Timothy Swanson

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Timothy Swanson is an American economics scholar specializing in environmental governance,[1] biodiversity, water management, as well as intellectual property rights and biotechnology regulation.[not verified in body]

As of 2008, he was a professor in resource economics at University College in London.[1]


After attending law school at the University of Michigan, Swanson completed his PhD at the London School of Economics under the supervision of Nick Stern. Swanson currently holds the André Hoffmann Chair of Environmental Economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, where he is also director of the Centre for International Environmental Studies. In parallel, Swanson is also affiliated professor at the University of Cambridge. Previously he held the Chair in Law & Economics at University College London and was research Director for the United Kingdom’s National Centre on Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Washington from 2004 to 2005. [2]


His research covers the issues dealing with legal reform and institution building in the areas of environment, intellectual property and technology. He has advised the governments of China, India, and many international and development agencies.[3]

Swanson has argued that important issues in wildlife management are not a result of the tragedy of the commons as often thought, but that it lies in the failure of governments "to control access to wildlife and the land it occupies..., [in the] 'opportunity costs, alternative development priorities, governance problems and resources'."[1]


  • Economic Growth and Environmental Regulation: the case of China, (with Tun Lin), Routledge: London, 2009.
  • Biodiversity Economics, (editor with Kontoleon and Pascual) Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2007.
  • Managing Water Resources in Developing Countries, (editor with Koundouri, Pashardes and Xepapadeas), 2003, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.
  • The Economics of Managing Biotechnologies. (editor), Kluwer: Dordrecht, 2002.
  • Biotechnology, Agriculture and the Developing World (editor), Edward Elgar: London, 2002.
  • Current Issues in the Economics of Water Resource Management, (editor with Panos Pasharades and Anastasios Xepapadeas), Kluwer: Netherlands, 2002.
  • Global Environmental Problems and International Environmental Agreements, (with Sam Johnston), Edward Elgar: London, 1999 (reprinted 2001, 2003).
  • The Regulation of Chemical Accumulation in the Environment (editor With M. Vighi), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1998.
  • Tragedy for the Commons? The Economics of Environmental Degradation, Edward Elgar: London, 1996.
  • A Global Framework for Biodiversity Conservation: Developing the Biodiversity Convention, Earthscan: London, 1997.
  • Intellectual Property Rights and Biodiversity Conservation, (editor), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1995.
  • The Economics and Ecology of Biodiversity's Decline: The Forces Driving Global Change, (editor), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1995.
  • The International Regulation of Extinction, MacMillan: London and New York University Press: New York, 1993.
  • Economics for the Wilds, (with Barbier,E.), Earthscan: London, 1992.
  • Elephants, Economics, and Ivory, (with Barbier,E., Burgess,J. and Pearce, D.) Earthscan: London, 1990.


  1. ^ a b c "Call of the wild". The Economist. Retrieved 22 May 2016. Timothy Swanson, a professor in resource economics at University College, London, argues that the tragedy lies not in the commons itself but in governments' failure to control access to wildlife and the land it occupies. The reason lies in their “opportunity costs, alternative development priorities, governance problems and resources”. He illustrates this in a recent paper in the International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, about the losses of elephants before the CITES trade ban. When the African elephant's decline was at its worst in the 1980s, four countries were responsible for most of the losses: Sudan, Tanzania, Zaire and Zambia. Other governments, says Mr Swanson, had invested in retaining elephants, through the provision of land and resources for management. The bad four countries had a deliberate policy of retaining open access, in order that elephants be removed. They lost 750,000 elephants in a decade; 30 countries had no aggregate gains or losses and in several populations increased. Governments, he says, can protect and develop natural resources, such as tin mines and tea plantations. The reason they fail to do so for wildlife and forests is better viewed as a consequence of social choice than of imperfect property rights. There are plenty of examples of successful commons, from Swiss grazing pastures and Japanese forests to fisheries in Maine and Fiji. The problem with wildlife is a lack of social structure or formal rules that govern access and use. If governments do not provide them, wildlife will suffer. 
  2. ^ "Swanson". graduateinstitute.ch. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  3. ^ zimmermann@stlouisfed.org. "Timothy Swanson". repec.org. Retrieved 22 May 2016.