Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nobel prizes for the commons

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday on Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson, winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Of particular note:
“Conservatives used the tragedy of the commons to argue for property rights, and efficiency was achieved as people were thrown off the commons,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics himself. “But the effects of throwing a lot of people out of their livelihood were enormous. What Ostrom has demonstrated is the existence of social control mechanisms that regulate the use of commons without having to resort to property rights.”

Ms. Ostrom’s work deals in the concept of “commons” shared by a number of people who earn their living from a common resource and have a stake, therefore, in preserving it. Her most recent research has focused on relatively small forests in undeveloped countries. Groups of people share the right to harvest lumber from a particular forest, and so they have a stake in making sure the forest survives.
Check back on Thursday for a round-up and more analysis on how people are viewing this achievement.

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