Collective Action: Ethics and Policy

Spring 2014, Stanford University


(Numbered Readings are Required)


April 1: Introduction to Collective Action Problems

1. Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons", Science

2. William Poundstone, "Bertrand Russell and John von Neumann's Argument for Preventative Nuclear War", in Prisoner's Dilemma, Anchor

Optional: Milton Friedman, selection from "The Role of Government in a Free Society", in Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago UP (full article)

April 3: Ostrom's Critique of Hardin, and Ostrom's Framework for Analyzing the Sustainability of Systems

April 8: Global Public Goods

April 10: Overfishing

1. NOAA Accomplishments 2009-2012, pp. 7-9 only (on domestic fisheries), NOAA
Optional: Tom Tietenberg and Lynne Lewis, "Fisheries and Common Pool Resources Economics", in Environmental & Natural Resource Economics, 9th Edition

April 15: Stakeholders; The Importance of Modesty in Policymaking; Introduction to Game Design

April 17, 22, and 24: Game Design Lab; Using Games to Teach, and to Promote Pro-Social Behavior

Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper (recommended for its general relevance)

April 29: More Empirical and Strategic Considerations, and the Nuclear Taboo as a Global Public Good


May 1: One Approach to the Ethics of Collective Action: Consequentialist Theories

1. Derek Parfit, "Practical Dilemmas", pp. 53-66 of Reasons and Persons, Oxford UP

2. Shelly Kagan, "Do I Make a Difference?", pp. 105-124, Philosophy and Public Affairs

3. Gerald Gaus, "Is Voting Rational?", pp. 184-191 of On Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Wadsworth

4. Derek Parfit, "Five Mistakes in Moral Mathematics", pp. 67-86 of Reasons and Persons, Oxford UP

Optional: Derek Parfit, "Theories that are Directly Self-Defeating", pp. 87-114 of Reasons and Persons, Oxford UP

Midterm Exam: Due Tuesday, May 6 at 9pm via email
(Distributed via email at 4pm on Friday, May 2)

May 6: In-Class Lab and Presentation; No Readings

May 8: Other Approaches to the Ethics of Collective Action: Deontological Theories, Virtue Theories, Symbolic Value

1. Bernard Williams, selection from "A Critique of Utilitarianism", in Utilitarianism: For and Against, Cambridge UP


Optional Background Reading on Climate Science

Optional: David Archer, The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate, Princeton UP (on reserve, Green Library)

Optional: Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Cambridge UP (accessible after reading Archer)

Do NOT read the 'Summary for Policymakers' from the IPCC reports, for reasons that John Broome explains here (instead, the 'Technical Summary' is a better bet)

May 13: Global Public Goods: The Hard Cases

1. Larry Summers, foreword to Architectures for Agreement, Cambridge UP

2. Scott Barrett, "Tipping Treaties", in Environment and Statecraft, Oxford UP

May 15: Influential Perspectives on Climate Change Ethics and Policy

1. Peter Singer, "One Atmosphere", in One World, Yale UP

2. Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, "Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years With Current Technologies", Science

3. Elinor Ostrom, "Green from the Grassroots", Project Syndicate

4. Elinor Ostrom, "A Polycentric Approach to Coping with Climate Change", The World Bank

Optional: The Stabilization Wedges Game and Website

Optional: Robert Socolow, "Wedges Reaffirmed", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Optional: Discussion of Cap and Trade, Chapters 14, 15, and 22, of The Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, Cambridge UP

Optional: EPA Fact Sheet on SO2 Cap and Trade (more information here)

May 20: Playtesting Game Prototypes

May 22: Geoengineering: Ethics and Policy

1. Levitt and Dubner, "Geoengineering and the Virtues of Cheap and Easy Solutions to Climate Change", in SuperFreakonomics, William Morrow

2. James Hansen, "Three Objections to Geoengineering", in Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, Bloomsbury

3. Scott Barrett, discussion of geoengineering in Why Cooperate?, Oxford UP

Optional: David Keith, A Case for Climate Engineering, MIT Press

Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper (recommended for its general relevance)

May 29: Should We Divest from Fossil Fuels? Are all Forms of Complicity in Fossil Fuel Emissions Wrong?