Last Tuesday, June 12th, Elinor Ostrom, internationally renowned political scientist and first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for economics in 2009, passed away. She was known above all for her pioneering studies on the commons, which are properties owned and managed by communities in the form of communal resources. For her work in this area Euricse invited her to be a member of the Scientific Committee of the recently launched Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity (JEOD). Following is a note from Carlo Borzaga introducing an unpublished work by the American scholar.
I think the best way to remember Elinor Ostrom is to give her the floor one more time – to give us one last lesson on the commons, especially now that they have rapidly gone from relics of the past ignored by almost everyone to a topic now being discussed around the world. Even in the many messages written in these days in Elinor Ostrom's memory there are in fact misrepresentations, if not actual errors, with respect to the nature of these resources and of the organizations that govern their production. This was the core of Elinor Ostrom’s research: governing the commons, as in the title of her most famous book.
Euricse would like to remember Ostrom by sharing what is probably one of her last lectures. It is a lecture she delivered on March 29th on the occasion of the Annual Friedrick von Hayeck Memorial Lecture, in honor of the Austrian philosopher and economist, who was a major proponent of the free market system. It may seem to some an odd occasion, but it actually exemplifies the eclectic nature of Ostrom’s studies. Thanks to Alberto Mingardi of the Bruno Leoni Institute, who wrote a very nice summary for the Sunday edition of Il Sole 24 Ore and to Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who organized the event, Euricse has the complete text of the lecture. It is a text that reaffirms the American scholar’s grand research programme; a sort of testament directed not only to those who study the commons but also to those who aim to develop policy regarding the commons. The recommendations that emerge from the lecture are very clear and stimulating, starting with the need to adopt a multidisciplinary approach when studying the commons, and the need to pursue empirical analysis aimed at identifying the specificities of their governance forms, which are too often labeled as a "third way" alternnative to the market and the state when in fact they can be found, albeit in disguise, in both of these sectors as well. Elinor Ostrom concludes with a reference to natural and social ecosystems with respect to which the most appropriate forms of managing common resources are built. This connection was so important to Ostrom that it motivated her to study the growth mechanisms of trees. Her last, great lesson, in particular for those (like our research centre) who aim to study governance mechanisms other than market and government, whose importance of will only grow in the near future, especially after the crisis we are currently experiencing.
See the lecture Prof. Elinor Ostrom delivered on the occasion of the 21st IEA Annual Hayek Memorial Lecture on the subject of 'The Future of the Commons: Beyond Market Failure and Government Regulation'.