Negative Effects of Ownership In "Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor" and "My Wood"

Essay by sosodef_87College, UndergraduateB-, November 2006

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The controversial subject of ownership is the topic of two essays. In "Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor," Garrett Hardin focuses on the complexity of resource ownership in the world and the few possible solutions. In "My Wood," E. M. Forster illustrates the negative sides of property ownership and the problems it bears on the individual. Although these essays differ in content and development, the main ideas are similar because they both address the negative effects related to ownership. While Hardin shows his arguments by using a lifeboat analogy, Forster takes a different approach by using Biblical allusions. In the end, both essays prove that ownership is not something that should be taken lightly, for the negative effects it bears on the individual or group causes serious problems.

While both these essays relate in their general opinion, their views on ownership are shown using different methods. Forster claims to have "bought a wood with [his] cheque" (Forster 238), while Hardin seeks to bash third world countries for "wasting and polluting our natural resources" (Hardin 256).

The first effect of ownership is weight. A characteristic of owning wood is that it "makes me feel heavy" (Forster 239), suggesting that with the ownership of property, Forster believes there comes attached a subconscious weight. Similarly, the effect of ownership in Hardin's life boat bring upon a burden by making the individual "feel guilty about their good luck" (257) of owning world resources. The second effect of ownership is selfishness. Forster looks for other people to share the negative effects of his property and believes that they should "participate in [his] shame" (238), but he also does not want intruders on his property, eating his blackberries. He selfishly wonders, "does my wood belong to me or doesn't it? And, if it does,