15 March 2008

Tragedy of the Commons 40 Year Retrospective--Coming this November!

I previously noted that this year is the 40th anniversary of Garret Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" article, which claimed that "freedom to breed is intolerable," and that "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon" is the only way to prevent overpopulation. I suggested that I was going to try to organize a 40 year retrospective.

And now I'm actually doing it--I received approval from my Dean to go ahead and start planning it. Of course I can plan anything I want--the real question is whether I receive any financial support to make it good. Here's the fun part, the Dean suggested he could kick in about $2,000, and asked for a formal proposal. After thinking about it, I'm going to ask for $10,000!

Actually I'm going to ask that they commit the $10k up front, then go find a sponsor for it, and give them the naming rights for our symposium. Actually, actually, I'm going to ask that they find a sponsor willing to kick in $10,000 a year to do this every year, with the theme being an annual 1 day interdisciplinary, policy-oriented symposium that brings in top-name scholars, and is limited to only 40 other attendees who get lunch, dinner, and a hotel room free--all they have to pay is their travel.

Here's how I've figured it: By selecting a policy theme, we make it possible to bring in people from multiple fields. For example, a water policy theme could attract policy experts, environmental scientists, sociologists, etc. By tapping multiple fields, we dramatically expand our target audience to potentially vast proportions. By making it free we make it even more desirable. And by dramatically limiting the number of attendees, we make it exclusive and special, and make it possible for us to provide a very personalized and high-quality event that will leave attendees thinking our small College is the best-kept secret in the U.S.

$10,000 will buy a tier 3 nationally known speaker to come in and talk for an hour. (Tier 1 is $50,00 and up; Tier 2 is $15-20,000). Or we can do something that absolutely nobody else is doing.

And consider this: Within a 6 hour drive of our campus are 12 major universities, 30 regional universities, and several dozen smaller colleges and universities. I don't doubt I can get 40 people to come, and have most of them clamoring to come back next year.

And I've already secured a commitment from the world's leading expert on commons problems, Lin Ostrom of Indiana University, possibly both the world's smartest, and the world's nicest, political scientist (with apologies to my graduate advisor, John Orbell, who probably comes in second on both counts). A big name to build my first conference around--it should be good.


Dave Gardner said...

James, you can count on me to be there with high def camera to capture the event, assuming you would have me!

Dave Gardner
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity

James K said...

Sounds like fun, a pitty I'm too far away to attend.

James Hanley said...


That's a very intriguing idea. For some reason I can't connect to my email right now, but I will be contacting you to discuss this.


James Hanley said...

James K,

I'd love to have you there! Are you sure your bosses wouldn't spring for the trip? Professional education and all that? ;)

Scott Hanley said...

I'm voting you'll get the whole $10k, just because you obviously know how to pitch it effectively.

James Hanley said...

"you obviously know how to pitch it effectively."

Thank you for your vote of confidence. I've come to learn--to my utter surprise--that I'd actually have done well in advertising. Between my rhetorical skill and my wife's graphic design skills, we could probably make a lot more money if we started our own ad agency.

Strange thought. Anyway, I think what I do is more fun.

And since I've actually got the cost figured out more carefully, I've now pegged the cost at $8,000 to fully fund all attendees, and around $6,000 if we charge a $40 registration fee.

James K said...

Sorry, but government agencies tend to be pretty tightfisted with taxpayers' money when it comes to travel for employees. A conference would have to be very housing-oriented for them to send me to another country to attend.