STOCKHOLM, (Reuters) – A U.S. academic who proved that communities can trump state control and corporations became the first woman to win the Nobel prize in economics yesterday, sharing it with an expert on conflict resolution.
Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University defied conventional wisdom with studies that showed that user-managed properties — such as community fish stocks or woodland areas — more often than not were better run than standard theories predicted.
“Since we have found that bureaucrats sometimes do not have the correct information while citizens and users of resources do, we hope it helps encourage a sense of capacity and power,” the professor told a news conference via telephone. The previously accepted view was common property was poorly managed and should be either regulated centrally or privatised.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded her half the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) prize, with the other half going to Oliver Williamson, who was recognised for his analysis of conflict resolution by firms and markets.
“Over the last three decades, these seminal contributions have advanced economic governance research from the fringe to the forefront of scientific attention,” it said in a statement. After a week of Nobel drama that included the gasp-inducing selection of U.S. President Barack Obama for the peace prize, the economics category risked being an anti-climax.
But the choice of a woman for a prize in a field dominated by men added a final twist to this year’s awards, showing again the Nobel committees’ penchant for springing surprises.