the tragedy of the commons as a food basket

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albertoaquilani

Member
Italian
Hello people

it reads
"The tragedy of the commons as a food basket is averted by private property but the air and waters cannot be fenced and so the tragedy of the commons as a cesspool must be prevented by different means"

The tragedy of the commons means the tragedy results from the overpopulation such as overgrazing grass and pollution. But i do not have any idea what "the tragedy of the commons as a food basket" and "the tragedy of the commons as a cesspool", especially "the tragedy of the commons as a food basket" why did he put "as" and it doesn't make any sense to me, please help me guys

Thank you in advance
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It would help a great deal if you supplied full context, which in fact is required by the rules of the forum. What is this from? What is the subject? Who is speaking? What is the sentence before, and what is the sentence after?
     

    albertoaquilani

    Member
    Italian
    This is from an article "The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin. The subject is about how an over use of resources could lead to a tragedy such as for a open pasture, if every rational herdsman keeps on keeping additional cattle on the commons for his own benefit, it could lead to tragedy such as soil erosion and weed dominance.

    In this context the tragedy of the commons would imply the problem caused by pollution resulted from every rational man discharging wastes rather than purifying them for his own benefit.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The tragedy of the commons as a food basket, talks about the tragedy that results if you treat the commons (land held in common) as a food basket. That is, this is intended to be read "the tragedy of the [commons as a food basket]". Similarly, the tragedy of the [commons as cesspool] talks about what happens if you treat the commons (resources held in common) as a cesspool, for disposing waste.

    This is a common use of "as": preposition, 'in the role, function, or status of' (Dictionary.com).

    The idea might have been expressed more clearly. My first inclination was to read "as" with tragedy ~ Tragedy (of the commons) as cesspool.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Alberto,

    I don't think you quite do justice to Hardin's famous article. The passage actually reads: The tragedy of the commons as a food basket is averted by private property, or something formally like it. But the air and waters surrounding us cannot readily be fenced, and so the tragedy of the commons as a cesspool must be prevented by different means, by coercive laws or taxing devices that make it cheaper for the polluter to treat his pollutants than to discharge them untreated.

    Cagey puts it very well. Hardin is concerned with the effect of choices at the margin: it is in the interest of the marginal individual to graze common land even after the stage at which either the total product from the land is maximized, or the total product/head of the land is maximized, because he will go on placing an extra cow on the land as long as the marginal benefit to him (the total marginal benefit) exceeds the marginal cost to him (the total marginal cost divided by the number of other people grazing land). The benefit is felt only by the grazer; the cost falls on the whole community. Remember also that tragedy is used in Whitehead's sense of "the solemnity of the remorseless working of things".

    The commons (land held in common - remember that Economics treats air and water as land) can be treated as many things, as a source of food (a food basket), as a recreational facility (for walking, hang-gliding, etc.), as a cesspool (as a place to throw our waste).

    I think Cagey's reproach that you might read the phrase as 'the tragedy as a cesspool' wouldn't arise in a full reading of the article, because the expression the tragedy of the commons is used so much in its course.

    Certainly you can look at the commons in many different roles, and when you do, you are looking at them as a source of food, or as a place to throw our rubbish, for instance.

    Global warming is seen by many as stemming from our treatment of the commons as a place to throw our carbon dioxide.
     
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