“The Tragedy of the Commons”

Thoughts on a Free Market Economy…
“The Tragedy of the Commons”
By Phyllis Hunsinger
September 1, 2018

“What is common to many is taken least care of, for all men have greater regard for what is their own than for what they possess in common with others.” Aristotle

Aristotle is credited with making this statement over 2000 years ago; however, it is as true now as it was then. Look no further than public parks and public wilderness areas. Communal property provides little incentive for individuals to take responsibility with their actions but rather use, and perhaps abuse or neglect, the property with no thought beyond the present.

Westward expansion in the United States was a period of open rangelands and no fencing. This practice resulted in the overgrazing in some areas, fighting over water, and failing to improve the land. Once the open range was divided into privately owned sections, the ranchers and farmers were much more motivated to improve and maintain the condition of their land.

The treatment of the American Indian is a classic demonstration of Aristotle’s point. Some of the American Indians are on government reservations, where they are allowed to live but the government owns the reservation. There are other areas in which Indians were placed on a reservation but own their property. The economy where the Indians are allowed to own property is thriving; however, on government owned reservations there is a high degree of poverty and alcohol and drug abuse; and, the living conditions are unimproved.

In some countries there are collective farms, where the output goes to the state. As one can imagine, the individual workers are not motivated to make wise conservation practices or implement efficient production techniques when the results of their labor are simply going to the state. The Soviet Union is one example of this practice. For a long time all the farms were collective farms. After the state allowed farms to have a private plot of ground on which they could use or sell the produce for their personal gain, it was reported by the Communist press that the productivity per acre on the private plots was approximately 33 times higher than that on the collectively farmed land. (“Economics, Private and Public Choice” Gwartney & Stroup)

The right to own property is protected by the U.S Constitution. It is very possible that the American founders had studied Aristotle, but one thing is certain: history shows that individuals protect property far better than any government entity.

https://www.free-dom.co.us, Phyllis Hunsinger © 2013 All Rights Reserved

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