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The common (communal) grounds that existed in the Middle Ages have largely disappeared in the Netherlands. Certain words still remind us of it, such as in our case the ‘Koppel’, or the word “gemeente” in Dutch (meaning municipality).

The disappearance of the commons through the increase in private property coincides with the emergence of capitalism and the absolute dominance of private land. We know of the many benefits this has brought us and continues to bring us daily, while also knowing that the unregulated growth of capital is difficult to contain.

Tragedy of the Commons?

In 1968, Garrett Hardin declared that the commons were doomed to fail: without ownership, no one would take responsibility for the common good. This theory of the "tragedy of the commons" proceeded to shape the concept of society for decades. Until in 2009, when Elinor Ostrom countered Hardin's theory. Hardin's attack on the commons had highlighted only one aspect of the commons: open access. Without a management structure, any kind of open access is set to fail, including the commons. Elinor Ostrom investigated the many commons that were still functioning well, notably those in non-Western countries, and discovered that open access does not mean people do not take responsibility. Ostrom described in detail the decision-making processes of the commons and was for this awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009.

On the day of her death - the evening before the Rio conference - the last article by Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012) was published under the striking title 'Green from the Grassroots'. After much time, the commons came back into consideration!

Meanwhile we have come to know modern types of commons, for example Wikipedia and the P2P Foundation. The commons are again the focus of scientific research and publications.