Club provision of rural public goods: the example of upland commons councils

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  2. Dr Jeremy Robert Franks
Author(s)Franks JR
Publication type Article
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy & Planning
ISSN (print)1523-908X
ISSN (electronic)1522-7200
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The classification of goods as private, public, club and common pool resource (CPR) (based on their properties of excludability and rivalry in consumption) is used to analyse changes to upland farming agricultural policy priorities, away from objectives considered to be 'in the public good' to the provision of 'public goods'. Unregulated upland commons are CPRs that produce private goods (e.g. food) and public goods (e.g. landscape and biodiversity). But, local associations with effective powers to exclude farmers with no grazing rights and regulate grazing by farmers with grazing rights change them into club goods. Private goods are marketable, so there is an incentive for commoners to produce them at the expense of public good. To readdress this balance in favour of public goods, the agreement of all commoners is needed, for example, to enter the commons into an agri-environmental scheme. Government can intervene to increase public good provision from uplands; their choice of instrument being principally influenced by ecological effectiveness (ability to produce the type and quantity of the good required) and transaction costs. This paper discusses the decision of government to intervene through legislation that empowers local associations in England and Wales by introducing commons councils against a background of changing agricultural support programmes for upland farming. The reasons why land managers may support this institutional reform are reviewed, and the importance of the financial model used to underpin the work of commons councils is discussed. There is no reason why similar legislation could not be used to support the club provision of public goods in lowland areas, which exhibit environmental characteristics similar to upland commons.
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