Uncommonly Bad Treatment of the “Commons” Concept

by on March 5, 2009 · 15 comments

Many of the folks here on TLF believe that commons treatement of some resources is the best way for society to make the most efficient use them (though I hasten to add that not all agree, or we differ in various nuances). Commons treatment of spectrum is why we have WiFi, for example. Ideas and expressions that are out of patent or copyright are the commons from which new ideas and creative works spring.

Commons treatment is appropriate when a resource is exceedingly plentiful, or when the costs of ownership and trading are too high for markets to apportion it. But some people want commons treatment of lots of other stuff.

The folks that are skeptical of commonses (and of advocates for commonses) are certainly given a lot to work with by awful videos like the one below. Believe it or not, this video advocates for commons treatment of water by pointing out how much water scarcity there is in the world.

Well, gang, there’s so much water scarcity precisely because water suffers from the tragedy of the commons. There aren’t property rights to give it tradable value and encourage conservation, so not enough of it is collected and delivered and it’s overused and spoiled by the first to get their hands on it.

Commons treatement is a legitimate and wise use of some resources, but advocates for commonses make it look stupid, fanciful, and unwise with junk like this. Ugh. Gawdawful. (Oh – but the production values are good!)

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