The Future of the Commons by David Harvey

David HarveyI have lost count of the number of times I have seen Garrett Hardin’s classic article, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” cited as an irrefutable argument for the superior efficiency of private property rights with respect to land and resource uses and, therefore, as an irrefutable justification for privatization. This mistaken reading in part derives from Hardin’s appeal to the metaphor of cattle, under the private ownership of several individuals concerned with maximizing their individual utility, pastured on a piece of common land. If the cattle were held in common, of course, the metaphor would not work. It would then be clear that it was private property in cattle and individual utility- maximizing behavior that lay at the heart of the problem. But none of this was Hardin’s fundamental concern. His preoccupation waspopulation growth. The personal decision to have children would, he feared, lead eventually to the destruction of the global commons (a point that Thomas Malthus
also argued). The private, familial nature of the decision was the crucial problem. The only solution, in his view, was authoritarian regulatory population control.

http://davidharvey.org/media/Harvey_on_the_Commons.pdf

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