WASHINGTON – Published on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009
As a little girl, when Elinor Ostrom gazed out at her mother’s Los Angeles “Victory” garden, she didn’t see peas, carrots and tomato plants, she saw a vast network of human beings, all digging in to prevent food shortages on the home front during the Second World War.
The morale stuck with the youngster and, after a lifetime of studying people who spontaneously unite to manage everything from water levels to lobsters, she became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science.
Dr. Ostrom’s research, and her celebrated publication, Governing the Commons, challenged the prevailing wisdom that the best way to manage something is to privatize it or regulate it. Her award, which she shared yesterday with another American economist, Oliver Williamson, is being interpreted as another knock by the Nobel committee against the free-market philosophy adamantly endorsed by the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush.