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Addressing misperceptions of Governing the Commons



Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences Elinor Ostrom's authoritative book Governing the Commons, published in 1990, and almost every other text she has published on the subject of the commons, strongly criticized Garrett Hardin's much-cited 1968 Science article “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Hardin's “tragedy” refers metaphorically to the eventual destruction of a commons as a result of collective overuse. Hardin claimed that statist solutions and privatization provisions are the only two policy means for addressing the tragedy. Ostrom explored user self-governance as a third alternative to avert the tragedy. Ostrom's exploration and her critical stance, however, have caused the misperception of her work as anti-Hardin, anti-tragedy, or more specifically, anti-statist and anti-privatization. This paper argues that despite Ostrom's clear criticism of Hardin's claim and her regard for user self-governance or community-based management, her work was not anti-statist or anti-privatization.


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