Blogs > Cliopatria > Not That The Others Aren't Smart, You Understand ...

Mar 31, 2004 11:29 pm

Not That The Others Aren't Smart, You Understand ...

but a couple of comments from Cliopatria's comment boards struck me as worthy of special mention here:

The OAH and Speech Codes ... In a comment posted here at Cliopatria, Michael Burger asks the interesting question about whether the Organization of American Historians' newly constituted ad hoc committee chaired by David Montgomery will examine campus speech codes as threats to freedom of inquiry and speech in the current academic climate. I suspect that a) that wasn't what they originally had in mind and b) that is all the more reason to do so.
Memo to David Montgomery: Contact FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. E-mail:; telephone: (215)-717-3473 -- that's 717-FIRE. I know they'll be glad to hear from you, David, and will cooperate in every possible way.

A Big Zombie Error ... The Cranky Cliopatriarch needed to bring me up to speed from way back. His post here assumed that I knew what the heck a"vampire error" was. So, I googled it, which was of no help, because his reference to it here was #1 on google's hit parade. But I can determine his meaning from the context:"Feel free to leave your favorite 'zombie error' in the comments. I always call them 'zombie errors,' by the way," he wrote,"because if you put a stake in the heart of a 'vampire error' it stays dead." A vampire error, then, is one that can be corrected. (I'm glad he's not grading my papers. There's just no comfortable way to put a stake in a student's heart.) Anyway, Crooked Timber's John Quiggin left a favorite one I hadn't known about:

My favourite is the"tragedy of the commons" popularized by Garrett Hardin. Partha Dasgupta once quoted his opening para[graph] and said"there can scarcely exist a passage as widely quoted as this containing so many errors in such a short space."
The basic error underlying all the others was the idea that" common" pastures were open to all comers.
I googled those things, too, and sure enough: Hardin's argument here is ellipsed, summarized, and dismantled by Dasgupta here. Very interesting stuff, with far reaching implications.

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More Comments:

Oscar Chamberlain - 4/2/2004

Actually, it looks to me that Dasgupta does not dismantle Hardin so much as place limits on the situations in which the "Commons" metaphor applies.

Within those limits, such as the atmosphere and the oceans, Dasgupta argues that the "Commons" analysis does apply.

By the way, we can see it today in seafood. Overfishing of, say, orange roughy in a given region leads to low prices (which increases its popularity). Because it is popular, the fishing fleets seek it out. Because they seek it out, the prices remain low even as the stocks are depleted.

Only in the final collapse of the population will scarcity yield higher prices. And that's a bit late.

Personally I would rate this problem second only to global warming, but unlike global warming there is no problem in proving it.

David T. Beito - 4/1/2004

Well done Ralph!

Here is my blog:

I am also posting it on the Historians Against the War listserve.