Monday, 2 April 2012

What is the role of the commons in the economy?

Rev. Canon Peter Challen of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice is one of the organisers for an intensive social innovation project of 12 interrelated seminars in 12 days involving leading NGOs and thinks tanks. What is the role of the commons in the economy? will foster an educational and research collaboration for facilitating transition to a more equitable world. It will demonstrate how differing starting points can lead to a commons ground. You can participate in one or more of the seminars.

James Quilligan is a globally renowned commons theorist/activist, policy analyst, and founder of the Global Commons Trust. He writes: "Modern economics has turned labour into a utility of the market and government. But the principles of the commons (people's negotiation of their own norms and rules for the management of social and natural resources) show us how to transcend utilitarian economics by transforming the traditional division of labour. New forms of value are already being created by these commons, whether they are traditional (irrigation ditches, pastures, indigenous cultures) or emerging (intellectual property, social networks, collaborative innovation)." To learn more about Mr. Quilligan’s work, click here.

James Quilligan's work on managing local and global commons is developing understanding of how in a commons-based economy:
  • consumers become the producers of their own resources
  • trusts set a cap on the extraction and use of a resource to preserve it for future generations
  • businesses flourish by renting a proportion of the resources outside the cap for extraction and production
  • governments tax a percentage of these rents, funding a basic income for citizens and the restoration of depleted resources
  • the power of decision-making returns to the people, enabling them to participate in the decisions that affect them directly
  • the traditional property ownership model is eclipsed by a trusteeship model of sustainability, quality of life and well-being
  • the lessons of community based resource management have major implications for post-liberal forms of multilateralism and global governance.
He will present a series of 12 seminars, workshops and other educational events during his 12 day visit to London in the Spring. (Look up details here.) Those events will be convened by a variety of organisations. Confirmed conveners include:Finance Innovation Lab, School of Economic Science, St. James Piccadilly, IPPR, NEF, Civil Society Forum, and School of Commoning. The kick-off seminar will be hosted in the House of Commons.

Starting from many different points of engaged intellectual and scholarly concern, research and practice, the various seminars will explore the understanding of the Commons as perceived from each seminar’s perspective, guided by James Quilligan. Together, they represent an emergent curriculum of theoretically grounded and action-oriented studies in the key economic, political, and social issues of the Commons.

During his visit, these seminars will examine together such questions as:
  • Economically, what steps are needed to adjust the rules of the present interest-driven, debt-based economy to the sustainable targets of our natural, social and cultural commons?
  • Politically, how can the philosophy of individual wealth (ownership, division of labor, reciprocity) be reconciled with the interests of collective wealth (trusteeship, the unity of producers and consumers, complementarity)?
  • Socially, would it be possible for people's trusts to create sustainable limits to protect our commons for future generations, then rent the remaining resources to business for production and distribution, and provide these revenues to government for the funding of social dividends and the restoration of the depleted commons?
The vital and complex questions introduced in these seminars do not have easy answers. The investigation into how the “commons” may connect and synergise the economic, social, philosophical, spiritual, and political spheres, and facilitate the great transition to an equitable and sustainable world, is an ongoing challenge.

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