The Tragi-Comedy of the Commons: Evolutionary Biology, Economics and Environmental Law

E. Donald Elliott, Yale Law School


Like every culture, every discipline has a creation myth that defines its view of the world. Creation myths are important because they define what we see and what we fail to see. In recent years, environmental law in America has been dominated by a creation myth that subtly inculcates the perspective of economics. What follows is a different view of environmental law based on a view of human nature drawn from evolutionary biology. The evolutionary and the economic perspectives are not inconsistent, but complement one another by emphasizing different aspects of human nature.