Tragedy of The Commons: The Bane of Society

Tue, 8 May 2012 Source: Mawuena, Emmanuel Kwasi

Insatiable quest of mankind to derive benefits at the expense of the masses is central to many societal woes. The human nature is innately egoistic and inclined to self even at the expense and detriment of the larger society. This scenario is captured in one of the best social theories propounded by Garrett Hardin (1968). In this theory, he looked at individual interests as against collective loss by a group of herdsmen sharing the same pasture. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the grazing land. No one pays for adding additional cattle; instead, each benefits from additional cattle added. As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. The negative component which is often ignored is a long term effect on the pasture- the risk of overgrazing that may overhaul the pasture and deprive the locals of their livelihood altogether. Hardin in conclusion stated that Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all. Obviously, our society today has a lot of lessons to learn from this theory. In the pursuit to derive unwarranted benefits, cut cost, subvert the law and take undue advantages, we all end up as ‘losers’. This phenomenon is breeding corruption, chaos, rot, poverty, crime among other. The society is sinking because the individuals in it only seek after their parochial interest which eventually comes back to hurt them. By this, humanity is digging its own grave and speedily matching into it. What a misfortune?

Have you ever witnessed a broken down traffic light situation where, there is no police to regulate affairs and, no one is prepared to give a way to one another? The obvious result is absolute standstill. Once I witnessed a woman busily hauling a chunk of rubbish into a gutter running with water during the heavy downpour. Whiles we lambast city authorities for not providing proper drainage systems, have we thought of our actions and inactions that subtly aggravate the problem?. This woman is not alone in the society. Many think of this way of disposing their refuse as easy, convenient and cheaper alternative. However, the cumulative effect of this is flood waters locating rooms as the insufficient gutters are choked with refuse.

Companies in quest to cut down cost indulge in improper waste disposal. The negative externalities are subsequently thrown to the community in forms of sickness and diseases. An increase or a mere speculation of fuel price increase is enough to trigger hastily and disproportional price increases by sellers only for transport cost to recoup as transport operators have equally super inflated their fees. This attitude cuts across all sectors of the economy and we all end up at zero if not worse off. Many are prepared to siphon state resources or take huge bribes to allow illicit drugs to enter the market. Remember while depriving the state of funds for development that will give others jobs and allowing drugs into the country you are indirectly recruiting some youth into armed robbery and all forms of social vices. These victims, who may later be described as social deviant, will hold a gun not only on your head while driving in your luxury air-condition car into your mansion, but will also be threat to many well meaning and hardworking people.

This year is an election year as political leaders, opinion leaders, journalist and commentators are we going to project our individual and party interests even at the expense of the country falling into flames? Quest to gain or hold onto power has led to the loss of human lives and eventually incriminating the very people at the center of such disputes. Mr. Kofi Amoabeng, of UT, made a comment that makes a lot of meaning to me. He said it is better to see your beloved party in opposition than carrying your belongings and running through some forest in attempt to escape the country borders amidst gun shots when electoral violence breaks up. If the earlier is a better alternative, then we must learn to place the interest of the country before our parties. Self centeredness is not taking us anywhere. The human nature is probably more inclined to evil than good. It is not surprising how the Bible admonishes us to put to death our old self which is the carnal and natural being (Colossians 3:5, Ephesians 4:22-24). This transformation is essential in order to minimize this ‘me, me, me, and I’ syndrome which is killing us. Life lacks meaning until we begin to do away with some level of self. Selflessness is the way out. A society where people plant trees they know they won’t enjoy their shade is a society to behold.

In spite of the premium placed on education, science and technology as well as law enforcement as solution to societal woes, it is undeniable fact that society cannot become better off without its citizens demonstrating good moral, a sense of altruistic and selflessness. Do not just live for yourself. Live for God, Others and Ghana. Long Live Dear Reader. Long Live Ghana.

Emmanuel kwasi Mawuena Kdarkwa2002@yahoo.co.uk Concerned Citizen

Columnist: Mawuena, Emmanuel Kwasi

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