Environment: Individualism vs Collectivism

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    While the authors had hypothesized that the groupthink mentality of collectivist countries would encourage eco-efficiency, it was found, rather, that individualistic countries prevailed, perhaps by imbuing in their citizens a greater sense of duty and self-empowerment.

    Would it be possible to run with something like “Ah, ah, ah! Those countries weren’t *REALLY* collectivist!”?Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I can kind of see the individualistic thing as helping environmental causes. If you have a sense of self-empowerment and believe your individual actions can help or hurt, you might be more careful with actions that impact the environment. In a collective country, your more likely to believe what you do as an individual does not matter and feel free to do things that hurt the environment because of this.

    There are limits to this though. Environmental problems are still ultimately collective problems that demand collective action. Individualistic countries might produce more environmentalists but they also produce people who are anti-environmental. What seems to work best is a combination of communalism, these are problems that effect us all, and individualism, you can make a difference by your own actions.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Agreed. We know full on collectivism doesn’t work worth a damn for these things. Look at your average bus shelter. If something belongs to everyone then everyone treats it like crap and assumes someone else is supposed to take care of it. Full on individualism just unleashes the tragedy of the commons. But you put some kind of liberal state on top of a more individualistic society and it can work pretty well. The individuals generally zealously defend their property and that allows the state to focus enforcement on protecting a much much smaller amount of true common area.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I think the story state of bus shelters in the United States reflects more on the socio-economics of who rides the bus in the United States. Buses are generally associated with poor people and America assumes poor people don’t deserve nice things. Public transportation that wealthier people take tends to be nicer.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Call it the difference between centrally executed versus centrally motivated.Report

  3. Multiple remarks after skimming the paper:

    1) The environmental piece of the efficiency calculation is based solely on CO2 and SO2 emissions. Dumping tons of goop — heavy metals, carcinogenic hydrocarbons — into the water supply doesn’t count.

    2) Large and small economies are mixed. Small economies are less likely to be diversified; countries that have, by good planning or good luck, heavy reliance on clean industries have effectively exported some amount of their pollution. Given #1, “clean” may simply be a matter of how electricity is generated.

    3) The methodology looks funky for countries at the high end of the per-capita GDP range. As I read the article, they repeatedly choose 10 countries (with replacement) with the same or higher GDP for the comparison. While “weighting” may change, the country with the third highest income is still being compared to only two other countries.

    4) I am automatically suspicious of a study where the raw environmental efficiency score has the US as most efficient by a wide margin, followed by Canada, Australia, Iran, and Bulgaria.Report

    • Avatar Mr.JoeM says:

      Michael Cain: 4) I am automatically suspicious of a study where the raw environmental efficiency score has the US as most efficient by a wide margin, followed by Canada, Australia, Iran, and Bulgaria.

      I did not see any controls relating to outsourcing of pollution to other countries. This seems likely a hidden factor that may explain some of the correlation.

      I would also point out that even highly individualistic US, is super collectivist in its approach to SO2.Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    I was going to read the original article, but the paper is paywalled and linked website has a horrific light grey on white colour scheme for its text. Seriously, do people not understand that contrast is an important part of visibility? Black on white may be boring and traditional, but that’s because it works.

    Related tot he actual topic, I do recall reading a paper at university that noted that countries with government-owned energy industries tended to have significantly worse environmental records that those where resource extraction and energy production are owned by the private sector.Report

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