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Type of Goods and Collective Action

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Conference: Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society
Location: San Diego, CA
Conf. Date: March 22-24
Date: 2002
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/8102
Sector: Theory
Subject(s): collective action
Olson, Mancur
public goods and bads
common pool resources
Ostrom, Elinor
Nash equilibrium
property rights
Abstract: "Mancur Olson started a major task for social scientists by distinguishing between two types of collective action and expecting that the success in providing goods would depend on the type of good. Olson classified what he called public goods into exclusive and inclusive public goods. He made radically different predictions for these two subclasses. In regard to 'exclusive public goods,' Olson expected groups to try to keep their size as small as possible, to try to get 100% participation since 'even one non-participant can usually take all of the benefits brought about by the action of [others] for himself'. Inclusive groups, on the other hand, will try to increase members. The more members in an inclusive group, the more individuals who may be willing to share the costs of providing a good of general benefit to all. Olson also predicts that bargaining and strategic interactions will be less intense in an inclusive group than in an exclusive one. Instead of calling these two types of goods 'exclusive' and 'inclusive,' scholars have come to call one of them 'public goods' and the other 'common-pool resources.' Public goods are characterized by difficulties of exclusion and fully joint consumption (e.g., one person's use does not subtract from the benefits available to others). Common-pool resources share with public goods the attribute of difficult exclusion and thus the problems of free riding. They also include the problems of overharvesting and crowding due to the attribute of subtractability. In the paper, I will examine how attributes of groups--particularly their size--affect the likelihood of groups organizing to provide themselves public goods."

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