Pete Boettke on Elinor Ostrom, Vincent Ostrom, and the Bloomington School


Listen to the EconTalk podcast Pete Boettke on Elinor Ostrom, Vincent Ostrom, and the Bloomington School and consider these questions.

1. The conversation begins as Roberts asks Boettke what is distinctive about the Ostroms' body of work. What does it mean to suggest their work as exploring "Smithian solutions to Hobbesian dilemmas?"

2. In her work, Elinor Ostrom distinguishes between "rules in use" and "rules in form." What is the nature of this distinction? Boettke adds a further category, "rules in function." What does this third category add to Ostrom's distinction?

3. Boettke asserts that Elinor Ostrom's work "doesn't embrace collectivism, though it is a collective choice." What does this mean?

4. Roberts points to the danger of always associating "collective" with "state." Boettke points to the work of Vincent Ostrom, who distinguishes between civil society and state-led action. How are these different, and where do markets fit within this scheme?

5. Boettke characterizes the Ostroms' works as "stupidnomics." What does he mean?

6. Roberts and Boettke discuss whether the work of the Ostroms is better characterized as positive or normative. How do you think it is better characterized, and why?

7. Describe the matrix Boettke offers to illustrate current work in the social sciences. Which quadrant does Boettke see as presenting the most interesting research opportunities? In which quadrant do you think the work of the Ostroms best fits?

8. Roberts alludes to the "seductiveness of monocentrism." What does Roberts mean by this, and how does the Bloomington school approach offer an alternative?

9. Boettke argues that Elinor Ostrom "sees more order in the local world than the experts do." How does this assertion illustrate her body of work?

10. Boettke tells Roberts that when his own students embark on fieldwork, he reminds them, "History defies what logic dictates." What does this mean, and to what extent is this a Panglossian perspective?

11. Boettke calls Vincent Ostrom's work a search for the "preconditions of living a truly democratic life." How does this describe Ostrom's project?