Homo sapiens ≠ Homo economicus

At the foundation of economic theory is the assumption that individual humans are genetically programmed to take as much as they can get, everyone else be damned. This is the classical justification for governments policing economic activity. It’s even used to justify the very idea of private property, since resources held in common would inevitably be over-exploited by competing individuals.

So it’s a radical thing that Elinor Ostrom has done with her career, documenting communities around the world where people have self-organized to share resources in ways that work well for everyone. Fishermen agreeing to conserve lobsters. Farmers cooperating to create irrigation projects. Indigenous hunters sharing each catch with the village.

Sure there are examples of resource wars, but there are at least as many examples of outcomes that work for everyone. Corporations, on the other hand, behave typically like Homo economicus.

Elinor Ostrom won the (ersatz) Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009

Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s