Many folks have been taught about “The Tragedy of The Commons” in school. But what most folks don’t know is that it was complete bunk written by a white nationalist and eugenicist to justify colonization and genocide.

Commons can be successful. Many long-standing and successful commons exist. Many were studied by Nobel Prize-winning Political Scientist Elinor Ostram, who codified 8 principles for how commons can be governed sustainably and equitably in a community.

I’d really like for folks to stop using the term “tragedy of the commons” that assumes inevitable failure, and start calling them what they are. Commons with improper governance or “Failed commons”.

#socialism #economics


@travislf Those 8 principles are very general and I'm having difficulty applying them to anything but hyper local common resources. How do they work on something like the Colorado River Watershed? The water in that river is as you call it a "failed commons" how would Dr. Ostram's principles help the people of the six states that share the water no over draw the diminishing resource?


What an AWESOME (and quite #solarpunk ) question! I don’t know but let’s talk it through.

1. Clearly-Defined Boundaries
Individuals who have rights to appropriate resources must be clearly defined, as must the boundaries of the resource itself.

This is fucking hard! Everything and everyone needs that water. I’d probably break the watershed down into much smaller tiers where each seaward tier has rights to appropriate resources from the tier above it, and then you’ll need to outline municipalities, businesses, and the localized ecosystem and the limits of their access to the resource.

This is, of course, a massive amount of work, but hey governing is hard.

1/8 (or so, I’m just writing as I go, may not finish all of these thoughts tonight)


2. Appropriate Rules
Rules are appropriately related to local conditions (including both regarding the appropriation of common resources — restricting time, place, technology, quantity, etc.; and rules related to provision of resources — requiring labor, materials, money, etc.)

This seems like a further solidification of rule 1, where before we marked the boundaries, we’re now being quite specific.

I like the wording, though, because it’s important these rules be dependent on the local conditions of the commons. This creates a nice check for when we notice things aren’t going well. For example, in the case of a drought, we must adjust rules based on the new conditions, regulating each individual or business’s allowed use of the commons.

This would likely also involve setting rules in place for measuring individual affect on the commons (for example measuring affects on salinity from road salting) and writing appropriate rules surrounding it.



3. Rule-making processes
Collective-choice arrangements allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process.

In short: those who are affected by decisions and rules that govern the resource or the community itself should have a way of influencing those decisions.

One interesting outgrowth of this point would be that watershed tiers closer to the source would have less say in their commons because it’s shared by every tier seaward from it. This makes a lot of sense as one doesn’t want to be downstream from horrible pollution. When it comes down to it, this isn’t a massive ideological shift. Folks should be able to have a say in the laws surrounding their commons.



4. Monitoring
Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of, or accountable to, the appropriators.

This means that compliance with the rules established is monitored and that users of the commons have an active role in monitoring compliance.

You can see how we use water meters to monitor water use across communities. We can also measure the outflow to the next seaward watershed tier. Measuring the local ecosystem’s use of the commons would be tricky. I’m no environmental hydrologist, but I imagine there might be a way to get a ballpark of it, and update your estimations regularly.

You’d also need to monitor things like potential sources of pollution, or things that could change water salinity, or temperature. These could be handled manually or through the use of more automated networked solutions.

Impacts on the local ecosystem would also need to be noted including endangerment of wildlife.

4/8 (stopping for the night, more tomorrow)

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