Tag Archives: the commons

What are the Commons and Why Should We Protect Them

What are the Commons and Why Should We Protect Them
by
David Schlecht

You’ve probably read about the need to protect the commons on this site in previous posts. Here is what the commons are and why we need to protect them.

What Are the Commons?

The Commons is often referred to or described by The Tragedy of the Commons. The commons are those common parts of a society that belong to everyone, or should belong to everyone.  Let’s take an example:

Let’s imagine a village on the plains where there is enough room in the pasture for everyone to raise one cow. The village functions perfectly because the people share the pasture (the commons) and everyone protects it so everyone can benefit.

After generations of success, the village inherits a greedy villager who wants to grow lots of cows so he can sell them and get rich. If the village doesn’t protect their common pasture, it will be destroyed and the village will suffer and possibly even die away for lack of pasture land.

So, that was a pretty simple example of the commons and an easy demonstration of why society must protect the commons. But, let’s look at today’s societies. There are no common pasture lands and no common waterways and no common breathable air. Oh wait, I guess there always will be the most basic of commons. If one greedy person gets to get rich by polluting everyone’s drinking water then the society failed to protect their commons.

But commons include so much more than just the land we need to survive and the air and the water, but it also includes many other things that we need to survive.

So, now is a good time to stop reading and ask yourself what other commons you can think of, what other things a society needs for survival.

Does a society need clean water, clean air, unpolluted farmland? Does it need a government? Does it need a fire department and a police department and a military? I would say yes to all of the above. All of these are commons that need to be protected from the greedy. What is a military that isn’t owned by and responsible to the people? It’s a police state. It’s a repressive military government.

Is reasonable health care a necessary requirement for a successful society? Of course it is. And, what happens when greed takes over the common? You have members of society dying so greedy people can make a profit.

Why Should We Protect the Commons?

By now you probably already know the answer. It’s not at all difficult. When profits collide with the commons, society suffers, fails, and dies.

What happens when the fire department is controlled by the greedy? Only those paying through the nose for fire protection get fire services and in many cases, the fire department will go and start fires of those uninsured homes to strum up more business. We have seen this behavior in America in the past with insurance rackets.

In fact, insurance is one of the few businesses that should not be controlled by greed. It is at conflicting sides of the ring to have greed and insurance in the same business.

What is your list of things that should be free from the control of greed? What commons need protecting?