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Institutional Interplay: The Environmental Consequences of Cross-Scale Interactions

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Young, Oran R.
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
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/519
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
land tenure and use
game theory
environmental policy
social organization
institutional analysis
Abstract: "The boundaries separating social institutions from one another are sometimes hard to delimit with precision. Nonetheless, discrete institutions interact continually both horizontally or at the same level of social organization (e.g. interactions between trade regimes and environmental regimes at the international level) and vertically or across levels of social organization (e.g. interactions between national regulatory arrangements dealing with land use and local systems of land tenure). Focusing on issues of land use and sea use, this essay explores the consequences of vertical interplay in two distinct settings. The first setting features issues arising from the interplay between modern systems of public property articulated primarily at the national level and traditional, largely local systems rooted in practices involving common property. The second setting takes the analysis of institutional interplay to a higher level; it directs attention to regulatory regimes and examines interactions between international arrangements pertaining to the harvesting of natural resources and the management systems dealing with the same resources that operate within individual member states. The principal conclusion of the paper is that cross-scale interactions generate an inescapable tension between (1) the benefits of higher level arrangements measured in terms of opportunities to consider biophysical interdependencies and to engage in ecosystems management and (2) the costs of operating at higher levels calculated in terms of an inability to come to terms with local variations in biophysical conditions and a lack of sensitivity to the rights and interests of local stakeholders. The vigor of the debate regarding the subsidiarity principle testifies to the importance of this tension. But this debate also suggests that there is no simple criterion or formula that can be brought to bear in efforts to manage or regulate vertical interplay in these settings. Ideal responses to this institutional tension generally turn on a variety of situational factors; actual outcomes are typically products of complex political processes."

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