Having trouble figuring out the Tragedy of the Commons article? Here are some handy dandy study questions posted by request!
1. What does Hardin mean when he says that there are problems which have "no technical solution"? What are some of these problems?
2. Why does Hardin bring up the game of tic-tack-toe?
3. What does Hardin say he will attempt to prove in his essay?
4. What does Hardin mean when he says we need to "exorcise the spirit of Adam Smith"? ("exorcise" means to drive out, as in a demon).
5. Why does Hardin call his theory the "tragedy of the commons"?
6. Why, in Hardin's theory, would a herdsman continue to graze the land even though it would be bad for the commons?
7. Explain what Hardin means when he says "freedom in a commons brings ruin to all." How might this analysis be used to formulate a negative argument for our debate resolution?
8. Explain what Hardin means when he says that the "oceans of the world continue to suffer from the survival of the philosophy of the commons." Can you think of specific examples?
9. List several options Hardin suggests for avoiding the "tragedy of the commons" in the US National Parks. Can any of these be used as potential negative counterproposals to affirmative plans? How?
10. What does Hardin mean when he calls pollution a tragedy of the commons in reverse? What does he mean when he says that pollution can be solved through coercion?
11. What does Hardin mean when he says that "the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed"? Why does Hardin include this key insight? How might this idea be used to critique rights-based affirmative cases?
12. How does Hardin critique the welfare state as it concerns the human population? How does he end up delivering a "painful" critique of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights? How might this critique be employed in a debate round?
13. What does Hardin mean when he says that "conscience is self-eliminating"? In other words, what is the problem with appealing to people's conscience to "constrain their actions for the greater good"?
14. What are the two messages a man receives, according to Hardin, when society appeals to his conscience?
15. Explain the following: "What is the meaning of the word conscience? When we use the word responsibility in the absence of substantial sanctions are we not trying to browbeat a free man in a commons into acting against his own interest?"
16. What does the author mean with his bank robber analogy? What point about conscience and responsibility is he trying to prove?
17. What does Hardin mean by "coercion"? Why is it better than an appeal to conscience?
18. Hardin says "An alternative to the commons need not be perfectly just to be preferable." What does he mean? What are some of the potentially unjust, yet preferable, alternatives to the commons?
19. Brainstorm three separate negative arguments (independent of one another) based on "The Tragedy of the Commons."
20. What kind of a definition of "common property" would a negative need to use in order to win a debate on a "Tragedy of the Commons" critique?
21. List 5 Affirmative cases which would link to a Hardin-based negative case.