Will Lessons from Small-Scale Social Dilemmas Scale Up?

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In this chapter, we ask whether the design principles that have been proposed as ways of solving small- and medium-sized dilemmas related to use of resources are applicable at a larger scale. Obviously, these principles do not scale up automatically. On the other hand, more hope exists regarding the feasibility of scaling up than is sometimes expressed in the literature (Ostrom et al., 1999).1 We analyze the problem of scaling up solutions to social dilemma problems. We focus primarily on common pool resources where everyone’s use potentially subtracts from the benefits available to others. Without some regularized boundary rules and use rules, as well as means of monitoring, sanctioning, and resolving disputes, there are major challenges in keeping individuals from adversely affecting these resources. Before addressing the design principles, let us first address the problem of matching institutions to the type of goods involved.