In the Israeli discourse, economic policy usually concerns things that can be quantified and given a price tag.
But in effect, a significant portion of our essential resources are things we use for free: the rich language of the Torah and the Qur’an, the rare beauty of the Ramon Crater and the Dead Sea, the folklore and folk songs we grew up with, cultural classics from Shakespeare to the Mona Lisa and from Umm Koulthoum to the Beatles, the insects that fertilize fruit trees, the crocus and the wagtail that herald the coming of autumn. And the ability to count on the community: from the coalescence of friends during time of crisis to organ donation to the “economy of love”—parents who care for their young children and children who care for their aging parents. Some of these are gifts of nature and others of history; some of them, like the Internet, are new, and others, like folklore, are ancient. But they form the basis of our lives more than do the economy or the state. At one and the same time, these things belong to no one and to everyone: they are common property.
Economic and social policy-makers must take these things into consideration and recognize their value. The entire population—regardless of sector or proximity to loci of influence—must be able to enjoy this common property. Once this has been ensured, everything will look different. The apparent polarization between a welfare state versus a thriving market economy, between the public sector and the private sector will be revealed as illusory. For example, if we use the market correctly, it can be a font of innovation and power that will help guarantee the well-being of all. If we acknowledge the immeasurable value of things that have no price tag—things like clean air, public spaces free of violence and crime, truly equal opportunities, and a thriving civic culture—we will be able to establish an economy, society, and culture that will generate and fulfill the promise of common property, to benefit our generation and future generations.