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Garrett James Hardin

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Garrett James Hardin Garrett James Hardin (April 21, 1915 – September 14, 2003) was an America ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation and whose concept of the tragedy of the commons brought attention to "the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment".[1] He was most well known for his elaboration of this theme in his 1968 paper, The Tragedy of the Commons.[2] He is also known for Hardin's First Law of Ecology, which states "You cannot do only one thing", and used the familiar phrase "Nice guys finish last" to sum up the "selfish gene" concept of life and evolution.[3]


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Publications
    • 2.1 Books
    • 2.2 Selected journal articles
    • 2.3 Chapters in books
    • 2.4 Awards
  • 3 See also
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


Hardin received a B.S. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1936 and a PhD in microbiology from Stanford University in 1941. Moving to the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1946, he served there as Professor of Human Ecology from 1963 until his (nominal) retirement in 1978. He was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research.

A major focus of his career, and one to which he returned repeatedly, was the issue of human overpopulation. This led to writings on controversial subjects such as abortion, which earned him criticism from the political right, and immigration and sociobiology, which earned him criticism from the political left. In his essays he also tackled subjects such as conservation and creationism.

In 1974, he published the article "Living on a Lifeboat" in BioScience magazine, arguing that contributing food to help the Ethiopian famine would add to overpopulation, which he considered the root of Ethiopia's problems. Despite his lifelong insistence that population must be curbed to avoid disaster, Hardin himself had four children.


In 1993, Hardin published Living Within Limits, which he described at the time as a summation of all his previous works. In this book he argues that natural sciences are grounded in the concept of limits (such as the speed of light), while social sciences such as economics are grounded in concepts that have no limits (such as "infinite-Earth" economic models). He notes that most of the more notable scientific (as opposed to political) arguments concerning environmental economics are between natural scientists, such as Paul Erhlich, and economists, such as Julian Simon. Hardin goes on to label those who reflexively argue for growth as "growthmaniacs",[4] and argues against the institutional faith in exponential growth on a finite planet, illustrating this with the example of compound interest, or "usury". This, he claims, must eventually fail, and he argues that society has been duped into confusing interest with debt.[5] Hardin writes, "At this late date millions of people believe in the fertility of money with an ardor seldom accorded to traditional religious doctrines".

In 1994, he was one of 52 signatories on "Mainstream Science on Intelligence,[6]" an editorial written by Linda Gottfredson and published in the Wall Street Journal, which declared the consensus of the signing scholars on issues related to race and intelligence following the publication of the book The Bell Curve.

Hardin's last book The Ostrich Factor: Our Population Myopia (1999), a warning about the threat of overpopulation to the Earth's sustainable economic future, called for coercive constraints on "unqualified reproductive rights" and argued that affirmative action is a form of racism.

Hardin, who suffered from a heart disorder, and his wife Jane, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, were members of End-of-Life Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, and believed in individuals choosing their own time to die. They committed suicide in their Santa Barbara home in September 2003, shortly after their 62nd wedding anniversary. He was 88 and she was 81.[7]



  • 1965, Nature and Man's Fate New American Library. ISBN 0-451-61170-5
  • 1972, Exploring new ethics for survival: the voyage of the spaceship Beagle Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-30268-6
  • 1973, Stalking the Wild Taboo W. Kaufmann. ISBN 0-913232-03-3
  • 1977, The Limits of Altruism: an Ecologist's view of Survival Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33435-7
  • 1980, Promethean Ethics: Living With Death, Competition, and Triage University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95717-4
  • 1982, Naked Emperors: Essays of a Taboo-Stalker William Kaufmann, Inc. ISBN 0-86576-032-2
  • 1985, Filters Against Folly, How to Survive despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent Viking Penguin. ISBN 0-670-80410-X
  • 1993, Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509385-2
  • 1999, The Ostrich Factor: Our Population Myopia Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512274-7

Selected journal articles

  • Hardin, G. (1960). "The Competitive Exclusion Principle". Science 131 (3409): 1292–1297. doi:10.1126/science.131.3409.1292.
  • Hardin, G. (1969). "Not peace, but ecology". Brookhaven symposia in biology 22: 151–161. PMID 4906521.
  • Hardin, G. (1970). "Everybody's guilty. The ecological dilemma". California medicine 113 (5): 40–47. PMC 1501799. PMID 5485232. 
  • Hardin, G. (1974). "Commentary: Living on a Lifeboat". BioScience 24 (10): 561–568. doi:10.2307/1296629. PMID 11661143.
  • Hardin, Gareth (1974). "Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor". Psychology Today 8: 38–43.
  • Hardin, Gareth (November 1976). "Living with Faustian Bargain". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 32 (8): 25–29. ISSN 0096-3402. http://books.google.com/books?id=vwsAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA25.
  • Hardin, G. (1980). "Ecology and the Death of Providence". Zygon� 15: 57–68. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00376.x. 
  • Hardin, G. (1982). "Discriminating Altruisms". Zygon� 17 (2): 163–186. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.1982.tb00477.x.
  • Hardin, G. (1983). "Is Violence Natural?". Zygon� 18 (4): 405–413. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.1983.tb00524.x.
  • Hardin, G. (1985). "Human Ecology: The Subversive, Conservative Science". Integrative and Comparative Biology 25 (2): 469–476. doi:10.1093/icb/25.2.469. 
  • Hardin, G. (1986). "AIBS News". BioScience 36 (9): 599–606. 
  • Hardin, G. (1994). "The tragedy of the unmanaged commons". Trends in Ecology & Evolution 9 (5): 199–199. doi:10.1016/0169-5347(94)90097-3. 
  • Hardin, G. (1998). "ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: Extensions of "The Tragedy of the Commons"". Science 280 (5364): 682–683. doi:10.1126/science.280.5364.682. 

Chapters in books

  • 1991. Paramount positions in ecological economics. In Costanza, R. (editor) Ecological Economics: The Science and Management of Sustainability, New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07562-6
  • 1991. In: R. V. Andelson, (editor), Commons Without Tragedy, London : Shepheard-Walwyn, pp. 162–185. ISBN 0-389-20958-9 (U.S.)


Hardin's 1993 book Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos, received the 1993 Award in Science from the Phi Beta Kappa Society.[8][9]

See also


  1. ^ Lavietes, Stuart (2003-10-28). "Garrett Hardin, 88, Ecologist Who Warned About Excesses". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/28/us/garrett-hardin-88-ecologist-who-warned-about-excesses.html. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  2. ^ Hardin, G. (1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons". Science 162 (3859): 1243–1248. doi:10.1126/science.162.3859.1243. JSTOR 1724745. PMID 5699198. http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/dees/V1003/lectures/population/Tragedy%20of%20the%20Commons.pdf. 
  3. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1989). The Selfish Gene (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. pp. 202. ISBN 0-19-286092-5.
  4. ^ [1] Stalking the Wild Taboo - Stalkers: Hardin: Book Review:
  5. ^ "Living Within Limits" Faith in mathematically impossible exponential growth. The entire content of Chapter Eight.
  6. ^ Gottfredson, Linda (December 13, 1994). Mainstream Science on Intelligence. Wall Street Journal, p A18.
  7. ^ Steepleton, Scott (19 September 2003). "Pioneering professor, wife die in apparent double suicide". Santa Barbara News-Press. http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/tributes/obit_sbnews_2003sep18.html. Retrieved 28 September 2007.
  8. ^ "Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science — List of Previous Winners". http://www.pbk.org/infoview/PBK_Infoview.aspx?t=&id=57. Retrieved 06 December 2010.
  9. ^ Living within Limits: Ecology, Economics and Population Taboos, Review and selected long quotes, paperback.

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