Elinor Ostrom was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 the first woman to achieve the distinction for her analysis of economic governance, especially the governance of common property like air, water and public spaces. Virtually all the world's most urgent problems require collective action. Be it environmental protection, the international financial system or the dimensions of inequality, Ostrom's work sheds light on the direction society must follow to avoid misuse of shared resources, "the tragedy of the commons."
Ostrom, 78, has done field studies of the world's fisheries, roamed with shepherds in Swiss pastures and trudged around the Los Angeles water basin to distill the essentials of harnessing cooperation to overcome selfish interests.
After the TARP bailouts and the devastation of democracies in Europe by financial technocrats, the world is again beginning to appreciate what Elinor Ostrom has deeply, persistently and quietly been illuminating for nearly 50 years.
Johnson directs the Institute for New Economic Thinking