Women in Economics: Elinor Ostrom

Our first episode in the Women in Economics series is an introduction to Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to have won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Elinor Ostrom and Vincent Ostrom have long been a part of the intellectual foundations of “Masonomics”. Both the Ostroms were past presidents of the Public Choice Society, for example, as were Jim Buchanan, Gordon Tullock and Vernon Smith. The Mason Economics department was thrilled when Ostrom won the Nobel as there has been and continues to be fruitful interaction between public choice, experimental economics and institutional analysis.

At the Women in Economics website you can also find Ostrom’s Nobel Prize address, more on the tragedy of the commons, and other resources.

Especially valuable for in-depth research are Vlad Tarko’s biography of Elinor Ostrom and Paul Dragos Aligica and Peter Boettke’s introduction to The Bloomington School.


I downloaded her book but have not yet slogged through it, it's not written in a lively manner but a sober manner.

Can we condense her book into one sentence? Maybe: "charity is not always for profit, sometimes it's just for prophet".

Her ideas can't be reduced to one sentence, but here's my take ...

Ostrom's Law: A resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory. https://www.thecommonsjournal.org/articles/10.18352/ijc.252/

"women in economics"? Why? Why is that interesting? I think it says so much that the author did not intend. If women in economics is so rare or unusual that we feel the need to highlight it why would you take a chance with this untested entity? All of the "first woman" in this and the "first black" in that would seem to imply that they didn't get their by skill but by fiat. Makes me think a ten foot pole is necessary.

Yes, it can be condensed, and yes, she is hard to plow through. But the findings are dense, as is the thought. However, I do not believe I can condense it to ONE sentence, as there are qualifiers, and those qualifiers are of vital importance. So, here we go: The "tragedy of the commons" will hold true generally. However, any commons can be successfully utilized in the long term, when managed by LOCAL, user-based, regulation.
Although Ostrom did not apply it this way, what I think is earth-shaking about this finding is that a commons can be anything, up to and including country-wide infrastructures and markets. The application would be less obvious, perhaps, on a large scale. But it is certainly pertinent, AND IMPORTANT, on a micro scale.

You can count on Tabarrok to faithfully toe the party line.

Dude, I write the party line.

That's good. LOL, lovin' it. Not sarcasm. However, you ALMOST missed mentioning that one word, the word that is KEY to Ostrom's findings: "rules", aka regulation (albeit LOCAL).

Ooops, Alex, sorry, it was Tyler who almost missed saying something about rules and regulation. My apologies.

Personally, who cares about party lines when words like 'Masonomics' are being coined right in front of us.

Oddly, there is a company already using that name - 'Masonomics, Inc. is a masonry construction company based in Richmond, Virginia' - so at least it has a fine Commonwealth connection when attempting to update the moniker of the Virginia School. The .dot address is take, but I'm sure that masonomics.gmu.edu would not be a problem to use as a base to spread such a glorious term to the waiting masses.

Really, who needs a PR department when Prof. Tabarrok displays such talents?

Looked like something produced by buzzfeed. Cringy as I don't know what.

I'm a woman economist BTW.

women in economics..so let me go on and on about her husband - this isn't even subtle. The (seems to be intended) implication that there had to be a man involved for her to win a Nobel.

Behind every great woman stands a man? Well, at least that updated an old cliche.

And oddly enough, a female winner of actual Nobel Prize was also married - and yes, without him, she apparently would not have been awarded a Nobel - 'At first the committee had intended to honor only Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, but a committee member and advocate for women scientists, Swedish mathematician Magnus Goesta Mittag-Leffler, alerted Pierre to the situation, and after his complaint, Marie's name was added to the nomination.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie#Nobel_Prizes

Well, for one of the Nobel Prizes - seems she was able to win her second one without needing a man to share the credit with. Seems women make better chemists than physicists, if one follows the typical reasoning of many of the more loyal MR commenters.

If not he, who was drying the dishes?

Look at the gender mix in undergraduate schools. In 20 years, if not sooner, there could be a minority of male-identity economists.

What on earth are you talking about? Did you watch the video? Where was Vincent mentioned, much less "go[ne] on and on" about?

The post mentioned both Elinor and Vincent were instrumental in George Mason economics. So what?

Ostrom was not an economist. she's was a political scientist who won an economics award. is daniel kahnamen an economist too?

Heidi Toffler has died: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/obituaries/heidi-toffler-dead.html

Both of my grandparents were physicians, in the same specialty. He had also served as an army surgeon in a war zone for almost seven years. They set up practice together when they returned to the US after finishing their training in Europe. He died shortly after my mother was born. She practiced until she was in her eighties. I have clippings from newspaper articles published upon her retirement, praising her many accomplishments, in particular by a woman in an age when women didn't have careers like hers. None mentioned the accomplishments of her long-deceased husband. Would the articles have been different if he had not died so young, would his career have overshadowed hers? It turned out that Heidi Toffler contributed a whole lot more to her husband's success than anyone knew, except for him. Even after Alvin Toffler acknowledged that she was at least an equal contributor, few believed it.

Heidi Toffler died yesterday at 89.


It seems perfectly logical, but Ostrom's insight about environmental protection (that which is done local is done best) is being confirmed in a broad array of studies in many different subjects, the more recent including politics (politics at the local level are not nearly as divisive as politics at the national level). One might even conclude that geographically large countries and those that have ethnically or religiously diverse populations (or even diverse climates) are at a disadvantage for solving problems. America's seemingly insoluble problems come to mind. What about Europe? The fractious nature of the European Union does suggest the inherent difficulty of addressing what are essentially local problems with multi-state solutions. On the other hand, before the European Union, Europe had a long history of bloody conflicts between nation-states, while America's conflict across regions was mostly (but not entirely) resolved in a single bloody conflict. I don't know Ostrom's views on global warming, but Tabarrok's blog post yesterday might be interpreted as promoting a global approach. On the other hand, the solution being proposed (paying coal owners to leave it in the ground) is inherently local (that's where the money would go). In any case, the bold national proposals from the New Democrats don't take into account the wisdom of Ms. Ostrom: think local! [Personally, I believe big problems sometimes require big solutions. That does not mean that Ms. Ostrom wore ideological blinders, it's just that insight about one matter doesn't necessarily mean that insight applies universally. But it might.]

Punctuation alert: "Both of the Ostrom’s". Additionally, the "of" is redundant.

Surely if you want to honour a winner of the counterfeit Nobel Prize you should proof-read your copy?

"Seems women make better chemists than physicists": that could well be true. What do women's own career decisions imply?

Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics for crying out loud. She doesn't need to be featured in a special series to highlight women economists. She was a great economist. Full stop.

This series is like the WTA except women economists can compete with men the same court so there's really no need for it. The series' existence is almost condescending to women.

I like short, informative videos, but this has too much cute throat-clearing to share on social media. The subject should be Elinor Ostrom, and the sooner you get to her the better.

You should highlight economists based on their work, not their gender. Stop being evil.

The video is great, as usual. But I just think it gets a bit too crowded with (visual) information. Many of those pics are somewhat random and just don't add much. As a result, the video looks a bit confusing, unnecessarily.

why is the gender of an economist of any concern whatsoever to economics ?

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