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So what makes the commons so important? Peter Barnes has five good reasons:
1. The commons makes everything else work. All private wealth is a co-production between an owner, society and nature. In many cases, the bulk of the value comes from the latter two. The most “self-made” men and women draw upon a vast pool of knowledge and natural gifts (found in the commons) they did nothing to create.
2. The commons is the source of much of our happiness. We do not live on traded commodities alone. We rely on nature, society and conviviality. It has been proven that the happiest people are those most engaged in the lives of others. The commons facilitates such relationships better than anything or anyone else.
3. The commons can protect nature. The air belongs to all of us. If it were treated as common wealth, there’d be trusts that receive polluters’ payments and distribute them to all of us as owners. With commoners in charge of protecting their wealth, there’d be a lot less pollution than there is now.
4. The commons can promote equality. Private profit-maximizing necessarily increases inequality. A strong commons sector can offset this. It can even provide income to everyone in the form of dividends from common wealth, as by charging for scarce resources and harms to nature.
5. The commons represents our duty to our children. We, the living, inherited our shared wealth from nature and our ancestors. We have no right to squander it. Indeed, we have a moral responsibility to pass it on, undiminished if not enhanced, to future generations.