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March 2, 2024

A matter of the commons

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Michael Balson (Letters 3 August) writing about the Commons, has tried to place his [mis] interpretation on matters of major significance.

His mischaracterisation and somewhat misanthropic views don’t stack up with history and political economy. Central to this is the question of ownership, private property, and markets. Greek philosopher Plato extolled the virtues of common property and believed it would encourage cooperation and avoid divisiveness, and this was later developed by Karl Polanyi and later still by Elinor Ostronis (Nobel Prize 2009 economics) – ‘Governing the Commons’.

Ecologist Garrett Hardin confused open access resources with the Commons in his article ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, concerned with overpopulation, consequently unrestricted use of the world’s resources which would lead to ecological and civilisational collapse.

Despite ample evidence that the tragedy of the Commons was not too many people chasing limited resources, but rather the unregulated Capitalist exploitation of open access resources in search of profits.

In other words, the Commons and the tragedy of commodification.

Capitalists used the tragedy of the Commons to push for privatisation of both common lands and public lands.

The world fisheries are well documented today for being plundered by mega-factory fishing fleets, scouring the oceans with high technology to maximize catches. Overexploitation is a result of large corporations, with the sole objective of making profits. It is not individuals who are responsible for exploitation of fisheries as in many cases indigenous fisherpersons, who fished sustainably for millennia, are intent on preserving their way of life and fish stocks for use value, not exchange value – profits.

Instead of lamenting how climate change is impacting on the planet, people should take courage from others in history who have acted gallantly and courageously, even taking personal sacrifices to collectively take on the citadels of political and economic power to bring about systemic democratic change in tandem with global ecological integrity for the majority, not the privileged few.

Boyd Kellner, Newrybar

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  1. And thus Communism was invented by Capitalists to convert all private property into communal property that they as an oligarchy could exploit under the auspices of the common good ie All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

    There was a time the commons didn’t exist, during feudalism. You couldn’t leave your landlords land because you would be entering another landlords land without permission. There was no public space, such as roads, for you to exit too. It was the Capitalists themselves that ended this with the Industrial Revolution. They needed peasants to be able to travel to the cities to become factory workers.


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