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Who Needs Formal Regulations to Manage the Commons? The Rural Charters in Northern Italy

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Casari, Marco
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4, 2000
Date: 2000
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/114
Sector: History
Land Tenure & Use
Social Organization
Region: Europe
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
institutional design
village organization
property rights
monitoring and sanctioning
Abstract: "According to the Folk theorems, a tragedy of the commons outcome can be avoided provided that the users are sufficiently patient and that their interaction is infinitely repeated. That seems to have been the situation of the villages on the Italian side of the Alps (Trentino), which held forests and pastures in common for centuries (1200-1800). "Instead of relying on informal regulations, however, the users created formal institutions to limit the over-exploitation of the resources through written legal documents called rural Charters (Carte di Regola ). Was the choice inefficient or were informal regulations not able to support full cooperation? "Some degree of formal regulations was necessary to ensure that basic requirements of the Folk theorem, such as repeated interaction and protection from outsiders, were met. Through the rural Charters the local communities obtained from the political authorities some legislative power to self-regulate and locally enforce formal institutions. For instance, the long-term relationship within a community was ensured by a specific property rights arrangement on the land that locked the insiders in. "Since the resource users could only imperfectly monitor one other, the outcome of informal institutions was in general sub-optimal. I adopt the Green-Porter model to interpret the historical situation. The alternative of a legal sanctioning system entailed explicit costs to be set up and maintained, but might have provided a better arrangement also, because it avoided the deadweight losses associated with punishment actions of informal regulations. "In conclusion, it is well possible that formal regulations could have performed better on an efficiency ground than informal regulations."

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