Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom titled her 2009 Nobel lecture "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems" (reprinted in the June 2010 American Economic Review).  She uses Figure 1 of the article to establish how she and Vince Ostrom elaborated and expanded previous understandings (e.g., Samuelson and Buchanan) of the various goods and allocation arrangements that we see in the real world. 

Nothing beats looking at what real people actually do.  We now know of (and at her death are reminded of) the Ostroms' important contributions identifying the various common pool resources that are spontaneously allocated without government interventions but which are, nevertheless, not "market failures."  A million textbooks are not yet with it.

Today's WSJ includes "The Shared Backyard ... Homeowners Exchange A Bit of Privacy for More Garden and Socializing."  Read it. It's amazing how much better we see what is all around us once some smart person has called our attentiont to it.  Elinor Ostrom would have appreciated this news item -- just as we appreciate her all over again whenever we encounter stories like this one.