Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / Institutions and the Performance of Coupled Infrastructure Systems: Insights from Large-N Studies of Ostrom's Institutional Design Principles

Institutions and the Performance of Coupled Infrastructure Systems: Insights from Large-N Studies of Ostrom's Institutional Design Principles

CBIE_WP-2015-007

Abstract


Many scholars have worked for decades to understand what characteristics of social organization enable groups to solve social dilemmas. Social dilemmas involve two problems: 1) individuals face a choice in which the best outcome can only be achieved if many other decision makers make a choice that benefits the total payoff of the group and 2) there is no way to guarantee others will also make decisions that will benefit the group, so individuals face strong incentives to make a choice that is best for themselves and will have negative impacts on the group. Solving these two problems has proven to be devilishly difficult as Hardin (1968) reminded the (academic) world almost 50 years ago. The dominant discourse around social dilemmas at the time of Hardin’s article and the subsequent 20 years have suggested that their solution required the intervention of an exogenous governance body that either a) directly restricts choices of actors thus removing challenge 2 of social dilemmas or b) establishes and enforces property rights removing challenge 1. Of course, these two solutions are just di↵erent sides of the same theoretical coin, differentiated by an arbitrary choice about the assignment of “property rights.”

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Published August 28, 2015

John M. Anderies, Arizona State University, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Marco A. Janssen, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability/Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment