Sad news this morning that Lin Ostrom passed away. She leaves behind her husband Vincent, with whom she worked throughout her 50 year career, and numerous former students, colleagues, and collaborators. She is best known for her work on governing the commons, but she was a pioneer as well in the study of local public economies, and the institutional analysis of development. Her impact in the social sciences broadly considered is her idea of multiple methods methodology, and her embracing of the idea of collaborative research across disciplines but focused on a specific puzzle in the world.
My own relationship with the Ostroms goes back to graduate school, when Gordon Tullock pointed me in their direction due to the work I was doing on the institutional analysis of the Soviet-type economy that was similar to work that was at the time going on at the Workshop at IU. Since that time, I have been deeply influenced by the Ostroms, teach their various books in my classes, and had the great fortune to get to know both of them and consider them mentors and exemplary role models in my own educational endeavors at GMU.
To get a flavor of the Ostrom project look at this interview with Lin and Vincent (conducted by my colleague Paul Aligica) from 2003. Paul and I published a book on the Ostroms and their research program in early 2009. Lin was awarded the Nobel Prize later that year. Besides the post here at CP, I also wrote a Freeman article on the occasion, and did a podcast with Russ Roberts. Paul and I have written multiple papers both jointly and separately discussing Lin and Vincent's work, and in fact, Paul has a fantastic book forthcoming from Oxford University Press, which is in my opinion the most detailed examination of the institutional analysis of development written to date.
Besides her work at IU, Lin also helped established the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University, and her work continues to inspire both our approach to graduate student programs, and our work on the political economy of self-governance that many of our students and researchers have published over the past decade at Mercatus (see, e.g., the Global Prosperity Initiative, the Enterprise Africa and the newly formed F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics). Here is a video of a panel discussion with Lin about the work of the Workshop that was held at Mercatus shortly after she received her Nobel Prize.
Lin leaves behind a tremendous intellectual legacy. We have much work to do, and we will honor her by getting on with that task. She also leaves us with a lasting impression as a personal role model for how to pursue one's career as a teacher and mentor to future citizen/scholars, and also as a scholar in the field of political economy seeking to understand the foundations of social cooperation across time and place in collaboration with other intellectually curious scholars across academic disciplines. Vernon Smith once summed up Lin's personality as "humble and hard-working", and I can only add to that she was "gracious and giving". Think about how much can be accomplished when the very best of us exhibit such traits and set the example for all the rest of us to strive to emulate.