Lin Ostrom: We can do it!

One thing I’ll always remember about Elinor Ostrom: her indomitable spirit.

This was the closing slide of her 2007 talk at the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) annual meeting.

Her words were:

And the last big challenge is one that I consider very important: recognizing the value of institutional diversity. We need to get away from simple policy solutions.

When I’ve actually coded the rule systems that are used, I found things like 35 boundary rules in one region, combined with 25 information rules, combined with so many appropriation rules, etc.

It’s like a gene. It is a very long string of instructions that people have devised. And we need to study that, understand it, and look at it over time. We must recognize and understand institutional diversity.

A lot of people want to eliminate it. The criticism is: oh there are so many units and get rid of them. Then we get rid of all the little snails and bugs and mosquitoes and other things. Right now that wouldn’t be politically acceptable to say that we should get rid of all the little insects of the world. I hope we get to the point it’s not politically acceptable to get rid of all the institutional diversity.

Ok, so, we must — I’m coming from the 60s; we must overcome! — we must overcome these challenges.

Our ecological and social worlds need a coherent systematic framework. We need theories developed and tested at multiple tiers; we need empirical studies that can cumulate.

We need scientists who work together. And we can do it!

(Any errors in transcription are my own.)

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