Does Geography Matter to Institutional Choice? A Comparative Study of Ancient Commons
Geoforum, Volume 44, pp. 224-231, January 2013
28 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2013 Last revised: 3 Apr 2014
Date Written: October 10, 2013
This paper examines the effects of geography on institutional choice. Can variations in geography explain institutional variations and if so, in what ways? This question is explored with a comparative study of ancient commons based on fieldwork in two regions in Northern Philippines with markedly varying physical geography and institutional arrangements. The study finds that, indeed, geography matters in the choice of institutions governing the commons and goes about to explain how this matters. This conclusion has several implications to the literature on evolutionary, environmental and economic geography. First, the mediated and conditional effects of geography on institutions puts to rest the generalizability of arguments about environmental determinism on one hand and institutional triumphalism on the other. Second, the paper introduces the idea of institutional Darwinism i.e. institutional choice in the commons evolves in response to geography induced selection pressures. Institutions in turn affect selection pressures and production system implying an endogenous relationship. Third, the paper illustrates the application of a comparative case study approach to institutional and evolutionary economic geography which can tease out the nuances of history, contexts, selection pressures and choices which otherwise is lost in the conventional instrumental variable approach in regression models. Finally, the paper hopes to start a conversation between geographers on one hand and on the other hand scholars studying the evolution of institutions governing the commons.
Keywords: evolutionary, institutional, economic, physical, environmental geography, Ostrom
JEL Classification: Q00, Q2, P28, P32, C4, P13, P38, C110
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