Introduction to Law and Economics Through the Work of Elinor Ostrom

elinor-ostrom discussion colloquia

January 24-25, 2020, Fort Worth, TX

Texas A&M University’s Law School welcomed IHS to its Fort Worth campus in January 2020 for a discussion colloquium on the work of American political economist and Nobel laureate Elinor “Lin” Ostrom.

Liya Palagashvili, an Assistant Professor of Economics at SUNY- Purchase with expertise in Ostrom’s thought, provided a concise overview of the subject matter for each discussion session, before she and 14 professors from across the U.S. delved into a representative selection of Ostrom’s scholarly and popular writings, debating the meaning and implications of Ostrom’s distinctive methodology.

Participant Saurabh Vishnubhakat, a Professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law as well as Texas A&M’s Dwight Look College of Engineering, praised the “thoughtful selection of reading material.” The selections introduced not only Ostrom’s methodology but also her thoughts on how that methodology can be applied to specific questions of public governance.

Assistant Professor of Economics at SUNY- Purchase, Liya Palagashvili

Many participants were excited to encounter Ostrom’s work for the first time— and to think about how they might apply Ostrom’s ideas in their own work.

The program introduced me to a scholar of whom I was unaware and from whom I learned a tremendous amount.

– Linda Jellum, Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at Mercer University’s School of Law

A common refrain from participants was that they welcomed Ostrom’s methodology as an intriguing and even promising alternative to the more conventional hierarchical model of public governance.

Learning Ostromian frameworks provides a foundation for thinking about societal solutions that avoid one-size-fits-all thinking.

– Jeremy Kidd, Associate Professor of Law at Mercer University

IHS partnered with John Anderson, Professor of Law at the Mississippi College School of Law; Jeremy Kidd; and George A. Mocsary, Professor of law at the University of Wyoming College of Law, to make the program happen. Todd Zywicki, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law (and an IHS Director) provided guidance for the event.

The event was driven by the partners’ belief that neither law nor economics is a discipline that exists in a vacuum, and the practitioners, academics, and other professionals in one area can benefit from informing their work with insights generated by the other. The colloquium allowed its participants—experts in their areas—to focus on Ostrom’s cross-functional work. A goal for future colloquia is to expand the subject matter to complement law and economics with the relevant underlying philosophy.

Participants received a copy of Public Governance and the Classical-Liberal Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2019) by Mercatus Center scholars Peter J. Boettke, Paul Dragos Aligica and Vlad Tarko. Their book builds on Lin Ostrom’s work and that of her husband, political economist Vincent Ostrom, to argue for democratic and polycentric institutions of public governance.

Public Governance and the Classical-Liberal Perspective

Interested in a more in-depth look at this colloquium event? Listen to the Ideas in Progress episode on it: “Elinor Ostrom and Her Embrace of Nuance.”

For more information on our upcoming discussion colloquia, faculty and graduate programs, as well as our funding opportunities, please visit

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