Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Ostrom Nobel and organ donation

I was delighted to see Ostrom win a Nobel. I knew of her work from my previous researches into the nature of rights, when I found her descriptions of the rights bundles associated with common resources (Schlager and Ostrom, 1992).

Reviewing the various summaries of her work, I'm delighted that she's finding good support for non-market solutions. That should stick nicely in the craw of many market-uber-alles libertarians and neoliberals.

Now, some libertarians may claim that the solutions she documents and researches are not government solutions: and indeed they are not. However, they rely upon government supported special privilege to coerce rule-following behavior in ways libertarians would not consider freedom. In the frequent example of the alpine pastures, there is an enforced rule that you may not pasture more animals in the summer than you can maintain over the winter. Such coercion (I'm using the libertarian sense) is unjustifiable for libertarians, since there is either no ownership or communal ownership of the commons. Unless a commune is granted governance powers, it has no legitimate power to direct any behavior than any partner in a partnership does, nor even the power to exclude endless newcomers.

I also wondered if organ donation, which is strongly regulated and prohibited from markets, might benefit from this alternative approach. So I searched in google, and lo and behold:

"The Puzzle of Private Rulemaking: Expertise, Flexibility, and Blame Avoidance in Regulation." By David L. Weimer, 2005.
"My approach to the analysis of private regulation as an institutional form, although much
less ambitious, follows in the spirit of Elinor Ostrom’s study of self-governing common property

Libertarians (and others) proposing marketization of transplant organs are opposed to Ostrom's sort of system in this case.


Jeremy said...

Believe it or not, some libertarians - like me - are sick and tired of the market-ueber-alles libertarians as well. Anything voluntary should be favored, not just things that Ayn Rand approves of.

Liberals in practice don't advocate regulation for situations where voluntary measures suffice. The goal of libertarians should be to convince these liberals of voluntary solutions. But you can't do that if you only stress one aspect of voluntarism: the competitive aspect. Cooperation is important, and ceding cooperativism to statists is a huge, huge mistake.

Mike Huben said...

While we can probably agree that we like voluntarism, at best it is a thin covering on the coercive nature of a rights-oriented society.

Every right is established by coercion. You may voluntarily give a dollar to a charity, but you do that from a position of ownership of the dollar; a position established and maintained by coercive threat.

I don't see any escape from coercion, nor even a way to minimize it. Voluntarism isn't a solution to coercion.

What I do see is that we can choose which coercion we prefer for which purpose.