The Amazon & the tragedy of the government-owned commons

Capitalism, the destructive exploitation of the Amazon and the tragedy of the government-owned commons

Searching for solutions to problems is admirable, but the effectivenss of such efforts will be limited if they are based on a faulty or incomplete understanding of the problem.  


Many of those who have some familiarity with the "tragedy of the commons" paradgim outlined by Garret Hardin can identify a free-for-all when they see one, but fail to understand the perverse role that governments often play in perpetuating such situations.  While there may be a productive role that government can play in ameliorating destructive exploitation, government involvement can be counterproductive as well.

Further, while modern markets and technological advances certainly increase the pressures on "common", open-access resources, trying to change "capitalism" or "global trade" systems may be much less prtoductive than addressing the institutional failure at the location of the particular resource.

These thoughts come to mind in connection with ongoing discussions regarding the application of the "tragedy of the commons" paradigm to fisheries and to climate change.

I think the discussion has some tangential bearing on how many in the climate change debate talk past one another: some see a commons the requires government regulation, while others have a reflexive reaction against government involvement.

To further illustrate, I take the liberty of copying below portions of a discussion with Myanna  Lahsen at Roger Pielke, Jr.`s Prometheus blog in 2007



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