Tragedy of the commons

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Tragedy of the commons

Postby Jasper » Mon May 11, 2009 6:56 am

I'd like to give some resistance to the libertarian-ness of the internet tragedy of the commons. Actually, i thought all this before i read it, but didn't have such a nice text to say it all with :). Freedom and all is nice, but you have to be able to afford it. Basically, optimize weighedly freedom and quality of life. Sure, you can't trust government blindly, so then don't trust it blindly.. (if you use reddit: a reddit thread exists.)
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby duncan » Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:30 pm

Jasper wrote:I'd like to give some resistance to the libertarian-ness of the internet tragedy of the commons.


Unless I misunderstand you, I'd like to "give some resistance" to your misunderstanding of the term "libertarian." There are a lot of kinds of libertarian, including some faux libertarians like "anarcho-syndicalists". But it is very strange to criticize libertarians on the grounds that they favor some sort of "tragedy of the commons." Most serious right-libertarians would like to see all property private. That might cause some problems, but "the tragedy of the commons" would not, by definition, be one of those problems.

On the other hand the article you link to could be accurately described as totalitarian. It assumes that all of the basic problems humans face could be solved by a state powerful enough to mandate exactly the solutions you think best. If only people could be made to be good- this is just another iteration of that worn-out idea.

I have to say that I find it pretty funny that hardcore collectivists have started to incorporate elements of public choice theory into their arguments (I count two public choice ideas subverted to the point of nonsense here.) I mean- we knew they were wrong all along, but it's interesting to see them admit it without realizing it.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Oiacoaic » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:54 pm

On the other hand the article you link to could be accurately described as totalitarian. It assumes that all of the basic problems humans face could be solved by a state powerful enough to mandate exactly the solutions you think best. If only people could be made to be good- this is just another iteration of that worn-out idea.


I think it's funny that those who are the most extreme anti-collectivists assume that a society's values can only be expressed through government. As far as I know the government doesn't tell me or force me to say 'please' and 'thank you' but I do so constantly and so do most other people in my culture. Or is it values are a matter of individual choice, derived from pure reason and your cultural environment has no bearing? Sorry, I can't keep track.

But yes when say that that a society needs to change its values we can assume they mean 'the government has to do it' because the government rigorously defines -and doesn't just respond to- all of our common social norms in all cases. It certainly explains why right-libertarians inevitably backpedal on the whole 'government non-intervention' thing when it comes to a social cause close to their heart, like gender for example.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Wed Jul 01, 2009 4:08 pm

Oiacoaic wrote:It certainly explains why right-libertarians inevitably backpedal on the whole 'government non-intervention' thing when it comes to a social cause close to their heart, like gender for example.


True right-libertarians don't backpedal on social causes. All you are seeing is the fact that there are very few true libertarians (of any stripe, whether left or right). I have a colleague at work who has described himself as a left-libertarian who also thinks it's okay for the government to ban transfats. :roll: Most "right-libertarians" actually fall somewhere on the spectrum from "conservatives" to true "libertarians." This is also not unique to right-libertarians or left-libertarians, however, but also applies to "conservatives," "liberals," "progressives," etc. All political tags are approximate to one degree or another. While I think ideas can be tagged with appropriate labels ("libertarian" or "socialist" or "fascist," for instance), very few people are absolutists with respect to any one particular political ideology.

Personally, I would describe myself as somewhere between a conservative and a right-libertarian. For instance, in the last election, I thought Ron Paul had a lot of interesting ideas, but I didn't like everything he espoused (notably a foreign policy that is completely isolationist). While I think Paul actually comes pretty close to the ideal right-libertarian, I'm not sure I'm in that camp myself. That said, I think we could easily do away for the Federal Reserve and go back on the gold standard.
Cheers, Dave
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Jasper » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:33 am

I don't think that article promotes totalitarianism. It just points out that if you leave everything except the usual, like theft, harm to other people to personal choice, things can go (horribly) wrong. Personal freedoms are a good, but if their consequences mean death, something has to be done. And of course, (as the article also points out) it has happened before, property rights, fishing quotas, and regulation of pollutors all diminish the freedom of the organizations and thus person behind them. Some of these happened after the article. (Water in rivers in Europe are significantly cleaner then they were in the past.) Largely these restrictions are now called normal, and considered logical.

You might ask who is going to make the restrictions, and the linked article only has a short part about it. Probably, because that is not what it wanted to make a point about. However, fact is, that there are already systems of governance, and they have already made some decisions like these. Of course some are better then others, also, frankly, all governments needs a constant influx of well grounded people with good intentions, and people that vote for them to maintain their sanity.

Even if most people decide not to have too many kids, those that do have many kids will dominate society eventually. Even if there is genetic manipulation to prevent these people from existing, if people have the choice not to, again, those people will dominate society eventually if they are allowed that choice. (Of course, they would have to avoid having the genetic manipulation for enough generations.) This is a long term problem, though.(Still making procreation a human right, denies it.)
duncan wrote:I have to say that I find it pretty funny that hardcore collectivists have started to incorporate elements of public choice theory into their arguments
Always check the date ;) 13 December 1968, i myself am not a hardcore collectivist. Frankly i think calling it 'hardcore collectivist' you are just dodging the argument. Nor is this the idea that we can 'optimize' human life on earth, it is about avoiding ruin.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:11 pm

Jasper wrote:...all governments needs a constant influx of well grounded people with good intentions...


God save us from the people with "good intentions." :roll: Personally, I'd rather elect people who have a clue and are committed to fostering individual liberty. Collectivism and statism do not work (and have in fact killed millions of people). Only liberty and capitalism, expressed as the free trade among individuals, have demonstrated consistent results of raising the standards of living.

Even if most people decide not to have too many kids, those that do have many kids will dominate society eventually. Even if there is genetic manipulation to prevent these people from existing, if people have the choice not to, again, those people will dominate society eventually if they are allowed that choice. (Of course, they would have to avoid having the genetic manipulation for enough generations.) This is a long term problem, though.(Still making procreation a human right, denies it.)


I have five kids; I'm doing my part to try to dominate society. :D
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Jasper » Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:36 pm

findinglisp wrote:Only liberty and capitalism, expressed as the free trade among individuals, have demonstrated consistent results of raising the standards of living.
Dogmatic any? There doesn't seem to be communicated from anything i typed nor from the article here.

Neither me nor the article have implied planned economy or such is a good idea. I am all for capitalism, when it works. Are you claiming that regulation of pollution, fishing or advertising on the streets, isn't restriction of liberty for parties involved. Or are you claiming that overfishing wouldn't happen, pollution would decrease itself and advertising on the streets would decrease itself, even without regulation?

And is there even free trading between individuals? It would seem that corporations dominate western economies. Einstein predicted it(guess though others where before him..), and he does seem positive about socialism. (Got that link from here the video isn't bad either, haven't read the first link there.)
findinglisp wrote:god save us from the people with "good intentions." :roll:
Yeah you always hear from the bad ones. I also said well grounded, and deluded people with good intentions get supported by deluded populace. You think it is better for people not to try improve the situation? You dismiss those people?
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:15 pm

Jasper wrote:
findinglisp wrote:Only liberty and capitalism, expressed as the free trade among individuals, have demonstrated consistent results of raising the standards of living.
Dogmatic any? There doesn't seem to be communicated from anything i typed nor from the article here.


Sorry, I just stating a fact, not suggesting that you had said otherwise. I was mostly commenting on the discussion/argument the other two of you were having, not necessarily wanting to wade-in myself, but it seems I have anyway. If you're a capitalist, then we're in violent agreement. Let's have a beer! 8-) BTW, I don't think it's dogmatic to look at history and learn from the demonstrated results over the long run. I simply claim that, like the old saw, capitalism and representative democracy are the worst forms of social organization, except for all the others.

Neither me nor the article have implied planned economy or such is a good idea. I am all for capitalism, when it works. Are you claiming that regulation of pollution, fishing or advertising on the streets, isn't restriction of liberty for parties involved. Or are you claiming that overfishing wouldn't happen, pollution would decrease itself and advertising on the streets would decrease itself, even without regulation?


Umm... when doesn't capitalism work? In fact, I'd ask, what society doesn't run on capitalism at its heart? Every "socialist" or "communist" country, for instance, has to either participate in a capitalist system (e.g. Sweden) or one springs up naturally (e.g. Soviet black markets). In fact, I would defy anybody to try to enact a perfect, capitalism-free system. I don't think it's possible.

No, I'm not suggesting that regulation of pollution, fishing, or advertising on the streets isn't a restriction of liberty; it absolutely is. Some regulations are reasonable, but we should be very careful to avoid them if at all possible. The best government is one that governs least. I would support reasonable fishing permits and pollution controls. In general, I don't support restrictions on street advertising on one's own property.

And is there even free trading between individuals? It would seem that corporations dominate western economies.


Sure, there is free trading between individuals. Corporations are simply collections of individuals who come together to run a (generally larger) business. The workers (and even "management" is a "worker") are freely trading their time and energy to the corporation. The shareholders of the corporation are providing them with salaries in return. Somebody at the corporation decides to produce a product and prices it accordingly. Other corporations or individuals then buy the product. In the case of a small business or a sole proprietorship, all the same activities happen, but they are simply done by a smaller set of people (possibly 1 person).

I don't buy the "corporations are evil" thing spouted by many people (not necessarily you). Corporations can be bad in the same way that individuals can be bad. Corporations by themselves are simply organizational and legal structures for how groups of people can work together; they are inert by themselves. They reflect the attitudes of the people that populate them. Can organizations do bad things? Yup, sure. Can individuals do bad things? Yup, sure. Neither of those facts suggests that individuals involved with a corporation are not trading freely as individuals at all levels.

Einstein predicted it(guess though others where before him..), and he does seem positive about socialism. (Got that link from here the video isn't bad either, haven't read the first link there.)


With all due respect to Einstein, he was wrong about socialism. Physics: yea, he pretty much had that down. Social organization: fail. Even in physics, Einstein once thought the universe must be static and eternal and he rejected the notion of an expanding universe, even which his general theory of relativity predicted as much. He built in his "cosmological constant" to counterbalance the equations to make them say the universe was static. Only after Hubble's observational data showed red-shift in all the various galaxies, proving that things were rushing away from each other, did he relent. He later said it was the biggest mistake of his life. In short, he was wrong. And he was wrong about socialism. That doesn't take anything away from him or his achievements; he was a great physicist. I would have liked to have had a beer with him and talk it all through. It just says that nobody has a lock on being right, and observational data trumps theory every time.

findinglisp wrote:god save us from the people with "good intentions." :roll:
Yeah you always hear from the bad ones. I also said well grounded, and deluded people with good intentions get supported by deluded populace. You think it is better for people not to try improve the situation? You dismiss those people?


No, but there are people with good intentions that do stupid things and people with good intentions that do good things. The intentions are never the issue. The results are. I'd even take somebody with bad intentions that gets the right result. No, that's not some sort of "ends justify the means" thing. It just says that I really don't care what your intentions are, because that's too difficult to judge and doesn't really matter in the end, anyway. The only thing lasting are the results.

To go on record, I believe that human beings are basically all flawed. We generally crave power, money, and authority over other people. I believe that the best social structures are those that deny people power, money, and authority by force of government and force them to trade openly for those things. That is, I have no problems with a billionaire who is very powerful who everybody loves and wants to work for. If he produces a good product that I like, I'll gladly give him my money. I have big problems with a politician who gains power and then uses the force of law to extort money (aka "taxes") or puts restrictions on my liberty (e.g. overly restricting my individual and property rights). I call the billionaire a "success." I call the politician a "tyrant."
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Paul » Sat Jul 11, 2009 1:17 am

Jasper wrote:Are you claiming that regulation of pollution, fishing or advertising on the streets, isn't restriction of liberty for parties involved. Or are you claiming that overfishing wouldn't happen, pollution would decrease itself and advertising on the streets would decrease itself, even without regulation?


Under what conditions? In a perfect "free market" world, overfishing wouldn't happen and pollution would decrease, and perhaps even "advertising on the streets" (that's a problem??) would decrease, because those would be property violations (the fish belong to someone; the polluted land/water/whatever belongs to someone, the street belongs to someone...the owner has nothing to complain about if he kills his own fish, or pollutes his own water, or advertises/sells advertising space on his own streets...).

Jasper wrote:And is there even free trading between individuals?


To the extent that governments don't get in the way to prevent it, of course.

Jasper wrote:You think it is better for people not to try improve the situation?


For themselves, or for others? What if the others have different ideas?
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Jasper » Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:18 am

@findinglisp: sorry if i was a little harsh at you. I am not capitalist, but i see capitalism as a tool that should be used to make society function.

The argument for free market usually goes like this: If something is desired, people can make more profit, and so make more, since more people/more is available, when there is too much, they cannot ask as much, and the production/availability of a service goes down. And that way, the supply always meets demand as much as possible.

Frankly this argument is overrated, although it is right to like a simple theory with a simple consequence, it is not right to overgeneralize it. It is not like a mathematical statement, absolutely true when you assume the axioms, and sometimes it plain doesn't apply. Frankly industries in the US abuse it's popularity because they profit from it's flaws. That is part of why i called findinglisp 'dogmatic', what you said are often handles for this sort of thing. Still i was strongly exaggerating for doing so, at that point at least, also abuse of an idea is no argument against an idea.

But the cattle holders and field demonstrates a way that it doesn't work. If there is more demand and supply and too little field, each cattle holder is still enticed to having more cattle, even though that would decrease the total production of the field, decreasing supply. Of course this particular example is solvable, there is probably a reasonably fair way to divide the land, like by divisioning it over the population and allowing the population to sell it to each other, or by doing the same over licensing a number of cows. (Both of these having their advantages.)
This, of course also needs some authority that is obligated too.

Pollution is actually quite analogous to the cattle holders, and indeed, stuff like carbon trading is much like licensing of cows. Pollution cannot be adressed by people suing over "property violations", because it is not always local, and even if it is, it often can be made global, for instance, increasing the length of a smoke stack. It's causes cannot always be easily pointed out. In fact, the most problematic pollution is global or international, and this means you would have to sue all industries in a nation. Not very practical.

Secondly almost none of the oceans/seas of the world have been divided into ownership, most of it doesn't even belong to any nation, most countries controlling fishing do so by licensing. This does not give much incentive for any individual fisher to fix pollution of their water, or to try improve the quality of their fishing area. Any attempt at division would be very difficult.

Yet another problem trying to prevent pollution entirely by litigating is that lawyers constantly push and pull at logic, rethoric and laws. And they're expensive too.

So much for stuff analogous to the cattle in this post, now for things to which the argument for free market does not apply.

For instance, if the competition is mostly over quality, the customers must actually recognize it. Sometimes, when it is really technical, this is very difficult for them/they don't do it. An example would be MS near monopoly on the desktop, people just don't compare Linux and Windows. Although anticompetitive tactics likely also play a role, of course any (reasonable)regulation against these would also be against the liberty of some persons/organizations, and ones probably exist that most people find fair.
Mobile phones is also an example, these are often bundled with service. I am referring to the useless proliferation of power connectors. Luckily the EU is fixing this. In general, i don't think capitalism promotes compatibility, any competitor wants his product compatible with others but not vice versa.

(Aside)As an example where EU restricting something is more dubious: the efficiency of lights (Often erroneously called ban on lightbulbs, that is just an effect of lightbulbs inefficiency.) The problem is that the quality of the light really is different, non-lightbulb light might look white, but doesn't have a smooth spectrum, but such that the cones in our eyes see white. Materials, however, do absorb differently over other frequencies then our cones, so we see the object differently based on other parts of the spectrum.
Still, the regulation might be incentive for creation of more efficient lights that actually do have the quality of the lightbulb.

Another example where things can well be too complicated for consumers, is insurance, insurance companies can put all sort of stuff in small lettering for consumers to fall over. The overall sum of things for consumer to track can also be too high.

And there is the question how long it takes to settle into a place where supply and demand meet. There is the issue whether some projects are too large to be funded by anyone in particular.

There is the problem of labor also being a part of supply and demand, and the disparity of the ones doing the work and the ones in control and getting the profit. If there is too much labor, there is poverty in 'pure' capitalism, and there is no reason to assume that there is always more work to be invented. Also, there is the question whether it is desirable to invent ever more work. Isn't the point to get the work done, and to work to live? And is supply and demand really a fair way of determining what the earnings of a person should be? Only up to a point i'd say. More egreous is what education people can get from their money, as that affects their chances to change their position. (And 'commercial scholarships' are bound to come with shackles.)

Further, there might be a limited supply of educated people, and if they follow greed those will do the more profitable problems of the rich first. Still if a government wanted less-profitable problems solved, incentivising it and using capitalism is a way. However, universities working not exactly via capitalism have proven their worth in many many things.
findinglisp wrote:Only liberty and capitalism, expressed as the free trade among individuals, have demonstrated consistent results of raising the standards of living.
findinglisp wrote:Sure, there is free trading between individuals. Corporations are simply collections of individuals who come together to run a (generally larger) business. The workers (and even "management" is a "worker") are freely trading their time and energy to the corporation.
Note the tone though, "individuals expressing themselves by freely trading" vs most of reality; people working for corporations they have no control and possibly no bargaining power over,mostly following it's orders.

As for Einstein, i hope i didn't imply 'look here is Einstein, he must be right'. I do think is insight of the consequences of social things, and overestimate the selflessness of people. . (Well, smart people nearly always project other people as being smarter then they actually are.) Any 'system of society' shouldn't focus on changing people, in finding a way to let them interact such that resulting system is stable and desirable. But i think he was thinking about consequences of the free market applied everywhere, and seeing that it was naive to think that that would always work.

Btw in case you saw this vid i posted before, (you only have to read to link OP afaiconcerned.) i like his 'communistic company' idea, such an idea could entirely work within a capitalistic scheme too..

My conclusion is that, even if you are a completely pro-capitalist, focusing completely on liberties glosses over restrictions that are actually in the system you stand for. And property rights are restrictions, and when there is something new to own, or something not yet owned, there has to be some stewardship so we don't fuck it over. Focusing only on liberties might cause one to only see it something to own rather then other ways, like licensing, an hybrid between licensing and ownership, or something i haven't even thought of.
Paul wrote:For themselves, or for others? What if the others have different ideas?
Public discussion, democracy, sometimes court. But you definitely never follow any ideas to improve any situation, what if others have different ideas?

Edit: and oh, yeah current stock exchange, relative variation in month scale: Monsanto ~30%, Philips ~25%, Intel ~25% McDonalds ~10%, these numbers are ridiculous and completely not related to the actual position of the corporations. I have no clue why these fluctuate so much. Stock exchanges grew from something useful, investing in an enterprise repaying itself if the investor was correct in thinking the idea would work, by contrast stock exchanges seem mostly for milking, while fluctuating (presumably)completely due to speculation.
I am not against investment, and even people selling their investment to other people, but something is wrong.. And it isn't investment if a company is just chugging along with no real growth, then the company didn't need external money in the first place, and is just screwing over it's customers buy having to pay the 'investment' back plus a little.
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