Lecture 09 Class Notes


Many environmental issues are global

  • Need international solutions → need international institutions
  • Solutions at smaller levels often don't work
    • e.g. Colorado River → outflow in Mexico, but most of flow in US
  • Need institutional arrangements to fix it

Within many countries where there is a weak federal state

  • Real difficult getting environmental solutions implemented through their own federal system
  • International level gets involved to help them out
    • e.g. Mexico has been struggling with US for a long time to get high quality water
    • International arena could help them influence US and get power they don’t otherwise have

Power (Conca, Maniates, Bellah keep using this term)

  • Decision making is about choices, interests, etc
  • But outcomes have to do with power—actors with power get their way

Types (Faces) of Power

  • bargaining
    • Ford F150 exercise in discussion section: movement within the zone of potential agreement (ZOPA)
    • power increases to the extent the actor can move reservation price higher or lower
    • based on alternatives to reaching agreement (BATNA)
  • coercive
    • by force (financial or military might; also psychological, e.g police)
  • rule-making
    • structural power (e.g. legislative body)
    • having authority or access to those with authority (influence, "being at the table")
  • normative
    • norms, principles, ideas
    • e.g. the Pope's moral authority (Stalin: "How many armies does the Pope have?")
    • e.g. Frederick Winslow Taylor's efficiency—has had a huge impact


Context so far has been environmental resources and their institutions; now shift to a broader notion of institution → idea of nested institutions

Property as an institution (nested):

  • Object/resource (set of materials, source of benefits to be claimed/taken) →
  • Property (claim with exclusion: "it's mine, it's not yours") →
  • Property rights (relationship between the benefits of an object and claims of the owner) →
  • Property regime/institution (external authority that enforces rights, determines how rights and duties are distributed)

Property is a relationship between the benefits from that object and the claims from the individual, and the exclusion of others, enforced by a third party

3 (rough) Categories of Property

  • Private
    • Each actor has owns piece of the thing
    • Each actor has a right to their piece—can keep all other actors from using their piece
  • Common
    • Multiple actors all own the thing; no particular pieces belong to any particular actor
  • State
    • Actors can come in from outside, use it, and leave
    • State owns it but allows usage

Example: two private houses/common driveway/state road

  • Each person exclusively owns their house to live in (private)
  • But they both own the entire driveway, not just each side (common)
    • Parking a RV on one person side, but they have to decide together how to use it because it is both of theirs
    • Can’t just do anything to it even if it is closer side because the whole thing is shared
  • Everyone uses street and sidewalk but then leaves (state)

Nuances: no single definition of power is exclusive of others

  • Private means you have some but not complete rights to space
    • Can’t dump waste in back, stop planes from flying over, put up billboard
    • Can exclude people from it, rebuild house, etc
  • Sidewalk is state owned, but private owner has to pay for sidewalk maintenance in front of house
    • State has authority to make private owners pay, and responsibility to keep sidewalk open to the public
  • Norm: parking spot in front of house is psychologically the house owner's
  • Norm: if you shovel a spot after a snowstorm, it's yours
  • Squatters can develop property rights if they occupy private property long enough
de jure
based on law
de facto
what actually happens in practice

Claims of effectiveness of different property regimes

  • Ostrom: privatization is the only way to achieve sustainability (people are motivated to protect what they own)
  • Others say state is only one with authority to establish rules, enforce compliance
  • Or common pool resource?
  • Also 4th regime: everyone has access, no one has responsibility → resources will be trashed if sufficient access, technology and demand (ropes removed in pennies game)

What really matters: how well a property regime is run

  • Well-defined boundaries
  • Congruence between the rules of the institution and sustainability
  • High level of responsibility among users
  • Nested within a stable, well-defined property regime
  • Embedded in a broader, enabling institution
  • Greater likelihood of sustainable practice

Maniates: individualist environmentalism of “plant a tree, save the world”

  • Appears apolitical and non-confrontational, but constrains imagination
  • Control over individual choices is constrained, shaped, and framed by institutions
  • Institutions can only be remade by collective action