Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In the United Kingdom, commons are pieces of land historically available for grazing by anyone. By extension, they are any sets of resources that a community recognizes as being accessible to any member of that community. The nature of commons is different in different communities, but they often include cultural resources and natural resources.
While commons are generally seen as a system opposed to private property, they have been combined in the idea of "common property", which are resources "owned" equally by every member of the community, even though the community recognises that only a limited number of members may use the resource at any given time.
The act of transferring resources from the commons to individual ownership is known as "inclosure."
Commons are a subset of public goods; specifically meaning a public good which is not infinite. Commons can therefore be land, rivers and, arguably, money. "The Commons" is most often a finite but replenishable resource, which requires responsible use in order to remain available. A subset of this is a commons which requires not only responsible use but also active contribution from its users, such as a school or church funded by local donations.
In order to ensure responsibility of the users, there must be a system of management. Such models include the Hobbesian "Leviathan" model, where there is a central authority that monitors the behaviour of the users and can sanction abusers. There are also many other models, some of which can require no maintenance -- for instance, if it is known that the collective consists mostly of contingent cooperators, then once responsible behaviour has been established, it will most likely continue without management. Another model is reputation management.
- Project Communis weblog on privatisation and common property
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