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74 U. Colo. L. Rev. 487 (2003)
The Tragedy of Centralization: The Political Economics of American Natural Resource Federalism

handle is hein.journals/ucollr74 and id is 497 raw text is: THE TRAGEDY OF CENTRALIZATION:
THE POLITICAL ECONOMICS
OF AMERICAN NATURAL RESOURCE
FEDERALISM
JASON SCOTT JOHNSTON*
INTRODUCTION
This Article develops a formal model of the centralization
of natural resource regulation and applies that model to ex-
plain selected episodes in the history of American natural re-
source regulation and to critique the Supreme Court's constitu-
tional federalism doctrine. On my model, political pressure for
centralized control over the development of public natural re-
sources arises as a virtually inevitable consequence of economic
development and geographic market integration. The model
generates a number of positive or descriptive predictions as to
when and how regulatory centralization will occur. It also re-
veals the fundamental normative ambiguity of centralized con-
trols over natural resource development. On the one hand,
centralized regulation of natural resource development re-
sponds to a tragedy of the commons1 that emerges because
local jurisdictions are unable to internalize the full, global
value of preserving open-access resources. On the other hand,
centralization expressly aims to perpetuate the open-access
management regime, thus ensuring continuing political conflict
between development and preservation. Regulatory centraliza-
tion may thus be just as tragic for natural resources as the re-
gime of local control that it is designed to replace.
* Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Public Law and Director, Program on
Law and the Environment, University of Pennsylvania Law School. I am grateful
for written comments on earlier versions of this Article to Sally Gordon, Dean
Lueck, Kristin Madison, Jeff Rachlinski, Chris Sanchirico, and David Spence. I
also benefited from comments by participants at the American Law and Econom-
ics Association meetings at Yale Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania
and Vanderbilt Legal Studies workshops. Todd Hettenbach provided exception-
ally helpful research assistance.
1. See Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons, 162 SCI. 1243 (1968).

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