Like the tide, the commons ebbs and flows over time.
In our time, it's rising again.
There Is an Alternative, and It's Rising
O U R T H R E AT E N E D C O M M O N S
From public schools and universities to public lands and other natural resources, from the media with their broadcast and digital spectrums to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, a broad range ofthe American commons is shifting from public responsibility to private exploitation.
The idea of the free market has become so widespread it’s hard
A B A L A N C E D E C O N O M I C S Y S T E M
A protected and enhanced commons requires several things. First, it needs institutions that can effectively manage shared assets on behalf of future generations. Such institutions need to be transparent, free of corporate influence, and legally accountable to public beneficiaries. A good example is the fiduciary trust.
Second, it requires property rights. As capitalists know, property is power, and at this moment our common assets lack adequate property rights. Hence, they can be trespassed upon by private corporations almost at will. Common property needs to be shielded from such transgressions, just as private property is.
Third, a strengthened commons requires government support. This doesn’t mean government ownership or even regulation; the state and the commons are two different things. It does mean government should nurture the commons as zealously as it nurtures private corporations — indeed more zealously, to make up for decades of neglect. For example, just as government grants property rights to private corporations (think of land titles, rights of way, water and mineral rights, broadcast licenses, patents and pollution permits), so should it grant property rights to commons institutions.
Finally, a strengthened commons requires active citizens. There’s no lack of work to be done or roles to be played. The commons needs defenders, builders, restorers, entrepreneurs and donors. What will you do?
We must nail down what’s in the commons now, and add steadily to the commons from this day forward.
In these twin tragedies of squandering and misappropriating our shared wealth,
If you’re looking for inspiration, we hope to provide some here. We profile several active citizens who are enlarging and enlivening the commons. We also examine institutional models that have been proven to work. It’s these individuals and models that give us hope for the future.
The commons won’t replace corporations, but it will complement and temper them.
K E Y R O L E S O F T H E C O M M O N S S E C T O R