Public Choice

, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 163-171

First online:

Remembering Vincent Ostrom: unhorsing a dominant paradigm

  • David LoweryAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University Email author 


This essay is a memorial piece about Vincent Ostrom (September 25, 1919–June 29, 2012). I start by reviewing his academic history and then turn to Professor Ostrom’s major intellectual legacy—his effort to overturn the dominant paradigm in public administration and political science on metropolitan government reform. The three most important contributions of his work are discussed, including the introduction of public goods theory into the study of public administration and his work on quasimarkets and the Tiebout model. Three controversies or conundrums raised by his work are then discussed. Finally, the essay considers whether Professor Ostrom was ultimately successful in his effort to overthrow the traditional approach to the production and delivery of public goods at the city government level.


Commissioned scholarly obituary on Vincent Ostrom