Edella Schlager and Elinor Ostrom’s 1992 article describing 5 “bundles of rights” has been very widely used, including by CAPRi. In this blog, Pamela Jagger and Christopher Galik discuss their recent paper that reexamines that classification of bundles of rights. This is followed by a response by Edella Schlager, discussing the origins of the Schlager and Ostrom framework. We welcome further responses and discussions.
In their seminal 1992 Land Economics paper “Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis”, Edella Schlager and Elinor Ostrom presented a property rights framework characterized by five bundles of property rights. Bundles of rights were formed by use and decision making rights to a common-pool resource (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The bundle of rights consists of access, withdrawal, management, exclusion and alienation rights.
The Schlager and Ostrom paper is widely used for defining bundles of rights for natural resources, having been cited well over 1,600 times. Their contribution has proven invaluable, and influenced the works of countless scholars. It was particularly daunting task to tackle such an iconic paper, particularly given that Elinor ‘Lin’ Ostrom was my dissertation advisor. But the article was written twenty-three years ago, and has since been applied well beyond the bounds of the comparative analysis of fisheries that was the subject of the original work. Our main objective was to consider how well the original framework applies to contemporary natural resource management issues, in all of their complexity.
We first wondered if the set of bundles defined in the Schlager-Ostrom framework adequately captures the full range of rights and resource conditions relevant for contemporary analysis. One area seemingly in need of improvement was the manner in which resource management and land use change activities were considered. Specifically, we saw a need to distinguish between actions related to the internal regulation and transformation within a particular resource (“management” as defined by the Schlager-Ostrom framework) and actions which change the flow of goods and services associated with the resource. To describe the latter, we added a sixth bundle, “alteration”. By Schlager and Ostrom’s definition, management rights are oriented towards improving or enhancing the resource. Alteration on the other hand does not necessarily enhance or improve, and often fundamentally changes the flow of goods and services. To give a concrete example, management rights include making decisions over harvesting timber or length of time to fallow, whereas alteration involves complete transformation of the resource, such as clearing forests for agriculture or inundating lands for a hydroelectric dam.
Apart from the obvious differences in the activities that management vs. alteration could describe, there is also a need to differentiate between them in order to better distinguish the unique causes and often far reaching implications of the transformation. By adding this sixth bundle – alteration – we allow the framework to be more responsive to mechanisms that seek to mitigate changes in resources that reduce the flow of goods and services, such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and payments for ecosystem services (PES).
An additional concern we sought to address is that the original framework emphasizes one relationship: that of the rights allocated and exercised. As Schlager and Ostrom note, rights are the product of rules and rules are comprised of both rights and responsibilities. It was unclear to us how the duties and responsibilities side of the equation fit into the 1992 framework. In exploring the broader property rights literature from law, economics, and institutional theory, we discuss how an increased focus on duties yields insight into the relations that define incentives for particular courses of action.
The focus on duties is particularly relevant for contemporary natural resource management issues that often involve contractual agreements (e.g. REDD+ and other payment for ecosystems services schemes and allocation of water rights) designed to guarantee a stock or flow of goods and services over a given time horizon. This focus on contracts and formalized obligations requires a clear understanding of the full suite of rights and responsibilities that characterize a given resource system. We used the example of permanence, central to REDD+, in developing our argument for incorporating responsibilities into the Schlager and Ostrom framework. Permanence brings the issue of responsibility to the fore as it stipulates a credible commitment to avoid deforestation and forest degradation over a specified time frame.
The true measure of a framework, be it the original or revised, is how well it guides analysis. Our offering of an updated version of Schlager and Ostrom’s property rights framework and companion application to REDD+ is an attempt to make it more relevant to both the theoretical and empirical literatures on natural resource management and property rights. Allowing such works to evolve may enhance their applicability to important emerging natural resource management issues. But the proof is in its acceptance by communities of science and practice working towards solving problems associated with sustainably managing natural resources in the face of increasing complexity.
Cite as: Galik, C. and P. Jagger. 2015. Bundles, Duties and Rights: A Revised Framework for Analysis of Natural Resource Property Rights Regimes. Land Economics 91(1):76-90.
Open Source Available at: http://sites.nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/environmentaleconomics/files/2014/08/WP-EE-14-081.pdf
Response from Edella Schlager
The typology of property rights emerged from a lack of and a consequent need for a tool that would allow policy analysts to capture the full richness of property rights systems present in common pool resource governance settings. And, if the tool were going to be truly useful it would capture that rich diversity in a theoretical and policy relevant manner. Having read and/or coded dozens of cases of coastal fisheries, multiple cases of irrigation systems and a number of community forestry instances, it became abundantly clear to Lin and I that trying to force these varied systems into the commonly (at the time) used property categories not only meant that much important variation would be lost, but that inappropriate classification would occur. For instance, should an alpine meadow owned and managed by resource users through their local government be considered common property or public property? Worse yet, open access was often confounded with common property, completely ignoring the different access and withdrawal practices developed by resource users. Another insight gleaned from many cases was that often times what was most important was not who owned but who exercised what rights in what settings and under what conditions. The property rights typology can be used to capture considerable complexity in common pool resource settings. From using the typology to categorize the users of a shared resource to exploring the types of conflicts that may emerge when different bundles of rights are exercised in contradictory fashion.
Moving forward, in further developing the typology it is important to maintain its logic (cumulation of individual types of rights) and its theoretical foundations. The typology is directly linked to the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework by incorporating its notion of levels of action. Operational level rights are distinct from collective choice level rights. Galik and Jagger (2015) have further fleshed out its theoretical foundations by more explicitly incorporating duties, limits, and obligations found in the legal and institutional economics literatures, for instance, John R. Commons, whose work the Ostroms repeatedly relied upon. Galik and Jagger (2015) have also pointed in a promising direction with the concept of alteration. Rather than adding sticks to the bundle, however, consideration should be given to opening up each of the existing sticks and further fleshing them out in theoretically grounded ways. For instance, the management stick could be thought of as a continuum, and sub-categories arrayed around the extent of transformation or diminishment, with alteration at one end of the continuum. As Jagger points out in her blog, “the true measure of a framework…is how well it guides analysis”. The original typology filled a gap in the policy analysis tool box, and it may well be time to further develop and update it.
Christopher Galik is a Senior Policy Associate at the Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. His primary research interests are in the areas of institutions and the portability of governance systems. Recent research includes an evaluation of factors influencing landowner participation in new markets, modeling of forest markets in response to novel policy interventions, and identification of research and policy barriers to expanded at-risk species conservation efforts by non-federal actors. Christopher has a Ph.D. in Forestry and Environmental Resources from North Carolina State University.
Pamela Jagger is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Environment and Ecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She heads the FUEL Lab at the Carolina Population Center. Her research focuses on questions related to the welfare impacts of natural resource management policies and projects. She is a also Senior Associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) based in Bogor, Indonesia where she has been involved in global studies focused on forestry-poverty linkages, and the social impacts of REDD+. Pam has a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Indiana University. She was a student of Elinor Ostrom’s.
Edella Schlager is a Professor in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. Her recent work focuses on comparative institutional analyses of river basin governing arrangements. She is the co-editor of the Policy Studies Journal.