|dc.description.abstract||Two decades have passed since Garrett Hardin's influential paper, "The
Tragedy of the Commons," appeared in the journal Science. In this paper, Hardin asserted that land and resources "open to all, without limit" -- those that humans use 'in common'-- invite environmental tragedy. It is in each individual's self-interest, so his argument goes, to add one more sheep to a 'common' pasture, to take one more fish from the 'common' sea, to emit a bit more pollution into the 'common' air, even when the net result of many such individual actions will be an overgrazed pasture, a depleted fish stock, or a polluted atmosphere-- environmental states that cause all users to suffer.
In this thesis, Chapter One ('Tragedies of the Commons Reconsidered') summarizes Hardin's
1968 article, and reviews the various debates it has generated. The chapter details the confusion and particular controversies that have arisen from Hardin's choice of examples of 'tragic commons' and some countervailing illustrations. In light of these clarifications, it tries to distinguish misplaced from well-taken criticisms of Hardin's argument. Chapter Two ('Types of Property') further attempts to clarify 'commons' issues by presenting various typologies of property from modern property-rights literature, with a view to specifying situations (including property regimes) in which 'tragedies of the commons' may occur. This broadens into a discussion of prevailing theories about the relationship between property types and environmental outcomes—an area about which both Hardin and institutional economists have written.
Having evaluated the potential for environmental tragedy under the various non-private-property regimes which Hardin loosely groups together as 'commons', this thesis considers the possibility of environmental tragedy occurring in situations of private property ownership as well. The issue of the 'environmental outcomes likely to flow from privatisation' is the subject of increasing debate. 'New Right environmentalists' assert that privatisation of portions of the physical environment can solve most natural resource problems; their liberal critics are sceptical. The potential impact of resource privatisation is emphatically more than a topic for academic philosophising. Several Western governments (most notably, those of the United
Kingdom and New Zealand) are currently selling off previously government-owned natural resource assets, and it is important to know what types of environmental consequences can be anticipated from such policies.
Chapter Three ('Tragedies of the Private') explores, and ultimately rejects, the notion that privatisation automatically engenders "intrinsic responsibility" and thereby precludes environmental abuse. It argues that there are currently few incentives for the exercise of environmental responsibility on private property, given the nature of property rights at law, and the social attitudes and expectations these legal 'rights' have helped to shape. The occurrence of environmental tragedies on private property is therefore shown to be not an inexplicable abberation, but, as with the 'commons', a predictable systemic failure. Chapter Four ('Conclusions and Further Questions') explores the reasons privatisation is currently so much in vogue among Western capitalist governments despite its obvious problems. It also acknowledges that there are always likely to be a mix of property types in Western capitalist democracies, in addressing the question of which property regimes are most appropriate for which natural resources. The thesis concludes by suggesting that we move beyond blanket endorsement or dismissal of specific types of property, and instead focus on the creation of forms of political regulation of resource use which are capable of transcending property type to secure desired environmental ends. The focus thus shifts from an emphasis on ownership to an emphasis on control or, from a concern with nominal structure to an emphasis on 'real' structure.||en