Nobel Laureate Elinor (Lin) Ostrom told a UTC audience in the challenge of self- governance in complex contemporary environments, one of the broad lessons is that the complexity of markets is not automatically a sign of inefficiency.

Dr. J.R. Clark and Dr. Elinor Ostrom

Another lesson:  urban consolidation frequently reduces the quality of police services. In the same way, she said the prevailing assumption that school consolidation would save money was proven incorrect.  “Research shows the total costs have gone up, not down,” Ostrom said.

The Scott L. Probasco, Jr. Chair of Free Enterprise and the UTC Department of Political Science presented the Burkett Miller Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Ostrom, who examines the polycentric approach to governance.  “Public economies can achieve higher levels of efficiency than reliance on top-down government,” Ostrom said.

Ostrom is Senior Research Director at Indiana University where she has directed the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis since 1973.  She is Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University.

Ostrom is the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, which she received “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.”

Dr. Benjamin Powell, professor of economics at Suffolk University, a senior economist with the Beacon Hill Institute and a research fellow with the Independent Institute served as commentator.

In her speech at UTC, Ostrom stressed the importance of Americans being engaged in governance.

“Simply voting every several years for public officials at a national level and then allowing officials to make all key decisions about political and social life is not, however, a sufficient mechanism to enable citizens to engage in serious self-governance.  Citizens need to have a real voice in deciding issues of major importance to them such as how their children are educated, how public safety and public health are provided, and how to protect biodiversity and resource systems they value,” Ostrom said.

On the topic of redistribution, Ostrom used her own California college education experience as an example.   “I was born very poor, no one in my family had been to college before,” Ostrom said.   It cost her $12.50 each semester to attend college, and by working her way through school, she was able to afford the costs.  Redistribution in education allows for equity.  By agreeing to use tax dollars, there was equal access for all and a just allocation of resources so that Ostrom could attend college.

When she was asked how she viewed the financial situation of many college students today, she said, “the charges that students pay for education, going into debt for the next twenty years…I’m very worried about it.”

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