The latest and hopefully the final nail has been driven in that old-time favorite myth against all forms of communal ownership, the Tragedy of the Commons. Elinor Ostrom has just received the Nobel Prize Bank of Sweden Prize in Economics in Memory of Alfred Nobel for her extensive work in debunking the Tragedy of the Commons myth.1
And I couldn’t be happier. This annoying idea has been frequently cited (bur rarely read) by statists and propertarians alike as an argument in favour of state-control or privatization in order to avoid admitting that people could manage their own resources without a government bureaucrat or profit-seeking landlord giving the orders above. Even though many others have already countered this theory in depth, this is the first time (that I know of) that not only the refutation reaches the mainstream but is so well proven and argued that it earns a coveted award.
Furthermore, this event is important for another reason, namely the current shift of economics from the ideological to the empirical. A Political Scientist, rather than an Economist has won the Economic Prize which hopefully marks the shift to the perception of how economics is done and what it tries to achieve. It is past time we put behind us scholastic theories such as praxeology and assumed axioms and focus on what has worked best for discovering knowledge for humans. It’s past time to leave Neoclassical, Austrian and Keynesian economics in the same old pile we left Pythagoreanism, Alchemy and Astrology. It’s past time economics became a science.
The Tragedy of the Commons is the latest such casualy and hopefully it won’t be the last.
And I’m dancing on its grave.