The Commons

Interview | Sharing the Commons: Humanity’s Collective Heritage

SI: Do you think capitalism and socialism have any role to play in a future based on sharing?

JQ: Yes, but I don’t think that we will be conceiving of them in the same form that we now call capitalism and socialism. We don’t need more ideologies, more ‘isms.’ The integrated economy of the future will be a balance of individual and collective incentives. Presently, we’ve gone to the extreme of emphasizing personal incentives, but both are necessary. It’s important to integrate capitalism and socialism through a new synthesis that includes but transcends them. I think that one of the catalysts that will unify them is Commons trusts.

SI: So when should we expect to see all of these changes?

JQ: We are witnessing the beginning of this transformation now through innovative forms of cooperation and distributed ownership. The users of resources are already becoming the producers of their own resources. This will only grow in the decades and centuries ahead. It is not a fad. The nonclosure or liberation of the commons marks a major evolutionary change in human society, just as the enclosure and privatization of the commons was the major historical stage of the past five hundred years. Civilization is rapidly moving from ownership, competition and growth to new forms of trusteeship, cooperation and sustainability. Obviously, this will be a huge adjustment for the planet. It means learning to share our resources.


1 Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012) was an American political economist. Her work emphasized human interaction with ecosystems in order to maintain long-term sustainability of resources. She was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012. In 2009, Ostrom was one of two recipients of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009 “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.”

2 Garrett Hardin (1915-2003) was an American ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation. His concept of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ brought attention to “the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment.”

3 Philip Bobbitt, professor of law at Columbia University and author of Shield of Achilles and Terror and Consent, is a specialist in constitutional law, legal theory and military strategy.

Note. Reprinted with some Kosmos edits and permission of Share International magazine.