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Gary Libecap Receives Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Libecap recognized for his academic contributions to understanding the economics and politics of property institutions pertaining to land, natural resources, and the environment

Aug 31 2021


Gary Libecap
Gary Libecap

Gary Libecap, Bren School Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Corporate Environmental Management, has been awarded the Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics.

The Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded biannually for sustained significant academic contributions to institutional and organizational economics. 

"This is such a well deserved recognition of the rich career insights of Gary’s research. His work has driven diverse environmental solutions for so many land, ocean and climate challenges through well designed market innovations," commented Steve Gaines, Dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

Dr. Libecap’s research has illuminated the economics and politics of property institutions pertaining to land, natural resources, and the environment. His analysis has uncovered causes and consequences of property rights regimes in marine fisheries, oil and gas production, Native American tribal land, soil conservation, water markets, land demarcation, climate policy, and water markets. Thanks to his work, we now better understand when and to what degree private contracting can solve the problems associated with open-access exploitation of natural resources.

"Elinor Ostrom was truly an inspiration for all of us, and it is so pleasing and humbling to be awarded in her honor," said Libecap. "Throughout my career I have studied the interaction between people and the natural environment. How this plays out depends upon the institutional structure and the incentives it provides for conservation, exploitation, reallocation. The worst case setting is open access, where resources, including the environment, are subject to intense entry, use, and little or no conservation or reallocation among competing demands. This is the tragedy of the commons, and I was always concerned about how it could come about and be remedied. Property rights of some type assign costs and benefits and hence incentives for resource or environmental protection and use."

"Elinor Ostrom focused on arrangements within small group settings where people agreed upon objectives and could police entry and compliance. I have been interested in the broader setting where people disagree on the resource, but could bargain using a property right as a medium of exchange," he continued. "This underscores the current work at Bren in fisheries, where individual transferable quotas and similar arrangements shift incentives from a rush toward rapid fishing and stock depletion to more sustainable practices. There are similar situations in surface and groundwater, forests, rangeland, biodiversity, and of course in air emissions, including greenhouse gases. This range has been a terrific laboratory for me and for other Bren researchers to help move research and understanding forward. I have loved every minute!"

Dr. Libecap is the author of Contracting for Property Rights (1989, Cambridge), and a co-author of The Federal Civil Service System and the Problem of Bureaucracy: The Economics and Politics of Institutional Change, (1994, Chicago) and Titles, Conflict and Land Use: The Development of Property Rights and Land Reform on the Brazilian Amazon Frontier (1999, Michigan). Libecap has served as President of three scientific associations: Economic History Association, Western Economics Association International, and International Society for the New Institutional Economics (the former incarnation of SIOE).

Further reading:

SIOE: Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award 2021

Gary Libecap's Website

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