Philosophy -- the Tragedy of Essay

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More importantly, Sen argues that the collaborative approach would be a more successful route to reducing population growth. Among the ideas mentioned by Sen would be incorporating better public education to promote genuine understanding of problems and the reasons why changing certain behavior would be appropriate. In general, Sen expresses the confidence that Hardin lacks that many people could be taught long-range morality the same way many people already learn or absorb short-range morality. In that regard, it is simply not the case that most people behave appropriately toward others only because they fear the legal consequences of doing otherwise. Sen also implies that government could still play a role in encouraging the choice to have smaller families but in positive rather than negative ways. For example, federal and state agencies could provide monetary rewards for single-child families such as in the form of subsidized education, or childcare, or college funding, or tax credits to families who limit themselves to one or two children.

Critical Response to the Tragedy of the Commons Concept

The ideas advanced by Sen would include precisely the approach used by the U.S. federal government to encourage a nationwide highway speed limit. Specifically, the federal government cannot directly impose a speed limit on state and local highways because the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution precludes that as a matter of sovereign state rights. However, all fifty states have chosen to comply with the speed limit suggestions provided by the federal government because doing so is a requirement to qualify for substantial federal funding to state highway authorities.

As Sen implies would be the situation if governments incentivized family planning as preferred public policy, the individual states could choose to ignore Congressional preference about speed limits if they are willing to forgo federal money used to incentivize and reward voluntary state compliance. Ultimately, this is what Sen is suggesting: that governments incentivize any family size limitations and incorporate other methods of encouraging compliance (such as better education) into a comprehensive solution that is collaborative instead of an approach that overrides individual choice. To the extent that Hardin's initial premise and conclusion about the importance of reducing population growth is important, the collaborative approach to solutions proposed by Sen would probably be more effective than the override-based approach promoted by Hardin.

Finally, Sen's approach would also solve the problem identified by Hardin in connection with the dilution of moral conscience in successive human generations by Darwinian principles. Specifically, Hardin's approach is black and white in that it recognizes only two diametrically opposite responses: either forced limitation on family size or reliance on human conscience but without any plan to actually encourage compliance voluntarily. Conversely, Sen impliedly acknowledges that success through the collaborative method still requires substantial input, investment, coordination, and creativity.

A strong argument could be made that both Hardin and Sen still miss a crucial point: namely, that there is also an issue of addressing how and why people come to prefer larger families than might be optimally beneficial for society in the first place. Specifically, in the U.S., there is a standard element to the typical narrative of the "expected" life cycle that promotes having children automatically and almost robotically. Many young people simply proceed from high school or college to getting married in their twenties and then starting a family shortly thereafter without ever consciously considering whether or not that is their actual choice.

Therefore, at least in this part of the world, Sen's collaborative approach would possibly work even better if the educational component also included presenting the choice of remaining single longer and of marrying but not having children unless or until that is genuinely what couples desire as a viable and appropriate life choice for young couples. Today, childless-by-choice couples typically face an onslaught of presumptive questions about "when" rather than whether they want to become parents. Likewise, in certain Eastern cultures, family size is frequently motivated by culturally-transmitted expectations that one purpose for having many children is that they will support their parents in old age. Ideally the collaborative approach advanced by Sen would include reforming culturally-based narratives that contribute to peoples' underlying desires in the first place.[continue]

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