Capitalisms Tragedy is too Common a Vision

by Irving

The "Tragedy of the Commons" theory is a short-sighted analysis of a long-term problem. Unfortunately, short-sightedness to a too common feature of our instant-gratification, we-want-utopia-now society.

A common failing of expecting solutions to be realized tomorrow, rather than the fact that lasting solutions are arrived at over a long period of time through hard work.

Wallace wrote:

Capitalism's most dangerous flaw is that it has no inherent method for dealing with the tragedy of the commons.

In truth, the realization of wealth and leisure provided by capitalism IS the inherent method of dealing with environmental problems.

In other words, we will always opt for an immediate benefit at the expense of less tangible values such as the availability of a resource to future generations.

The word ALWAYS as used above shows a disregard for the established concept of INVESTING which is practice by a considerable portion of the population, as well as institutions such as insurance companies and pension funds. In other words, the economic structure of Capitalism (i.e. markets...) is what allows people to avail themselves of disciplined investing approaches that realize a greater profit potential. In fact, the greater the adoption of capitalism, the greater the OPTING for delayed benefits for a greater return.

When you look around you, it is immediately obvious, if your eyes are open, that the tragedy of the commons is an accurate description of human nature; such disaparate human creations and institutions as Times Square, Usenet and Love Canal all represent tragedies of the commons.

Mismanagement is not a product of Capitalism, but of human failing, and it is INACCURATE to describe mismanagement as the primary aspect of human nature. There are plenty of examples of positive management to refute the claim that mismanagement is the ONLY course of human nature. It could be argued that government institutions, not governed by the true forces of Capitalism, have as their nature the mismanagement that creates environmental ruin.

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.

You must first win the argument that the "Tragedy" is related to Capitalism before you can criticize those who disagree with the "theory" or assertion. In any event, the above statement offers no value-added to the arguement. Show us your facts, and leave the editorializing for those who are too tired to do their own thinking.

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

To disagree is to have blinders on? Maybe it is to see the problem from a different perspective. This attack on Capitalism's supporters again offers no value other than a transition statement. Prove your point through specifics and leave this sort of thing out of the bandwidth.

To pick an example particularly important to me: I have been diving the coral reefs of Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, Florida for almost twenty years. In that period of time, the glorious coral heads have given way to spottier, smaller stretches of discolored coral, and fish that were common (such as grouper) are now never seen at all.

Ah, finally some specifics...

Its all capitalism: the dive operators, the shipping companies, the commercial fishermen. Free market capitalism dictates that they will ultimately destroy the Pennekamp reefs.

Dictates? It is as un-avoidable as the laws of physics? Please, dictates is an inaccurate term. Perhaps...capitalism could lead to... is a better choice. You see, what people do is determined by what they want and need, not by any economic theory. ANY economic theory can be used for poor results. You are not arguing that the countries of the soviet block were such stewards of the environment are you?

However, this threshold was crossed in human prehistory when it is likely that certain other species, such as the wooly mammoth, were hunted to extinction.

Exactly! It is not due to an economic implementation, but by the struggle to survive. In other words, the lack of wealth.

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.

Ergo...the creation of wealth better allows the delayed gratification that will preserve the environment. The 1st priority is self-preservation, then you can think about preserving the enviroment and investing for the future. I must put food on the table, before I can save a penny.

Human prehistory did not have Wilderness Areas, or National Parks. It takes wealth to allow leisure, and that is what parks are. This is what investment is. To invest in our environmental furture, requires a system (capitalism) that will allow the creation of wealth in excess of that required for mere survival. It is the efficient productivity that will provide the resources necessary to invest in preservation. Poor, non-capitalist societies do not have the ability to support National Parks and Wilderness areas in more than name only.

Capitalism is very bad at teaching us when to refrain from taking.

Untrue, it is the market that teaches us the discipline of investing.

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.

Again untrue. Self-discipline is a principle 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.

Such as? Suggestions? I disagree with your assertion. Instead, we must look TO capitalism as the best approach for achieving the efficiency necessary to free ourselves from the enslavement to instant gratification. The poor must feed themselves anyway they can, from anywhere they can, THAT is the destruction. Wealth allows reflection and the leisure to spend a portion of that wealth on preservation of the resource.

I must have the discipline to NOT eat all the corn, for I must save some for seed and plant it for next year. It is productive capitalism that allows more corn to be grown, than that which is needed for survival. Anything less, will not allow for excess seed to be preserved for future planting.

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.

On the contrary, it is history that has shown the inefficiency of government programs. Excess taxation removes from society the very wealth that is necessary to invest for the leisure we all wish to have. Utopia will not arrive tomorrow. To think past the first-step analysis, is to see that only the creation of wealth in excess of that to survive is what will allow preservation. Captilaism is the best hope for the environment...not in the short-sighted term...but in the long-term. Soviet, and 3rd world history has proven this point.

Wallace replies:

Capitalism is human behavior. Mismanagement is human behavior. In the Pennekamp example that I gave, the people taking too many fish, running too many dive trips, and driving oil tankers through the reefs are all capitalists. I suppose you can win any argument by defining the "ism" you are defending to include only the successful behavior, and assigning responsibility for the bad behavior somewhere else. Lets give it a try:

How about: "The Soviet Union didn't fail because of flaws inherent in socialism; it failed because of human error unrelated to socialism." Of course, people have made this argument, but you wouldn't buy it; you'd point out that Socialist bureaucrats spoiled everything by doing what they were supposed to. And I would respond that capitalism spoiled Pennekamp exactly the same way.