Representative Government and Environmental Management

By Edwin T. Haefele | Go to book overview

6 Governance of Common- Property Resources

COLLECTIVE DECISIONS AND PUBLIC POLICY

We have been making collective decisions since man emerged as a social animal. Civilized man has developed three ways of making them consciously. In the first way, we decide upon a rule and enforce its strictures on everyone. Such rules are apt to be concerned with man's relationship to other men and to spring from cultural and religious origins. The judicial system evolved from such rules.

A second way we make collective decisions is to elect a man and agree to follow him (so long as he does not violate our rules). The selection of war chiefs and hunting leaders exemplified this method in primitive times. Executive government evolved from these roots.

A third way we make collective decisions is to come together in council, assembly, or parliament. In this way we chanced everything. Here we changed our rules, overthrew our leaders, and consciously grappled with our futures ourselves. Legislative government grew from these convocations.

It may be observed that the law is uppermost in common-property resources when we do not have a goal; that executive government is uppermost when we have an implicit consensus on the goal and are focused primarily on choosing the efficient policies to bring it about; and that the legislature is uppermost when we are trying, consciously, to set goals.

This generalization helps to explain the postwar movement of public policy concerning common-property resources. In the 1950s and early

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