Commons Rent

What is commons rent?

Commons rent is a fee derived from the extraction or production of common goods. Commons rent pertains mainly to depletable commons, but some replenishable commons may also require rental fees for their protection and to enhance their production.

Who collects commons rent?

Commons rent is collected by a trust at the point of extraction or production of a resource and deposited into a commons bank (eg. a community bank, credit union, or newly-created common resource bank).

How is this rent used?

In the case of a depletable commons, the trust pays a portion of the rent generated from the extraction/production of local or regional common goods in taxes to the state. This revenue is then channeled into

• social cohesion funds for people whose quality of life is negatively impacted by the extraction or production of a resource
• resource restoration funds to replenish the depleted resource (including material and labor)

Another portion of this rent, untaxed by the state, is retained as

• commons management funds for the administration of the commons trust

Rent may also be assessed on a replenishable commons to

• promote equal access
• enhance or generate the development of new commons
• finance the administration of the trust

What are social cohesion funds?

Since people have equal property rights to their commons, they also have equal rights to the revenues produced by the management of those resources. A percentage of the rent on a depletable commons, collected by the commons trust and paid in taxes to the state, is thus used to generate social cohesion funds. These funds offer a dividend or subsistence income to all citizens, especially to socially marginalized and vulnerable people. Besides providing a dividend, social cohesion funds can be used to subsidize public goods such as social order, safety, security and employment, as well as common goods such as social networks, mutual support, education, personal health and quality of life.

What are resource restoration funds?

Although some common resources such as oil and minerals are finite, other commons exhausted through production or consumption such as forests and fisheries may be replenished. A percentage of the rents collected by a trust for a depletable commons may be paid in taxes to the state and turned into resource restoration funds for the repair or regeneration of these resources.

How can commons management funds be generated at local and regional levels?

A commons trust may assess a small rent on the private sector, or on state businesses or utilities operated by a state, for replenishable commons such as indigenous culture, education, intellectual property, music, arts, land, pastures, parks and gardens. Rent may also be assessed on depletable commons such as minerals, technological hardware, aquifers and the atmosphere. These rental fees, derived from either replenishable and depletable commons, can be used to administrate a commons trust.

How can commons management funds be generated at the global level?

A rental fee to finance multilateral programs and institutions may be assessed on many transborder commons, including

• carbon emissions
• international corporate products
• international investment
• foreign exchange transactions
• international trade
• international airline tickets
• maritime freight transport
• ocean fishing
• sea-bed mining
• offshore oil and gas
• international oil trading
• satellite parking spaces
• electromagnetic spectrum use
• internet
• information flows
• military spending and arms exports
• toxic wastes
• energy consumption

How would the adoption of commons rent transform society?

Broadly speaking, the assessment of commons rent by trusts across the world requires three significant changes:

• government shifts its primary emphasis from issuing corporate charters and licensing the private sector to approving social charters and open licenses for resource preservation and cultural and social production through commons trusts

• commons trusts exercise a fiduciary duty to preserve natural, genetic and material commons, and to protect, create or regenerate solar, social, cultural and intellectual commons, yet may also decide to rent a proportion of these resource rights to businesses

• businesses rent the rights to extract and produce a resource from a commons trust, creating profits and positive externalities through innovation, competitive products and services, and adjustment of the market to the actual costs of resources