Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom is among Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” I read quite a bit of her work last year and enjoyed it immensely, not just for the broad range of study but also because of the strength of the conclusions she’s able to credibly draw from that diverse body of work.
But of everything I’ve read or heard from her, this statement at a George Mason University event spoke to me the most. It’s a simple, easily forgotten insight that more economists should burn into their brains.
One quibble with the article. It reads:
Ostrom, 78, has done field studies of the world’s fisheries, roamed with shepherds in Swiss pastures and trudged around the Los Angeles water basin to distill the essentials of harnessing cooperation to overcome selfish interests.
I think it’s fairer to say that her work provides insight into how simple rules can harness selfish interests to achieve cooperation.