perpetuity.

The same argument can be applied to tribespeople in the Amazonian rainforest, villagers in Sub-Saharan Africa, or everyone living on your street.

If people believe that they have ownership rights over a resource, that will be well defended, and that they can pass on to their children, then they will work to protect and improve it. However if a resource is owned and controlled by someone else, be that government or a large corporation, then it's in their interest to try and extract as much short time benefit from it as possible, leading ineveitably to the tragedy.



locality (4.00 / 2) (#122)
by christfokkar on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 09:19:54 AM EST

If a fishing cooperative had well defended rights to the fishing in a particular area, then there's no way that they would fish the area to destruction, it would be in their interest to manage it for long term stability.

Likewise, managing the sustainability of a given area is much more practicable if the area is finite, and the owners are local and small in number.

Locality breeds efficiency, because a small system under immediate control breeds few of the adverse managerial effects of a large, decentralized system.

A large, decentralized system operates on the principle of "efficiency of scale," which is really a code-word for the rate at which resources can be extracted in a non-replenishable way. Say what you will about the importance of non-replenishable extraction, it is what it is.

[ Parent ]
Economy of Scale (3.00 / 3) (#131)
by BCoates on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 04:22:05 PM EST

Economy of scale has nothing at all to do with "non-replenishable extraction", it has to do with the fact that certain kinds of overhead are proportionally smaller in large organizations than small ones.

It would be an argument against decentralization in large organizations, if it causes duplication of effort.

--
Benjamin Coates

[ Parent ]

great topic! (3.66 / 3) (#126)
by cryon on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 11:01:52 AM EST

I completely agree with your concerns. I am a former conservative from years ago, who now has a rather radical political outlook (certainly not Democratic or Republican). Some people call me communist. But in the end I think that we have to look at our nations as our private property, owned jointly by the citizens, and if we do that, I think that the end result may somewhat resemble socialism, but isn't that what every commercial partnership is?
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The Real Tragedy of the Commons | 164 comments (145 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
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