(Cows between Candanchu and Arlet, Pyrenees, July 2013)
Elinor Ostrom (Governing the Commons – the evolution of institutions for collective action, 1990) describes some “long-enduring, self-organized, and self-governed” arrangements for managing common pool resources such as mountain grazing in Switzerland and irrigation systems in Spain. An interesting point is that
Sizable resources are invested in monitoring activities… the appropriators themselves play a major role in monitoring each other’s activities… [However] the fines assessed in these settings are surprisingly low. Rarely are they more than a small fraction of the monetary value that could be obtained by breaking the rules.
I am using these passages from Ostrom to think about how we might get beyond homo economicus in our modelling and analysis. But this passage also made me think about whether the EU, for all its strong legal base, could be characterised as having something in common with the institutions Ostrom describes. Our infringement activities can only function well within the sense of common purpose that, I think, prevails among Member States – certainly in the field of energy efficiency.