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An Introduction to the Work of the Ostroms

Summary:
When I took my current gig as libertarianism.org's economics editor, one of the first pieces I wanted to commission was one explaining the contributions of the Ostroms and why they matter for modern libertarianism. So many of us academic types, especially those of us here at Coordination Problem and associated with the George Mason program more generally, talk about them, but I wondered whether outside of our circles, the reasons were understood by non-academic libertarians. Jayme Lemke has written a beautiful piece that does exactly what I wanted, introducing the Ostroms to that audienc Specialization in a market economy and the innovation that results are the keys to a dynamic society with rising standards of living, but you’ll never get off the ground without a reasonable

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When I took my current gig as libertarianism.org's economics editor, one of the first pieces I wanted to commission was one explaining the contributions of the Ostroms and why they matter for modern libertarianism. So many of us academic types, especially those of us here at Coordination Problem and associated with the George Mason program more generally, talk about them, but I wondered whether outside of our circles, the reasons were understood by non-academic libertarians.

Jayme Lemke has written a beautiful piece that does exactly what I wanted, introducing the Ostroms to that audienc

Specialization in a market economy and the innovation that results are the keys to a dynamic society with rising standards of living, but you’ll never get off the ground without a reasonable degree of peace and social stability. The ability to get along is also an important precondition for the strong ties, social support, and community we receive from our neighborhoods, churches, and other forms of voluntary association. It’s no exaggeration to say that the preservation and advancement of the human species require that we figure out how to share with and learn from each other, despite the fact that situations can and will emerge where people come to see taking what they need as easier than negotiating for it.

Elinor Ostrom and Vincent Ostrom were not alone in seeking generally acceptable ways of living together that could resolve, or at least ameliorate, this fundamental human dilemma. In asking how communities could encourage cooperation and discourage predation and violence, they kept good company with Adam Smith, F. A. Hayek, Mancur Olson, Douglass North, J. M. Buchanan, and others in public choice, institutional economics, and political economy. However, their contributions were unique in the extent to which they emphasized the need to understand the problem solving of imperfect people in an imperfect world. This quest led them to study problem solving in a diversity of real-world contexts, from the creation of the U.S. Constitution to the management of environmental commons to the provision of local public services such as education and police services. These seemingly diverse situations all had one thing in common: they were an opportunity to study the processes through which people deliberated, negotiated, and sometimes even fought to come to agreement on a set of rules that could solve a real social problem that was staring them straight in the face.

Steve Horwitz
Steven "Steve" Horwitz (born 7 February 1964) is an American economist of the Austrian School. Horwitz was born in Detroit, Michigan to Ronald and Carol Horwitz. He was raised in Oak Park, Michigan and graduated from Berkley High School in Berkley, Michigan in 1981. He graduated cum laude with an A.B. in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1985, where he was also active with several libertarian student groups and where he wrote and performed with the Sunday Funnies/Comedy Company sketch comedy group.

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