and the Commons
Climate Trust is part of a wider context described in several books
3.0 by Peter Barnes. This summary was prepared
for a seminar conducted by Peter Barnes relating to his book Capitalism
in Dublin on 13 November 2007 and was approved by
Build a Commons Sector
Nature, community and culture ('common wealth')
are under assault from the corporate dominated private sector ('the
Corporate Sector'). Rather than attempt to improve the design of
corporations or governments (established institutions strongly resist
change), it may be more do-able to create a new, or mostly new,
Commons Sector as a third leg to the stool, with the necessary power
to preserve and enhance common wealth. The job of government should
be to preserve the balance between the Corporate Sector and the
The Commons Sector would include
- a series of ecosystem trusts that protect air, water forests and
- a mutual fund that pays dividends to all citizens, one person,
- a trust fund that provides start-up capital to every child
- a risk-sharing pool for health care that covers everyone
- a national fund based on copyright fees that supports local arts
- a limit on the amount of advertising
Trusts can help create a new Commons Sector.
- The concept
of the trust is already well established. "Trusts are centuries
old institutions devised to hold and manage property for beneficiaries".
Both private trusts and public purpose trusts (charities) are familiar
and highly developed components of our (anglo-) legal system, along
with concepts such as property rights and trust institutions.
- This concept is quite distinct from the concept of government.
Unlike governments, trustees must act with undivided loyalty to
the beneficiaries or purposes of the trust, they must preserve the
trust property, and they must act transparently.
- This trust concept can be readily applied to creating trusts to
protect the interests of nature, future generations and the poor.
- Trusts involve property held by some individuals or institution
(the trustee) for some purpose or for the benefit of a class of
beneficiaries. Three things: one, the property held in trust, two,
the purpose or class of beneficiaries and, three, the trustee.
- All within a framework of general law within which the trust interacts
with to other players in the system. Creating and maintaining that
framework is the function of government.
- We already have the property to be held in trust. Natural assets
(natural ecosystems) and social assets (markets, communications,
the internet, cultural assets etc) already exist. The property is
there: the trouble is these sorts of property don't at the moment
have property rights.
- We also have the beneficiaries - future generations, other species,
the poor etc.
- We even already have a basic framework of law within which trusts
operate - national legal systems and various systems of international
- What is missing are the particular institutional arrangements
to protect natural and social assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries
- other species, future generations, the poor etc.
Some examples of the Commons Sector already
property trusts. In the UK the National Trust, founded in 1895,
owns 600,000 acres of countryside. In the USA over 15,000 trusts
protect 9 million acres.
- Marin Agricultural Land Trust (p 85) does not buy land but enters
into agreements with landowners whereby they give up some of the
rights to use the land, eg to build on it or to clear-cut trees
to sell: in effect landowners are paid to be land stewards and to
forgo future capital gains.
Some examples of commons trusts that could
- The Sky
Trust. Permits are required to bring fossil fuels into the economy.
The permits are issued by a trust and sold to companies by way of
auction. The beneficiaries are citizens and future generations.
The trustees control the number of permits issued and the way in
which the proceeds of sale are distributed to citizens or used for
the benefit of future generations. Both in deciding how many permits
to issue and in deciding how to apply the proceeds of sale, the
trustees must act in the best interests of their beneficiaries.
- As an alternative to the trustees having a discretion as to how
the whole of the proceeds are distributed or applied, the trust
instrument might require them to distribute (say) 50% to citizens
equally and 50% for public goods such as education and ecological
- Pollution Trusts. Similar principles are applied to the discharge
of other pollutants.
- Trusts could be created to receive fees for use of public assets
such as stock exchanges, perpetual life, limited liability, copyrights,
patents which corporations currently enjoy the benefit of for free
- A Children's Opportunity Trust could be funded from contributions
from estates worth more than a certain figure and distributed to
all children equally.
Closely allied to the trust concept are
social insurance and citizens income. These are all part of the
Bringing about these changes
a better system is a first step towards having one.
- Local initiatives
- land trusts. The concept can be applied in cities as well as country
- surface water trusts. Riparian owners contract too allow their
use of the water to be limited by the trust.
- groundwater trusts. The trust limits groundwater withdrawal by
- community gardens.
- farmers' markets.
- time banks
- municipal we-fi
- Regional initiatives
- air trusts
- watershed trusts
- buffalo commons (?an Irish equivalent?)
- National initiatives
- an Irish Permanent Fund
- a Children's Opportunity Trust
- a Spectrum Trust
- Commons Tax Credits
- Global Initiatives
- a sky trust and/or Cap and Share