Archive | Collective Action Problems

Gardasil Vaccinations for Boys?

If the boys don’t stand to benefit from the vaccine, then are we making boys into The Island? Well, that’s an awfully inflammatory way to start out, I grant you.  Here’s another inflammatory way to start out … would forcing boys to be vaccinated against their will but without any medical benefit to them, with the benefits accruing instead to girls, violate Roe v Wade? Our boy-bodies, ourboyselves?  For that matter, should pre-teen girls be forced to be Nudgily inoculated because their parents systematically underestimate the extent to which they will engage in sexual activity and have a tendency to acquire the disease?  Something here to offend almost everyone in this debate, if one takes it very far down to fundamentals.

Update: Thanks, Glenn, for the Instalanche! While I am thinking of this, please note that I am not the Dr. Kenneth Anderson, MD, Harvard Medical School, who is a real expert on vaccines and viruses and appears to have done some interviews and other media stuff on Gardasil.  I gather from a couple of comments that I have either tried some readers’ patience or else exceeded their attention spans.  There is not a lot of careful organization of this post, because I inserted paragraphs in between editing something unrelated; this is not my day job.  However, to the extent there is a structure, it is this:

  • (a) Opening that you might find clever or not, but is designed to raise at least three multiple, indeed really different, ways in which mandatory vaccinations of either all girls, or all boys, or all girls and boys, with Gardasil could raise liberty and rights issues.
  • (b) A short mention of what Gardasil is and why it was controversial back in 2006 when it was introduced, for those who haven’t closely followed
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Elinor Ostrom and the Tragedy of the Commons

I was very happy to hear about Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize in Economics. Her work focuses on the tragedy of the commons and collective action problems, which overlaps several of my own research interests. When Ostrom began writing in this field in the 1960s, the conventional wisdom in economics and political science was that the tragedy of the commons and other similar collective action problems could only be addressed through government intervention. Some dissenting economists (such as Ronald Coase) argued that they could often be addressed through privatization – converting common property into property owned by individuals, who would then have strong incentives not to overuse or destroy it. In a series of influential articles and books, Ostrom showed that there is a third way: often individuals can use social norms and informal institutions to manage common property resources and prevent tragedies of the commons. In many situations, Ostrom demonstrates, informal, decentralized approaches to managing common property resources are superior to government-imposed ones. The former take more account of the specialized local knowledge possessed by the people who actually use the resources and depend on them for their livelihoods.

For the best summary of Ostrom’s work, see her excellent 1990 book Governing the Commons.

Ostrom’s theories are often seen as an alternative to traditional libertarian thought, which emphasizes the importance of private property and markets. However, it actually fits well with libertarianism defined more broadly as advocacy of the superiority of private sector institutions over government. In some respects, Ostrom’s norm-based approach to dealing with tragedies of the commons is actually less dependent on government than the more traditional libertarian approach of relying on exclusive private property rights. The latter, after all, often depend on enforcement by government. Even where private property rights exist, it is often easier [...]

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