I read the three books below just about a year ago, between mid-December 2015 and January 2016. They all treat the topic of the commons, e.g. the space beyond market and state that many of us nowadays can't even see. It shouldn't be too hard for Swedes to get it though since we still have "Allmansrätten" ("everyman's right" or "the freedom to roam"). The freedom to roam is not quite as strong as the idea of the commons were back in the days, but it still goes a long way compared to the privatized regimes in many other countries in the world. All three books below discuss the relevance of the commons (greater than ever) and the applicability of the concept (lots of structural barriers, not the least mental).
To be honest, it felt hard to write this blog post since it feels like a lot of time has passed since I read these books. The asterisks below represent the number of quotes from the each book (see further below) and here's the previous blog post about books I have read.
I honestly don't know what to say about Christian Siefkes "From exchange to contributions: Generalizing peer production into the physical world" (2007). This book is self-published and the best I can say is that it's a very early and hopeful text about the emancipatory potential of peer production and that it's available for free at peerconomy.org. The book unfortunately screams "I sat at home and thought this all out all by myself!". I did unfortunately not find any noteworthy quotes at all in the book although I might have had I read it ten years ago - when it was published. Siefkes holds a ph.d. in computer science (from 2007) and works as a freelance software engineer. Since the book has very little to do with his previous research, I think it's fair to call Siefkes a "free thinker" who sometimes dabbles in writing books. He wrote a five pages long text in the book below. His personal webpage looks as if it was created back in the days (e.g. very little design thinking involved).
***************** "The wealth of the commons: A world beyond market and state" (2012) is edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich and contains a motley collection of no less than 73 different contributions. The book has a website of its own and the editors are presented as authors, activists and independent scholars. David Bollier is from the US and I have previously read a book where he is prominently featured, Walljasper's "All that we share". Silke Helfrich is German and I do believe I heard her talk at the Degrowth conference I attended in Venice back in 2012.
The book was followed up by the "companion volume" in 2015, "Patterns of Commoning", with the same editors, the same publisher and even with the same looks. The fact that "The wealth of the commons" had 73 contributions and that these texts are all over the place is unfortunately a deterrent for me. I am not reassured by the fact that the newer book has "more than fifty original essays". The problem here is that I wish the editors would have done a better job of procuring texts or guiding authors in such a way that the book would have a slightly more unified perspective. The diversity made it hard to grasp the focus or even the core of the ideas and concept(s) that these modern-day commoners want to promote and disseminate. I guess you could say that the book presents "the full breadth" of the current thinking, but that just leaves the hard work of figuring out what this is about to me as a reader. This book for sure gave me many new perspectives on the commons, but the texts were very uneven and the kaleidoscopic perspective made me dizzy. It would have been a better book had a quarter of the texts been removed (or better adapted to fit the focus of the book).
The book is divided into five parts and I for the most part preferred the two first parts which on the whole were more fundamental and more theoretical: 1) The commons as a new paradigm, 2) Capitalism, enclosure and resistance, 3) Commoning - A social innovation for our time, 4) Knowledge commons for social change and 5) Envisioning a commons-based policy and production framework.
**************** "Understanding knowledge as a commons: From theory to practice" (2007) is edited by Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom. Yes, it's that Elinor Ostrom, the political economist who won the "fake" Nobel prize in economics back 2009 (but Ostrom is legit - it's not her fault the economics prize tries to smooch prestige from the real Nobel prize). This is basically the book I wish "The wealth of the commons" would have been and the secret sauce is the fact that the foundation of this book was a 2004 workshop on "Scholarly Communication as a Commons" that the editors hosted and almost all contributors attended. That means all authors have some kind of intuitive understanding of what it's all about and more or less pull in the same-ish direction. This makes the book much easier to read despite the fact that the texts objectively are more difficult (written by specialized academics for other specialized academics for the most part).
The main and more or less only topic of the books is "the knowledge commons", i.e. the relevance and the use of "commons thinking" to scholarly matters, including libraries and archives, open access and, of course, The Internet. The book is thus much more wonky but also more "substantial". All contributions are written by academics/researchers with the exception of David Bollier (above) who is back again with a contribution about "The growth of the commons paradigm". The book is divided into three parts; "Studying the knowledge commons", "Protecting the knowledge commons" and "Building new knowledge commons".
----- On enclosures as pure evil -----
"Enclosures are dispossessing tens of millions of farmers and pastoralists whose lives depend upon customary land commons in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They are disenfranchising urban dwellers whose parks and public spaces are being turned into private, commercial developments; and Internet users who are beset by new copyright laws, digital encryption and international treaties that lock up culture ... For example, the World Trade Organisation, which purports to advance human development through free trade, is essentially a system for seizing non-market resources from communities, dispossessing people and exploiting fragile ecosystems with the full sanction of international and domestic law. This achievement requires an exceedingly complicated legal and technical apparatus, along with intellectual justifications and political support. Enclosure must be mystified through all sorts of propaganda, public relations and the co-optation of dissent. This process has been critical in the drive to privatize lifeforms, supplant biodiverse lands with crop monocultures, censor and control Internet content, seize groundwater supplies to create proprietary bottled water, appropriate indigenous knowledge and culture, and convert self-reproducig agricultural crops into sterile, proprietary seeds that must be bought again and again."Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.xii, xvii.
----- On the commons as the (only?) alternative to a state that is beholden to business interests -----
"The financial meltdown of 2007-2008 revealed that the textbook idealization of democratic capitalism is largely a sham. The "free market" is not in fact self-regulating and private, but extensively dependent upon public interventions, subsidies, risk-mitatiation and legal privileges. The state does not in fact represent the sovereign will of the people ... rather, the system is a more or less closed oligopoly of elite insiders. The political and personal connections between the largest corporations and government are so extensive as to amount to collusion. ... The state in many countries amount to a partner of clans, mafia-like structures or dominant ethnicities; in other countries it amounts to a junior partner of the market fundamentalist project. It is charged with advancing privatization, deregulation, budget cutbacks, expansive private property rights and unfettered capital investment. The state provides a useful fig leaf of legitimacy and due process for the market's agenda, but there is little doubt that private capital has overwhelmed democratic, non-market interests except at the margins. State intervention to curb market excesses is generally ineffective and palliative. ... the presumption that the state can and will intervene to represent the interests of citizens is no longer credible. Unable to govern for the long term, captured by commercial interests and hobbled by stodgy bureaucratic structures in an age of nimble electronic networks, the state is arguably incapable of meeting the needs of citizens as a whole. The inescapable conclusion is that the mechanisms and processes of representative democracy are no longer a credible vehicle for the change we need. Conventional political discourse, itself an aging artifact of another era, is incapable of naming our problems, imagining alternatives and reforming itself. This, truly, is why the commons has such a potentially transformative role to play.Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.xiii-xiv.
----- On "Economic man" as the bastard son of biology and economics -----
"Charles Darwin, the biologist, adapted [Malthus' idea of scarcity] to a comprehensive theory of natural change and development. In its wake concepts as "struggle for existence," "competition," "growth" and "optimization" tacitly became centerpieces of our self-understanding: biological, technological, and social progress is brought forth by the sum of individual egoisms. In perennial competition, fit species (powerful corporations) exploit niches (markets) and multiply their survival rate (return margins), whereas weaker (less efficient) ones go extinct (bankrupt). ... By this exchange of metaphors, economics came to see itself more and more as a "hard" natural science. It derived its models from biology and physics - leading all the way up to the mathematical concept of Homo economicus. This chimera - a machine-like egoist always seeking to maximize his utility - has become the hidden, but all-influencing model of humanity. Its shadow is still cast over newer psychological and game-theoretical approaches. Reciprocally, evolutionary biology also gained inspiration from economical models. The "selfish gene," e.g., is not much more but a Homo economicus mirrored back to biochemistry. We can call this alliance between biology and economics and "economic ideology of nature."Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.7.
----- On consumption, decoupling and happiness -----
"Often, sustainability thinking doesn't question the notion that higher rates of consumption lead to individual happiness; it simply focuses rather on low-carbon ways of making the same consumer goods. Yet as we enter the world of resource constraints, we will need to link satisfaction and happiness to other less tangible things like community, meaningful work, skills and friendships."Hopkins, R. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.21.
----- On the commons providing "invisible" values -----
"The commons provide services that are often taken for granted by their users: many of those who benefit from the commons do not take into account their intrinsic value, only acknowledging it once the commons are destroyed and substitutes need to be found. ... In other words you don't miss something until it is gone. An example is the role served by mangroves in coastal regions. When making development decision, people take their existence for granted and simply do not consider their important role in protecting coastal villages from tsunami waves. Only when a tsunami hits, destroying villages, does the value of such vegetation becomes apparent. It would be highly expensive to build a similar, artificial barrier."Mattei, U. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.28.
----- On the anticommons -----
"Privatizing the commons may cure the tragedy of wasteful overuse, but it may inadvertently spark the opposite. English lacks a term to denote wasteful underuse [so] I coined the phrase tragedy of the anticommons. The term covers any setting in which too many people can block each other from creating or using a valuable resources. Rightly understood, the opposite of overuse in a commons is underuse in an anticommons. ... Group access in a commons also has an anticommons parallel: group exclusion in which a limited number of owners can block each other."Heller, M. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.69-70.
----- On the hidden agenda of microcredit loans -----
"The privatization (of land, water and other things) and the commercialization of commons (for example, air or genes), which restricts access or even eliminates them for many people, are actually considered serious soutions for global problems such as hunger and climate change. ... According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the overall goal of globalized development policy lies in integrating as many areas relevant for daily existence as possible into the monetary and commodity-based economy. One example of this is the internationally promoted expansion of microcredit. The more needs are dealt with via money, the better and more developed a society supposedly is. The profound crisis of the growth-based economy, of which the ecological crises are a part, raises sustantial doubts about this view."Bennholdt-Thomsen, V.. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.82.
----- On biotechnology as politics rather than as science -----
"The biggest problem with genetic engineering in agriculture is that it runs completely against the grain of sustainable agriculture. It separates the domain of science from the domain of farming community. It externalizes everything that was internal to the communities and formed the basis of sustainability: seeds, manure, pest control and more than anything, community knowledge of agriculture. Biotechnology in agriculture today stands as the manifestation of corporate power that is shaping the food and farming policies in India. That is the reason why we must see biotechnology less as science and more as politics."Satheesh, P.V. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.141.
----- On carbon credits as part of the financialization of the economy -----
"This expansion of (finance) capital represents a new historic type of enclosure: investor-driven appropriations and control of many forests, fisheries, arable land and water resources historically managed by commons ... where markets do not yet exist, natural resources are being converted into commodities so they can be traded. Indeed, new commodities and markets are being created from scratch to satisfy the demands by financial markets for new, high-return investments. A very good example of this kind ... is the carbon permits of such rights. Carbon-trading rights are also generated by companies through the implementation of projects aimed to reduce emissions in the future and thus to offset real emissions that the same companies are generating today. A carbon credit or certificate is in itself a derivative contract, given that its value is based on the estimated future price of abating carbon emissions. Therefore holding or buying a carbon credit is in itself a bet about the future"Tricario, A. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.147.
----- On the future financialization of water -----
"In July 2011 the chief economist of Citigroup, Willem Buiter, stated in one of the company's regular thematic research briefings: "I expect to see a globally integrated market for fresh water within 25 to 30 years. Once the spot markets for water are integrated, futures markets and other derivate water-based financial instruments ... will follow. There will be different grades and types of fresh water, just the way we have light sweet and heavy sour crude oil today. Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals." This vision goes far beyond the current privatization of water services and utilities ... In short, water itself would become a financial asset, so that holding a physical quantity of water would generate a financial rent."Tricario, A. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.152.
----- On threats to the commons -----
"A commons such as Wikipedia is easily subject to different forms of "pollution," such as dishonest articles, propaganda and distortions. This demands constant attention and considerable energy from the Wikipedia community to take note of, monitor, and correct such cases of pollution; it is energy drawn away from the capacity to construct an even more complete encyclopedia. Similarly, the commons of world scientific research may also be contaminated by fraud, which erodes coletive confidence in the research while boosting the careers of deceitful researchers."Le Crosnier, H. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.178.
----- On free trade agreements as detrimental to the commons -----
"The commons starts from the idea that knowledge (and the right to share and reproduce knowledge) is a basic human right that integrates three specific factors - common pool resources, a community of users organized around them and that community's consensus-based rules and standards. It is clear that free trade agreements are hostile to this structure of governance and resource management. By imposing private intellectual property rights on collective knowledge and resources such as seeds and plant varieties, FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] are in effect modern tools for enclosing the commons."Busaniche, B. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.208.
----- On patents as weapons of mass litigation -----
"Patents represent a social contract about innovation - the public, via government, grants limited-term monopolies to entrepreneurs as a way to encourage innovation, and the public reaps new knowledge and market access to new technologies. This social contract to "promote science and the useful arts" has in fact done little to achieve that goal ... At best, patents have been a means to manage market scarcity and thereby profits. As a practical matter, they have been more useful as litigation weapons or tokens of individual achievement."Martin, D. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.314.
----- On systemic flaws of the current patent regime -----
"For the past thirty years, economists have unsuccessfully attempted to establish a direct correlation between the deployment of proprietary rights and economic (to say nothing of social) good. This effort has been confounded by two alarming and unaddressed problems. First, modern patent offices have categorically denied any responsibility for the economic consequences of the patents they grant - while relying on business models (fees and personal compensation) that reward patent examiners for issuing more patents. When WIPO, Denmark, and others investigated what happened when patent offices take quality and market consequences into consideration, they found that fewer patents are issued. However, fee income also drops, and so such reforms of the patenting process are quickly shelved. A second problem has been the sheer proliferation of patents. Since 1980, when the US and Japan launched the modern innovation "cold war," companies have sought new patents as weapons for negotiations over market control. Even a dubious patent can be used as a bargaining chit in litigation and other disputes."Martin, D. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.314.
----- On claiming patents to block innovation and competitors -----
"At least since 1980, companies have used patents ... to block commercial access to and market use of innovations. It is no accident that some of the largest patent estates were filed by companies who had the most market share to lose. Oil companies filed and held thousands of environmentally desirable patents in fields ranging from solar and wind power to hydrogen and hybrid propulsion. Paint companies filed and held thousands of patents on alternative surface coating techniques only to continue using toxic metals in industrial production Pharmaceutical companies and their agrochemical allies filed and held thousands of patents on treatments and cures for disease and on land renewal technologies, ensuring that no one else could use these options. Defensive patents - representing an estimated 80 percent of all filings by industrialized nations - are not artefacts of innovation but pawns used to minimize risks during litigation."Martin, D. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.315.
----- On claiming new patents for inventions that were already patented 40 years ago -----
"A search of the database reveals that one in three patents registered today as energy-saving technology duplicates inventions that were first developed following the oil crisis of the 1970s, and so can be freely used. A great many patents are not novel at all. They simply duplicate innovations that were made decades ago. But patent applications often disguise this fact by using colorful and complicated language Overworked government patent examiners struggling with limited resources and seeking to avoid legal hassles often grant new patents that are not truly warranted The global Innovation Commons helps reveal and confirm the patent-free status of important technologies."Martin, D. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.317.
----- On commons as existing beyond markets and states -----
"For a long time, many researchers and policymakers believed that the only way to avoid [the tragedy of the commons] was to privatize the commons or place them under government control. But [Elinor] Ostrom wasn't convinced. She had a fairly radical idea that broke with conventional wisdom: the survival of communities' resources does not depend upon the state to make laws and impose punishment, nor does it depend on assigning a dollar value to every fish, chunk of grass, or drop of water. Rather, people, when they come together, can share understandings and manage their resources by enforcing norms and rules of their own design! The unconventional idea in many quarters was that people could cooperate "beyond markets and states.""Conway, R. (2012). In The Wealth of the Commons, p.362.
----- On knowledge as a commons -----
"For us, the analysis of knowledge as a commons has its roots in the broad, interdisciplinary study of shared natural resources, such as water resources, forests, fisheries, and wildlife. Commons is a general term that refers to a resource shared by a group of people. In a commons, the resource can be small and serve a tiny group (the family refrigerator), it can be community-level (sidewalks, playgrounds, libraries, and so on), or it can extend to international and global levels (deep ses, the atmosphere, the Internet, and scientific knowledge). The commons can be well bounded (a community park or library); transboundary (the Danube River, migrating wildlife, the Internet; or without clear boundries (knowledge, the ozone layer."Ostrom, E., & Hess, C. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.4.
----- On natural-resource vs human-made commons -----
"While the bulk of commons research has been aimed at natural-resource commons, particularly forests and land, fisheries, and water resources, attention to human-made resources has increased dramatically since 1995. Whether the focus is traditional or new, however, the essential questions for any commons analysis are inevitably about equity, efficiency, and sustainability."Ostrom, E., & Hess, C. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.6.
----- On the development of the global commons -----
"Most of the problems and dilemmas discussed in this book have arisen since the invention of new digital technologies. The introduction of new technologies can play a huge role in the robustness or vulnerability of a commons. New technologies can enable the capture of what were once free and open public goods. This has been the case with the development of most "global commons," such as the deep seas, the atmosphere, the electromagnetic spectrum, and space, for example. This ability to capture the previously uncapturable creates a fundamental change in the nature of the resource, with the resource being converted from a nonrivalrous, nonexclusionarly public good into a common-pool resource that needs to be managed, monitored, and protected, to ensure sustainability and preseration."Ostrom, E., & Hess, C. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.10.
----- On digital information becoming both more *and* less accessible -----
"The rapidly expanding world of distributed digital information has infite possibilities as well as incalculable threats and pitfalls. The parallel, yet contradictory trends, where, on the one hand, there is unprecedented access to information through the Internet but where, on the other [hand], there are ever-greater restrictions on access through intellectual property legislation, overpatenting, licensing, overpricing, withdrawal, and lack of preservation, indicate the deep and perplexing characteristics of this resource."Ostrom, E., & Hess, C. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.14.
----- On the differences and similarities between natural-resource and digital commons -----
"there are significant differences between natural-resource commons like land, which are depletable and "rivalrous" (many people wish to use a resource to the exclusion of others), and commons that manage nondepletable, non-rivalrous resources such as information and creative works. What makes the term *commons* useful, nonetheless, is its ability to help us identify problems that affect both tyrpes of commons (e.g., congestion, overharvesting, pollution, inequities, other degradation) and to propose effective alternatives (e.g., social rules, appropriate property rights, and management structures). ... Each commons has distinctive dynamics based on its participants, history, cultural values, the nature of the resource, and so forth. Still, there are some recurring themes evident in different commons."Bollier, D. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.28.
----- On the the early adopters of the term "commons" -----
"Environmentalists and conservationists fighting a relentless expansion of market activity have been among the most enthusiastic "early adopters" of commons language. Books such as The Global Commons: An Introduction by Susan J. Buck, Whose Common Future? Reclaiming the Commons by The Ecologist magazine, and Who Owns the Sky? Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism by Peter Barnes have helped popularize the idea that certain shared natural resources should be regarded as commons and managed accordingly. The atmosphere, oceans, fisheries, groundwater and other freshwater supplies, wilderness and local open spaces, and beaches are all increasingly regarded as commons - resources that everyone has a moral if not legal interest in, and that should be managed for the benefit of all."Bollier, D. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.31-32.
----- On erecting enclosures to stop knowledge from spreading in an age of digital information -----
"Instead of fulfilling the promises of the information age, large portions of online content have come under government-imposed restrictions or corporate controls like technological protection measures, licensing, and other digital-rights management techniques, all of which impede access to information and limit its use. As a result, much online content is now restricted, wrapped, and packaged - treated as secret or private rather than public or common property. Like medieval times when enclosure of agricultural pasturelands occurred both piecemeal and by general legislative action, no single decision or act is causing today's enclosure of the commons of the mind. Some of the enclosures of the knowledge commons have been rapid, others gradual ... No matter what the reason, a cumulative series of public and private-sector policies have resulted in less access to the knowledge essential to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.""Kranich, N. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.86-87.
----- On the broken model of for-profit academic publishing -----
"By the early 1990s, mergers of academic journal publishers left only a few international conglomerates in control, straining already tight higher education budgets by charging as much as $20,000 for subscriptions to journals like *Nuclear Physics*, *Brain Research*, and *Tetrahedron Letters*, while returning profits as high as 40 percent. According to a study ... these commercial press charges differed remarkably from the prices charged by nonprofits, typically differing by six times the average per-page price for journals published in the same field. Dependence on the privat sector for scholarly journals essentially compels universities to finance research, give it away to for-profit publishers for free, and then buy it back at astronomical prices."Kranich, N. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.88.
----- On populism vs progressivism -----
"the question I describe here is fundamental to the division between the progressive and the populist impulses in American politics. The progressive notes the dangers of collective irrationality, of lack of understanding ... He puts faith in the expertise of technocratic specialists working for the public interest, but isolated from public pressure and hubbub. The populist, by contrast, is skeptical of claims that restrict knowledge, decision making, or power to an elite group. He sees the experts as being subject to their own versions of narrowness and prejudice"Boyle, J. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.132.
----- On preserving the knowledge commons -----
"To have its beneficial effects, a published work needs to be available to the broadest possible audience both in the present and over time. However, access is not equivalent to preservation. The free or open access to common-pool resources may encourage use by many today, but it does not necessarily encourage any specific individual or institution to preserve them for future use. Insuring against the loss of electronically published works is a common-pool resource problem that requires special attention.Waters, D. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons.
----- On researchers' motivation to write articles -----
"The focus on the OA [open access] movement is on a special category of content that does *not* earn royalties for its creators: peer-reviewed research articles and their preprints. Ever since the first scientific journals were founded in 1665 in London and Paris, journals have not paid authors for articles. What incentive do authors have to publish without payment? If there were royalty-paying journals, then authors would very likely steer their work toward them. So part of the answer is that royalty-free journals are the only game in town. ... The more important part of the answer ... is that authors want their work to be noticed, read, taken up, built upon, applied, used, and cited. They also want the journal's time stamp in order to establish priority over other scientists working on the same problem. If they work at a university, this way of advancing knowledge will also advance their careers. These intangible rewards (made nearly tangible in tenure and promotion) compensate scholars for relinquishing royalties on their journal articles. It explains why they are not merely willing, but eager, to submit their articles to journals that do not pay for them, and even to journals with the temerity to ask for ownership or copyright as well".Suber, P. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.174-175.
----- On the benefits of *not* encouraging scholars to be popular -----
"Author donation is closely connected to academic freedom. Scholars can *afford* to donate their journal articles because they are paid salaries by universities. Their salaries free them from the market, so they can write journal articles without considering what would "sell" or what would appeal to the widest audience. This frees them to be controversial, or to defend unpopular ideas, a key component of academic freedom. It also frees them to be microspecialized, or to defend ideas of interest to only a few people in the world. The same insulation frees some scholars to be obscure, and it frees others, who did not quite get the point, to be faddish and market-driven. But because the same insulation from the market makes two important freedoms possible - open access and academic freedom - we have good reason to resist any development that would remove this insulation and make scholars' income ... depend on the popularity of their ideas."Suber, P. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.175.
----- On the tragedy of the e-mail commons -----
"I do not want to give the impression that all digital and nonrivalrous commons inherently resist tragedies of depletion. For example, I believe that spam triggers a tragic depletion in the usefulness of e-mail. If the worldwide network of e-mail users is a commons that we are all free to graze at will, then spammers are the overgrazers that are starting to spoil it for the rest. In the case of real grazing land, the overgrazers must be a significant fraction of the common users. But in the case of e-mail, spammers are a tiny minority. Moreover, they only succeed in ruining the e-mail experience for others because a tiny minority of their recipients buy their products. Insofar as spammers are to blame, the cause is greed. Insofar as their customers are to blame, the cause is credulity. The resulting tragedy of the e-mail commons does not deplete the content, but it does deplete the usefulness of the medium."Suber, P. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.204.
----- On trust and political engagement -----
"Young Americans are less likely to develop civic identities today than in the past. Many ingredients of a civic identity are difficult to measure or have not been followed consistently over long spans of time. However, the percentage of young people who say the follow public affairs dropped from 24 percent in 1966 to just 5 percent in 2000. ... Wendy Rahn and John Transue explain the erosion of young people's social trust as a result of "rapid rise of materialistic value orientations that occurred among American youth in the 1970s and 1980s." Eric Uslaner explains trust as a function of optimism. People who believe that the world will get better (that there will be more public goods for all) are willing to trust others and cooperate. People who believe that the pie is shrinking adopt a zero-sum, "me-first" approach. Whatever the cause, a decline in trust spells danger for all forms of commons."Levine, P. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.256.
----- On where human welfare comes from -----
"At bottom, both the Left and the Right believe that all things of value are created either by companies and entrepreneurs or else by governments. They assume that markets and states produce a pool of goods that citizens fight over. This struggle is what we conventionally call "politics." It is a zero-sum game, hence largely unpleasant. In contrast, the public-work approach suggests that citizens can make new goods - expand the pie - by cooperating. Unfortunately, opportunities for ordinary citizens to do public work have shrunk over the last century. This is partly because professionals and experts have taken over many traditional duties of citizens, from managing towns to setting educational policy to lobbying. And it is partly because many civic functions have been privatized. For example, Americans often pay companies to provide neighborhood security or to watch their small children. All that is left for citizens to do is to complain, vote, and volunteer.""Levine, P. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.266-267.
----- On the resource commons vs digital commons -----
"[Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FOSS) has] resulted in a new form of Internet-based collaboration that represents a form of "commons", but one that differs slightly from the environmental commons that most readers are familiar with. In FOSS commons, groups of people act collectively to produce a public good (the software), rather than overappropriate the resource. In other words, the challenge in FOSS commons is how to achieve collective action to create and maintain a commons or public good rather than the issue of protecting an existing commons from destruction"Schweik, C. (2007). In Understanding knowledge as a commons, p.279.