Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The So-Called Tragedy of the Commons

Whenever you bring up the idea that the forests, salmon streams and mineral lands ought to be owned by and serve the community in which they are located, the so-called "tragedy of the commons" is dragged out. One immediately is attempted to ask in rebuttal, how is it that after 5000 years of logging France with its communal forests still has a lumber industry and here in BC using capitalist methods, we managed to eliminate the trees in 100 years? Not to mention the Original People who lived here for 10,000 years who also had communal ownership and left the forests and fish in good condition for the European settler capitalists to destroy. In by Ian Angus you will find a devastating critique of this self-serving corporate myth as well as some unpleasant revelations about its creator, Garret Harding.

See www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/angus250808.html

6 Comments:

Blogger Niccolo said...

Excellent post.

It does seem to be though that this could be due to a tie to the land you're living on. With land, it seems that those that possess a lineage of origin on a plot of the Earth will treat some of the resources better.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Tristan said...

In the former there is a system of private property? Logging rights are respected by the community.

I'd suggest in BC there's a tragedy of the commons.

What is meant by tragedy of the commons is that there is no system of ownership, there is just a free for all.
The ownership system need not be private, it could be communal.

To take the classic example of buffalo - if there was a communal ownership of buffalo which was enforced then people would be prevented by others from just hunting indiscriminately.

In BC I'd hazard a guess that there was no ownership of logging rights or the forest aside from government ownership. That is what causes the problem. Government has no interest in maintaining the forest, but they stand to gain from allowing logging in the short term (long term doesn't factor into government thinking - they could be out of office by then - or they could just tax more)

12:48 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Tristan, if you or I were to cut down a tree in BC's forests we would be arrested. There is no "commons" here. The forests are owned by the state and rented out to the politicians corporate friends. The buffalo were hunted for 10,000 years by the Original Inhabitants in a system of commons. The decision by the US govt to exterminate the buffalo to take away the Original People's economy is what did them in.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous David Z said...

So, it's not so much a "commons" tragedy, as it is a "government" tragedy. The tragedy of commons, so-called, arises where property rights or ownership rights are non-existent or poorly defined. When the state claims to "own" the land, it's just this sort of situation.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I agree that it is more of a "government problem" than the "commons". Where I disagree is that government owned property is ill defined or non-existent. It is very well defined, as I showed in my previous reply. They have the full force of the state from preventing you from using "their property". The problem comes when the state gives over "its property" to one of its corporate pals or governmental bureaucracy.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Really interesting post in MR.

I'm urban in a Woody Allen manner. These issues are new to me.

10:33 PM  

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