But see Chapter 1 of this volume for some brief reflections on definitional issues.


See, for example, Ostrom (1990:89). Baland and Platteau (1996:285) highlight the difficulties inherent in deciding on parameters of successful management when they say, “It is perhaps too simplistic to view the experiences of common-property management in terms of outright failure or success. It is likely that a good number of these experiences are only partially successful.” They do not, however, define precisely what they mean by success.


See Blomquist and Ostrom (1985) for a distinction between “commons situations” that are potentially subject to problems of crowding and depletion, and “commons dilemmas” in which private actions of users of commons have costs that cannot be overcome without collective organization.


There are other valuable comparative studies of commons management as well that readers can examine at greater length than has been possible in this paper. Pinkerton and Weinstein (1995) and Steins (1999) focus on fisheries; Arnold and Stewart (1991) are concerned mainly with land-based resources in India, while Raintree (1987) examines tenure-related issues in agroforestry more widely; Peters (1994) and Lane (1998) examine livelihood importance of common grazing resources in Africa; Sengupta (1991) compares 12 cases of community irrigation management in India and the Philippines; and Redford and Padoch (1992) and Sandbukt (1995) analyze different institutional regimes around forest commons. Some general overview studies about designing sustainable institutions are also available in Hanna and Munasinghe (1995). The interested reader will find these additional texts well worth pursuing.


Hardin (1982), Hechter (1987), Sandler (1992), and Lichbach (1996) provide useful reviews of the collective action literature.


Those who already have an extensive familiarity with the common property literature might wish to skip directly to the discussion that is of greater interest.


See, for example, Steins and Edwards (1999), who attempt to examine how context affects the incentives of users of a resource, but derive their conclusions from a single case study related to a single resource type.


For some comparisons, Wade also uses data on 10 villages that have no irrigation.


These empirical observations of Wade are also corroborated in theoretical terms by Ostrom et al. (1994:319), who suggest that when individuals do not trust each other, cannot communicate effectively, and cannot develop agreements, then outcomes are likely to match theoretical predictions of noncooperative behavior among fully rational individuals playing finitely repeated, complete information, common-pool resource games.


Wade relies in part on Ostrom’s (1985) list of variables that facilitate collective action on the common. Wade interprets “noticeability” as “ease of detection of rule breakers” and considers it to be a function of resource size, group size, and overlap between the location of the resource and the residential location of the group. In Table 2-1, “ease in enforcement” is the variable that stands for Wade’s use of “ease of detection.”


Wade states that he has a set of 13 conditions, but the first condition identified by Wade is in effect 2 different conditions: small size and clearly defined boundaries of the common-pool resource.


Note that this particular result is a formal expression of Coase’s insight (1960) about the irrelevance of property rights arrangements in the absence of transaction costs. See also Lueck (1994), who examines conditions under which common property can generate greater wealth than private property.


See also Maggs and Hoddinott (1999) for a study of how intrahousehold allocation of resources is affected by changes in common property regimes.


Baland and Platteau see poverty as the force that often drives users to overexploit environmental resources. But because the rich can consume at even higher levels with scant attention to the environment—witness pronouncements by American President George W. Bush about not honoring campaign promises to restrict carbon emissions because of the potential effects on energy costs—it seems appropriate to recast their argument in terms of opportunity costs.


See the important work of Greif (1994a) on how cultural beliefs are an integral part of institu-

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