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PHI2394 (55)
Jon Miller (39)

Summary for Hardin.docx

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University of Ottawa
Jon Miller

At the beginning of his essay Hardin draws attention to problems that cannot be solved by technical means as distinct from those with solutions that require a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality Hardin contends that this class of problems includes many of those raised by human population growth and the use of the Earths natural resources The problem of population growth Hardin asserts is endemic to societys inextricable ties to the welfare state14 Hardin says that a world in which individuals rely on themselves and not on the relationship of society and man how many children a family would have would not be a public concern Parents who breed excessively would leave fewer descendants because they would be unable to provide for each child adequately Such negative feedback is found in the animal kingdom14 Hardin says that if the children of improvident parents starved to death if overbreeding was its own punishmentthen there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families14 For Hardin it is the welfare state that allows the tragedy of the commons where the state provides for children and supports overbreeding as a fundamental human right malthusian catastrophe is inevitable Hardin laments this interpretation of The Universal Declaration of Human RightsThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society Article 1615 It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself and cannot be made by anyone elseU Thant Statement on Population by UN SecretaryGeneral16This parental reproductive freedom was endorsed by the 1968 UN Proclamation of Tehran Hardin advocates repudiation of this element of the Proclamation14To make the case for no technical solutions Hardin notes the limits placed on the availability of energy and material resources on Earth and also the consequences of these limits for quality of life To maximize population one needs to minimize resources spent on anything other than simple survival and vice versa Consequently he concludes that there is no foreseeable technical solution to increasing both human populations and their standard of living on a finite planetFrom this point Hardin switches to nontechnical or resource management solutions to population and resource problems As a means of illustrating these he introduces a hypothetical example of a pasture shared by local herders which he calls a commons Assuming that the herders only wish is yield maximization they will increase their herd size whenever possible The marginal utility of each additional animal has both a positive and negative componentPositive the herder receives all of the proceeds from each additional animalNegative the pasture is slightly degraded by each additional animalCrucially division of these costs and benefits is unequal the individual herder gains all of the advantage but the disadvantage is shared among all herders using the pasture Assuming that the negative impact on the herders other animals is less than the income of a new one the rational course of action for each individual herder will always be herd expansion Since all
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