14 June 2012

Thank you Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom died yesterday of cancer. She was 76 years old.

I only met Lin once, but I considered her my "intellectual grandmother." She did her PhD work on institutions for managing groundwater in Southern California. I did mine on institutions for allocating imported water in Southern California.

Lin's great contribution was to draw people's attention to the varied, complex and effective ways that local people solved local problems. She was not interested in abstract academic structures that were not found "in the wild."

She won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, not because she was a she, but because she was a magnificent thinker and proponent of ideas and methods that humans used to manage their common, communal, private and public resources. Even better, she put her ideas into action at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, a center that she co-founded with her husband Vincent (also a water geek) and where many many people learned about institutions, described the institutions they knew, and advanced our understanding of how humans can live and thrive.

Bottom Line: The institutions Lin Ostrom created will continue to benefit us. RIP.

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