Let's Reclaim The Commons

By Howard Rheingold, published at 10 May 2007 - 8:12pm, last updated 11 years 13 weeks ago.

Succinct, complete, and simply stated, Let's Reclaim The Commons covers all the commons where better management is called for, and explains why -- knowledge, environment, health, public spaces, Internet.

Markets do a great job of putting dollars in our pockets. That's income. But much of the capital, the basis for our wealth, lies elsewhere: in the commons. When we log trees on our public lands, we are cashing in some of our natural capital. And when we utilize math theorems or chemical equations, we are drawing upon our human knowledge capital.

There are two principles for managing this portfolio of assets. The use of common property should benefit all owners. And our use must not diminish the value of our property for future generations. But the dollar value of our common assets is only part of the story. What price shall we place on a sunset? On community or democracy? Each of these depends on our commons as well.

It will take skill and sound judgment to bring the commons back under good management. In some cases, we can change the rules so that the market pulls in the same direction as the common good. In others, we need to reconsider whether we've let too much of our common property be "enclosed"for private use. If we manage the commons well, the payoff will be prosperity for ourselves and for our children. It's just common sense.