Garrett Hardin

Garrett Hardin, "Living on a Lifeboat" (1974), ed. Garrett Hardin and John Baden, Managing the Commons, San Fransisco, W.H. Freeman and Company, 1977.

'I feel guilty about my good luck', say some. The reply to this is simple: Get out and yield your place to others. Such a selfless action might satisfy the conscience of those who are addicted to guilt but it would not change the ethics of the lifeboat. The needy person to whom a guilt-addict yields his place will not himself feel guilty about his sudden good luck. (If he did he would not climb aboard.) The net result of conscience-stricken people relinquishing their unjustly held positions is the elimination of their kind of conscience from the lifeboat. The lifeboat, as it were, purifies itself of guilt. The ethics of the lifeboat persists, unchanged by such momentary aberrations. [263]

With distribution systems, as with individual morality, good intentions are no substitute for good performance. [265]

The question is, what are the operational consequences of establishing a world food bank? [267]

Our reluctance to embrace pure justice may spring from pure selfishness. On the other hand, it may arise from an unspoken recognition of consequences that have not yet been clearly spelled out. [275]

Clearly, the concept of pure justice produces an infinite regress. The law long ago invented statutes of limitations to justify the rejection of pure justice, in the interest of preventing massive disorder. The law zealously defends property rights - but only recent property rights. It is as though the physical principle of exponential decay applies to property rights. Drawing a line in time may be unjust, but any other action is practically worse. [276]