Term to Own: The Commons

The Commons


So, this week was supposed to see the birth of a longer side project where I explored game theoretic principles (Hardin, Weingast, etc) present in Anna Stilz’ Liberal Loyalty: Freedom, Obligation, and the State but that idea proved to not be acceptable for the paper I need to write for a philosophy class. Still a cool idea I would like to write about or at least blog about. The paper that does come from the class will likely be posted here anyways, as long as it is sufficiently game theory/political science oriented.

But, we have a term to discuss. The book I’m reading now for LawRules is Ostrom’s Governing the Commons. We should outline what a commons is. I really like this summary of the book from this website called Cooperation Commons, where a succinct definition is given:

“The commons is a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest. Studies on the commons include the information commons with issues about public knowledge, the public domain, open science, and the free exchange of ideas — all issues at the core of a direct democracy.”

But there are closely related term we need to separate.

From Sage Reference Encyclopedia entry for Commons:

“Lands that are controlled by owners but over which other people exercise rights of use or other rights are known as common land, or more colloquially, “the commons.” This type of relationship between humans and land was developed in England, though it is has been used throughout different parts of the world, including in the United States. Modern understanding of the commons derives largely from the influential 1968 essay by Garrett Hardin titled “The Tragedy of the Commons,” in which Hardin documents the potential threat to common land that exists when individuals act independently and in their own self-interest. However, evidence is available that demonstrates how the commons often are managed rather effectively, and thus possess a rather high conservation value.”

And also from Sage Encyclopedia Reference  entry for Tragedy of the Commons:

“A common distinction is made in this regard between a public good and a common-pool resource (CPR), a synonym for the term commons. The use of a public good cannot lead to a tragedy of the commons because it is nonconsumptive. For instance, one person’s use of the weather forecast does not reduce its availability for another. However, the use of a CPR is by definition high in subtractability, such as in the use of a grazing field, where the grass is eaten by the animals of herder A reduces the use of that grass for the animals of herder B. Nevertheless, this does not lead to a tragedy as long as the carrying capacity is not exceeded; that is, the commons is very large, and there are only very few grazing animals on it.”

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Posted on September 24, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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