"Of course, in and of itself, this supply of natural resources is largely useless. What is important from the perspective of economic activity and production is the subset of natural resources that human intelligence has identified as possessing properties capable of serving human needs and wants and over which human beings have gained the power actually to direct to the satisfaction of their...
Quotes on the Tragedy of the Commons
"Why are the cattle on a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn, and cropped so differently from the adjoining inclosures? No inequality, in respect of natural or acquired fertility, will account for the phenomenon. The difference depends on the difference of the way in which an increase of stock in the two cases affects the circumstances of the author of the increase."
"The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. 'Freedom is the recognition of necessity'--and it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons.
No technical solution can rescue us from the misery of overpopulation. Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all. At the moment, to avoid hard decisions many of us are tempted to propagandize for conscience and responsible parenthood. The temptation must be resisted, because an appeal to independently acting consciences selects for the disappearance of all conscience in the long run, and an increase in anxiety in the short."
"Although we see resource collapses around the world (tragedies of open access), we also see many success stories of long-lasting governance of shared resources (triumphs of the commons). Open access situations are not always tragedies. Many times common-property management regimes fail, as do private property and state-centric regulatory governance regimes. There are no panaceas."
"After all, nobody does implicitly believe in landlordism. We hear of estates being held under the king, that is, the State; or of their being kept in trust for the public benefit; and not that they are the inalienable possessions of their nominal owners. Moreover, we daily deny landlordism by our legislation. Is a canal, a railway, or a turnpike road to be made? we do not scruple to seize just as many acres as may be requisite; allowing the holders compensation for the capital invested. We do not wait for consent. An Act of Parliament supersedes the authority of title deeds, and serves proprietors with notices to quit, whether they will or not. Either this is equitable, or it is not. Either the public are free to resume as much of the earth's surface as they think fit, or the titles of the landowners must be considered absolute, and all national works must be postponed until lords and squires please to part with the requisite slices of their estates. If we decide that the claims of individual ownership must give way, then we imply that the right of the national at large to the soil is supreme—that the right of private possession only exists by general consent—that general consent being withdrawn it ceases—that general consent being withdrawn it ceases—or, in other words, that it is no right at all."
"Such a doctrine is consistent with the highest state of civilization; may be carried out without involving a community of goods; and need cause no very serious revolution in existing arrangements. The change required would simply be a change of landlords. Separate ownerships would merge into the joint-stock ownership of the public. Instead of being in the possession of individuals, the country would be he [sic] held by the great corporate body—Society. Instead of leasing his acres from an isolated proprietor, the farmer would lease them from the nation. Instead of paying his rent to the agent of Sir John or his Grace, he would pay it to an agent or deputy-agent of the community. Stewards would be public officials instead of private ones; and tenancy the only land tenure.
A state of things so ordered would be in perfect harmony with the moral law. Under it all men would be equally landlords; all men would be alike free to become tenants. A, B, C, and the rest, might compete for a vacant farm as now, and one of them might take that farm, without in any way violating the principles of pure equity. All would be equally free to bid; all would be equally free to refrain. And when the farm had been let to A, B, or C, all parties would have done that which they willed—the one in choosing to pay a given sum to his fellow-men for the use of certain lands—the others in refusing to pay that sum. Clearly, therefore, on such a system, the earth might be inclosed, occupied, and cultivated, in entire subordination to the law of equal freedom."
"The fact is, that without noticing the change, Mr. Spencer has dropped the idea of equal rights to land, and taken up in its stead a different idea -- that of joint rights to land. That there is a difference may be seen at once. For joint rights may be and often are unequal rights.
The matter is an important one, as it is the source of a great deal of popular confusion. Let me, therefore, explain it fully.
When men have equal rights to a thing, as for instance, to the rooms and appurtenances of a club of which they are members, each has a right to use all or any part of the thing that no other one of them is using. It is only where there is use or some indication of use by one of the others that even politeness dictates such a phrase as 'Allow me!' or 'If you please!'
But where men have joint rights to a thing, as for instance, to a sum of money held to their joint credit, then the consent of all the others is required for the use of the thing or of any part of it, by any one of them.
Now, the rights of men to the use of land are not joint rights: they are equal rights.
Were there only one man on earth, he would have a right to the use of the whole earth or any part of the earth.
When there is more than one man on earth, the right to the use of land that any one of them would have, were he alone, is not abrogated: it is only limited. The right of each to the use of land is still a direct, original right, which he holds of himself, and not by the gift or consent of the others; but it has become limited by the similar rights of the others, and is therefore an equal right. His right to use the earth still continues; but it has become, by reason of this limitation, not an absolute right to use any part of the earth, but (1) an absolute right to use any part of the earth as to which his use does not conflict with the equal rights of others (i.e., which no one else wants to use at the same time), and (2) a coequal right to the use of any part of the earth which he and others may want to use at the same time.
It is, thus, only where two or more men want to use the same land at the same time that equal rights to the use of land come in conflict, and the adjustment of society becomes necessary.
If we keep this idea of equal rights in mind -- the idea, namely, that the rights are the first thing, and the equality merely their limitation -- we shall have no difficulty. It is through forgetting this that Mr. Spencer has been led into confusion."
"This virgin profusion of nature has been steadily giving way before the greater and greater demands which an increasing population has made upon it. Poorer and poorer diggings have been worked, until now no diggings worth speaking of can be found, and gold mining requires much capital, large skill, and elaborate machinery, and involves great risks."
"Local, self-organized institutions are a significant asset in the institutional portfolio of humankind, and need to survive into the twenty-first century. Many indigenous institutions that developed to govern and manage local common-pool resources have proven themselves capable of enabling individuals to use these resources intensively over the long run. Some have survived centuries or even millennia without destroying the delicate resources base on which individuals depend for their livelihood."
"We need not think of 'government' or 'governance' as something provided by states alone. Families, voluntary associations, villages, and other forms of human association all involve some self-government. Rather than looking only to states, we need to give much more attention to building the kinds of basic institutional structures that enable people to find ways of relating constructively to one another and of resolving problems in their daily lives."
"For intellectual property, the activities at issue are creating and innovating, processes that in effect lead to the expansion of existing commons rather than their overuse."