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Garrett Hardin: Mutual Coercion

Hardin and his work

Garrett Hardin is known for his good attempts long with arguments to work out social reasons and effects that can damage the environment. His work ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ explains the main source of the hazards that appeared in society with the flow of time. The reasons are various. One of them is the demographic situation in the world, the second concerns the issue of people’s acquisition of energy, the third is the problem of people’s conscientiousness.

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The “tragedy’ is understood in the work with shapes of philosophical meaning, “as the philosopher Whitehead used it (7): “The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things” (1244). Thus, the story about the commons and their irresponsibility in many aspects is grave for Hardin and grabbed his attention on the problem much

Approaches leading to common sense

Making out the factors that can impact people’s makeover the author supposes various alternations? But, as for me, the following two are of great significance to protect the environment, namely: education and National parks or other natural recreational places. The first one can prevent “the tragedy of commons” reducing the number of mistakes that are unintended sometimes. The second one is useful if only educated people treated others to imbibe the values that parks represent.

Mutual coercion is a basic method

The issue of coercion is hardly acceptable within masses because of different reasons, the first of which is a man’s insuppressible intention to be free without pointing out that a man belongs to the society as its part. “Dog eats dog” is that tool that correlates mainly with the process of breeding within people. The question still stays unanswered now: whether to agree with the author’s statement “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon” or not? (1247) In this case one should realize the fact that the state is called so because there is a law base on it in terms to control the processes in the country.

As Hardin claims: “The social arrangements that produce responsibility are arrangements that create coercion, of some sort” (1247). Describing the situation with the bank as a commons and a man taking money the author fairly insists on people’s efforts to “seek the definite social arrangements that will keep it from becoming a commons” (1247). Another example is in the case of taxing. The benefits or expenditures which human beings are going to receive differ in the short and long run. The situation is that people cannot just use something, for instance, a parking place when paying for two places like for one.

As a matter of principle, publicity cannot forbid people to do it. “Not prohibition, but carefully biassed options are what we offer him” (1248). It does not mean that coercion is an odd and harmful method. As the author outlines: “The only kind of coercion I recommend is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected” (1248). Figuring out the fact that the systems of state administration are unfair people still get accustomed to it because think that at the moment there is no better alternative. That is why the author underlines the need for reform conducting and do this not by words only, but also in practical cases.


Summing up, it would be wholesome to quote the words of Garrett Hardin detecting our role to “carry the ball” in society:

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But we can never do anything. That which we have done for thousands of years is also action. It also produces evils. Once we are aware that the status quo is action, we can then compare its discoverable advantages and disadvantages with the predicted advantages and disadvantages of the proposed reform (1248).

Continuing this statement it is helpful to evaluate that only intolerable systems our claims and problems can be solved. Striving for “the perfect systems” determines people’s desire to change and improve the environment for the better. The world is your oyster, just crack it!

Reference List

Hardin, G, ‘The Tragedy of Commons’; Science vol 162, (1968) pp 1243-8.

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