Common Property Regime

From P2P Foundation
Jump to: navigation, search

From the Wikipedia article on Common Pool Resources at



"The term "common property regime" refers to a particular social arrangement regulating the preservation, maintenance, and consumption of a common-pool resource." (


From the Wikipedia article at

"Common property regimes arise in situations where appropriators acting independently in relationship to a common-pool resource generating scarce resource units would obtain a lower total net benefit than what is achieved if they coordinate their strategies in some way, maintaining the resource system as common property instead of dividing it up into bits of private property. Common property regimes typically protect the core resource and allocate the fringe through complex community norms of consensus decision-making facing the difficult task to devise rules that limit the amount, timing, and technology used to withdraw various resource units from the resource system. Setting the limits too high would lead to overuse and eventually to the destruction of the core resource, while setting the limits too low would unnecessarily reduce the benefits obtained by the users.

In common property regimes there is no free access to the resource and common-pool resources are not public goods. While there is relatively free but monitored access to the resource system for community members, there are mechanisms in place which allow the community to exclude outsiders from using its resource. Thus, in a common property regime, a common-pool resource has the appearance of a private good from the outside and that of a common good from the point of view of an insider. The resource units withdrawn from the system are typically owned individually by the appropriators.

Analysing the design of long-enduring CPR institutions, Elinor Ostrom (1990) identified eight design principles which are prerequisites for a stable CPR arrangement:

1. Clearly defined boundaries

2. Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions

3. Collective-choice arrangements allowing for the participation of most of the appropriators in the decision making process

4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators

5. Graduated sanctions for appropriators who do not respect community rules

6. Conflict-resolution mechanisms which are cheap and easy of access

7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize (e.g., by the government)

8. In case of larger CPRs: Organisation in the form of multiple layers of nested entreprises, with small, local CPRs at their bases.

Common property regimes typically function at a local level to prevent the overexploitation of a resource system from which fringe units can be extracted." (


On the Difference between Common Pool Resources and Common Property Regimes

George Caffentzis in a presentation on the Neo-Hardinians scholars of the Commons:

"Scholars in the neo-Hardinian tendency have carried on many important empirical studies of common property systems across the planet as well as have made a number of important distinctions in the study of common property. This is not the place to assess their empirical studies (cf. the extensive bibliography on Private and Common Property Rights in (Ostrom 2000: 352-379) and the Digital Library on the Commons mentioned above), but their most important theoretical distinctions are worth reviewing, since some can be useful to the anti-capitalist commonist movement.

Of course, the primary one is between common property and open access regimes, since the confusion between them is the basis of Hardin's deduction of the tragedy of the common. Common property regimes are "where the members of a clearly demarcated group have a legal right to exclude nonmembers of that group from using a resource. Open access regimes (res nullius)-including the classic cases of the open seas and the atmosphere-have long been considered in legal doctrine as involving no limits on who is authorized to use a resource" (Ostrom 2000: 335-336). On the basis of this distinction, common property and open access regimes are mutually exclusive and anyone who had as their political ideal the creation of an open access regime would not be a supporter of the commons.

The second important distinction is between a common-pool resource (which is a thing or stuff) and a common property regime (which is a set of social relations). A common-pool resource is such that (a) "it is costly to exclude individuals from using the good either through physical barriers or legal instruments and (b) the benefits consumed by one individual subtract from the benefits available to others" (Ostrom 2000: 337). Because of its two defining characteristics, a common-pool resource is subject to problems of congestion, overuse and potential destruction. Access to, withdrawal from, management and ownership of such a resource can be in the form of a common property regime, but it need not be. "Examples exist of both successful and unsuccessful efforts to govern and manage common-pool resources by governments, communal groups, cooperatives, voluntary associations, and private individuals or firms" (Ostrom 2000: 338). Much of the work of the neo-Hardinians has been to study what attributes of common-pool resources that "are conducive to the use of communal proprietorship or ownership" and what attributes of common-pool resources that "are conducive to individual rights to withdrawal, management, exclusion and alienation" (Ostrom 2000: 332).

The neo-Hardinians, however, seem to be less interested in the fact that not all common property regimes involve common-pool resources. On the contrary, when we examine the history of common property regimes, we must conclude that many have been based on non-common-pool resources. For example, money income, personal belongings, literary texts, and even children have been communalized. Thus the 15th century Taborites' first act of forming their community was to dump all their personal belongings in large open chests and begin their communal relations on an even footing (Federici 2004: 54). On the basis of the history of common property regimes it is difficult to decide what types of goods are "conducive" to private property and what kinds of goods are "conducive" to common property.

The third important distinction is between common-pool resources (e.g., a fishery, a river) and public goods (e.g., knowledge of a physical law, living in a just and peaceful society). They share one characteristic, i.e., it is difficult to exclude people living within the scope of these resources or goods from their enjoyment. But they also differ in another characteristic, for a common-pool resource like a fishery is reduced when something of value like a particular fish is withdrawn from it while a public good like knowledge of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not diminished when still another person uses it to construct a new engine." (