Must Commons Governance Be Tragic?

The assumed tragedy of the commons is predicated on the notion that common-pool resources (fisheries, air, grazing lands, etc.) will have too many claimants. Usually, the “answer” to governance of the commons is either to privatize the resource or to place it under public governance.

But humans have been solving common-property problems for centuries—a fact that economists and centralized authorities have generally ignored. We will look at a couple of examples and then explore Elinor Ostrom's institutional analysis of common-property resources as a model for thinking about voluntary governance of the commons.


Recommended Readings

Boettke, Peter; Herzberg, Bobbi; and Kogelmann, Brian. Exploring the Political Economy and Social Philosophy of Vincent and Elinor Ostrom. ISBN: 978-1786614353

Ostrom, Elinor, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-1933771779

Ostrom, Elinor, et al. 2012. The Future of the Commons -- Beyond Market Failure and Government Regulation. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2020. ISBN: 978-0255366533

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Ross B. Emmett, Ph.D.

Professor of Political Economy, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, and Director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty
Arizona State University