Talk:ABC of Commons Economics

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Bob Haugen Says:

May 26th, 2013 at 11:59 pm e

For an ontology that would tie a lot of the economic concepts together, you could look at

That’s the model behind the value network accounting system for SENSORICA, which you can see here:

And the software is here:

Here’s a more “ontological” (but earlier) view of the ISO model:

Poor Richard

I. First, the list of commons economic terms in the original article has a very notable omission:


I suggest that we avoid coining new words, phrases and “commons jargon” for ideas and terms that already exist and have reasonably well-established meanings in public and academic discourse. Language is one of our most important commons and its conservation and good stewardship is important.

Suggested terms with utility for commons economics:

   subsidiarity  In my opinion this may be the single most important concept in modern society. “Subsidiarity is an organising principle of decentralisation, stating that a matter ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralised authority capable of addressing that matter effectively. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military, and, … In political theory, subsidiarity is sometimes viewed as a principle entailed by the idea of federalism.”
   conditional ownership
   absentee ownership
   doctrine of laches
   rule against perpetuities
   community land trust
   community property
   concurrent estate
   conservation easement
   public easement
   public interest
   beneficial interest
   deed restriction
   benefit association
   mutual association
   benefit corporation

II. Secondly, we might consider referring to some existing top-level vocabularies (data dictionaries, ontologies, etc.) and perhaps building the commons-based economics vocabulary as an extension (specialized domain) of one or more of these.

Below is a graphic of the GoodRelations e-comerce vocabulary (click to enlarge in another window). I include this graphic not for its specific terminology but because it conveys several concepts at a glance. The use of a Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagram would allow us to show terms grouped into logical classes and the relationships between those classes. But this is not only a step towards a standardized and machine-readable dictionary of terms; it is also a model of economic processes. I think this would be a very useful kind of model to create for an Economics of the Commons. Rather than invent the Commons Economy Model from scratch we could borrow from existing models like GoodRelations and adapt them as necessary.

At the most basic level, such a diagram would allow us to hyperlink each term to a standard definition such as those given in the UNITED NATIONS METADATA COMMON VOCABULARY. Note that in the UN Metadata dictionary each term is not only defined but there are references to relevant organizations, standards, specifications, urls, etc.

Such a model could be created and updated collaboratively using tools like Prezi, Mindmap, Debategraph, etc.

Once we create our model, software engineers can render it into various machine-readable protocols such as XML, RDF, OWL, etc.

Other examples of standardized vocabularies designed for both human-readable and machine-readable information exchange:


Other UN data and metadata dictionaries, vocabularies, data sets, etc.

The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), which is XML-based, has a variety of schemas (vocabularies) used to facilitate information exchange among partners in various disciplines, government-wide. It’s about achieving interoperability. Think of the NIEM data model as a mature and stable data dictionary of agreed-upon terms, definitions, and formats, independent of how information is stored in individual agency systems.

GoodRelations is a standardized vocabulary (also known as “schema”, “data dictionary”, or “ontology”) for product, price, store, company data, etc. GoodRelations is now fully compatible with the HTML5 microdata specification and can be used as an extension for the vocabulary. The schemas are a set of ‘types’, each associated with a set of properties. The types are arranged in a hierarchy.

The geopolitical ontology, developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), provides names in seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Spanish, Russian and Italian) and identifiers in various international coding systems (ISO2, ISO3, AGROVOC, FAOSTAT, FAOTERM, GAUL, UN, UNDP and DBPediaID codes) for territories and groups and tracks historical changes from 1985 up until today;[2] provides geolocation (geographical coordinates); implements relationships among countries and countries, or countries and groups, including properties such as has border with, is predecessor of, is successor of, is administered by, has members, and is in group; and disseminates country statistics including country area, land area, agricultural area, GDP or population.

Lists of other ontologies: