The Commons

The Rise of the Commons

We, the people of the world, own most of this planet in common. Our future depends on learning to use and develop this commons for the good of the total, and not just for the few. Here in the Far North we built a new state based on that concept. It’s the only place like it. The Alaskan people, through our state government, won ownership of much of our land and our natural resources. Using neither classic capitalism nor socialism, we have developed a new way to prosperity, based on common ownership and rooted in constitutional democracy.

Since then, after fifty years of striving, stumbling, and regaining our balance, falling flat and standing tall, this new way is now a remarkable success. Alaska today is a diamond, a brilliant star, a state with an outstanding quality of life, celebrating a glorious natural environment and a robust, healthy economy. We are ready now to share what we have learned with the world.

If you or I were to travel the world’s great, open resource regions, too often we would see poor people living on rich land, and many of these lands are commons. They include immense swaths of Africa and Asia, the Middle East, the Arctic, the Antarctic, vast lands in Canada and the rest of the Americas. The United States of America owns 600 million acres of publicly owned lands and 3.5 billion acres of commonly owned continental shelf.

In a larger sense, all of us own the seas in common. We own the air and space. If we could learn to use these God-given resources productively for the benefit of all—not just for one leader, one family, one business, or a handful of corporations—the world would stand today on the threshold of wealth and social advancement we cannot yet imagine. There would be no legitimate reason for poverty.
Hon. Walter J. Hickel, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, twice governor of Alaska and author of Crisis in the Commons—The Alaska Solution. First published in 2002, this book is considered the blueprint for Alaska’s remarkable economic and environmental successes. It has been translated into Russian where it is being studied by think tanks and public policy groups looking at alternate futures. Activists in Africa are reading it as they search how to break the cycle of poverty on that continent. For more information, contact Malcolm B. Roberts, Office of former Governor Hickel,