Nobel for Ostrom and Williamson

See the BBC Report here. As a non-economist it is intriguing to have the prize awarded to to two people whose work (separately and not jointly) has profoundly shaped the fields of regulation and law in which I work. I wondered what the impact of their  research had been on the field of economics in Ireland.

By Colin Scott

Colin Scott is Principal, UCD College of Social Sciences and Law and Professor of EU Regulation and Governance at UCD. He is a Co-Editor of Legal Studies (Wiley-Blackwell).

10 replies on “Nobel for Ostrom and Williamson”

well we have lots of regulations and laws…..enforcement, now thats the problem Colin
Ireland is a walking tragedy of the commons.

The main thrust of Ostrom’s analysis of the tragedy of the commons lies not in cranking up the role of the state and external enforcement, but rather in the observing the evolution of self-organizing institutional structures capable of dealing more effectively both with the definition of problems and with the development of norms to address them and resolve disputes. To paraphrase her, Leviathan is not the only way.

never said it was. But when the minnows are…..well, we know what the minnows here are what then?

@MH: you get a similar outcome in most fields. And this is why it is so embarrassing to hear government ministers say, ah sure, why couldn’t we have a Stanford ourselves. They simply don’t have a clue.


You’re both right, of course, and yet Ireland has produced a good number of Nobels in Literature and Peace, punching well above its weight there for such a tiny island ( But neither of these prizes need a large institutional support like Stanford to ‘produce’ them, in the way an economics or physics Nobel needs to be produced.

An Irish Nobel in economics seems like an outside bet, but Ernt Fehr and Jean Tirole will almost certainly win the ‘Nobel’ in economics in the next 5 years, so perhaps there is hope for Europe yet 🙂

Does it really matter? Nobel laureates are in the extreme right tail. If you want to have a thriving economics profession I think you need to look elsewhere in the distribution. The American supremacy in the business is the consequence of – rather the cause of – good all round strength.

There are some Irish economists active in the fields honoured by this award. Canice Prendergast at the University of Chicago is a major figure in the economics of organisations, while John Lynham at the University of Hawaii has done some innovative work on the management of fisheries (a classic ‘common pool’ issue).

I guess in answer to Colin’s question, the modern literature on mutinationals, a topic of obvious interest in Ireland, is very influenced by Williamson’s work.

Great to see Ostrom recognised – brings the collective back in – following the gadarene rush to the utility-maximising individual as the foundation of (feck)all!

Organisational Behaviour, Organisation Theory, Organisational economics now all have their transaction-cost wings influenced by Williamson. Probably not my brand of tea, but is looks like he has certainly earned it.

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