Ostrom, Hardin and the Commons: A Critical Appreciation and a Revisionist View

Environmental Science and Policy (Forthcoming)

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Research Paper No. 13-15

23 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2013

See all articles by Eduardo Araral

Eduardo Araral

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Date Written: October 10, 2013

Abstract

I provide a critical appreciation of the considerable legacies of Ostrom and Hardin to the literature on the commons. First, how valid is Ostrom’s critique of Hardin’s tragedy of the commons? Second, how generalizable are studies arguing for Ostrom’s institutional design principles for long-lived commons? Finally, how justified is Ostrom’s critique of privatization, markets and the Leviathan solutions to the tragedy of the commons? Based on a reassessment of the evidence and reinterpretation of Ostrom’s work supplemented by field work, my preliminary findings suggest that, first, her critique of Hardin is valid in the special case of small-scale, locally governed commons while Hardin seem justified for large scale, national, regional and global commons. Second, studies (i.e. Cox et al, 2010) arguing for the generalizability of Ostrom’s institutional design principles are flawed and more rigorous studies are needed. Finally, Ostrom is justified for her critique of the Leviathan solution to the tragedy of commons but a rethinking is needed of her critique of private property rights and markets. I conclude by acknowledging a debt of gratitude to Ostrom for laying the foundations for the third generation research agenda on the commons and inspiring a new generation of scholars.

Keywords: Ostrom, commons, institutional design principles

JEL Classification: Q00, Q2

Suggested Citation

Araral, Eduardo, Ostrom, Hardin and the Commons: A Critical Appreciation and a Revisionist View (October 10, 2013). Environmental Science and Policy (Forthcoming); Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Research Paper No. 13-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2338354

Eduardo Araral (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy ( email )

Singapore 117591
Singapore

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