Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Elinor Ostrom

There was sad news this morning that Nobel laureate political scientist Elinor Ostrom has passed away (she won the prize in Economic Science in 2009). Prof. Ostrom pioneered a fusion of field-based, almost anthropological, research with the experimental methods of her colleagues at Indiana, notably Prof. James Walker, to teach us much about how real people solve real commons dilemmas problems. She wasn't a Polyanna; common dilemmas indeed are problems and sometimes failures occurs. But she also documented the ability of people with local knowledge and local institutions to do much more than those textbook models which read something along the lines of "this is market failure... the government must intervene to fix the problem." She called the focus of her model "polycentrism." You can find her biography and her Nobel Prize lecture here.

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