Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Collective Action & Safety Nets

Today was one of those days, which you feel like your walking on sunshine. Everything came together just right and worked out perfectly for me. That's the thing though, it was too perfect. Standard rational choice theory tells me that I should have a little voice in the back of my head saying "YES...Rock on Camilla your self interest factor is on fire and oh-so self interested you should continue to maximize your short term utility and just think about yourself."

I also had a chance to think about social welfare safety nets, as I went to the Unemployment office for the first time today. As you all know the unemployment rate is very high lately, so you can guess this office was packed to the brim with people. Out of all twenty or so of the computers present all of them were full. Here's the factor though that impacted me the most all (but one lady who was "ironically" looking at pursues) had their browsers on job searching websites and all but three were minorities (Black, Alaskan Native, Hispanic). Seeing all of these job hunters that were all literally validating to me that they are trying to move up, in front of my eyes made me think about safety nets.

I understand and won't argue with people who might disagree, but I am going to pose the question. Granted there is abuse of social welfare programs, there are also people out there trying so hard but can't make it. The major spur of the recession may have been due to government, but market failures can occur too (due to things like asymmetrical info). If we completely abolished government where would those 19 people be who where looking for jobs?

This when it hit me Ostrom's work on collective action allowed me to apply this day to theory. Collective action which can fight off the externalities people face and help to provide them with public goods, this can explain why I CARE about these people when standard rational choice says I should not. I think the trust she mentions is a key component to collective action and provision of safety nets. There is a certain "you help me I help you" factor that allows the birth of public goods that provide net social benefit for all even if they don't equate with profit. Plus life is full of RANDOMNESS that makes this trust more paramount. Why I had such a good day today I don't know (I have not had a day like this for a very long time) I'm sure I'll have my bad days too. This randomness allows me to realize that I never truly know where I'll be and why it is important to have both collective action and safety nets in society.

PS- I really like Ostrom's work. I have really been wanting to read her stuff, but I was afraid that I wouldn't be able understand any of her papers. However, cheers to her she is really a clear and effective writer. I can actually follow her work (perhaps we should give the Nobel prize in Economics to political scientists more often).

No comments:

Post a Comment