Atanu Dey On India's Development

All the taste but less filling

Some apparently wise statements reminds me of lite beer: all the taste and less filling. These statements sound nice but are not reality based. Consider this for a moment this:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. — Native American Proverb

It is supposed to appeal to our sense of conservation, of course. Since it is our children’s possession, we have to take care of it. Rather flimsy reasoning. It is not our property, says the proverb, and implies that this realization would compell us to conserve and not trash the place.

Let’s look at the evidence. Which car do people drive more carefully: rental cars or their own cars? Tell the average human that he owns the stuff, and he will be more concerned about conservation than if he were told that it belongs to someone else.

Want to know why public monies are wasted? Because the money the public official is spending does not belong to him. You are on an expense account? Well, don’t bother checking the right hand side of the menu. Want a forest to be destroyed? Make it nobody’s forest. The tragedy of the commons will trash it soon enough. Earth does not belong to you? Well, let’s have a party and who cares if we trash the place — it’s not mine in any case.

Want people to really care about something? Make them own the thing and see how they care.

  • http://curiousgawker.blogspot.com/ gawker

    The problem with applying this principle to conservation is that humans are self centered enough that even if they own something, they would only conserve it enough for it to last during their lifetime. After that who cares? So whoever you say it belongs to your kids or yourself, you are gonna destroy it and basically it is a no-win situation.

  • http://www.alternet.org/authors/6535/ yum yum

    Hi,
    I agree that without a sense of ownership people won’t feel responsible and there will be a tendency to take a free ride. But I think the Native American proverb is more like a father saving his cherished watch to present to his son on his 18th birthday – a family heirloom. Love for our children an equally real human emotion.

    yum yum

  • http://www.paradoxvalley.blogspot.com fullymubbed

    Individual home ownership is also a parameter for success in a capitalistic society.