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The Drama of the Commonswith one another both horizontally or at the same level of social organization (e.g., interactions between trade regimes and environmental regimes operating at the international level) and vertically or across levels of social organization (e.g., interactions between local systems of land tenure and national regulatory systems dealing with matters of land use). The resultant links may generate consequences that are benign, as in cases where regional regimes gain strength from being nested into global regimes, or malign, as in cases where national land use regulations contradict or undermine informal systems of land tenure operating at the local level. Both horizontal and vertical interplay may be more or less symmetrical or reciprocal in nature. Some interactions between distinct institutions are largely unidirectional or asymmetrical. National regulatory regimes that impact local institutions dramatically while being generally insensitive to the impacts of local arrangements exemplify this class of cases. In other cases, interactions are more symmetrical. There are good reasons to believe, for example, that interactions between trade regimes and environmental regimes at the international level, which were once highly asymmetrical, are becoming increasingly symmetrical as environmental regimes gain strength and begin to generate significant consequences for the operation of the global trading system.
Institutions also interact with one another as a result of both functional interdependencies arising from inherent connections and strategic links arising from exercises in political design and management. Functional interdependencies are facts of life. They occur, whether we like it or not, when the substantive problems or activities that two or more institutions address are linked in biogeophysical or socioeconomic terms. The international regimes dealing with the protection of stratospheric ozone and with climate change exhibit inherent links both because chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are the central concern of the ozone regime, are also potent greenhouse gases and because a number of the chemicals that seem attractive as substitutes for CFCs are greenhouse gases as well (Oberthür, 1999). Regimes dealing with the regulation of marine pollution and with the protection of stocks of fish and marine mammals are connected in this inherent sense because the success or failure of efforts to control pollution can be expected to have significant consequences for the well-being of marine ecosystems and the stocks of fish and other organisms they encompass.
Strategic links or interactions involving political design and management, by contrast, arise when actors seek to forge connections between or among institutions intentionally in the interests of pursuing individual or collective goals (Young, 1996). Some exercises in political design are motivated mainly by a desire to enhance institutional effectiveness. Efforts to nest regional regimes (e.g., the various regional seas regimes) into larger or more comprehensive arrangements (e.g., the overall law of the sea), for example, are properly construed as initiatives intended to promote the effectiveness of the smaller scale systems by integrating them into larger systems. Other strategic links reflect conscious efforts to cope with the side effects of arrangements established for other purposes.