The mad rush to owning everything probably started with electricity and making sure people pay to be connected to the grid and then make them stay (by getting such laws passed). Since then there has been a rush to own everything in the commons, whether it is water, land, roads, schools, prisons, the DNA of food crops....
It was stated that owning the commons was the only way to protect it from becoming a tragedy. But Ostrom cites Clark, who asks who can own the oceans for fisheries?
Lin Ostrom studied methods of handling various commons as partial systems. What I mean by partial systems is in life we are part of many systems as we need many things for us to live. For instance, we need food, water, the atmosphere, shelter, clothes, methods of communications... All of these systems are associated with a commons and how we can access the commons is part of the management of it. Lin Ostrom looked at alternative methods of managing the commons sustainably and her answer was very often not private ownership.
Institutions are rarely either private or public - "the market" or "the state." Many successful CPR (common pool resources) institutions are rich mixtures of "private-like" and "public-like" institutions defying classification in a sterile dichotomy.
They strive for an equilibrium of management of a commons. Thus leading to stability, yet the management is still open to flexibility.
Many primitive societies had completely sustainable societies thus in complete equilibrium with the environment. However their societies were often very static. Personal choice was limited. There was probably little option to take the day off sick and stay in bed reading a book. I don't know how the very nomadic Australian Aborigines handled it if someone broke their leg, were they doomed to die when they were unable to walk with the other members of their tribe?
There was not a lot of redundancy in tribal societies as we have in our society. By redundancy, I mean somebody else can take your place and there will still be enough leftover for you. For instance, in normal situations (in countries like Europe and Australia) you stay at home and recover from your illness and life goes on without you while you do so, you'll still be paid and getting all the healthcare you need.
In tribal societies although they were often extremely sustainable, there was very little personal freedom. If you were a woman, you would no doubt be a mother. Women couldn't choose to be academics or mechanics although perhaps there were positions available for "healers" (depending on the tribes) or spiritual pursuits, perhaps, depending how the society was set up. If you were a man, your first job is to protect the tribe and hunt food.
Tribal societies may not have unemployment but they didn't have many advances in healthcare. They may not have been homeless but then the whole tribe may have been nomadic. I have no idea about tribal legal systems and it probably varied vastly from tribe to tribe, and probably varied with the need for people.
Mostly though tribal societies lived in sustainable societies in equilibrium with the environment with the one famous exception being Easter Island. And they lived their sustainable lives at the expense of personal freedom and to some extent, technology development.
But in our society we have these things because we have excess. We have an abundance of labor, food, resources, education, skill and one person can fill in for another and all in all, we have a better quality of life with optimal personal freedom. We can chose to be a parent or a doctor or a mechanic... However even this abundance has gone to excess, as our excess has become a wasteful society. Wasteful of people, resources, the environment and community. We are so apt to throw people away that I only see it as a tragedy.
I like Ostrom because she talks about breaking our commons down into sustainable partial systems. But all things we need to support us, are partial systems. There is the mechanisms for fresh water, the use of used or grey water, dealing with the rubbish our society produces, harvesting food, materials to make our clothes, materials for our furnishings, homes, food, paper, computers...
In our new optimal society, we must optimize for personal freedom and abundance while still living sustainably.
We are human beings and we need other human beings in our life. We may belong to several communities
which are commons and managing them can be difficult. We have lost the art of dealing with people, yet our desire to belong remains. Care for one another.