Capitalism and the Tragedy of the Commons

Discussion in 'Environment' started by Bfgrn, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Bfgrn
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    Bfgrn Gold Member

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    The commons were traditionally defined as the elements of the environment - forests, atmosphere, rivers, fisheries or grazing land - that we all share. These are the tangible and intangible aspects of the environment that no-one owns but everybody enjoys.
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    Capitalism's most dangerous flaw is that it has no inherent method for dealing with the tragedy of the commons.

    Most of capitalism's cheerleaders simply never mention the tragedy of the commons, or deny that such a thing exists. The all wise invisible hand of the marketplace, some claim, is as competent to keep us out of future trouble as it is to grant us future benefit.

    But you must truly have blinders on to believe this, as the visible effects of human behavior prove it is not so.

    Free market capitalism teaches us how to better our lives, and those of other people, by reaching out and taking, and by doing so more efficiently and productively. Capitalism is very bad at teaching us when to refrain from taking. That part of ourselves which steps forward to suggest that "thou shalt not"--named the "superego" by Freud--simply does not form part of the free market system. Just as the ego and the id in the Freudian paradigm must refer to something outside themselves for the restraint that so often means survival, humans must look outside the capitalist system for the self-restraint that will avoid the destruction of every commons used by us. Our history also illustrates that the destruction of the commons will not be stopped by shame, moral admonitions, or cultural mores anywhere near so effectively as it will be by the will of the people expressed as a protective mandate; in other words, by government.

    Hayek, the philosopher of free markets, admits this when he says, in discussing the importance of government to a free market system:

    To prohibit the use of certain poisonous substances or to require special precautions in their use, to limit working hours or to require certain sanitary arrangements, is fully compatible with the preservation of competition.

    In fact, Hayek is dealing directly with the tragedy of the commons when he says a page later that free market pricing fails when "the damage caused to others by certain uses of property cannot be effectively charged to the owner of that property." He continues:

    Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the danger for an agreed compensation. In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism.

    Hayek was not a libertarian; he believed in striking the right balance between government and markets. Capitalism may contribute a large part of human welfare and progress, but it cannot do so without some external constraints.

    Capitalism and the Tragedy of the Commons
     
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  2. Old Rocks
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    Old Rocks Diamond Member

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    We are seeing a prime example of this in the rapid decline of the fish stocks, worldwide.
     
  3. Bfgrn
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    Bfgrn Gold Member

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    Not only a decline is stock and species Old Rocks, but an increase of contaminated fish that are unsafe to eat.

    In 19 states it is now unsafe to eat any freshwater fish in the state because of mercury contamination. In 48 states, at least some of the fish are unsafe to eat. In fact, the only two states where all of the fish are still safe to eat are Alaska and Wyoming, where Republican-controlled legislatures have refused to appropriate the money to test the fish.
    September 10, 2005
     
  4. westwall
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    westwall USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Socialism is sooooo much better:cuckoo:

    Russia - Environmental Problems

    And this is just one study...there are hundreds more that all show just how bad socialism was for the environments of the Warsaw Pact nations. You guys are amazing... At least in a capatalist society the corporations can be compelled to do the right thing, try that in a country where they imprison or shoot you for speaking out. Fools.
     
  5. Oddball
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    Oddball BANNED Supporting Member

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    "The commons" isn't a construct of capitalism, it's one of the chief traits of collectivism.

    Notice there's no "tragedy of private property".
     
  6. Bfgrn
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    Bfgrn Gold Member

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    Socialism? The Soviet Union was a communist country. The irony...the communists in Russia held the EXACT same beliefs as the right in America today..."ecocide" Because they are BOTH conservatives.

    With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow and the Russian Federation escaped direct responsibility for some of the world's worst environmental devastation because many of the Soviet disaster sites were now in other countries. Since then, however, the gravity and complexity of threats to Russia's own environment have become clear. During the first years of transition and reform, Russia's response to those conditions was sporadic and often ineffectual.

    Only in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a linkage identified between the increasingly poor state of human health and the destruction of ecosystems in Russia. When that linkage was established, a new word was coined to sum up the environmental record of the Soviet era--"ecocide."

    The Difference Between Socialism and Communism

    Socialism is liberal. More people (preferably everyone) have some say in how the economy works. Democracy is liberal. More people (preferably everyone) have some say in how the government works. "Democracy," said Marx, "is the road to socialism." He was wrong about how economics and politics interact, but he did see their similar underpinnings.

    Communism is conservative. Fewer and fewer people (preferably just the Party Secretary) have any say in how the economy works. Republicans are conservative. Fewer and fewer people (preferably just people controlling the Party figurehead) have any say in how the government works. The conservatives in the US are in the same position as the communists in the 30s, and for the same reason: Their revolutions failed spectacularly but they refuse to admit what went wrong.

    A common mistake is to confuse Socialism, the economic system, with Communism, the political system. Communists are "socialist" in the same way that Republicans are "compassionate conservatives". That is, they give lip service to ideals they have no intention of practicing.

    Communism, or "scientific socialism", has very little to do with Marx. Communism was originally envisioned by Marx and Engels as the last stages of their socialist revolution. "The meaning of the word communism shifted after 1917, when Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik Party seized power in Russia. The Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist Party and installed a repressive, single-party regime devoted to the implementation of socialist policies." (quote from Encarta.). Those socialist policies were never implemented.

    Whereas Marx saw industrialized workers rising up to take over control of their means of production, the exact opposite happened. Most countries that have gone Communist have been agrarian underdeveloped nations. The prime example is the Soviet Union. The best thing to be said about the October Revolution in 1917 is that the new government was better than the Tsars. The worst thing is that they trusted the wrong people, notably Lenin, to lead this upheaval. The Soviet Union officially abandoned socialism in 1921 when Lenin instituted the New Economic Policy allowing for taxation, local trade, some state capitalism... and extreme profiteering. Later that year, he purged 259,000 from the party membership and therefore purged them from voting (shades of the US election of 2000!) and fewer and fewer people were involved in making decisions.

    Marxism became Marxist-Leninism which became Stalinism. The Wikipedia entry for Stalinism: "The term Stalinism was used by anti-Soviet Marxists, particularly Trotskyists, to distinguish the policies of the Soviet Union from those they regard as more true to Marxism. Trotskyists argue that the Stalinist USSR was not socialist, but a bureaucratized degenerated workers state that is, a state in which exploitation is controlled by a ruling caste which, while it did not own the means of production and was not a social class in its own right, accrued benefits and privileges at the expense of the working class."

    Communists defending Stalin were driven by Cognitive Dissonance. "The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, motivates the person to reduce the dissonance and leads to avoidance of information likely to increase the dissonance." They didn't want to hear any criticism, and would go out of their way to deny facts. The abrupt betrayal of ideals by Lenin and Marx left many socialists clinging to the Soviet Union even though they knew Stalin was a disaster. They called themselves Communist even though they espoused none of Stalin's viewpoints and very few of Lenin's revisionism. In Russia, Lenin remains a Hero of the Revolution. Despite having screwed things up in the first place, Stalin is revered by Communists for toppling the Third Reich.

    Conservatives defending George W. Bush are in the same situation as Communists defending Stalin. Stalin was never a "socialist" and Bush was never a "compassionate conservative", but the conservatives just don't want to hear any criticism and will go out of their way to deny facts. The current construction of the conservative movement in the US descends through the anti-Communists during and after WWII, the George Wallace "America First" blue-collar workers, the racists that Wallace picked up that switched parties during Nixon's Southern Strategy, and the nascent libertarian movement championed by Barry Goldwater. Ronald Reagan's acceptance speech for Goldwater during the 1964 Republican National Convention laid out the insistence of a balanced budget: "There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States." And yet, like Lenin revising Marx, when Reagan was governor of California he didn't practice fiscal restraint. And when he was elected president in 1980 he did the exact opposite of his campaign promise and triple the deficit and there has been "no fiscal and economic stability" since his flip-flop. Fiscal restraint was never implemented.

    Abrupt betrayal of ideals of Reagan when he got into power left many conservatives clinging to the Republican party even though they espoused none of Reagan's new policies. Despite screwing things up in the first place, Reagan remains a Hero of the Revolution and is revered by conservatives for toppling the Soviet Union.

    Reagan isn't Lenin and Bush isn't Stalin, but the parallels are notable. George W. Bush, like Stalin, inherits a failed revolution that relies on a cult-like worship of his predecessors and a complete denial of the facts.

    Let me repeat Wikipedia's quote. "Stalinism is a state in which exploitation is controlled by a ruling caste.... at the expense of the working class." This is the exact opposite of what Marx and Engels were trying to accomplish, and is precisely what George W. Bush and the Republicans are working so hard for.
     
  7. Bfgrn
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    Bfgrn Gold Member

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    The 'commons' is a construct of God. It's protection would best fit in the intent of the Declaration of Independence. Just like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Are you really THAT stupid Jethro? Even Hayek understood that property boundaries do not isolate, abate or contain poisons generated ON that private property. If you lived down stream from me, and I pumped PCBs into the river, it would create a "tragedy of private property"...YOURS!

    I thought you said you've read Hayek Jethro? I guess you only glean what fits your right wing pea brain coalition doctrine...

    The successful use of competition as the principle of social organization precludes certain types of coercive interference with economic life, but it admits of others which sometimes may very considerably assist its work and even requires certain kinds of government action. But there is good reason why the negative requirements, the points where coercion must not be used, have been particularly stressed. It is necessary in the first instance that the parties in the market should be free to sell and buy at any price at which they can find a partner to the transaction and that anybody should be free to produce, sell, and buy anything that may be produced or sold at all. And it is essential that the entry into the different trades should be open to all on equal terms and that the law should not tolerate any attempts by individuals or groups to restrict this entry by open or concealed force. Any attempt to control prices or quantities of particular commodities deprives competition of its power of bringing about an effective co-ordination of individual efforts, because price changes then cease to register all the relevant changes in circumstances and no longer provide a reliable guide for the individual's actions.

    This is not necessarily true, however, of measures merely restricting the allowed methods of production, so long as these restrictions affect all potential producers equally and are not used as an indirect way of controlling prices and quantities. Though all such controls of the methods of production impose extra costs (i.e., make it necessary to use more resources to produce a given output), they may be well worth while. To prohibit the use of certain poisonous substances or to require special precautions in their use, to limit working hours or to require certain sanitary arrangements, is fully compatible with the preservation of competition. The only question here is whether in the particular instance the advantages gained are greater than the social costs which they impose. Nor is the preservation of competition incompatible with an extensive system of social services -- so long as the organization of these services is not designed in such a way as to make competition ineffective over wide fields.

    It is regrettable, though not difficult to explain, that in the past much less attention has been given to the positive requirements of a successful working of the competitive system than to these negative points. The functioning of a competition not only requires adequate organization of certain institutions like money, markets, and channels of information -- some of which can never be adequately provided by private enterprise -- but it depends, above all, on the existence of an appropriate legal system, a legal system designed both to preserve competition and to make it operate as beneficially as possible. It is by no means sufficient that the law should recognize the principle of private property and freedom of contract; much depends on the precise definition of the right of property as applied to different things. The systematic study of the forms of legal institutions which will make the competitive system work efficiently has been sadly neglected; and strong arguments can be advanced that serious shortcomings here, particularly with regard to the law of corporations and of patents, not only have made competition work much less effectively than it might have done but have even led to the destruction of competition in many spheres.

    There are, finally, undoubted fields where no legal arrangements can create the main condition on which the usefulness of the system of competition and private property depends: namely, that the owner benefits from all the useful services rendered by his property and suffers for all the damages caused to others by its use. Where, for example, it is impracticable to make the enjoyment of certain services dependent on the payment of a price, competition will not produce the services; and the price system becomes similarly ineffective when the damage caused to others by certain uses of property cannot be effectively charged to the owner of that property. In all these instances there is a divergence between the items which enter into private calculation and those which affect social welfare; and, whenever this divergence becomes important, some method other than competition may have to be found to supply the services in question. Thus neither the provision of signposts on the roads nor, in most circumstances, that of the roads themselves can be paid for by every individual user. Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism. But the fact that we have to resort to the substitution of direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function.


    The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  8. westwall
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    westwall USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    You need to take a poli sci class....or maybe a dozen or so. The Soviet Union was a Socialist Republic, it even said so in its name. A communist society has never existed in the history of the world save in very small communes...hence their name. No, The Soviet Union was a collectivist society as are all socialist countries. Every socialist country that has ever been has failed or is very close to doing so.

    Socialism can not and will not work because eventually the people who produce the wealth that is then taken from them to give to the lazy bastards who choose not to work (please note I am talking about the ones who choose not to work, not the poor folks who can't...we as humans have a social contract to take care of them...that's what makes us human after all) decide "what the hell if those pricks aren't going to work then neither are we" and the country fails at that point.

    And do you really think that the Bolshevik Revolution was better for the country than the Tsarist regime? I think 105 million dead people (from Stalins various pogroms) over a period of 30 years would not share your perspective.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  9. gslack
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    gslack Senior Member

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    LOL, you think you can baffle us all with a mound of bullshit now? HAHHAAHHAA!

    Well lets see if we can clear up some of it....

    Your OP article.... Bullshit... Operates under a philosophical premise that is no more a reflection of reality than you are an honest and sincere poster.. We all know you are dishonest to say the least...

    your articcle on socialism versus capitalism..... More bullshit.... Gives some kind of nonsensical twisted version a difference between the two fundamentally... THe real truth is socialism is a bankers government.. it is elitism at its most insidious and relies on bringing everyone else down to the same levels rather than lifting anyone else up.. Its about as "liberal" (as in classical liberal) as rush limbaugh...
     
  10. Quantum Windbag
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    Quantum Windbag Gold Member

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    Amazing.

    This subject came up a couple of days ago in a libertarian magazine I read, and was soundly proved wrong by a scientific study.

    The Talking Cure for the Tragedy of the Commons - Reason Magazine

    It seems that all that is required to remove this tragedy is allowing people to communicate, and thus allowing them to cooperate for mutual benefit. I believe that at some point someone even got a Nobel prize for showing that mutual cooperation is the best method in game theory, yet people still pop off with this nonsense every once in a while, despite the fact that thousands of years of history proves them wrong.

    Next time you post some bullshit you should make sure none of the people you are trying to fool are actually informed and intelligent.
     
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