Cost and Choice in the Commons: Ostrom and the Case of British Flood Management
23 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2019 Last revised: 6 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 2, 2019
Commons provide private goods that are hard to exclude from non-contributing actors. They frequently underlie mismatches in property arrangements. Hardin asserted that the existence of commons produced a ‘tragedy’ remediable through strict division of natural resources into private property or state control. Elinor Ostrom, and the Bloomington School of Political Economy, revealed instead a range of long-lived, productive and peaceful commons institutions that rely on neither a central state nor individual private property. What governance process should decide the size and scope of these institutions? We argue that bottom-up responses to problems of mismatched property rights are facilitated within larger societies that are characterized by market processes. Moreover, the wider presence of price signals deliver to local communities essential knowledge about the cost of maintaining private property and the relative scarcity of the communal goods. We illustrate our case with an example of the failure and attempted reform of flood management schemes in Great Britain.
Keywords: commons, ostrom, James Buchanan, public choice, mismatched property, environmental goods, climate change, floods
JEL Classification: R52, B25, K11, P16, H44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation