In a not so technical lecture Professor Sterner discusses the topic of Property rights and the ”Tragedy of the Commons”, an expression founded in 1968 by Garrett Hardin claiming that where there are free access to some resource people will try to reap of as much as possible from it for their personal gain, until the resource collapses.
Elinor Ostrom who dedicated much of her research to “prove Hardin wrong”, showed that there are numerous examples where commons have been properly managed among locals. She preferred seeing it as a problem of resources to where people have open access.
Sterner discusses the Ten Commandments, and reasons about them being an example of one of the first kind of laws defining property right, telling people not steal. He gives the example of England and how land and property rights were shaped starting already in the 11th century. Then more examples from Sweden, the US. and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia land rights are reallocated after a certain amount of time.
Some students also give their view on how things work in their countries. Differences are quite big as in Sweden for example you are allowed to camp on other people’s territory while US landowners are allowed to shoot trespassers.
Sterner goes on and discusses water rights, discussing the rights people have to rivers and existing systems as the riparian doctrine and prior appropriation.