This essay provides some fascinating case studies and insights about coordination problems and their solutions, from a book by Elinor Ostrom. Coordination problems are a major theme in LessWrongian thinking (for good reasons) and the essay is a valuable addition to the discussion. I especially liked the 8 features of sustainable governance systems (although I wish we got a little more explanation for “nested enterprises”).
However, I think that the dichotomy between “absolutism (bad)” and “organically grown institutions (good)” that the essay creates needs more nuance or more explanation. What is the difference between “organic” and “inorganic” institutions? All institutions “grew” somehow. The relevant questions are e.g. how democratic is the institution, whether the scope of the institution is the right scope for this problem, whether the stakeholders have skin in the game (feature 3) et cetera. The 8 features address some of that, but I wish it was more explicit.
Also, It’s notable that all examples focus on relatively small scale problems. While it makes perfect sense to start by studying small problems before trying to understand the big problems, it does make me wonder whether going to higher scales brings in qualitatively new issues and difficulties. Paying to officials with parcels in the tail end works for water conflicts, but what is the analogous approach to global warming or multinational arms races?