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Introduction to the Commons

on Sat, 08/28/2010 - 11:32

This section is a collection of articles we hand-picked for those who want to get an overview of what the Commons is, its history, and an introduction to where it is now.

  • Lets Reclaim the Commons: This is a brief, but comprehensive summary of the commons. It outlines two important principles: (1) the use of common property should benefit all community members; and (2) our use of a common resource must not diminish it's value for future generations.
  • State of the Commons: An excellent summary of the commons. The article distinguishes among key terms such as commons, common assets, common property, and common wealth.   It distinguishes between exchange value and intrinsic value.  Six key commons are discussed--sky, airwaves, water, culture, science, and quiet.  While it's examples are drawn from the U.S., the basic points apply throughout the world. It has been split into the following parts:
  • The Past is not another CountryThis brief article in an academic publication which suggests that historical research on the European Commons provides important lessons for the future. In particular, ordinary citizens have, time and again, demonstrated a self-organizing, self-regulating ability to protect the commons.
  • Commons Rising: This informative article notes that if economic growth is to create net wealth over the long term, it must not degrade the commons.  We often mistake value extraction in the commons for value creation in the private sector.  The article suggests that strengthening the commons requires: (1) new structures for commons management; (2) property rights for the commons; (3) government or public sector support; and (4) citizen involvement.
  • Imaging a New Politics of the Commons:  David Bollier's impassioned article suggests that the framework of the commons offers a new paradigm for considering human affairs and reframing societal values.
  • The Commons - Prosperity by sharing: Silke Helfrich, Rainer Kuhlen, Wolfgang Sachs and Christian Siefkes. An excllent overview of many different aspects of the commons that was first published at the International Conference on the Commons, Berlin, November 2010. From the introduction to this report: "This report attempts to explore the potential of the commons if they are used wisely and sustainably. It delves into the reasons why so many commons are threatened and examines the rules that can help protect the commons from ruin."
  • The Building Blocks of the Commons: The commons are made up of three basic elements: the building material, the people and the rules and standards that allow all elements to come together.