Value Sovereignty

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= for a more detailed treatment of the concept of value sovereignty, see the report: Value in the Commons Economy


David Bollier:

"I think it is entirely possible for markets and commons to “play nicely together,” but only if commoners can have “value sovereignty” over their resources and community governance. Market players such as businesses and investors cannot be able to freely appropriate the fruits of a commons for themselves without the express authorization of commoners. Nor should markets be allowed to uses their power to force commoners to assume market, money-based roles such as “consumers” and “employees.” In short, a commons must have the capacity to self-regulate its relations with the market and to assure that significant aspects of its common wealth and social relationships remain inalienable – not for sale via market exchange.

Author David Bollier David Bollier

A commons must be able to develop “semi-permeable boundaries” that enable it to safely interact with markets on its own terms. So, for example, a coastal fishery functioning as a commons may sell some of its fish to markets, but the goals of earning money and maximizing profit cannot be allowed to become so foundational that it crowds out commons governance and respect for ecological limits.

Of course, market/commons relations are easier when it comes to digital commons and their shared wealth such as code, text, music, images and other intangible (non-physical) resources. Such digital resources can be reproduced and shared at virtually no cost, so there is not the “subtractability” or depletion problems of finite bodies of shared resources. In such cases, the problem for commons is less about preventing “free riding” than in intelligently curating digital information and preventing mischievous disruptions. In digital spaces, the principle of “the more, the merrier” generally prevails.

That said, even digital commoners must be able to prevent powerful market players from simply appropriating their work for commercial purposes, at no cost. Digital commoners should not simply generate “free resources” for larger market players to exploit for private gain. That is why some digital communities are exploring the use of the newly created Peer Production License, which authorizes free usage of digital material for noncommercial and commons-based people but requires any commercial users to pay a fee. Other communities are exploring the potential of “platform co-operatives,” in which an networked platform is owned and managed by the group for the benefit of its members.

The terms by which a commons protects its shared wealth and community ethos will vary immensely from one commons to another, but assuring a stable, benign relationship with markets is a major and sometimes tricky challenge." (

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see also: Technological Sovereignty