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Reformulating the Commons

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Journal: Ambiente & Sociedade
Volume: 5
Page(s):
Date: 2002
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/3506
Sector: Theory
Region:
Subject(s): resource management--theory
institutions--theory
community participation--theory
tragedy of the commons--theory
common pool resources--theory
self-governance
organizational behavior
collective action--theory
Workshop
Abstract: "Most natural resource systems used by multiple individuals can be classified as common-pool resources. Common-pool resources generate finite quantities of resource units and one person's use subtracts from the quantity of resource units available to others. Most common-pool resources are sufficiently large that multiple actors can simultaneously use the resource system and efforts to exclude potential beneficiaries are costly. Examples of common-pool resources include both natural and human-made systems including: groundwater basins, irrigation systems, forests, grazing lands, mainframe computers, government and corporate treasuries, and the Internet. Examples of the resource units derived from common-pool resources include water, timber, fodder, computer-processing units, information bits, and budget allocations. "When the resource units are highly valued and many actors benefit from appropriating (harvesting) them for consumption, exchange, or as a factor in a production process, the appropriations made by one individual are likely to create negative externalities for others. Nonrenewable resources, such as oil, may be withdrawn in an uncoordinated race that reduces the quantity of the resource units that can be withdrawn and greatly increases the cost of appropriation. Renewable resources, such as fisheries, may suffer from congestion within one time period but may also be so overharvested that the stock generating a flow of resource units is destroyed. An unregulated, open-access common-pool resource generating highly valued resource units is likely to be overused and may even be destroyed if overuse destroys the stock or the facility generating the t1ow of resource units."

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