State Regulation of Open-Access, Common-Pool Resources

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"Open-access, common-pool resources, such as many fisheries, aquifers, oil pools, and the atmosphere, often require some type of regulation of private access and use to avoid wasteful exploitation. This paper summarizes the arguments and literature associated with this problem. The historical and contemporary record of open-access resources is not a happy one, and many of the problems persist, despite large aggregate gains from resolving them. The discussion here suggests why that is the case. The paper focuses on government responses to the common pool, the private and political negotiations underlying them, and the information and transaction costs that influence the design of property rights and regulatory policies. Understanding the type of institution that emerges and its effects on the commons depends upon identifying the key parties involved, their objectives, and their political influence. Further, it requires detailed analysis of the bargaining that occurs within and across groups. The paper summarizes the open-access problem and provides case analyses of regulation of common-pool fisheries, oil reservoirs, and the atmosphere. The final section summarizes the general themes and the advantages of the New Institutional Economics (NIE) approach to analyzing the common pool."
open access, common pool resources, institutional economics, institutional analysis, bargaining, property rights, transaction costs, regulation