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Constitutional Decision-Making: A Logic for the Organization of Collective Enterprises

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Conference: 1968 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association
Location: Chicago, IL
Conf. Date: May 4, 1968
Date: 1968
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/183
Sector: Theory
Water Resource & Irrigation
Subject(s): constitutional choice
collective action
decision making
common pool resources
water resources
institutional analysis
Abstract: "In examining the outcomes of constitution making at the local level, political scientists and economists have often despaired at the resultant crazy-quilt pattern of local governmental units. One might also argue that despair should be directed at the lack of an appropriate logic to explain behavior in the on-going political process. Market behavior also appears as highly disorganized, until viewed with the help of a logic for explaining the order resulting from simultaneous, inter-related decision making in a market place. When we have developed an adequate logic or calculus to explain the behavior of local governmental systems, we may be surprised at the extent of order we can discover. We should then be better prpared to propose improvements in the on-going political process. For some time now a literature has been growing at the fringes of political science and economics which provides the beginnings of a new logic of collective action. From these theoretical foundations, one can begin to develop a relatively coherent logic of constitutional behavior at the local level. During this discussion of the logic of establishing collective enterprises, illustrations related to the management of a ground water basin will be used. The problem of ground water basin management is particularly useful in helping to understand the logic of constitution making since it is a classic example of a common-pool resource--the actions of any producer affect all other producers utilizing the basin. Secondly, the issues are relatively clear-cut and easily determined by an outside observer. Problems of ground water basin management are not in the main affected by party politics, race relations and other divisive issues of the day. In essence, one can assume all other things are held constant while examining the behavior of individuals related to this one set of events. This is as close to a laboratory situation as we can get when we are interested in the behavior of on-going systems. This type of analysis could also be applied to many others problems of metropolitan areas including housing, sanitation, recreation, and transportation."

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