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Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243–1248. 
Added by: Dominique Meeùs (2016-12-10 10:32:12)   
Resource type: Journal Article
Languages: English
DOI: 10.1126/science.162.3859.1243
BibTeX citation key: Hardin1968
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Categories: Économie, Environnement
Creators: Hardin
Collection: Science
Views: 7/1469
Views index: 75%
Popularity index: 18.75%
Attachments   URLs   http://science.sci ... 162/3859/1243.full
p.1243   My thesis is that the “population problem,” as conventionally conceived, [has no technical solution]. […] It is fair to say that most people who anguish over the population problem are trying to find a way to avoid the evils of overpopulation without relinquishing any of the privileges they now enjoy. They think that farming the seas or developing new strains of wheat will solve the problem — technologically. I try to show here that the solution they seek cannot be found. The population problem cannot be solved in a technical way […].   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   population problem
p.1244, Section What Shall We Maximize?   We can make little progress in working toward optimum population size until we explicitly exorcize the spirit of Adam Smith in the field of practical demography. In economic affairs, The Wealth of Nations (1776) popularized the “invisible hand,” the idea that an individual who “intends only his own gain,” is, as it were, “led by an invisible hand to promote … the public interest”. Adam Smith did not assert that this was invariably true, and perhaps neither did any of his followers. But he contributed to a dominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered with positive action based on rational analysis, namely, the tendency to assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, be the best decisions for an entire society. If this assumption is correct it justifies the continuance of our present policy of laissez-faire in reproduction. If it is correct we can assume that men will control their individual fecundity so as to produce the optimum population. If the assumption is not correct, we need to reexamine our individual freedoms to see which ones are defensible.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   Adam Smith invisible hand population problem
À un certain niveau de civilisation, les gens cessent de faire un maximum d’enfants. Certains pensent peut-être à la population mondiale, mais c’est surtout qu’on ne doit pas faire dix enfants pour en voir cinq survivre et que ces cinq ne sont plus nécessaires comme bras en plus pour la cellule familiale et comme soutien aux parents dans leurs vieux jours. Donc un mécanisme smithien est effectivement en jeu et freine la croissance de la population mondiale. On peut penser qu’à un certain niveau de généralisation de la civilisation, la population mondiale se stabiliserait ou pourrait même légèrement décroître. Bien sûr, il faudra d’abord attendre longtemps que les pauvres soient moins pauvres.

Là où Hardin veut en arriver dans la dernière phrase, c’est qu’il est justifié de limiter la liberté des pauvres de se reproduire comme des lapins.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-12-10 15:40:10)
p.1244, Section Tragedy of Freedom in a Commons   The rebuttal to the invisible hand in population control is to be found in a scenario first sketched in a little-known pamphlet (Lloyd, 1833) in 1833 by a mathematical amateur named William Forster Lloyd (1794-1852). We may well call it “the tragedy of the commons,” […]

The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. 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. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly 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.

1) 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.

2) 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; 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.

Lloyd, W. F. (1833). two lectures on the checks to population. Oxford et New York: Oxford University Press.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   commons invisible hand population control tragedy of the commons William Forster Lloyd
Ainsi l’expression tragedy of the commons est de Hardin, mais son contenu est de Lloyd. L’exemple du bon pasteur plus préoccupé de rendement maximum que de moutons est de Lloyd, mais Hardin le reformule. « As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. » Hardin considère comme un axiome aussi indiscutable que les Idées platoniciennes la conception libérale de l’homme acteur économique dans une économie de marché libre. Le pasteur du Moyen Âge pense (selon Lloyd et Hardin) comme l'homo economicus de l’économie bourgeoise. En fait Hardin se coule entièrement dans la pensée économique du début 19e de Lloyd.

Lloyd et Hardin argumentent qu’un communisme (des commons) libéral (chacun ne pense qu’à maximiser son profit) conduit à une impasse. Le problème ne se pose pas pour la propriété privée — qui, comme chacun sait, conduit toujours à l’optimisation du bien public —, mais certains éléments naturels, comme l’air, restent des commons, où le problème se pose. Comme solution, Hardin propose le libéralisme (dans la spère de la propriété privée) autoritariste (pour les commons). Au début du 19e, Lloyd ne pensait sans doute pas à l’environnement, mais aux restes des commons du Moyen Âge. Est-ce que la critique par Lloyd des commons avait pour but de justifier leur suppression ?

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-12-10 15:41:40)
p.1244   Some would say that this [ce qui précède immédiatement] is a platitude. Would that it were! In a sense, it was learned thousands of years ago, but natural selection favors the forces of psychological denial [il se cite lui-même à l'appui]. The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   dénégation évolutionnisme spéculatif
Il fait de l’évolutionnisme spéculatif à bon marché : la capacité de nier la réalité confère un avantage sélectif individuel, donc cela a été sélectionné, donc la tendance à nier la réalité est inscrite dans notre ADN. Ainsi lorsque l’opinion générale trouve Hardin déraisonnable, c’est cependant toujours Hardin qui a raison : si on n’est pas d’accord avec lui, c’est dû à la tendance à nier la réalité.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-12-10 15:42:32)
p.1246, Section Freedom To Breed Is Intolerable  

The tragedy of the commons is involved in population problems in another way. In a world governed solely by the principle of “dog eat dog” — if indeed there ever was such a world — how many children a family had would not be a matter of public concern. Parents who bred too exuberantly would leave fewer descendants, not more, because they would be unable to care adequately for their children. David Lack and others have found that such a negative feedback demonstrably controls the fecundity of birds. But men are not birds, and have not acted like them for millenniums, at least.

If each human family were dependent only on its own resources; if the children of improvident parents starved to death; if, thus, overbreeding brought its own “punishment” to the germ line — then there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families. But our society is deeply committed to the welfare state, and hence is confronted with another aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

In a welfare state, how shall we deal with the family, the religion, the race, or the class (or indeed any distinguishable and cohesive group) that adopts overbreeding as a policy to secure its own aggrandizement? To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   population problem tragedy of the commons
Les gens qui feraient trop d’enfants pourraient moins bien s’en occuper; ils auraient donc en définitive moins de descendants; cela constituerait une régulation naturelle de la population. Malheureusement, on a institué la sécurité sociale, qui permet aux pauvres de procréer comme des lapins sans que leurs enfants ne meurent automatiquement de faim.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-12-10 15:43:01)
p.1246, Section Conscience Is Self-Eliminating   It is a mistake to think that we can control the breeding of mankind in the long run by an appeal to conscience. […]

People vary. Confronted with appeals to limit breeding, some people will undoubtedly respond to the plea more than others. Those who have more children will produce a larger fraction of the next generation than those with more susceptible consciences. The difference will be accentuated, generation by generation.


The argument assumes that conscience or the desire for children (no matter which) is hereditary — but hereditary only in the most general formal sense. The result will be the same whether the attitude is transmitted through germ cells, or exosomatically, to use A. J. Lotka's term. (If one denies the latter possibility as well as the former, then what's the point of education?) The argument has here been stated in the context of the population problem, but it applies equally well to any instance in which society appeals to an individual exploiting a commons to restrain himself for the general good--by means of his conscience. To make such an appeal is to set up a selective system that works toward the elimination of conscience from the race.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Bref, ceux qui ne sont pas sensibles aux appels à la conscience de la surpopulation font plus d’enfants, qui héritent (biologiquement ou culturellement) de l’insensibilité de conscience, et font donc eux-mêmes plus d’enfants. Ainsi l’appel à la conscience crée une pression de sélection en défaveur de la conscience.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-12-10 15:43:40)
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