Protecting Commons Against Cooptation

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From the Stroud Commons's, Dave Darby:

"Here are the main ways that the commons economy will be much more difficult to co-opt:

  • If commons groups can buy land / houses etc. not by borrowing or selling shares, but by selling future-use vouchers (use-credit obligations), they can be debt-free, which can reduce risk and increase rewards for investors.

Ultimately, they won’t need to use bank-issued money either. Credit clearing schemes can reduce the need for money enormously, and then mutual credit networks can remove it altogether. Apps are being developed that will enable vouchers to be bought, wages to be paid and local goods to be purchased within a mutual credit environment, rather than with bank-issued, debt-based money that can be extracted from communities and concentrated.

  • Very strong asset locks via a custodian member class with a veto vote, to make sure that groups do nothing that makes them vulnerable or that violates commons principles, like taking on debt, or selling assets out of the commons.
  • The Credit Commons Protocol (and potentially, sociocratic decision-making) will allow local commons groups to federate with different sectors and different towns, to present a united front and the basis of a new economy.
  • Stewards / managers of schemes can be paid for their work, which means that the role will be available to anyone, not just the better-off, who don’t need to be paid.
  • Basic legal forms can be used that would be difficult for governments to cancel without disrupting millions of ordinary businesses."


Dave Darby:

"If we’re looking for a movement that can challenge the status quo, then nothing that currently exists is going to do it. Capitalists can sleep easily, knowing that all current challenges can be safely ignored, and if needs be, co-opted, bought or crushed. Something’s missing.

I believe that the core of this new movement will be the commons, based on Elinor Ostrom’s 8 commons principles. But I think we can simplify them by boiling them down to three:

  • Resources / assets are not owned privately, but it’s not a free-for-all either. There are boundaries and agreements so that all users (commoners) know exactly what’s expected of them, and what they can expect to get from the commons, whether it’s housing, energy, food, water, social care, or anything else.
  • Commoners make and monitor the agreements themselves – they’re not imposed from above.
  • The commons is a movement – each local commons fits into a larger commons, and so on, up to the global scale.

The first negates Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. The second shows that this is separate from the state. The third makes the ambition clear. The rest is detail.

We’re now bringing new tools for:

  1. obtaining infrastructure without debt
  2. trade without money
  3. robust, multi-layered asset locks
  4. resilience against sale, co-option or cancellation
  5. community ownership
  6. democratic decision-making
  7. federation

The whole range of existing co-operative institutions will also be part of it. We’re not looking to abandon co-ops. I’d choose a co-op or a mutual over a corporation every time (and I do), but the co-op movement can’t be considered revolutionary any more – at least not on its own. It’s a palliative (which isn’t a bad thing) – as is state ownership. And seizing power by force is a fading pipe-dream (as well as a bad thing).

But we absolutely have to work together. There aren’t enough of us not to. It’s not about trying to get a bigger slice of the pie for one section of society. It’s about baking a new pie."