This perspective was prepared by the Steering Committee of the International Commons Conference “Constructing a Commons (ICC) based policy platform organized by the Commons Strategies Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which took place in Berlin/Germany in November 2012. The ICC and was a major gathering of commoners from about 35 countries, representatives of social movements, political decision makers and commons research among them. (Michel Bauwens, David Bollier, Beatriz Busaniche, Silke Helfrich, Julio Lambing, Heike Löschmann)
The Commons as a Challenge for Classical Economics
B. The inherent features of the commons are abundance and diversity.
C. A viable society is based on cooperation and co-production rather than the classical division of labor that separates resource producers and providers from resource users, which treats nature, community and culture as exploitable externalities.
D. Markets are not the only source of wealth creation. The commons, which are responsive to popular, democratic voices and to the pressure on our biotic resources, can function as parallel economies to the cash economy, including subsistence and gift economies. Another promising way to do this is by developing community-based software platforms. Over time, such communication platforms can extend to new types of social exchange, for instance digital currencies, outside of national currencies and conventional markets. Such processes would strengthen resilient rural and urban communities and enable them to take the reproduction of their livelihoods into their own hands.
E. The whole economic system in modern societies deeply depends on the state, which creates entire industries and provides regulative structures. The demand for goods and services by the state is another example. In fact, public procurement and infrastructure development constitute the lion’s share of our economies. Therefore a shift towards commons-based public procurement is urgently needed. That includes, e.g., tax privileges for freely generated knowledge, information and infrastructures or bidding processes based on stipulated criteria that strengthen the participation of affected communities.
F. There is a need to clearly identify and communicate the "success criteria” of the commons and/or a loose taxonomy of successful commons. But developing indicators for creative and productive commoning is notoriously difficult. It is therefore essential to contribute to the development of inclusive metrics that recognize key criteria for broader wealth creation.
The Commons Challenges the Market/State Duopoly
The Generative Logic of the Commons
Conceiving knowledge as a commons guarantees a fair share of innovation, without the friction and suppression of sharing caused through excessive intellectual property regulations.
E. Institutional structures can articulate and make possible new commons, but they can also undermine the social connections and ethics that are indispensable to the commons. Therefore, a key challenge in devising effective commons-based policies is to balance these two concerns properly. The bureaucratization of the commons is not a commons, but a paradox to which we must be attentive.
October 31, 2010