13 October 2009

Elinor Ostrom and Economics

Good to see the 'Nobel' Prize going to a 'non-economist'..Elinor Ostrom is a political scientist.
Read a list of her work here

Here is her CV 
For those who want to debate whether she 'deserved' the Prize at all, like the big discussion that raged over the weekend on Obama, you can put in your comments at this site.. Some comments are pretty low level here, showing that a lot more effort will be needed to get economics to accept a multi-disciplinary approach. So whether she 'deserved' the prize or not, whether there are others who 'deserve' it more or not, discussion is endless..still, this is a step in the right direction on bringing plurality back into focus. A refreshing change from the market vs. government arguments, she stresses on cooperation e.g farmer managed irrigation systems etc..

In an interview
The first woman to win a Nobel economics prize, announced today, emphasizes in her work, for example, how pools of users manage natural resources as common property, such as how lobster fishermen in Maine in the 1920s came together to self-police the industry due to too many of the sea creatures being captured threatened their extinction
"They regrouped and thought hard of what to do, and over time developed a series of ingenius rules and ways of montoring that have meant the lobster fishery in Maine is the most successful in the world," she said today, in a wide-ranging interview with Adam Smith, editor-in-chief of the Noble prize group's Web site, Nobelprize.org. "There are many other small- to medium-size groups that have taken on the responsibility for organizing the source governance."
She agreed her award might catch on with the public in more broad ways, arguing that government oversight isn't the only way to solve a problem.
"I hope," she said. "That's what I've been working on for all my life. Humans have great capabilities, and somehow we had sense that the 'officials' have genetic capabilities that the rest of us didn't have. I hope we can change that."
You can hear the whole interview here

UPDATE: Here is Paul Romer on Ostrom's significance:

Cheers to the Nobel committee for recognizing work on one of the deepest issues in economics. Bravo to the political scientist who showed that she was a better economist than the economic imperialists who can’t tell the difference between assuming and understanding.

Here is Ostrom on climate change (Thanks Suvrat, for this link)

The first part of the discussion moves from a review of systems thinking to focus on social-ecological systems and their resilience, to the challenge of managing these systems so they can be resilient: How will they best cope with change? In the second part of the conversation, Ostrom elaborates on the framework she’s been developing, which she describes as “a step toward building a strong interdisciplinary science of complex, multilevel systems that will enable future diagnosticians to match governance arrangements to specific problems embedded in a social–ecological context.” In wide-ranging observations, she also discusses how people self-organize successfully; the role of trust and reciprocity; and the preservation of ecological knowledge.


  1. here is another conversation with Elinor Ostrom about climate change

  2. Thanks Suvrat, for the additional link.
    Lisa, I agree with you, I didn't do a post on Williamson as I felt he is already well known in economist circles.