The Challenge of Crafting Rules to Change Open Access Resources into Managed Resources

30 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2011

See all articles by Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA); Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 28, 2007

Abstract

Designing rules to govern common-pool resources is presented in many environmental treatises as resting on two core assumptions that: (1) resource users are norm-free maximizers of immediate gains who will not cooperate to overcome the commons dilemmas they face, and (2) government officials, on the other hand, have the information and motivation to design efficient and effective rules to sustain the use of common-pool resources over the long run. In this paper I review evidence related to these assumptions that leads one to doubt their validity when applied to smaller to medium-sized common-pool resources where users have opportunities to communicate with one another and learn how to engage in reciprocal behavior. Findings from carefully controlled laboratory experiments are summarized that challenge the first assumption and leads one to have to assume that humans are fallible and boundedly rational. Depending on the context of the situation, individuals may add normative payoffs (positive and negative) to their preference function.

The complexity of using rules as tools to change the structure of commons dilemmas is then discussed, drawing on extensive research on rules in field settings. Viewing all policies as experiments with a probability of failure, I will explore the size and structure of the rule space that individuals have used in previous efforts to govern commons. The final section discusses the likely performance of a series of completely independent resource governance systems or a fully integrated one -- ending with a discussion of the importance of polycentric governance systems.

Keywords: rules, open access, common pool resources, resource management, complexity

Suggested Citation

Ostrom, Elinor, The Challenge of Crafting Rules to Change Open Access Resources into Managed Resources (June 28, 2007). Indiana University, Bloomington: School of Public & Environmental Affairs Research Paper No. 2008-11-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1936109 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1936109

Elinor Ostrom (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science

Bloomington, IN
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
65
Abstract Views
952
rank
117,668
PlumX Metrics