Have you ever heard of Tragedy of the Commons? Sound familiar? Tragedy of commons is typically associated with fishing. If fisherman go out to a popular fishing spot and catch fish at a rate that is more than fish reproduce, then that would be a tragedy of commons. Garrett Hardin came up with theory originally and applied it to biology or nature. There are many examples, but the basic principle is that demand overwhelms supply. Just in case you fell asleep in Economics 101 or you happen to be Bernie Sanders then here is a little reminder of how supply and demand work:
I want to talk about tragedy of the commons in the terms of political policies and platforms. It’s a topic that is hotly contested among Libertarians and conservatives. On the other hand, Liberals tend to completely ignore it. Its this ignorance of the tragedy of commons that might explain why collectivist policies that liberals tend to advocate are just really bad. Liberals and even Conservatives both tend to argue for MORE government regulation in the face of a tragedy of the commons issue. (I’ll try to keep it relatively brief, one or two examples, I have a lot to say)
Let’s take on healthcare for example, is a tragedy of the commons. Liberals advocate for a universal healthcare system. This system would in theory depend on the taxpayer (theft) money to help cover the costs of healthcare. However, this policy would extremely expensive due to the increased costs to private health providers. Also the service given by providers would be slower due to a heavy volume and probably less staff. Healthcare is a complex issue but a tragedy of commons exists in both the taxation for it and the availability of quick medical care by providers. For example, in Canada, they have universal healthcare and experience longer wait times, sometimes for very important life saving procedures. In some cases they come to the US for faster care.
In short, universal healthcare is a collectivist policy pushed by liberals that creates many tragedy of the commons. Unfortunately the conservatives are not much better backing single payer with a government agency running the show. Less tragedy of the commons here, but still not the best option. The solution for a tragedy of the commons is deregulation in most cases, concerning government policies. In nature, like the fishing spot, the solution would be to have fisherman stop fishing in that particular spot until there were sufficient fish. I want to clarify what I mean by collectivist. Collectivist is a term usually meaning something is done in or by a group.
My second example is one of the hottest issues because of a vote coming up, Net Neutrality. Naturally my position is repeal because Net Neutrality isn’t consumer protections, its just dealing with bandwidth and if companies can block or censor stuff. From what I’ve read the new rules after repeal will be that the companies will have to report whatever they throttle, block, censor to the FCC who will make it public. I also see no problem with Netflix and Amazon and Hulu having to pay more for bandwidth. They use a lot of it, its only fair. Naturally that will be passed to the customer. However, the good news of repeal is that companies will offer different packages specifically geared toward streaming services. Unlike now, where you get all one price and it might be good or bad.
The tragedy of the commons in Net Neutrality stems from the issue of bandwidth. There is only so much bandwidth that these companies can generate without losing money. Its interesting because if you look at bandwidth in a vacuum, it really highlights the problem. Watch: Let’s say Comcast and Verizon both offer 300 mbps of bandwidth under current Net Neutrality for an average price of 150 dollars. (Making up random numbers here). Let’s repeal those rules and see how prices and amount of bandwidth change. Under Net Neutrality, both companies would have similar prices and the max amount of bandwidth would be at 300, but of course you can pay less to get less. The problem with this is that the companies aren’t really competing. There’s very little variation because the going rate for bandwidth is 150 dollars for 300 mpbs. Everyone can gets to use that bandwidth to watch Netflix and play fortnite as much as they want. The companies might be struggling to keep all this bandwidth up with only 150 dollars per customer because their own business costs are going up.
If we repeal Net Neutrality, now Comcast charges $100 for 200 mpbs, $200 for 300 mpbs and lets say $300 for 400 mpbs. Unheard of right? Well, Verizon charges $75 for 150 mpbs, $150 for 250 mpbs, $275 for 300 mpbs, $350 for 420 mpbs. Now you can see the competition as each company tries attract more customers. They may even offer a lower bandwidth but you get extreme streaming capabilities for an extra 100 bucks. Either way, the competition will naturally drive down prices. When supply goes up, demand goes down. In order to create demand you need to supply, but you also need to create an interest in your product and attractiveness or marketing.
The solution to the tragedy of the commons for nearly every aspect of Net Neutrality is deregulation. Let the consumers decide which companies will succeed and fail. Another positive aspect of net neutrality being repealed is that it will allow startups and other smaller companies to get into the market of internet.
I believe that through my two examples I have shown why some collectivists policies are broken due to the tragedy of the commons. I believe that the solution to tragedy of the commons is deregulation which means getting government out of our lives. This solution is the basis for the whole libertarian philosophy. If society is a tragedy of the commons then as libertarians we are for the deregulation and privatization of pretty much everything. Everything is harder in a large group. Its similar to when you ask your friends where they want to eat. Everyone has different opinion. Or when you ask your friends when they want to go out. Everyone is busy and has no time. Collectivism requires group-think and group decision making. Its not the most effective. Tragedy of the commons also tends to tread on the rights of the individual.
The rights of individual are the most important aspect in a free society. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
Thanks for reading!
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