Nobel Economics

mainelobsterAlongside Barak Obama there’s a second Noble prize surprise this year – Elinor Ostrom for the Economics Nobel Prize.*

Elinor is a groundbreaking economics win as her work covers how humans look after shared resources – we often collaborate to protect environments such as water resources and fisheries. That is humans do not inevitably act as ‘economically rational’ – out to maximise our profit.

It’s often assumed that without outside intervention we will inevitably see a tragedy of the commons. This tragedy occurs as individuals overuse resources – e.g. the global atmosphere’s ability to absorb carbon – reducing the quality of life for everyone.

In fact there are many examples where people do collaborate and can achieve far better outcomes than purely government action. The graph above is one such example. It compares the lobster catch in Maine (community driven management – red line) with fish (government management – blue line).

So what do we need for a triumph of the commons? Mark van Vugt’s recipe for success is here.

Image: Comparison of landings of ground fish in Maine and lobsters. Source: The Struggle to Govern the Commons, Thomas Dietz,Elinor Ostrom and, Paul C. Stern Science | * The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009