Elinor Ostrom on #tragedyofthecommons

train Orsha-Brest 815 16

(Collectively farmed land, Belarus, August 2015)

Analysts who find an empirical situation with a structure presumed to be a commons dilemma [a reference to the “Tragedy of the Commons”] often call for the imposition of a solution by an external actor… One set of advocates presumes that a central authority must assume continuing responsibility to make unitary decisions for a particular resource. The other presumes that a central authority should parcel out ownership rights to the resource and then allow individuals to pursue their own self-interests within a set of well-defined property rights. Both centralization advocates and privatization advocates accept as a central tenet that institutional change must come from outside and be imposed on the individuals affected….

Instead of their being a single solution to a slg problem, I argue that many solutions exist to compe with many different problems. Instead of presumg that optimal institutional solutions can be designed easily and imposed at low cost by external authorities, I argue that “getting the institutions right” is a difficult, time-consuming, conflict-invoking process. It is a process that requires reliable information about time and place variables as well as a broad repertoire of culturally acceptable rules… The cases to be discussed in this book illustrate both successful and unsuccessful efforts to escape tragic outcomes. – Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons – the evolution of institutions for collective action, 1990

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Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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