Neighborhood ambience cannot be produced at the individual lot level, even if that is the most efficient scale at which to consume residential housing services. Information may be best consumed in large aggregations, but best produced by individual creators.
The Fennell Four-Phase Model of Chronic Illness
Fishing may be best conducted at a small scale by individuals and firms, but sustainable levels of fish reproduction must be carried out across entire ecosystems. And so on. In each case, choices must be made about how to accommodate these multiple scales and how to manage any resulting abutments between different ownership regimes. Two additional wrinkles relating to scale deserve attention. The first has to do with the appropriate scale at which various sorts of rules should operate, which relates in turn to higher-order limits on the permissible content of localized arrangements.
The second relates to the relationship between scale and time. The local management of common pool resources generally takes place within one or more larger jurisdictional frameworks that are designed to serve the needs of a broader community or population. An important challenge, then, is determining the appropriate scale, and hence the appropriate jurisdictional level, at which to make resource-related decisions see Marshall , pp. The notion of subsidiarity, which calls for delegating authority to the smallest jurisdictional unit that is competent to handle it see, e.
Given the vulnerability of CPR institutions to intrusions on functions like rulemaking and exclusion see, e. Diverse examples from Canada, Brazil, and Nepal show how national law and policy can threaten local institutions and the resources they are managing Ostrom , pp. There are two sets of reasons that rules developed at a higher jurisdictional level might appropriately limit the content of local institutional arrangements: to protect those outside the local group from spillovers, and to protect those inside the local group from oppression or exploitation.
The first motivation, protection of outsiders, often replicates the same basic concerns we have already seen in managing the interface between private property ownership and common property ownership. For example, a local fishing collective might band together to maximize their collective yield but visit externalities on others drawing from the same population of fish ibid.
The second motivation, protection of insiders, is even more interesting. For example, the development of a free and democratic state a large-scale endeavor requires that people not be allowed to enslave or exploit each other. Similarly, localized management systems that place disproportionate burdens on, or disproportionately withhold benefits from, people based on morally arbitrary criteria like race, ethnicity, or sex can run afoul of important projects and normative commitments of the larger jurisdiction within which the commons is nested.
For example, deciding whether certain rights will be held in common or turned into private property for individuals, households, or firms, will influence relative wealth levels among different members of society — and not always in the ways one might initially expect see Chander and Sunder Institutions and resources both exist in time. Questions of temporal scale see, e. Geores , p. First is the appropriate time horizon over which to apply rules or institutional practices.
Institutional entrenchment broadens the temporal scale, increasing stability but reducing flexibility to adapt to changed circumstances or new information see Daniels Institutional features, such as voting rules, can be adjusted to raise or lower the amount of institutional drag. For example, Ostrom , p.
Here, as elsewhere, heterogeneity among those using a resource presents complications. Second, and closely related, the most efficient scale at which to use a given resource may change over time. Land, enduring and versatile, offers a classic example. At Time 1, land might be most efficiently used as a large farm, at Time 2, it might be most efficiently used as private residences, and at Time 3, it might be most efficiently used as an extensive mixed-use development.
Various feats of disaggregation and aggregation are required to accomplish these moves. In each case, consent from those who currently own or control the land must be obtained or the lack thereof overridden and the surplus from the shift must be divided in some way see, e. Fennell , p. Heller and Hills But the move from Time 1 to Time 2 may be equally difficult if many people hold stakes in the farm and must agree to the subdivision and sale of the land. As the history of the enclosure movement suggests, holdouts can impede property shifts in the commons-to-private direction, as well as shifts that run in the opposite direction see, e.
Dahlman , p. These questions of efficient scale over time have much in common with concurrent mismatches between efficient scales see Fennell Just as landowner consent is overridden to allow air travel a simultaneous use at a different scale so too may it be overridden to allow land to be aggregated or disaggregated in particular ways to accommodate uses at different scales over time. But overriding consent outright presents problems of its own, as the controversy surrounding eminent domain illustrates. Designing workable ways to sidestep strategic behavior to accommodate multiple scales, while at the same time minimizing intrusions into the prerogatives of ownership, represents a primary avenue for further research.
I hope that the discussion here, brief though it has been, has offered some insight into the debt of gratitude that legal scholars working on property rights owe to Ostrom, as well as some of the ways her work and ours can achieve valuable synergies. With those synergies in mind, I will close with a few observations about interdisciplinarity.
In addressing the problems of the commons, we are all participants in an intellectual commons. Academic incentive structures can help to overcome the problem of underprovision by rewarding publication and other contributions. But those same incentive structures may also cause contributions to be underutilized, and, indeed, may render them less than optimally useful. A congestion effect may result from conflicting uses of terms and concepts in different subfields. Certain forms of conceptual blindness may because almost contagious within fields of inquiry, causing scholars to overuse certain ill-fitting templates to the exclusion of more nuanced models.
More generally, disciplinary divisions may create artificial boundaries that impede larger-scale inquiries across areas see Poteete et al. These problems stand in an interesting tension with each other. As a profusion of inconsistent terms drive up the noise-to-signal ratio, cross-disciplinary interactions as well as progress on recurring, core problems may become impossible; without a shared language, collaboration grinds to a standstill see, e.
Using the same terms and concepts in the same way tends to facilitate cross-disciplinary conversations and keeps the field of discussion clutter-free, but it may also create an unhelpful path dependence by drawing scholarship into existing well-worn grooves. Questions of scale resurface as well. The best conceptual or methodological scale for the production of knowledge may sometimes lie within the intensive bounds of a particular discipline.
But at other times, advances depend on communication across disciplines. Fine-tuning disciplinary boundaries to accommodate both within-discipline cultivation and across-discipline fertilization represents a challenge not unlike that of simultaneously fostering both good animal husbandry and good pasture maintenance. These lessons are, of course, applicable to areas of scholarly inquiry that seem far removed from work on the commons. Yet, as I hope the discussion in this essay has suggested, the commons is never really very far away.
Lane Of course, a central government might be unprotective of civil rights, or even hostile to them.
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