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The Drama of the Commons
The need to compare and synthesize analyses of common-pool resources and common property regimes in various disciplines using a framework that enables scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds to communicate and compare findings;
The need, especially for international donors, to understand how various changes in property rights affect the distribution of income, wealth, and other resources that are important aspects of the creation and survival of institutional arrangements;
The need to understand how spatial and temporal heterogeneity in the resource endowment creates opportunities for some to benefit at the expense of others, thereby often exacerbating equity problems;
The need to compare the costs and benefits of various institutional arrangements for a given resource. Under some circumstances, common property regimes perform better than private property. This occurs when (a) the costs of creating and enforcing private property rights are high, (b) the economic value of the output produced from the resource is low, and (c) the benefits generated by the resources are distributed with high spatial uncertainty. Under these circumstances, a common property regime provides a way of reducing the risk of having no benefits at all in a given time period and thus may be preferable to private property (see Runge, 1986; Netting, 1976).
Resource users do not always choose to defect rather than cooperate. Individuals’ decisions depend on their bargaining power, the initial endowment of resources, their shared values, and other factors.
The panelists also identified the following unanswered questions and areas for future research:
How do multiple levels of management interact and affect performance?
What is the effect of group size on the performance of institutional arrangements?
What are the roles of different mechanisms for dispute settlement?
These three questions identified an ambitious and scientifically difficult agenda. One of these unanswered questions (the effect of group size) has been addressed repeatedly in the research since 1985 and is discussed in Chapter 2 and several other chapters in this book. However, the question turns out to be deceptively simple. Different findings have been obtained depending on the context. The relationships among multiple levels of management are addressed in Chapters 8 and 9 and here, too, the results are complex. Less work has been done on diverse mechanisms for dispute settlement; this remains an important area for research where the tradition of work on commons could link to that on conflict resolution. This topic is reconsidered in Chapter 13.
A number of related activities followed the Annapolis conference. One was