Engaging Impossibilities and Possibilities
ARGUMENTS FOR A BETTER WORLD: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF AMARTYA SEN, Kaushik Basu, Ravi Kanbur, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 522-541, 2009
28 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2008
Date Written: 2007
In this chapter, I wish to honor Amartya Sen by illustrating how his advice to engage impossibility results, rather than dismissing or accepting them without any question, has been an important inspiration related to another widely acclaimed impossibility result - that of Garrett Hardin in his influential article in Science on "The Tragedy of the Commons." While Hardin was an ecologist rather than an economist, his assumptions regarding individual preferences and behavior are closely aligned with those of many economists-focused on immediate material returns to self. His logic was broadly similar to that of the distinguished economist, H. Scott Gordon, who had earlier argued that: "The fish in the sea are valueless to the fisherman, because there is no assurance that they will be there for him tomorrow if they are left behind today."
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