On the “Tragedy of the Commons” and immigration policy.


Hi all! :) (<– Optimism at its finest!)

It has been a while since I last wrote. I have been busy, but I am also quite lazy, and as such, the blog has been put on the back-burner. Anyway, things have not changed for the better in the fields I am particularly interested in (buttons are a topic of discussion among world leaders, egoes have grown exponentially, and the public discourse is…Well… Interesting…)

So, I thought I would blog a bit again.

Now, prior to studying Psychology, I was a Social Sciences student. More specifically, I studied Globalization and Development. I also enrolled in a few non-psych classes while studying in Toronto, and when a field involves migration, human rights and North-South matters, one will inevitably encounter economic theory. PLEASE DO CLOSE THE TAB JUST BECAUSE YOU JUST READ THE WORDS “ECONOMIC THEORY”. I PROMISE I WILL TRY TOO KEEP THIS INTERESTING!!1! Now, if you are not already familiar with the field of economic theory, it may sound dull and irrelevant, but trust me, it is relevant to almost every aspect of life. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. Love

There is (of course) economic theory that pertains to the topic of love.  Did Melania marry Trump for his charming demeanour and his beautiful yellowish locks? Nope. No, she didn’t. Her relationship to Donald perfectly illustrates that love and economics are closely tied..

What's not to love?

What’s not to love?

2. Trust

Yup, there is a theory that explains the psychology and economics of trust.  for instance; neoclassical economic theory considers trust in strangers to be irrational, whereas theorists in behavioural economics  have shown us that people are more trusting of strangers than what one would expect. Fun and interesting, right?

3. Crime.

It should come as no surprise that there exist several economic theories of crime. These theories can (for instance) explain why Norwegian police officers are much less corrupt compared to police officers in several other countries in the world. In addition there are several economic theories of conflict (prime examples are Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia, The Middle East and so on), there are economic theories of democracy, of social change, religious beliefs and so forth. See? Economic theory is EVERYWHERE!

Now, the particular theoretical model I would like to discuss is referred to as “The Tragedy of the Commons”. It was first described by biologist Garrett Hardin in 1968, and is most frequently used in environmental matters, but it will do here. (If my many years of university studies have taught me anything, it is how to manipulate a model to fit any topic). The theory states that any shared resource is likely to be overused and depleted if everyone has access to said resource. The tragedy of the commons has been used in attempts to restrict immigration, and though some  politicians might not be aware of the model, they use the very same reasoning to justify restricticions.  The Norwegian minister of integration and migration uses it on a frequent basis to argue for an increasingly more restrictive immigration policy. Her name is Sylvi Listhaug. She has time and time again claimed that “We cannot help them all” and that “We should help refugees where they are”…  What she in essence is saying is that refugees seeking to come to Norway should not be allowed to enter.

This is Listhaug in the Mediterranean sea. The whole stunt was carried out for her to "experience how boat refugees cross the ocean". There was a rescue crew, film crew lots ofphotographers and a boat nearby. She was made a laughing stock, and was even featured  on late night talkshows in the U.S, most notably on John Olivers show.

This is Listhaug in the Mediterranean sea. The whole stunt was carried out for her to “experience how boat refugees cross the ocean”. There was a rescue crew, film crew, photographers and a boat nearby. She was made a laughing stock, and was even featured on late night talkshows in the U.S, most notably on John Olivers show.

Listhaug is furthermore forcibly deporting a great number of young Afghan refugees, stating that “Kabul is safe” (It is most definitely not. The most recent suicide attack occurred three days ago.)  She frequently speaks  of how our national funds quickly will be depleted if we allow refugees to come to Norway, and when she does so, she is talking about the tragedy of the commons. The claim is  false. The average wage in Norway is just under 70.000 USD. The most favoured car-brand is Tesla, which start at prices above 72000 USD. The more exclusive models start at over 1.52000 USD.

I, (being a school-teacher with plenty of student debt (I studied abroad), but with my own apartment and car, can afford several vacations abroad every year (last year I visited Barbados and the Maldives, this year it will be Jordan, (likely) Uzbekistan, and Scotland). The market for luxury goods is booming, and many of us can afford to have our groceries delivered and our cleaning done by others. If we agreed to pay even one percent more in taxes, there would be plenty to go around.  That everyone in our Parliament (“Stortinget”) earn more than 900.000 Norwegian Crowns (approx. 112.000 USD), should help illustrate that we are not hurting. Furthermore, what Listhaug does not take into consideration is what we are losing in terms of resources by stopping people from entering. Our population is rapidly aging, and within a fairly short while, there will be a considerable number of elderly in need of care. We need a workforce that is willing and able to carry out these jobs, and not too many Norwegian youngsters are all that interested in jobs within this particular part of health care. We are also missing out on brilliant minds whom might come up with ideas Norway would greatly benefit from. As of now, Norway is reliant on its oil and fish industry. We develop weapons too, but the economy is largely a service-economy, and innovation is meagre to say the least. By severely restricting the number of refugees entering the country, we might also be turning away brilliant minds. Thinkers, artists, scientists and statesment similar to  Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Madeleine Albright, Hannah Arendt, Karl Marx, Karl Popper, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Sergey Brin,  Max Born, Enrico Fermi, Robert Fano, Walter Kohn, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Isabel Allende, Joseph Konrad, Bertolt Brecht, Victor Hugo, Nabokov,  and Merhan Nasseri who were all refugees. One of the reasons Norway has grown wealthy is because of our oil-reserves. We do have other resources as well, but oil is the biggie. And pray tell, who do we have to thank for our wealth? Farouk al-Kasim- an Iraqi geologist. So, while a restrictive immigration policy might sound reasonable and cost-effective in the short term, it is likely to be damaging in the long term.

Is that not a reasonable example of the Tragedy of the Commons?

Leave a Reply