The Industrial Commons

What It Is and Why It Matters

Centuries ago a commons referred to the land where animals belonging to people in the community could graze. The commons did not belong to any one farmer; it was shared or collectively owned. All were better off for having access to it. Accordingly, everyone benefited when it was healthy, and everyone was hurt when it declined. Today, the term commons can be used to describe many public spaces, ranging from fishing grounds to public goods such as the education system and the transportation infrastructure.1

An analogous concept exists for industries. For any given industry—say, automobiles—companies in any given region usually draw from a common set of suppliers and human resources. ...

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