Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Professor Elinor Ostrom in Walk The Talk

Professor Elinor Ostrom, a 2009 Nobel prize winner in economics and the first woman to win the Nobel for Economics says in her interview with Indian Express: 

SG: So, this very special idea of going and engaging with communities...does it come from your political science education or was it something that evolved in your mind as you analysed economics?

Both. I was very much influenced by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock and their early work on the logic of constitutional choice. They focused on polycentric systems, only they didn’t use the term. They were looking at self-governance and how people form organisations and Buchanan did win a Nobel Prize. So I was very much influenced by Buchanan. I am very much influenced by Amartya Sen.

SG: Even in India, it’s a common expression—seven generations, saath peedhi, even if a politician makes a lot of money, he has made enough for his seven generations. Or if somebody has done a lot of pious work, you say he has earned enough credit with the almighty for his seven generations.

That’s interesting. But I think that is one of the reasons I urge people to respect the indigenous people. In terms of health knowledge, there is a lot of indigenous knowledge about herbs and other things that work for illness and how to manage illness in an effective way. But we also find that sometimes indigenous knowledge is wrong and as we do tough science, we say ‘no, that’s wrong’.

What I object to is the presumption that the government officials have got all the knowledge and locals have none. On the other hand, I don’t want to say the government officials don’t have any because there are times when you can have access to good scientific information at a large scale.

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