Philobiblon: The success of the commons

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The success of the commons

A long time ago when I was studying agricultural economics, we were taught about The Tragedy of the Commons as a simplistic piece of propaganda for laissez-faire capitalism. The story goes that if something is not owned by someone everyone will exploit it until it is destroyed; the "obvious" answer is to privatise it.

Hence I was very pleased to read yesterday about a success of the commons, how in Woking "rough music" (i.e. loud public shaming rituals, like the charivaris discussed last week) was used to protect the common, being directed against those who overstocked the common or cut excessive quantities of woof or turfs (?) from it.

This from E.P. Thompson, Customs in Common, The Merlin Press, London, 1991, p. 519. (Thanks to Sharon from Early Modern Notes for directing me to it.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And if you want some more along that path... J M (might not quite have the initials right) Neeson, _Commoners_ (and there's a subtitle which escapes me, the period is something like 1700-1800...), explores the subject in detail and explodes the myths. Great book. She was I think a student of Thompson's.


9/14/2004 07:28:00 pm  

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