Climate “Prisoner’s Dilemma” for Psychology Undergraduates

Dylan Selterman

Lecturer Dylan Selterman, University of Maryland Department of Psychology

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

What would you think of a Psychology lecturer who every year plays a real life version Prisoner’s Dilemma with undergraduates, awarding course credits based on the outcome of a climate cooperation game?

What a Simple Psychological Test Reveals About Climate Change

If everyone’s success depended on it, would you share—or be selfish?

By Dylan Selterman

I teach undergraduate psychology courses at the University of Maryland, and my classes draw students with diverse interests. But every one of them perks up when I pose this question: Do you want two extra-credit points on your term paper, or six points?

I tell my students that the extra-credit offer is part of an exercise illustrating the interconnectedness of choices individuals make in communities. I explain that the exercise was inspired by an ecologist named Garrett Hardin and an address that he delivered 50 years ago this summer, describing what he called “the tragedy of the commons.” Hardin said that when many individuals act in their own self-interest without regard for society, the effects can be catastrophic. Hardin used the 19th-century convention of “the commons”—a cattle-grazing pasture that villagers shared—to warn against the overexploitation of communal resources.

A possible solution seems simple: If everyone just moderated their consumption, we’d have sustainability. As many of my students say, “If everyone chooses two points, we’ll all get the points.” And yet, for the first eight years I used this exercise, only one class—of the dozens I taught—stayed under the 10 percent threshold. All the other classes failed.

This exercise was developed more than 25 years ago. Professor Steve Drigotas of Johns Hopkins University had been using it for some time when he administered it to me and my classmates in 2005. My class failed too—and I, who had chosen two points, was incredibly frustrated with my peers who had chosen six.

In 2015 one of my students tweeted about the exercise—“WHAT KIND OF PROFESSOR DOES THIS”—and his lament went viral. People around the globe weighed in: Does so many people choosing six points mean it’s human nature to be greedy and selfish?

In 2016 I decided to change things up. In hopes of finding a way to increase cooperation, I drew from the scientific literature on social groups and introduced a third option: Students could choose two points, six points—or zero points. That’s right. Zero. Why would anyone do that? Well, for each student who chose zero points, one of the six-point choosers (selected randomly) would lose everything, reducing the total number of six-point choosers by one.

Read more: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/embark-essay-tragedy-of-the-commons-greed-common-good/

Prisoner’s dilemma is an interesting intellectual concept – unless you are one of the prisoners, or in this case students. In which case being one of the prisoners in a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma might be a nasty and humiliating experience, especially for a student who is struggling, a student who really needs those precious additional course credit points.

To be fair, in 2016 Lecturer Dylan Selterman improved the odds of at least some students winning additional class credits, by offering self sacrifice option, allowing students to deliberately choose zero class credits for themselves in return for pulling down one of their more ambitious fellows.

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Mat

Why do all socialist always assume there is only one pie? Perhaps because socialist have no incentive to figure out how to bake more pies….

Kurt

I think the professor completely misunderstood the “tragedy of the commons” theory. The solution specific solution to that problem is called private property, and more generally, a free enterprise system where economic actors bear both the risks and rewards of their ventures.

Khwarizmi

Hardin offered solutions in private property, and common resource management agreements, ie, enforced regulations:
========
“To keep downtown shoppers temperate in their use of parking space we introduce parking meters for short periods, and traffic fines for longer ones. We need not actually forbid a citizen to park as long as he wants to; we need merely make it increasingly expensive for him to do so. Not prohibition, but carefully biased options are what we offer him. A Madison Avenue man might call this persuasion; I prefer the greater candor of the word coercion.
Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not forever be so. As with the four-letter words, its dirtiness can be cleansed away by exposure to the light, by saying it over and over without apology or embarrassment. To many, the word coercion implies arbitrary decisions of distant and irresponsible bureaucrats; but this is not a necessary part of its meaning. The only kind of coercion I recommend is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected.
To say that we mutually agree to coercion is not to say that we are required to enjoy it, or even to pretend we enjoy it. Who enjoys taxes? We all grumble about them. But we accept compulsory taxes because we recognize that voluntary taxes would favor the conscienceless. We institute and (grumblingly) support taxes and other coercive devices to escape the horror of the commons.”
http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_tragedy_of_the_commons.html
===================

RLu

If a Professor does this more than twice, I would expect every class to pass the test.
There must be SOME students who did a background on their Professor before signing up. Some of them must have asked the seniors about the class and the staff. The fraternities must have this class on their black list. Just like male fraternities should steer their pledges clear of any Feminazis.
So the students just have to ‘organize’ themselves to defeat the ‘evil oppressor’.

ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N

The only kind of coercion I recommend is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected.

That’s what’s known as democracy. What If I don’t want to be a part of it, which is entirely my right, considering the variable: “agreed upon by the majority”?

Bloke down the pub

How the UK approached the common land issue. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclosure_Acts

Another Ian

IIRC Hardin also has another look at this somewhat later. I think I have a photocopy but won’t find it tonight

Mark Whitney

Exactly! I noted that as well remembering (I think it was) Aristotle’s admonition “That which is owned by everyone is equally neglected by all.”

Khwarizmi, another solution is for shopkeepers to have private parking for their customers. You’ll find this in many cities – a great example is shopping malls & strip malls. It shouldn’t be necessary that every time you resort to coercion.
BTW, people don’t pay taxes because they know that taxation is necessary. They pay the taxes to stay out of jail. And, consider that people find ingenious ways to pay as little as possible, while about zero people pay extra to the taxman.

Crispin in Waterloo

Kurt:
Declaration of interest: I checked and my family benefitted from the “enclosing of the commons” way back in the day (18th century, not 19th) , and it was a lousy solution, but better than doing nothing at all.
I agree he misunderstood the implications of the tragedy of the commons in terms of the options available.
In the 80’s it was shown in some of the 28 Transkei district village ‘capitals’ (administrative centres) there is a very reasonable alternative to ‘privatising’ the municipal lands or continuing to destroy them with overgrazing. The scenario was this: all the commomages, as they are called, were overgrazed. The interest of the community members is cattle and their value. There are two interpretations of value: the number of standing heads walking around, no matter their condition, v.s. the sale value of the cattle as investments. There is no middle ground. People prefer one method or the other to assess ‘value’. In the former, cattle are money, in the latter they are worth money.
So the municipal commonages were fenced, some of them, and a small monthly access fee charged per animal with a guarantee of a total that would be allowed – a sustainable number. Only those paid-for animals were permitted to graze on the lush grass within the fenced area. Those animals did very well of course, compared with the animals outside the fence on other common land. Within a very short time, the payment subscription exceeded the available spaces. People tended to have few cattle of far greater sale value. Lands are overgrazed because access is free. As soon as access has a cost, the return is maximised using a different equation – literally.
There is absolutely no need to privatise commonages. There is also no need to be draconian about other possible solutions. It is only necessary to study why people have cattle in the first place and have a discussion about how to maximise value or income or both.
The tragedy was, and still is, the poverty of ideas proposed as solutions by people who haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Leave the commons to by run by communities in consultation with agricultural extensions workers and social anthropologists.

Crispin in Waterloo

Kurt:
Declaration of interest: I checked and my family benefitted from the “enclosing of the commons” way back in the day (18th century, not 19th) , and it was a lousy solution, but better than doing nothing at all.
I agree he misunderstood the implications of the tragedy of the commons in terms of the options available.
In the 80’s it was shown in some of the 28 Transkei district village ‘capitals’ (administrative centres) there is a very reasonable alternative to ‘privatising’ the municipal lands or continuing to destroy them with overgrazing. The scenario was this: all the commomages, as they are called, were overgrazed. The interest of the community members is cattle and their value. There are two interpretations of value: the number of standing heads walking around, no matter their condition, v.s. the sale value of the cattle as investments. There is no middle ground. People prefer one method or the other to assess ‘value’. In the former, cattle are money, in the latter they are worth money.
So the municipal commonages were fenced, some of them, and a small monthly access fee charged per animal with a guarantee of a total that would be allowed – a sustainable number. Only those paid-for animals were permitted to graze on the lush grass within the fenced area. Those animals did very well of course, compared with the animals outside the fence on other common land. Within a very short time, the payment subscription exceeded the available spaces. People tended to have few cattle of far greater sale value. Lands are overgrazed because access is free. As soon as access has a cost, the return is maximised using a different equation – literally.
There is absolutely no need to privatise commonages. There is also no need to be draconian about other possible solutions. It is only necessary to study why people have cattle in the first place and have a discussion about how to maximise value or income or both.
The tragedy was, and still is, the poverty of ideas proposed as solutions by people who haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Leave the commons to by run by communities in consultation with agricultural extensions workers and social anthropologists.

texasjimbrock

Kurt: You are exactly right. I dunno what passes for education these days.

Bob boder

I would fail it on purpose, it’s a stupid test. If the world actually was a zero sum game we would all still be living in caves, it’s precisely that fact that people act out of self interest that we live in a world of wealth and wonder, it is group desire and the laziness of mind and action that it creates that threatens to tare apart that world and a create a world of privation and horror that we see in a lands with out freedom and liberty.

Robertvd

“We all grumble about them. But we accept compulsory taxes because we recognize that voluntary taxes would favor the conscienceless.”
https://youtu.be/R7mRSI8yWwg

Robertvd

Form 1040 tells you what you are, a slave. Every form of direct taxation gives government the right to know everything about you. Direct taxation and freedom cannot coexist. Slavery was never abolished.

TheLastDemocrat

Despite the pessimism of Hardin, whose works I have read, humans can be found carrying out ALL KINDA COLLABORATIVE COOPERATION ALL OVER THA PLACE!!!!!!!!!
I am a member of many groups who depend solely and merely on mutual collaboration to get along and all get our desires met.
THIS IS WHAT CIVILIZATION IS.
Hardin, a male, was one of the handful of MEN who developed ALL of the pro-choice tropes bandied about since before Roe v Wade, and through to today – these arguments for killing the most defenseless among us are NOT obvious and apparent, as can be discerned as you read Hardin’s account of developing these arguments across years, in his abortion advocacy – set down in black and white in “Stalking the Wild Taboo.”
[Along with Hardin, yet another Communist Lawrence Lader, and an abortionist/atheist (cum Catholic) Bernard Nathanson were major engineers of the “pro-choice” polemics.
” ‘I remember laughing when we made those slogans up,’ recalls Bernard Nathanson, M.D., co-founder of pro-abortion group NARAL, reminiscing about the early days of the pro-abortion movement in the late ’60s and early ’70s. ‘We were looking for some sexy, catchy slogans to capture public opinion. They were very cynical slogans then, just as all of these slogans today are very, very cynical.’ ”
–Nathanson’s book “Aborting America” covers their extensive relationship…
http://www.pregnantpause.org/abort/remember-naral.htm

michael hart

Bob boder May 27, 2018 at 11:51 am
I would fail it on purpose, it’s a stupid test.

Exactly, Bob. Some subjects/students enjoy giving the wrong answer to try and teach the ‘researcher’ that the world is more complicated than their oversimplified view implies. As Crispin says, “The tragedy was, and still is, the poverty of ideas proposed as solutions by people who haven’t a clue what they are talking about.”
I regularly recall a BBC article (well before Trump) posing the question “Why do people vote for candidates that aren’t good for them”. Today they would probably reference Trump directly and ask “Why would people vote for Trump?”, and the answer would still be “Because there are people like you at the BBC asking questions like that.” There are no stupid questions, only stupid people.

Kristi Silber

Khwarizmi,
“Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not forever be so.”
Seems to me your description of coercion and the dislike of it is more applicable to conservatives. Liberals are much more comfortable with taxes and other “coercive” measures (regulation) designed to benefit society as a whole whether they do or not is a different issue).

Kristi Silber

Kurt,
The professor was illustrating a psychology experiment, the prisoner’s dilemma. The tragedy of the commons was background for it – neither he nor the students were trying to find an economic solution.

Unfortunately, the private property solution doesn’t always work. The Earth’s atmosphere is a good example: you can’t parcel out the atmosphere into individual allotments which each person can own and manage for themselves and bear the consequences. To put it another way, the reason the private property solution works, when it works, is that it internalizes the externalities of the “commons” situation; but sometimes there is no way to allocate private property that will do that.
Note that this does not mean that situations which have significant externalities that can’t be eliminated should be “fixed” by government action; that’s a “cure” that’s worse than the disease.

Kurt

“The professor was illustrating a psychology experiment, the prisoner’s dilemma. The tragedy of the commons was background for it – neither he nor the students were trying to find an economic solution.”
The professor’s experiment was silly. If I were a student of his, my most rational selection would be to pick the six points, and it has nothing to do with any prisoners dilemma. Since this experiment can’t make sense if grading is on a curve, then the status quo grading system has to be one in which every student’s grade is determined by his or her own actions. Study for and take a test, do the homework, etc. and get the grade you’ve earned. Simple fairness dictates that this is the way it should be.
Being confident in my abilities in this scenario, the last thing I want to do is have a situation where my grade depends on the arbitrary and unpredictable actions of other people. Nor do I want other classmates to get the same grade as I did when they didn’t work as hard me. So I pick the six, figuring that this maximizes the chances of having my grades determined under a fair system – and even if it turns out that the unfair system is selected because everybody else picked two, at least I come out on top in the unfair system.

Nylo

That would be my choice as well, for the same reasons

BCBill

The tragedy of the commons is a theory that grew into a myth. It never happened. http://climateandcapitalism.com/2008/08/25/debunking-the-tragedy-of-the-commons/ People have demonstrated repeatedly around the world and through history that they are capable of managing a common resource.

paqyfelyc

@BCBill
“The tragedy of the commons is a theory that grew into a myth.”
This is most plausible. Always happens, that theory gets too popular and applied in case where it doesn’t actually apply. Doesn’t mean ‘It never happened. ” Of course it happened, and it still does, for fisheries just for instance.
“People have demonstrated repeatedly around the world and through history that they are capable of managing a common resource.” Sure they are. No question about that.
The question is: do they always do it with the higher return, management cost (and other costs) deduced?
And the answer is: no. If they did, enclosure wouldn’t had happen, or would had been rolled back because of failure. In any case, you need someone to manage the collective thing, collect fee, police users, curb abuse etc, And the the fact is, this man will rather work for himself.

Mark Hansford

good grief Kurt not only do you not understand the point of the experiment. You also contradict yourself and then say you will pick the most devisive and unfair choice of all – the greedy ‘me first’ one. should fairness win the day and everyone else picks 2 points, which would mean nobody gains or loses out (what you would call fair), you would stand out like a sore thumb as the epitome of greed and failure to compromise. Not someone who should be trusted – think about it!
I did this experiment in another guise years ago in the format of 2 teams where negotiating a compromise meant everbody gains – but both teams thought winning was better and tried to deceive the other. Very revealing of human nature. Dont expect other people to look after you if it means losing a chance for themselves. Most will come down on the side of the staus quo others will always try to get one over on everybody else and think themselves as clever and brave for doing so.

Hivemind

The professor did indeed misunderstand the tragedy of the commons. Most villagers had their own land. The commons was common-use land, which was available to poor people that didn’t have their own land to graze on.
In the agricultural revolution (which came before the industrial revolution), the commons ceased to be available to poor people. That was the tragedy.

Santa Baby

If The cake is not big enough to let ome take 2 or 6 point, Yeas the answer is to make The cake bigger.

thomasJK

I guess that a deep and abiding faith in the benevolence and the super-natural powers of government could support any kind of belief they wish to believe in……And they vote accordingly in election after election regardless of the fact that the benevolence is never on display and the super-natural powers seem to never manifest in anything other than piles of bureaucratic BS.
RIP Uncle Sam.

Tom in Florida

A benevolent dictator is still a dictator.

drednicolson

And they always assume the alleged benevolence will be directed towards themselves.

Latitude

“Does so many people choosing six points mean it’s human nature to be greedy and selfish?”
…better yet, why are socialists only comfortable putting people in boxes?
Third option…..people choosing 6 points figure the odds are in their favor….because so many people taking psychology courses are suckers

Mark Hansford

No the whole point (in my case anyway when presented with a similar problem) was to demonstrate exactly why human nature needs to be taken into account when negotiating. There will always be someone prepared to risk all for everyone else in order to push themselves undeservedly to the top of the pile!! I cannot be alone in knowing absolutely horrible aggressive people who get what they want by trampling over or stealing from others. Thats the point here – be aware!! The majority of the people who go for 2 points are totally gutted by being let down by the greedy few who think they should go for 6. Those that go for 6 think never mind another chance will come along! Ask them, they just dont care. A moments embarrassment every now and again is totally acceptable if it means getting ahead of the game.

J Mac

Dylan Selterman is using a modified Prisoners Dilemma exercise for socialist recruitment purposes. This isn’t teaching. It is deliberate indoctrination of students that may be forced to take his class, as part of their degree requirements.

David Cage

As an engineer with at the time total contempt for social science I decided to study it part time and do a degree in it. It left me with more respect for social science as a discipline but considerably less for at least two thirds of those choosing to study it.
That two thirds, without exception could not conceive of the idea that instead of fussing too much about dividing the cake one should be more interested in ensuring the cake was big enough which was almost as important as it being fairly divided until that division became obscenely unjust.
They also could not conceive of the idea that no one is prepared to do the gutty jobs for the same rate as doing the nice easy ones. Sadly we now have the situation where greedy and corrupt bankers and business leaders are first manipulating the economy and then using that manipulation to make personal fortunes so perhaps the social scientists are more right than they were at that time. I for one would never have gone into engineering had I known how the returns would decline to below that of semi skilled workers like plumbers over my working life to pay the mega fortunes of a few corporate leaders.

I’ve done glazing and irrigation, and I will tell you from experience it is much safer, more comfortable, and better employment to be able to use ones brain rather than ones hands. Those jobs you mention are extremely dangerous and harsh, at least in the commercial environs. I am so glad to be back into lending. Paid federal holidays even though I’m working in the private sector, comfortable, warm, consistent, same pay but the benefits far exceed manual skilled labor.
It’s still a stop Gap until I figure a business plan that works for my goals, but I wouldn’t ever want to go back to hanging off a 28 story building, in January in Denver, or August on the steel and concrete, tied off in a harness, catching 13′ panels and pulling them in house to install, crapping in a disgusting porto potty. Nah. That life sucks bud.
Oh, and you are working with people that despise you because you are white, and they are ex cons, and they steal. Low life’s are attracted to that market because that’s the only place they can make a living. No thanks, I’ll take the business world anyday

Hoyt Clagwell

I think this teacher’s exercise works better as an illustration of the dangers of socialism whereby the government, owning the means of production, can artificially limit the resources (in this case points) as a means of coercing the public into an ‘approved’ behavior. Under a free market system, people are free to increase resources wherever possible. We deal with this regularly in California where water and electricity supplies are kept limited by the state in order to justify ever increasing prices, and to push people into accepting the government sanctioned need for solar and wind power, as well as the higher taxes needed to pay for it. The beauty of the free market and competition is that it doesn’t require any altruism. It just allows people to behave as they naturally want to do in a way that benefits everybody. I make or do something people want to pay for, and my prices are low because of competition. Everybody wins.

I had a prof who would survey business school students and ask: Would you rather that 1) your competitor earns a profit of $10 million, and you, $5 million, or 2) your competitor earns zero, and you, $1 million.
The overwhelming majority of these soon-to-be business geniuses choose #2.

Alan Tomalty

What idiots !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RLu

By temporarily reducing your profits you can push your competitor out of the market. Once you dominate the market, you can make $25 million.

Trevor

RLu : THAT IS EXACTLY the tactic being employed by Jeff Bezos with
HIS “AMAZON” company…….and the poor devil is down to his last US$133 Billion……..
and still counting !!

Pierre DM

I would choose one every time. Option one means the market is large and gives me an incentive to win by doing a better job. Winning by doing a better job almost always involves better utilization an taking care of human resources. Option two is always a race to the bottom in quantity, quality and human dignity. Option two is always selected by the feel good socialists. That is why big business always backs the big government people. The ultimate in socialism is crony capitalism.

RockyRoad

Market domination (especially if you jack up your profits to $25 million) is temporary and just another incentive for a competitor to enter your market.

Robert W Turner

This is basically Exxon’s business model ever since it had it’s monopoly broken up decades ago.

RLu

@RockyRoad
The theory of ‘supply and demand’ does not always work when MBA’s get involved.
It’s hard to enter a mature market. The established business has already payed of it’s R&D and infrastructure decades ago. How does a new player compete against say; Walmart, Amtrak, Intel or Boeing.
Only a technology switch will shake up the established multi-nationals. Example; Kodak, Nokia.
Licenses and regulations are tools for the entrenched interest to stamp out competition. Even if it’s just the hairdresser who knows the health inspector.

DC Cowboy

Well, one way is for a consortium of governments to provide massive subsidies, i.e., Airbus, Chinese targeting of textiles, solar panels, steel, etc.

Har old

Rlu, you have to have started, or run, a business to know that what you say does not happen. First you have to make a profit: not easy.

Santa Baby

ITS about reproduction. Most girls would go for The winner in #1 and #2. So if you want girls its East to understand that somre pick #2?

Peta of Newark

Thank you Santa, suggest the good prof should read this:

Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy Meston and David Buss

What he might also want to find out about is ‘Warrior Spirit’ – an instinctive co-operation that happens between males. Classically where one will knowingly put himself into grave danger to help/save/rescue his friend.
Girls do not posses warior Spirit and tests have demonstrated same. Ask a girl to endanger herself to save another and she will refuse.
NOT to be confused with what girls will do to protect their babies.
Hence his attempt to be divisive depends on the mix of male to female in the class.
Boys would (should) latch on quickly, would actually co-operate as he wishes them to, except they would co-operate so as to derail and crash his test.
Girls would all vote similarly but their motive would be purely selfish (to save themselves individually) – the result would be the same.
But in a mixed group, appeasement happens. (its actually some boys hoping or voting for the Sympathy Shag, as per my book reference)
Ah, The Joys of Appeasement eh……..
No matter appeasement, in single sex groups, The Good Professor would become the Crash Test Dummy in his own Crash Test.
We’re left wondering why he does it.
He must surely know what I’ve just explained so again, why?

Irrational.

“Peta of Newark May 27, 2018 at 4:25 am
Thank you Santa, suggest the good prof should read this:

What he might also want to find out about is ‘Warrior Spirit’ – an instinctive co-operation that happens between males. Classically where one will knowingly put himself into grave danger to help/save/rescue his friend.
Girls do not posses warior Spirit and tests have demonstrated same. Ask a girl to endanger herself to save another and she will refuse.
NOT to be confused with what girls will do to protect their babies.”

Specious framing.
Men get to have the rational of “save/rescue his friend” as motivation, while women are denied protective reasons for voluntarily endangering themselves. BS!
All humans, male and female, willingly endanger themselves; so long as the motivation is sufficient.
e.g. Wars have repeatedly proven that men will “march to certain death”, because they do not want their friends, buddies, pals, neighbors, relatives, etc. etc., to think less of them.
Within that basic “march to certain death” framework, it should be noted that women, especially those who enlist as males, entered deadly situations equally as did males.
e.g. 2; Various countries, societies, civilizations actively used/use women as soldiers. In spite of the specious claim, “Girls do not posses{sic} warior{sic} Spirit”, females do not flee from danger. e.g. Israel.

Alan D McIntire

‘Santa Baby’ and ‘Pete of Newark’ you have hit on an important point. Economics is REALLY a subdiscipline of ‘sociobiology’. What may seem irrational from an ECONOMIST’S point of view is perfectly rational in ‘sociobiology’. A poorer overall economy may benefit individuals’ ability to pass on their share of genes to the next generation, while with an overall richer economy, the individual’s SHARE of the next generation’s genes may be lower. One example of this in OTHER living creatures is peacocks- their long tailfeathers can be a disadvantage to the individual male and reduce his survival chances , but this lower survival rate is offset by the greater chance to breed with females and pass on his genes. OVERALL, peacocks would be ‘wealthier’ and have longer, richer lives if they DIDN’T have those larger tailfeathers and tailfeather displays, but that an’t gonna happen among peacocks, and it ain’t gonna happen among humans.
To get a little science fictiony, an ALTERNATIVE problem is what happens when a FEW humans separate from the larger population, and travel to new islands, new continents, or new worlds on other planets. In THAT case I suspect that those small groups of humans, or peacocks, might choose the $5 million and let everyone else on earth, who they’re no longer competing with directly, get the $10 million as opposed to getting the $1 million and leaving everyone else with zero.

Craig from Oz

ATheoK suggested; “All humans, male and female, willingly endanger themselves; so long as the motivation is sufficient.”
Important word here is motivation.
Motivation is not instinct, and the argument being put forward by Peta is all about instinct.
Let us look at the situation another way. In hard pragmatic terms what use is the importance of the father in keeping a newborn baby alive after he has completed his 30 seconds of labour 9 months ago?
(or two mins if he had to take his shoes off first…)
Real terms? Nothing.
Remove the father from a new born and it is tragic and sad.
Remove the mother and for great periods of human history the newborn dies.
Men do not lactate. A man, without outside help of either modern society or another woman, cannot keep a newborn alive.
So the evolutional advantage was for men to evolve to learn instinctively they need to do irrational acts for the good of others (where others are often the mother of their children) on the understanding at some base level that they are replaceable even if the group is not, and for women to evolve into stop-at-nothing ‘Momma Bears’.
Motivation is not instinct. I can be ‘motivated’ to do a lot of things. (cough… housework… cough…). I instinctively do other things. I have chased a phone snatch thief because he ran when I challenged him. A block later it began to dawn on me that I probably wasn’t going to catch him, but that was only after my instinct had forced me into that situation in the first place.
(if I had fought my instinct I would have quietly closed on him, placed a firm hand on his shoulder and politely asked just what he had picked up from that bench. Instinct can often be a bad thing.)
Sorry ATheoK, but men and women have had generations of evolutionary advantage to develop different instincts. We are different. Deal with it.

Mark Hansford

Peta – actually not so – my experience was all male – similar record of non cooperation. I would have thought perhaps the reverse is true where women cooperate within their sex better, but I dont know. What you’re talking about is compassion – different ball game altogether

Brin

I too would have chosen option 2.
If my competitor had 5 million more capital than me, it would be far easier for him to drive me toward going out of business in the following year. If you are competing with a person, it would be foolish to presume they will use their 5 million profit in a manner that would be beneficial toward you, since in the long run their profit would be even higher if they use that 5 million in a way that drives me out of the market or at least significantly reduces my share in the market. Choosing option 2 is of greater long term benefit to myself than choosing option 1. I may make less in the immediate future, but I do not imperil my ability to remain in the market over the longer term, which would definitely be the case if I allowed my competitor to gain such an overwhelming advantage for the following year.

If he had £5Million more than me he could spend it buying my business.

jorgekafkazar

Perhaps they should be lauded for their foresight. The competitor who earns zero will fold, and you’ll have the market to yourself the following year. Monopoly is where the big bucks are.

TheLastDemocrat

Government-protected monopoly is where the money is at.

You’re assuming that #2 is a worse situation for society as a whole. That’s not necessarily the case.

Paul Johnson

None of the elitist professors who endorse socialism never expect to live under socialism; they intend to live on top of it.

Stephen Reilly

Very well said, Paul. Another example of the Tragedy of the Commons is the depletion of fishing grounds.

John Harmsworth

I would say that public education is the best example of the tragedy of the commons. Far too many sheep on rocky and infertile ground and fleeced by fat and thoughtless shepherds.

Paul Johnson

Sorry, correction: None of the elitist professors who endorse socialism ever expect to live under socialism; they intend to live on top of it.

Agreed!
That goes equally for “Stephen Reilly May 27, 2018 at 2:46 am” statement, too.
Stephen Reilly introduces the driving criteria the psychology professor(s) ignore. Commercial financial motivation, where seizing a resource’s entirety, even to the serious detriment of the resource, is a driving factor.
e.g. market gunning, market fishing, collecting/harvesting wild plants or animals for sale, etc. etc.
Historical facts, stories, etc., frequently identify villains who willfully drain/destroy common resources for personal benefits. Whether this resource rapine is driven by profit or elitist entitlement is immaterial. This resource destruction is enabled by class or financial differences; e.g. where the person collecting a resource is very poor and they collect resources for selfish employers/customers driven by greed or glory.
e.g., Roman emperors owning/eating the rarest into near extinction.
e.g.2, Whale oil profiteers
e.g.3, An infamous climate alleged researcher who produced a hokeystick, and still flogs that hokeystick.

Kurt

The response of any student to this exercise should have been to drop the course. Professors who award credit on anything other than merit aren’t good professors.

Steve Reddish

Likewise, any professor who grades students on a curve is not concerned with students’ actually learning. If the top student in the ntclass only learns 1/2 of the course material, that speaks to the incompetence of the teacher. Granting that student an A hides the teacher’s incompetence.
I wonder if this lecturer grades on the curve? In the linked article he says 20 percent of the students opted for getting 6 points. If the lecturer grades on the curve, they may be the ones who realize that if the whole class gets 2 points that is exactly the same as all getting zero points. This setup pushes students to opt for 6 points, as that is their only way to get any real points in the exercise.
This setup doesn’t mean 1/5 of the students are selfish, the lecturer just manipulated the test to enable him to claim capitalism will ruin the Earth.
SR

Michael Jankowski

I never had a teacher in a class other than math, science, or engineering who graded on a curve.
Psych? No way.

Fen

I would like to see the GPAs of the students who went for 6. I’m betting they were overachievers who resented bonuses given away to others who hadn’t studied as hard or as much as they did.
Or maybe there is some other commonality based on resentment. From that angle, it’s a win win for them: exploit the experiment for 6 pts or break it.

John Harmsworth

I award your assessment 6 extra marks. This appears to me to be the logical approach for the smartest and hardest working students.
This leaves two existential questions for the Socialists:
Why should smart, hardworking students continue to work hard for marks that are given to others and taken from them via curve grading?
What does a grade point (currency unit) actually represent?

TheLastDemocrat

My daughter gets her second job. At the upscale burrito place, where they make your burrito per your immediate requests. There is one communal tip jar, by the register.
She comes home after a couple days and gripes about how the lazy employees get the same share of the tips as her.
My wife and I smile at the fact that, having burned our emotional resources across 16 years trying to prepare her for life by teaching her many a life lesson, we do not have to teach her this lesson.
All we have to say: “Welcome to Socialism.”

Over some 15 years I was the landlord of a buy-to-let flat in London. Now gratefully no longer. During the period I must have replaced most of the furniture and fittings 2 or 3 times. In the meantime in my own modist flat I still have most of the same furniture and fittings I had when I started. I considered myself lucky if I had tenants who treated the flat with the respect due and actually regularly paid the rent on time. It was a depressing situation and, of course, had to be reflected in increased rent and what, to some, might have seemed somewhat autocratic rules and requirements.
The left wing continuous attack on the sins of the Landlord was an additional annoyance.
Overall I consider I contributed to the common good in that many people enjoyed the benefit of comfortable accommodation over the years.

Greg Cavanagh

I would have chosen the 6 points option, for the chance of actually getting 6 points. It is after all a competitive field. You want to get the highest grade you can and a 6 point boost is a good bonus.
In fact this is what gambling is based on also. A small price for the chance of a big reward.

joelobryan

The Left loves the paradigm of the Village. It’s a communal place, like the Commons. Where nobody owns anything of real value and everything is supposed to be shared. Yet raw sewage runs down the middle of the village paths. Naked, filthy children run around in the garbage and sewage. Open pits of garbage. The men are off hiding in the bush, smokin’ something that isn’t tobacco. The women who trade partners like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills wonder why the men don’t work and hide all day in the high grass just beyond the village. No one owns anything, its not their problem.
But then of course, human nature being human nature, and some animals are more equal than others, reality of human nature sets in. Village chiefs though are livin’ large.
Liberals try to deny this part of human nature. The outcome is always a Venezuela hyper-inflation-starvation or a Zimbabwe-land seizure and return to subsistence living. Enforced Equality of Outcome means a peasant’s life for the 98%. The 2% Elites are happy; the Elites like — the Bloomberg’s, the Soro’s, the Rockefeller’s, the Obama’s, the Bezos’s, the Gore’s, Bill Gates, Tom Steyer.
Capitalism, with all its faults, ensures everyone has economic opportunity. Not perfect. But it works.
The tragedy of the commons occurs exactly becasue there is no ownership. The masterful invention of Western Democracy and capitalism is the protection of property rights. Both Intellectual property and real property. With ownership comes stewardship.
The Left hates the Middle class having property rights. To wit: in the US the attempt by the EPA to impose the WOTUS rules on land-owners. The US FWS imposing the fake Sage Grouse as an endangered species act on land owners. Higher energy costs that only impact the the lower and middle class. All in the attempt to bring the Commons to everyone except the Elites.

Leo Smith

Very true. It seems from reading Jared diamond and others that te transition from hunter gatherer society – which is the only egalitarian society in which there is no such thing as property – occurred when men started to herd, rather than hunt, and plant fruit and nut trees and fodder crops rather than let their herds run wild.
At this point two things happen: all the so called evils of society – organisation, property, protecting property against theft, ownership of land etc etc. – come into play and the population density goes up by an order of magnitude.
Only industrialisation and the use of non renewable energy produce a corresponding paradigm shift in lifestyles

Khwarizmi

joel,
Dd capitalism solve the sewerage problem in London, or did the government have to fix it for the common good?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_sewerage_system

“Dd capitalism solve the sewerage problem in London, or did the government have to fix it for the common good?” Both. Obviously. Government was able to fund the work because capitalism was successful, was able to develop the technology, and pay for the work. Capitalism by itself could not provide the solution because it could not obtain the wayleaves, etc to put the system in place. How else could it have happened? Government order taht $h|t flows round London instead of through it?

joelobryan

The government in a Democracy is not the Village or the Commons.
London still has a vibrant middle class. The middle class is what makes such a distinction.
Do you think Caracas, Venezuela has a vibrant middle class today? or that anyone is worrying about sewage treatment there, when most are worried about their next meal?
Socialism. The Commons. Communes.
Society is fragile. We are never more than one generation of a poor education away from what the elitist Left wants to give us — a two class society. Them, the elites, and Us, the peasants.
In many respects they are winning if we do not fight them. Politics matter. Choose the wrong poltical system and all is lost. Ask Venezuela.

Dodgy Geezer

…Did capitalism solve the sewerage problem in London, or did the government have to fix it for the common good?…
It was capitalism, and self-interest.
Though it was an obvious problem, no one did anything about it for 20 years or more. Then, one hot summer, the Thames began to stink to high heaven, and the UK Parliament building is ON THE BANKS OF THE THAMES.
Shortly after that funds were voted through to develop the first sophisticated state-of-the-art city waste management system….

HotScot

Khwarizmi
You’ll notice the Wikipedia article refers to “the big stink” which was when the smell from open sewers overpowered the houses of parliament and MP’s felt they couldn’t work because of it.
The sewage problem would have remained for some considerable time were the elite not personally affected by it. And whilst they only had to endure the smell, peasants had been suffering the disease and death for years.
But assuming it was altruism that motivated the MP’s to act, where do you imagine the funds came from to pay for the system.
Yep, taxes imposed on the Capitalist free market. Capitalism paid every penny, as it has always done because without profitable trade there is nothing but misery.

Trevor

Joel and martinc19 :
Martin : It was a happy coincidence of events that the sewer system in London
developed the way it did !
Brilliant VICTORIAN engineers , skilled tradesmen , and the FINANCIAL POWER
of an EMPIRE were at their disposal.
The MAIN SEWER is hidden INSIDE THE EMBANKMENT and in fact flows RIGHT
THROUGH THE CITY alongside the THAMES RIVER.
Such a brilliantly OVER-ENGINEERED PROJECT that it has only VERY RECENTLY
required an upgrade after serving successfully for about a CENTURY & A HALF .
AND……the timely replacement of HORSES with MOTOR CARS later on removed an
awful lot of MARXIST-LENININIST-PROPAGANDA from the streets as well !
It no longer needed to be flushed from the streets and into the river !

Another Ian
Tom in Florida

Khwarizmi,
The only money the government has is taken from the people. So while the government may have overseen the process of the fix, the money came from those who had enough to be taxed.

John Harmsworth

Socialism solves the problem by starving people. No food, no sewage.

PiperPaul

Capitalism, with all its faults, ensures everyone has economic opportunity. Not perfect. But it works.
The problem is that the left virtually owns the cultural and communication institutions and from that position of authority can endlessly publicly criticize and denounce “capitalism” (as if it’s some kind of planned system like communism) while conveniently ignoring and minimizing the huge problems with their never-successful, perpetually on the horizon socialist utopia.
And if there’s just one unhappy or unfulfilled person anywhere, everyone should feel guilty about this and accede to ever more taxation and regulation in order to solve that.
It’s an opportunity to endlessly tinker with social engineering experimentation which conveniently provides non-productive jobs for people who can’t survive in the private sector. What are all the Clown Quarter degreed, entitled, self-important social justice “activists” going to do when their taxpayer-funded gravy train ends – work in the fast food industry or become telephone sanitizers?
“People who don’t care about politics pick their politics according to the quite-rational criterion of which politics will result in them being bothered, bullied and ostracized the least.”

TA

“The problem is that the left virtually owns the cultural and communication institutions and from that position of authority can endlessly publicly criticize and denounce “capitalism” (as if it’s some kind of planned system like communism)”
That’s the reason the Marxists invented the term “Capitalism”. It’s a perjorative meant to equate Communism with Capitalism.
Free Enterprise is the proper term, but it’s hard to make Free Enterprise sound bad, so Leftists/Communists changed it to Capitalism.for propaganda purposes.
Free Enterprise, the Savior of the Human Race.

JON R SALMI

Let’s remember the experience of the Pilgrims. Their first year the food they grew was collected and distributed by need and the colony badly floundered. Half the Pilgrims died. Thirteen months later when the ‘Fortune’ arrived there were only three females of child-bearing age left alive. For the second growing season the meme was, ‘you grow it, you keep it’, and the colony thrived. Note: I am sure there were, of course, other factor involved. Read William Bradford’s ‘On Plymouth Plantation’ for the full story.

jorgekafkazar

All reference to the communist experiment at Plymouth Colony has been stricken from Wankerpedia. The only reference to communism in the Wanki for Jamestown is a single instance of the word “communal.” The failure of Jamestown is attributed to “the aristocratic backgrounds of many of the new colonists, a historic drought” and, dead last, “the communal nature of their ‘work load’.”

TheLastDemocrat

“The masterful invention of Western Democracy and capitalism is the protection of property rights.”
This is either largely offensive, or glaringly ignorant.
Please review the Ten Commandments, as well as major portions of the Old Testament, and resubmit your end-of-semester Term Paper. You will get an Incomplete which will turn into an F after the following semester if you cannot figure out where you have made your lapse in knowledge. In your re-submission, please include discussion of the covenantal contracts in the OT, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Commandment regarding covetousness of your neighbor’s property, and the story of Achan, Joshua Ch 7. Extra credit for an explication of the concept of property rights and jurisprudence in the Book of Ruth.

In concept I agree with what he does – the tragedy of the commons is real and it’s good students are taught about it. In this case the devil is in the detail. I believe we have practically unlimited resources, we just need creative solutions to develop technology to use it. So I don’t agree with his example of the goal of moderating consumption. But pollution (I mean real pollution like particulates in the air, chemicals in water or plastic in the sea, not CO2 in the air) is a better example of the tragedy of the commons. If I build a cheap factory that pollutes I can make excessive profits but society looses.

LdB

You can see the exact experiment with emission controls and as the Professor found out it won’t work and it doesn’t work for the sorts of reasons we all know and some you point out.

I think that the good professor has somewhat taken this out of concept and misapplied the exercise, perhaps because he is not aware of the original derivation of this phrase nearly 200 years ago by a British economist.
“The tragedy of the commons is a situation where there is overconsumption of a particular product/service because rational individual decisions lead to an outcome that is damaging to the overall social welfare.
The tragedy of the commons theory assumes that when making decisions, people take the course of action that maximises their own utility. However, if many people seek to do this, the net effect may be to deplete a resource making everyone worse off in the long run.
The tragedy of the commons was first mentioned by the Victorian economist William Forster Lloyd, in 1833. He used a hypothetical area of common grazing land, in which villagers all took their cows to this common grazing land, but this led to overgrazing and a loss of the resource.
In theory, individuals could limit their use so that they don’t deplete the common resource. However, there is a free-rider problem. Where people rely on others to cut back their production. If everyone free-rides and maximises their use, then we get a situation of over-consumption.”
In recent years we have had governments ‘nudging’ us to do ‘the right thing’. All variations of the same theme. People are generally able to decide what the right thing is, with explanation and if there is a common purpose and an agreed problem. We saw this in 1950’s London whereby smog was banished by removing the right of everyone to burn dirty variations of coal and wood etc.
Ironically we are seeing a new version appear, as the UK middle class who took to wood burning stoves in a big way in some sort of belief that it was sustainable and combated climate change are now likely to find the UK govt legislating against them in some form or other as wood burners are as not as clean and sustainable as was claimed.
Whether Drax will follow a ban with its wood pellets seems a logical result but there is too much govt support and public subsidy behind it I suspect for this to happen in the short term
tonyb

ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N

Ironically we are seeing a new version appear, as the UK middle class who took to wood burning stoves in a big way in some sort of belief that it was sustainable and combated climate change are now likely to find the UK govt legislating against them in some form or other as wood burners are as not as clean and sustainable as was claimed.

It’s literally no different than those in the UK being coerced into buying diesels instead of petrol because they’re “greener” thanks to their greater fuel economy, but are suddenly being harassed by extra “pollution” taxes because diesels are now magically considered “dirty”.
Suckers.

‘Coerced’ is a rather aggressive word. Which is why ‘nudged’ came into being, it sounds so much gentler and helpful…..
But as you say, the end effect is the same. Exactly the same with renewables in general, they have some sort of place, but not as base power for advanced economies.
A much better way to have waged a war against fossil fuels would be to state that we needed to take back control of our energy supplies and stop sending vast sums of money overseas in payment for them, to regimes that hate our way of life.
tonyb

R. Shearer

What is happening to the UK? How many people are simply disappeared like Tommy Robinson?

TheLastDemocrat

Coerced is a very good word. There are so many social issues right now where individuals COULD behave in a good way, but they OPT to do something else, and claim that the COERCER is responsible.
There is a likker store down the street. The part-time cashier is UTTERLY responsible for me being a fall-down drunk.

Karlos51

So many presumption..
‘if everyone took their cows to the pasture’. Firstly – there must be cows *needing* this food. A good left authoritarian would quickly progress beyond restricting cow-access to banning cows outright. Net result – suffering.
“The zero-point option is self-sacrificial; students forgo points for themselves in order to help the group by restraining those who take too much.”
By this argument a man saying to a girlfriend before causing her harm, “If I can’t have you, no one can” is self sacrificial and altruistic? A form of ideological logic? No, it’s a resentment based emotion. There’s a word for this – spite. Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face comes to mind. (the term ‘help the group’ is also an example of rhetoric, presumption of fact)
“And some of my classes have done this without anyone actually choosing the zero-point option; simply knowing it was available was enough to increase cooperation”
A word for this state could be “fear”. But there’s another.. It’s been observed in the real world too, under Stasi and Na-zi and Authoritarian regimes.. fearful compliance quickly commutes to an opportunity to punish others, rightly or wrongly, based on perceived slights or transgressions. Spiteful, resentful people were quick to ingratiate themselves with the AUTHORITY FIGURES, many hoping they would have their status elevated and themselves become arbiters of justice – this situation of having the power to bring down others was found to be reward enough for some bitter folk.
I’ve always noted how strongly ‘punishment’ figures into authoritarian systems and how little reward is offered (and where reward is offered. it goes to those in charge or those who gain power from using power).
Had I considered this guy’s position before reading his article, I feel I would have posed my students this: “I will give you all an afternoon off OR, I will teach you something extra that others will not teach you” – this offers a reward, no one loses. The students who are there to learn (for real) will take the extra information, those who are there merely to pass will leave early. There’s no Authority Figure empowering themselves, the students preserve their autonomy and can make their own decisions (liberty anyone?)
I remove myself from being an Authority Figure. Everyone is rewarded. They’ve chosen their own fates (they have control and liberty, freedom to choose). Now ask yourself, who chose more wisely? Is it for you or I to say?
In negotiating rewards and punishments as he has done he sets himself outside the system and inflates his position to that of an authoritarian.
My first thought of cows and pastures was dudes with cows – fine, oh looky at all that manure! Some bloke starts collecting and using it for his carrots.. the carrot farmer sells his waste carrot tops from his now-famous carrot broth to the cow farmers. Auntie Jean clever lady, has noted cows don’t graze near the fence line so she’s got herself some roses growing there. she sells the new blooms at the local market, old blooms, picked up by Neddy-she-Skive are sold to Patsy who makes scents for Filbert’s candles. Mary has created a lovely muck pond on the lower slope and gathers cress, and filtered of the nutrients, a lower pond cut in by Burt Hornswoggle is well stocked with fish..
..And damn I could prattle on forever about complex systems and examples of how rubbish becomes ‘resources’ only when a use is found for them, and how new resources create new industries and so on.
Of course the authoritarian socialist only sees cows and pastures – they have little experience with the real world and prefer working with simple systems with nice clean pens and paper and armchairs. It is also much easier for them to do things like give extra marks or have people packed into trains to be sent off for re-education..

Greg Cavanagh

It becomes apparent that the good professor has never asked any student why he chose to take the 6 point option.
The professor bloviates about the subject, but has never sought to understand the motivation of those he criticises. This is typical of the Left.

jorgekafkazar

Thank you, Tonyb, for saving me the trouble of looking up the derivation of “tragedy of the commons.” I was fairly certain it predated Hardin, but too lazy to verify that.

ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N

Now for the big question:

What would you think of a Psychology lecturer who every year plays a real life version Prisoner’s Dilemma with undergraduates, awarding course credits based on the outcome of a climate cooperation game?

Because he has to resort to making it about “climate” rather than anything else even remotely humanitarian, he’s either looking for grants or nobody was interested in another theme. He should give up immediately.

StephenP

Commons in the UK were usually owned by a landlord with commoners have a number of rights such as grazing a set number of livestock, gathering dead wood ( where ‘by hook or by crook’ originated as they were allowed to pull dead branches from the trees ) , but the timber from the trees belonged to the landlord.
Other commons were owned by a number of farmers who owned their own farms around an area such as a mountain in Wales.
The successful commons had a strict set of rules on things such as the number of stock that each commoner could grass, and the time of year when the stock could grass the common.
The tragedy of the commons occurred when some of the commoners got greedy or feckless and overgrazed the common or kept stock on the land out of season where the ground was too wet.
Didn’t a similar thing happen on the open rangeland in the USA?

J.H.

Bzzzzt…. WRONG. The Tragedy of the Commons is a fallacy. The proposition that if everyone grazed on the common that everyone would overgraze it and the cattle economy would suffer…. It’s rubbish. Instead what happens is the greater demand for Beef results in the Free Market Economy developing Feed Lots and producing more beef than ever before. Nobody is using the commons because it is inefficient…. That’s what actually happened. There was no “Tragedy”.

Fen

Huh? We must have read different books.
For me, ToC is metaphor on the points of failure for Marxism. If you open your home up to the public it will get trashed and likely burned down – coffee grounds clogging the garbage disposal, overflowing toilets, candles catching the drapes etc – because the public doesn’t have a vested interest in maintaining your house, only you do.

Tom in Florida

Government low income housing projects come to mind.

Indiana Sue

Ditto for people trashing their own houses because the bank is foreclosing on their mortgage. They’re losing the house, so why care?

Sheri

That is a unique interpretation. Did you think that up or find it somewhere?

J.H.

It’s how an economy works if allowed to develop without government interference.

John Harmsworth

I thought improved farming techniques made it more efficient to consolodate the land for agriculture. If the tragedy of the commons was as it is represented theoretically (modelled), each depeted area would resolve itself over time. People aren’t completely stupid. They see that their livelihood is threatened and come to an agreement about usage.
I expect that most common lands were quite conservatively managed. We think so highly of our intelligence and so little of our ancestors. It is pathetic hubris.

Trevor

Sorry…………AM I JUST THICK ?
“I teach undergraduate psychology courses at the University of Maryland, and my classes draw students with diverse interests. But every one of them perks up when I pose this question: Do you want two extra-credit points on your term paper, or six points?”
WHY WOULD YOU NOT CHOOSE THE SIX POINTS ? (“Ask and it shall be given you ” . Biblical ! )
Where did he state that the SIX POINTS were limited or restricted and that there was a PENALTY
for choosing more or less ?
He then relates a story about sharing grazing resources , presumably sufficient for the number of cattle.
Points on an essay DO NOT directly relate to cattle-grazing. Two distinctly separate subjects !
IF the students are UNABLE TO DIFFERENTIATE between these two (2 \) things , then THAT
is a problem. If this is a case of INFERRED LOGIC then it is not a very good one !
“A possible solution seems simple: If everyone just moderated their consumption, we’d have sustainability. As many of my students say, “If everyone chooses two points, we’ll all get the points.” And yet, for the first eight years I used this exercise, only one class—of the dozens I taught—stayed under the 10 percent threshold.”
WHERE and WHEN was a 10% threshold mentioned in the conditions ?
WHERE was there mention of A LIMIT on the number of points available ?
THANK OUR LUCKY STARS that MOST classes failed this TEST IN COMMUNISM and took
the “selfish” option ! The “REAL WORLD” will come as much less of a shock to them !!
As others pointed out……COMMUNISM CARVES ONE PIE INTO EVER SMALLER BITS !
FREE ENTERPRISE ( “our system” ) PRODUCES MORE PIES and ALL the competent
and industrious INDIVIDUALS benefit……so much so that there are usually EXTRA PIES left over
to distribute to the “impaired members” of our society , PHILANTHROPICALLY !
SUSTAINABILITY……..yeah ! Unicorns and Utopia !! MARXIST $#!& !!!

Stevan Reddish

By setting the limit at 10% when he knows 20% will choose 6 points, the lecturer purposefully sets the exercise up to fail so that he can claim greedy capitalists will ruin the Earth.
SR

drednicolson

Two kid brothers were arguing over who got to play with a toy first. Their mother, seeing an opportunity to teach a lesson about sharing, came up and said, “Do you know what Jesus would do? He would say ‘Let my brother play with the toy first. I’ll wait my turn.'”
The older brother looked back at his sibling and said, “Okay, you get you be Jesus!”
🙂
It isn’t greedy capitalists who stand to ruin the world. It’s the greedy communists who want everyone else to be Jesus. 😐

Robertvd
jorgekafkazar

Mmm! Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!

TinyCO2

How about a new excercise for the professor and his students. Why don’t they all work out their CO2 footprint and compare. When the professor with his well paid job, work travel, holidays, home, family, pets, etc, etc, comes out way higher than his students, they can quiz him what he plans to give up, to come down to their level of consumption. Alternatively he can get back to them when their CO2 exceeds his.

Stevan Reddish

+ Lots
SR

TheLastDemocrat

D’oh!

Tim Beatty

If he grades on the curve, the only fair (and selfish) choice is 6 points.

LdB

Explain how if everyone makes a choice of 5 you aren’t going to fail 🙂
The point of the exercise is showing you won’t get a curve now think why.
A funny science version of the experiment is to ask a group of students to stand randomly around a room and watch what happens.

Stevan Reddish

Only because “creating randomness” is oxymoronic. The appropriate place for for such an exercise is in a class on critical thinking and logic.
SR

LdB

Yes what most classes will do is even spread out, so they do the exact opposite of random 🙂

Latitude

I actually had a professor do that one time……
I proceeded to sit at my desk and finish what I was doing.
He walked over, repeated it, I sat there, he asked me what was my problem.
…I told him I was already random………I got the points

Tim Beatty

There are two choices. 6 and 2 points. If everyone chooses 2, then they get 2 points and the curve eliminates the advantage/disadvantage. If everyone chooses 6, then everyone gets 0 and again, the curve eliminates the advantage. However, if you choose 6 and not enough others choose 6, then everyone who chose 2 gets 2 points while the 6 chosers get 6 points. There is no downside to ever picking 6, but there is upside. You either get no advantage/disadvantage or you get 6 extra points. He makes his experiment sound like there is a downside to “failing” but there is not.

commieBob

The tragedy of the commons could be used to justify the idea that everything should be privately owned. It could also be used to justify government control of everything. The extremes of both approaches are unworkable.
Both sides will argue that their ideal case is obviously superior to the other side’s demonstrated reality. I give you two realities: Venezuela under Madura and Chavez versus Chile under Pinochet. Stupid socialism versus stupid neoliberalism.
It’s complicated. The linked article is a criticism of neoliberalism, whatever that is, but, once you get past its title, it makes the very true point that simple prescriptions don’t work.

LdB

The problem is as you extend the exercise to complex things it no longer works because other effects come into play. As an exercise in understanding human behaviour it’s actually interesting.
There was a rather interesting thing happen on the online game called World Of Warcraft which has a player base of several million. They introduced a disease called corrupted blood which could be spread and killed players. The assumption was people wouldn’t deliberately try and spread it. You can read what happened.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupted_Blood_incident

Hmm, the game is called World of Warcraft … and someone would *assume* players wouldn’t spread it? Of course they would, and I’d guess the players who enjoyed PKing would do it in particular.

drednicolson

IIRC it was a unique debuff of a specific boss monster. It would be cleared when the group left the dungeon in question, but Hunter players discovered that if their pets got the debuff and were unsummoned before leaving the dungeon, the next time they were summoned they’d still have it! So it was an oversight/bug more than a deliberate addition. Still caused a virtual pandemic. :O

John Harmsworth

Interesting, commieBob!
Iwould say that the option of government ownership introduces another player who must also be fed from the product of the land. Additionally, this player has no incentive to do this job well as the active agent is only an employee. This agent will be sorely tempted to bend the rules in return for favours. The real life experience of this is that in Socialist countries resources are , in fact wasted in exactly this way. The whole country is turned into ” a commons ” , wherin the only people allowed to exercise self interest are the elite, who come to their position by political astuteness, not by any economic insight.
The option of private ownership also creates another player who must be fed, but this player is granted his self interest and is free to make changes to maximize the productivity of the property. An excellent example of the effectiveness of these two management methodologies are North and South Korea.
I don’t consider myself a Capitalist or a Communist. We have foolishly limited ourselves to two choices when we actually evolved socially to live in a very different environment. Big everything is bad for us. Big labour, big business, big government, big education are all coercive and create and enable elites with their own interests and agenda.

commieBob

Big everything is bad for us.

Yep. Big business has some advantages. For instance, there’s no way a co-op department store can compete against Walmart.
I’m very interested in new manufacturing technologies that permit relatively small businesses compete against big business in local markets.
According to this article we had 20 million manufacturing jobs in 1979. That decreased by about half until 2009 and it’s been slowly coming back since then because of onshoring. I have some hope that the trend will continue. A possible endpoint is that a local craftsman could compete against the likes of Ikea.

TonyL

The Tragedy Of the Commons
and
The Prisoners Dilemma
Have, for me, been interesting problems.
The Solution To The Prisoners Dilemma:
The problem is the fear that one Prisoner will rat out the other, then both burn.
Since my college days, with my Girl Friend, we knew that we would not fall for such a trick.
It is called by a name rare today, that name is “Trust”.
I knew she would not turn on me.
She knew I would not turn on her.
We picked up the money every time.
Perhaps “The Prisoners Dilemma” works as an interesting problem for some people, but for others, it is less interesting than a game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

michael hart

Now you’ve got me wondering what activities you and your girlfriend engaged in that might lead to prison sentences.

Capitalism solves the problem of this dilemma by granting stewardship and value to the individual. Hence the principle of rent or lease giving stewardship with respect to time. The individual is thus motivated to increase the value of this for the benefit of the community and, of course for personal profit, (the motivation).
It can get very complicated particularly where the motivation on personal profit exceeds the benefit, or is at the expense of the community good. Hence the need for strong legal controls by democratic government. Both political and commercial monopoly being the biggest dangers.
I hesitate to mention CAGW here; but suggest that this current obsession with catastrophe is now a rising dangerous political monopoly which definitely needs to be curtailed.

John Harmsworth

As per my comment above, big science creates power and elites. Individuals within the system are incentivized to maintain that power. In the case of AGW it has no inherent value to society and it therefore requires conspiracy to maintain itself. It is, therefore, exactly what we see. A conspiracy of self interest among the climate scientists, most of whom wouldn’t be employed without their false narrative, the Leftist politicians who seek power and control of money through greater taxation, countries which lack fossil fuels (Europe), and the environmentalists, who need to be holier-than-thou and can’t accept that our ability to protect the environment improves the wealthier we become.
It should be noted that the environmental movement creates and enables its own elites who have incentive to make the worst of the world’s problems.

tom0mason

The prisoners’ dilemma is why is the professor still alive?

paqyfelyc

good one xD
The “Murder on the Orient Express” novel is about what happens when people cooperate and get over the prisoners dilemma.

Anoneumouse

comment image

WOW. If you choose 6 points, you are a capitalist. Choose 2 points, you are a socialist. I guess if you choose 0 points you are a communist. I would choose capitalism every time. I am not a De-growther as many progressives are today – starting with Woodrow Wilson and ending up with FDR and Barack Obama…

Sheri

Do you think we could persuade students to “degrowth” this moron’s class?

Marilyn Reed

How about we just start giving away the A student’s points who have worked to do so well, to the D & F students until everyone has a C…socialism accomplished. Isn’t that what all these college kids say they want? Take from the haves and give to the have nots so everyone can be equal.

Greg Cavanagh

Participation trophy for you.
Socialism has obvious flaws. I always liked the old Russian take on it; “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. This points to the stupidity and failure of socialism.
Where I work, I used to have to handle complaints such as; Two neighbours have a common driveway. While those two neighbours are friends “and” are both affluent, everything works out well. When one sells and a new person enters the mix, the common driveway becomes a battle ground. Who gets to pay for it when one can not, or refuses to? It falls into disrepair and spite builds between the two neighbours. Eventually a court case will be needed to settle the dispute.

Bob Koss

Assume a passing grade is 60.
You know the people worried about failing will likely opt for six points. The only reason anyone expecting to pass should opt for two points is simply to feel good about themselves. Those expecting top grades should always opt for six points to prevent the actual failures from passing. Helping those in the range 54-59 to pass lowers the value of the test as a gauge of competency. Not good for the top scorers and it makes the prof. look more competent at teaching than they actually are.
It would be interesting to see the choices made by the students related to their actual scores.

Stevan Reddish

If you are right, the 20% choosing 6 points is made up of the 10% at the bottom of the bell curve (for academic performance) + the 10% at the top of the bell curve.
If the lecturer grades on the curve, I speculate that the 20% choosing 6 points represents the portion of the class that understands that the entire class getting 2 points is identical to everyone getting zero points. (See how this relates to governments ordering wage increases to all?)
Either way, I perceive this lecturer as a liberal using a deceptive class exercise to manipulate the gullible 80% of his students into thinking receiving a mediocre reward (from those in charge) for doing nothing is better than striving for greater reward.
SR

John Harmsworth

Extra points in a worthless class when it’s graded on a curve anyway. Yippee! They’d learn more about human nature from playing monopoly!

knr

Hardin used the 19th-century convention of “the commons”—a cattle-grazing pasture that villagers shared.
Good to see the area is sticking to rewriting history and ignoring reality roots , in reality by the 19th-centry ‘common land ‘ was a very different idea to what is claimed Inclosure Acts actually land to increase in food production and population. Had as a preface to the industrial revolution lead to the very type of technology that means people can make such claims available on a wide scale basis and life spans longer and healthier than ever. Unlike the ‘good old days ‘ or early deaths and hard lives that was the reality for most .

Peter Morris

That’s not self-sacrifice.
It’s terrorism.

Sara

Assuming the professor’s serious?
I’d take the six points for a simple reason: I can cook and the others can’t. They’d depend on me to feed them, which means that THEY would have to forage for supplies and game, and I could start a group that learns how to cook and become self-sufficient in other skills.
This, of course, depends on the fall of civilization. Without The Cook, you simply have burnt meat and squabbling.
I guess this “professor” never read ‘Lord of the Flies”, did he? Someone should plant a bug in his ear about it.

jorgekafkazar

Eventually, raw meat becomes the norm. I’ll say no more, but just extrapolate a tiny bit.

beng135

Lecturer Dylan Selterman, University of Maryland Department of Psychology
Read that, and stopped.

KT66

“A possible solution seems simple: If everyone just moderated their consumption, we’d have sustainability.”
This kind of instruction is why people believe in the fallacy that mitigating co2 emissions and doing “green” practices in their everyday lives makes a difference.

NanaimoMike

Lets try a different experiment. Instead of potentially handing out free, unearned “credit points” on the term paper to everyone, let’s have everyone work really hard on their paper and then everyone gets the average number of credit points earned in the class. Clearly, the harder the class as a whole works, the more points everyone gets. My guess, though, is that most students would work less on this paper since any effort put into it would only increase their individual points by a tiny fraction.

Greg Cavanagh

Very interesting.
It also makes me think of the option to buy a paper from someone else who is competent. I understand that this is actually a fairly large problem in universities.

skorrent1

The modern “tragedy of the commons” is the accumulation of public debt financed by fiat currency. While a sound currency is of benefit to all of society, overproduction of currency, like overgrazing of the commons, benefits the few with access to the new money, but risks destroying the value of the currency itself. The accumulation of capital, and the acquisition of debt, are essential features of free-market “capitalism”, but to allow governments to acquire debt and retain power is risky, and to allow them to finance debt with “new” fiat currency is a suicide pact.

John Harmsworth

It looks like we have enough cows and the grass is good, but we’re all starving and the big government wolves carrry off more of them every year.
And there’s more government wolves every year!

JimG1

Democracy is ultimately mob rule. One of the old Greeks, Plato or Socrates? , chose benevolent dictatorship as the best system of government. A well crafted constitution seems to have worked quite well in the past, not so much now since it is being ignored here in the US. Apparently benevolence is in the eye of the beholder and constitutional protections can be jiggered to mean whatever those in power want. A sound moral code based upon theological principles of Christianity was the original concept of the US constitution but, obviously, people can jigger anything.

Robertvd
Curious George

This is an undergraduate class. I would hate to see a graduate psychology class.

JimG1

Bottom line on all of this is Vanity. The problem is that most people think they are smarter than most other people, or than all other people, or than God Himself, in whom, of course, this last group therefore does not believe. Hard to set up any system of government or any system for any purpose when dealing with such creatures. Vanity/pride, the first sin.

Sara

The Mosaic Code (10 Commandments) was the simplest set of laws/rules ever created.
I believe it was Heinlein, writing for Lazarus Long, who said that the more complicated laws become, the less civilized we are… or words to that effect. (Lost my copy of “The Diaries of Lazarus Long”. Have to get another.)
So if we broke it down to just those 10 rules or commandments or whatever you want to call them, would we be more civilized? Well, first thing we’d have to do is get rid of politicians and lawyers.

John Harmsworth

You had me at lawyers.

paqyfelyc

Where there is law there are lawyers. Where there is city (aka “polis” in greek) there are politicians.
There is no getting rid of them.

John G.

The commons is expandable either by using technology or moving out into the countryside. There’s no need for anyone to impose their preferred lifestyle on anyone else. People who insist you must do it my way are either trying to get someone elses stuff or are coddling an inner tyrant.

Greg Cavanagh

It’s obviously tyrannical because the supply is a fixed amount. He then goes on to compare his experiment to sustainability, which also assumes a fixed finite amount.
He does not give any option to create new supply, nor assume that the future needs will be met by digging deeper or inventing different stuff.

Wharfplank

“…the tragedy of the commons.” Oh, so close! It is actually, “the tragedy of the communism”.

harkin

I would point at one of the two guards and ask THE OTHER GUARD “if I ask him which is the safe door, which door would he say?”……and then go out THE OTHER DOOR.
Oh, wait. Wrong thread.

Subject students to arbitrary rules they have no control over. Good lesson about the world they will be entering.

robert_g

Thomas Sowell, in his Basic Economics, discusses the “‘Fallacy of Composition’–the mistaken assumption that what applies to a part applies automatically to the whole.”
The fallacy is not limited to economics. E.g., “in a sports stadium, any given individual can see the game better by standing up but, if everybody stands up, everybody will not see better. In a burning building, any individual can get out faster by running [rather] than walking. But, if everybody runs, the stampede is likely to create bottlenecks at doors, preventing escapes by people struggling against one another to get out, causing some of those people to lose their lives needlessly in the fire.”
“What is at the heart of the fallacy of composition is that it ignores interactions among individuals, which can prevent what is true for one of them from being true for them all.”

u.k.(us)

Higher education with mafia rules.
Wish I was in his class, just so I could spout off.
I’ve got nothing to lose, and a bit of life experience.

John Harmsworth

Something tells me guys like you never benefit from the curve grading in this dullard’s class.

Greg Cavanagh

But I bet they are capable of putting in the effort and passing by their own merit.

“I teach undergraduate psychology courses at the University of Maryland, and my classes draw students with diverse interests. But every one of them perks up when I pose this question: Do you want two extra-credit points on your term paper, or six points?
I tell my students that the extra-credit offer is part of an exercise illustrating the interconnectedness of choices individuals make in communities. I explain that the exercise was inspired by an ecologist named Garrett Hardin and an address that he delivered 50 years ago this summer, describing what he called “the tragedy of the commons.” Hardin said that when many individuals act in their own self-interest without regard for society, the effects can be catastrophic. Hardin used the 19th-century convention of “the commons”—a cattle-grazing pasture that villagers shared—to warn against the overexploitation of communal resources.”

How ludicrously farcical.
Several times, I’ve encountered teachers who asked us students to “self rate” and “self score” our papers and exams.
* Not one of them gave a higher score or a higher rating. You got what your scored/rated.
* Not one of them reduced the vast majority of ambitiously high scores or high ratings.
– a) a few of the teachers did apply their own teacher’s score and rating where people boosted their ratings/score to deity level.
– b) All too often the teachers simply gave students their inflated scores/ratings.
It only takes one or two of these teaching experiences before everyone applies A+ scores and ‘Terrific!’ ratings to their own work.
One teacher, denying an entire class of a few bonus marks, because of an entire class’s collective excessive self promotion, certainly will not offset the lazy teachers who reward self promotion.
I did have one excellent advanced accounting teacher who asked students to “self rate” tests.
He did it for amusement, and to identify less trustworthy students; e.g. students who botch answers then rate themselves as A+.
The only times that teacher opened our school books was to make sure he knew which topic we were learning. He then closed the book and gave us real world examples and assignments directly related to our subject.
Why he taught accounting, I can not explain. He once explained that he needed extra cash, but I had to take a “make up” exam because work required that I travel on exam day. The accounting business he owned, was very busy, as I sat in their waiting area, before my exam.

Mark Hansford

Why complicate the issue – the point was to demonstrate human nature – in any group there is a very high likelihood that a percentage will self promote rather than work in the common interest – even when (on the course I did) great emphasis was put on getting the best result for all. Its a good lesson to learn and helps you realise that there are stop at nothing people who freely mix and socialise with you – their predisposition to win overrides their need to fit in

u.k.(us)

With all the complaints about the current education system, why aren’t there searchable or even live feeds of the course content being taught in schools ??
With todays tech it would seem to be cheap and easy.
Anonymity of the students, would have to be ensured, of course.

Sheri

Do parents care enough to look? I see complete apathy in most of the population. They gave their kids to the government beast and never looked back.

John Harmsworth

Ihope that is the future. Online lectures by the very best at very low cost. Students self-organized into co-operative study and support groups. Long lines of third-rate profs at unemployment offices. Cheaper, better education without the indoctrination and without the self-aggrandizement of so many of these intelligent but emotionally stunted figureheads.

William Astley

Typical socialist/group think game.
Rule One: Fix the game to push simplistic group think. There are piles and piles of real problems that need to be addressed, climate change is not one of them.
Rule Two: Force people to play stupid game

Mark Hansford

On the contrary I think it demonstrates why socialism is doomed to failure. These ‘6’ people do energise the system – some succeed and are very driven and productive. Others crash and burn. The majority tag along making the best of whats left and work within the system dominated by ‘6’ people – hardly socialism – hardly conformity. This offereing the ‘6’ is an opportunity for the risk taker…….who are the risk takers in true socialism. The opportunity given by offering a ‘6’ is surely why capatilism works as it drives the bigger system forward. Sometimes wasteful but nearly always better and more productive than socialism

JaneHM

Eric, Anthony and Moderator
I hope you see my comment. This is NOT an isolated incident. Researchers in the Psychology Dept at my university asked me if they could run a ‘what-if’ global warming scenario game on my first year Earth Science students to monitor their psychological reactions. There is some national organizing behind this use of the global warming meme by academic Psychology Depts. I don’t know if that fraud John Cook is behind this. It needs to be investigated.

John Harmsworth

I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theorist because I can’t believe people can keep their mouths shut about things they know but I have come to believe that AGW represents a conspiracy of self interest. The media is well to the left of mainstream society as is academia. The AGW disciples are mostly fellow travellers.
So I thank Jane for raising this concern and urge all those who care about these issues to be alert for evidence to corroborate her suspicions. It has become obvious that CAGW is a public issue like no other, with “communication stategies”and “psychological studies”which aim to “improve” those communication strategies. In what other area of science does psychology pretend to have a role ?
It speaks of organized coercion and that can only be necessary to aid a great lie!

I’m trying to get my mind around how someone could be such an a-hole he’d take a zero just for the satisfaction of screwing another guy.

Sheri

“Why would anyone do that? Well, for each student who chose zero points, one of the six-point choosers (selected randomly) would lose everything, reducing the total number of six-point choosers by one.”
Stick it to your classmate rule. How nice and altruist. Shaft someone by choosing zero. So much for the love, singing campfire songs and all. It’s stab the errant one in the back ASAP. This professor is just a creep. I think I’d use the time honored Captian Kirk method and find a way to cheat. That’s what the professor is doing—cheating the kids out of their hard work via a game of points that looks like shooting craps. If he finds cheating okay, then I see no reason to abstain from it in his class. It’s his rule.
Stay away from this college.

Peter J Kenny

Regarding Hardin’s book “The Tragedy of the Commons”, which I remember being discussed in the 70s: in historical fact, the Commons in Great Britain were not destroyed by the selfishness of the peasants who used them. Those people mostly adhered to their old traditions and customs. But eventually the gentry, the rich and powerful landlords who were less bound by tradition, used their power to enclose the common land. All of course in the name of more efficient and productive land use (as it may have been); but basically for their own selfish benefit.
That process went on for centuries: the first part of Sir (St) Thomas More’s Utopia raged against a corrupt society in which sheep “ate” the people rather than the reverse. England’s woolen trade was a big driver there. And it continued up into the 18th century.

Jane Rush

I own a small common here in the UK. There are farmers who exercise their right to graze their horses and cattle on it and for some legal reason I have never understood my own stock have to be last in the queue. It never gets over-grazed. In fact we have to top it every year. So tragedy averted.

Robertvd

With the enactment of the federal reserve system the US has slowly changed in a progressive marxist country. The same way you boil a frog.

jorgekafkazar

(1) Boiling frogs smell AWFUL!!
(2) Boiling live frogs will get you in trouble with PETA.
(3) Why would you boil a frog, anyway? Surely not to eat it.
(4) Frogs will jump out of warm water well before they start to cook.

John Harmsworth

Eco- Socialists frogs will adjust the temperature reading! So much more empowering than being pushed around by reality.

paqyfelyc

Indeed. frogs must be fried, not boiled. Actually, dismembered before frying, since you only eat legs.
Pretty sure the boiled frog meme isn’t true. While frogs aren’t homeotherm, they do care about temperature and wouldn’t survive without the ability to feel when it gets to hot for them. Actually, not being homeotherm makes it all the more useful for the survival of the specie to feel when temperature gets too hot, whether brutally or smoothly over the time.

Here’s another nice prisoner centred paradox.
A prisoner is on death row on a Monday morning and he is told that he will be executed before the end of the week but that on the day that he will be executed he will have no idea that his execution will be later that day.
Now this prisoner is a clever guy and he looks forward to Friday, If I get to Friday then I know I’ll be executed that day so it can’t be Friday as I’d know. If I get to Thursay I know it can’t be Friday so it must be Thursday but I’d know so it can’t be Thursday. Same logic applies to Wednesday, Tuesday and Monday so he rejoices that he is safe.
Unfortunately he gets a knock on his door on Wednesday and led to the gallows. He had no idea.

paqyfelyc

not so clever. He cannot apply the “if I get to Friday” condition in the “if I get to Thursday” situation, but he does.
So let me guess
* thinks he is smart
* makes assumption that are not true
* reaches a wrong conclusion accordingly
* get surprised and doesn’t believe it when proved wrong
Looks like he is a “climate scientist” ™ .

Rob

The tragedy of the commons: we all need to stop breathing air now, in order to preserve it for future generations