Review of Green Governance: Ecological Survival, Human Rights, and the Law of the Commons by Burns H. Weston and David Bollier, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
The notorious “tragedy of the commons,” in which shared ownership inevitably tempts individuals to over-utilize resources to the point of destroying them, has been a stock argument for the superiority of private property and market exchange over property held in common. Green Governance by Burns H. Weston and David Bollier boldly argues that, on the contrary, the ancient institution of the commons may help us counteract the “tragedy of the market” – the ways in which unbridled pursuit of private accumulation is abusing human rights and destroying our environment.
Discussion of the commons has proliferated as market and state failures have grown ever more apparent. But what are commons, and what makes them different from markets and states?