© Peiran Tan 2014


A utilitarian, Garrett Hardin in his Lifeboat Ethics argues that an international state should refrain from sharing resources with and providing help for other states to maximize its people’s welfare. The global resources are finite and states ideally should share it equally for maximum collective interest. Yet the absence of supreme coercive authority to enforce fair sharing gives ample incentive for rule violation, as states attempt to maximize self-interest in disregard for the eventual collective ruin, which Hardin refers to as the “Tragedy of Commons.” Since other states act both as sharers and opponents, a state should aggressively eradicate them to ensure its survival. In response, I argue that Hardin’s solution to the “Tragedy of Commons” denotes perpetual population reduction, which inevitably entails systematic instability that diminishes people’s welfare. My opponents may propose that population reduction gives rise to a Hardinian bipolar world that eventually stabilizes itself. My response to this potential counterargument has two parts: on one hand, the stability of Hardinian bipolarity is established upon the Rational Actor Model wherein theoretical utility-maximization does not guarantee stability in reality especially under the influence of contingent factors; on the other hand, even if Hardinian bipolarity guarantees stability of societal systems, Lifeboat Ethics does not possess strong theoretical strength to give practical moral guidance. I also propose that international aid is possible with overpopulation amelioration, especially when conducted by third party and non-profit agencies.



Included in

Philosophy Commons