Q. Another area of your work which is becoming increasingly popular in anticapitalist circles is the idea of the commons. Could you briefly explain what it means and why it is important to the struggle against capitalism?
DH. Let's examine the question of housing for the moment. It is almost standard thinking that in order to get housing you have to be a homeowner. Therefore the private property system dominates housing provision. I think that's really problematic. For a lot of people being a homeowner is not good economics – they don't have the incomes. But being a tenant is a vulnerable situation. So, you might want to have a completely different kind of property regime for the delivery of use values to a significant section of the population.
I think there are ways to try to reorganise what goes on in housing provision through common property regimes. Not state-owned, I want to be clear. This would be social housing which would be co-operatively developed, managed and structured. There are interesting schemes in the United States, for example, called 'limited equity co-operatives'. If you participate you can't sell out at a market price. You can only get close to the value you started with. If you got into the housing co-op for €100,000 and twenty years later you want to get out – you get €100,000 plus the inflation or something similar. You can't go and sell it for a million. So this means there is a permanent pool of housing which is available for a population that can't afford a million but could afford €100,000 on a reasonable mortgage.
On housing provision, we have to get out of that frame of mind that says 'the only way you can really do this is through home ownership'. That idea of home ownership has been pedaled for political and economic reasons. Most people have absorbed the idea that this is the only way in which housing can be provided. Arguing for a different property rights regime seems to me to be critical. Many areas that have been commodified need to be returned to a common property idea. I think education and health care are common property rights. To the degree that our world is not delivering good use values for those things it is because it is privatised and turned into a private property right. I'm concerned to support wherever I can initiatives which start to generate common property rights regimes in place of private ones.
That common property regime is not state ownership. We've got a dichotomy right now between state and market which is misleading. Neither state nor market but a collective form of provision.