Occasionally, the universe surprises me - really surprises me. This blog is about issues of justice, social justice. There is a lot of complaining, some angst, and lots of frustration. It can be very difficult to find people who share my interests....particularly ones such as The Commons. Fortunately, there is The Net and I can Google my interests and rarely, if ever, am I disappointed.
So it was a few years ago that I discovered the people at the University of Indiana and the work of Elinor Ostrom. Ostrom does not even call herself an economist but she has just become the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Economics. Ostrom describes herself as a political scientist - to me she is someone who seeks out information on the political economy of the common good.
Economic rationalists regularly quote Garrett Hardin's seminal article, The Tragedy of the Commons. Ostrom - from where I sit - is not cited so often. Her research is deep and broad - water, fisheries, management of communally held resources. She writes individually and with others. The conversation that Ostrom conducts is not the usual language of Wall Street or the financial pages. She goes deeper than that.
The jury which chose Dr Ostrom as a recipient of the prestigious award justified its choice with the following statement:
If we want to halt the degradation of our natural environment and prevent a repetition of the many collapses of natural-resource stocks experienced in the past, we should learn from the successes and failures of common-property regimes.
Ostrom's work teaches us novel lessons about the deep mechanisms that sustain cooperation in human societies
To read more about the commons, please go to the Digital Library of The Commons at Professor Ostrom's university, the University of Indiana. To see Professor Ostrom's Press Conference at the University, please go here.
Elinor Ostrom's Curriculum Vitae