Property in the Global Environmental Commons: Comparing Newfangled Tradeable Allowances to Oldfashioned Common Property Regimes
Posted: 27 Aug 1999
Date Written: 1999
Environmental issues, including global ones, are often analyzed as commons problems, soluble, according to Garrett Hardin and his successors, only by private property or governmental intervention. Having seen the expense and rigidity of governmental command- and-control regimes, many scholars have turned to what seems to be a private-property alternative, tradeable environmental allowances (TEAs), alone the model provide by the United States' acid rain reduction program. Some now inquire whether TEAs might be deployed in the international arena. Meanwhile, many institutional economists have disputed Hardin's assertion that only government or private property can solve commons problems, and they have demonstrated that an intermediate model of common property regimes (CPRs) have historically served to manage many traditional common resources, as in fisheries, grazing areas, and small-scale irrigation works. Although these community-based management regimes seem doubtful models for large- scale environmental issues, they may be useful insofar as global problems can be broken down into many smaller commons--local forests, fisheries etc.
This article compares and contrasts TEAs to CPRs as management techniques for globally-significant environmental problems. It takes up their respective approaches to setting overall limits on resource use, as well as their respective methods of defining, allocating and enforcing individual entitlements; it explores, among other things, how each type of regime copes with dynamic natural processes as well as changes in human demand for resources. The article argues that these very different strategies for environmental management show strengths and weaknesses that are in many respects mirror images, and it concludes with some examples of ways in which the two strategies can be combined.
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