"Us" vs. "Them" - or - "The player and the game"
We've discussed Garret Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" throughout the semester in just about all of our resource topics. Hardin discussed the herdsmen who were compelled to continue putting additional animals out to graze in the community land. We described this as individually rational as the individual received 100% of the benefits from the action (revenues from a fatter cow) but paid only a fraction of the costs (everyone shares in the lost quality of the common grazing land). Everyone following the same reasoning of course leads to ruin. Self interest, in the case of rival and non-excludable resources, is not compatible with the interests of society.
Who was Hardin really talking about? Was his paper a treatise on pervasive greed years ago or do you think he was talking about someone else? Who are the modern-day herdsmen?
The reason I'm posting about this has to do with something I've been considering for a long time, but really started hitting home during the presidential campaign... When you feel strongly about something, say, a political candidate or an environmental problem, it is easy, useful and convenient to point a finger at a "bad guy" and say "It's his fault. He's just being greedy. We have to stop that guy from doing all this damage!" Us vs. them is so easy. It feels good to have someone to blame for problems.
Examples abound. Titan Cement is bad! The loggers are greedy! The whalers are evil!
Is this productive? More importantly, is this even close to being a useful or correct approach to environmental problems? Are there good players and bad players? Or does the game just have really ineffective rules?