A direct attack on several of the key questions posed in this book can be launched by an examination of field settings in which (1) appropriators have devised, applied, and monitored their own rules to control the use of their CPRs and (2) the resource systems, as well as the institutions, have survived for long periods of time. The youngest set of institutions to be analyzed in this chapter is already more than 100 years old. The history of the oldest system to be examined exceeds 1,000 years. The institutions discussed in this chapter have survived droughts, floods, wars, pestilence, and major economic and political changes. We shall examine the organization of mountain grazing and forest CPRs in Switzerland and Japan and irrigation systems in Spain and the Philippine Islands.
By indicating that these CPR institutions have survived for long periods of time, I do not mean that their operational rules have remained fixed since they were first introduced. All of the environmental settings included in this chapter are complex and have varied over time. In such settings, it would be almost impossible to “get the operational rules right” on the first try, or even after several tries. These institutions are “robust” or in “institutional equilibrium” in the sense defined by Shepsle. Shepsle (1989b, p. 143) regards “an institution as ‘essentially’ in equilibrium if changes transpired according to an ex ante plan (and hence part of the original institution) for institutional change.”
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