The Travesty of the Anti-Commons—Conclusion


Jeff Christensen
[This is the final part of the four-part guest-post by Eerik Wissenz.]
 
As the foregoing discussion has demonstrated, the concept of the tragedy of the commons, taken together with its “killer app” in rationalizing privatization of the commons, is riddled with self-contradiction, for in order for the rights of private ownership to be exisercized, there must be a commons in which to exercise them, and in order for the right of private ownership to exist, there must be a commons to safeguard it. And so it all circles around to there having to be a commons, to which private property is but an optional add-on, and the only question that remains is, Who controls the commons? Is it a despot, a financial oligarchy, or “we the people?”

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The Travesty of the Anti-Commons—Part III

Joe Kelly

There is no reason to believe that privatizing the commons will save it from destruction; just the opposite, it is a good way to ensure that it will be destroyed.

If this starts to cause cognitive dissonance in the mind of the loyal neoliberal bureaucrat, then a fallback position can be invoked: private property is a natural want and right. Even if there weren’t infinite resources, people would still own things and do what they like with them, even onto their complete destruction, because it’s only human to want to do that.

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The Travesty of the Anti-Commons—Part II

The central message that the tragedy of the commons sends to many economists is that private ownership is better than public ownership. The argument is essentially a transposition of the old “what’s good for the master is good for the slave.” In any slave-owning society there is always plenty of justifications for slavery. Most of them boil down to slaves not being able to get along without a master. The tragedy of the commons is the same argument but with respect to non-human property such as a meadow: without a master who privately controls it and rents out access to it, the shepherds will ruin it.

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The Travesty of the Anti-Commons

[This week's guest post is by Eerik Wissenz of Solarfire. It is part one of a four-part series leading up to a wider exploration of Communities that Abide, based on the example of certain small nations which, much to the chagrin of neoliberal economists, have preserved a large and productive commons.]

In his 1968 essay “The tragedy of the commons,” Garrett Hardin argued that unrestricted access to resources held in common, and, likewise, unrestricted ability to dump waste, inexorably leads to the destruction of the commons. At the time, he may not have suspected that the term would become a formidable propaganda weapon in the hands of those who would do exactly what he was arguing against—used to sing the virtues of unrestrained self-interest while destroying the ecosystems on which we, along with all life, depend for our survival.

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Wombs, Work and Well-Meaning Wealthy Women

[A bit of sisterly advice by guest-poster Candace Makeda Moore, MD, along with a bitch-slap for those elite American women in positions of privilege and authority who drive women toward higher education and careers and, in so doing, are condemning most of them to a lifetime of debt servitude and childlessness.]

I have read many recent articles of supposedly sisterly advice for women from people in authority. The fact that this advice comes from people who are women themselves (e.g., Sheryl Sandberg et al.) makes it sound realistic. Much of this advice does make some sense—for wealthy, good-looking and otherwise privileged women. For the rest of us, I’m afraid we are being lied to.

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Undermining the Surveillance State

[Guest post by Keith Farnish, who has a new book out.]
Some people are prone to sleepwalking. The zombie-fuelled idea of a sleepwalker, with arms outstretched and eyes closed, magically avoiding contact with walls and tables, really isn’t the way people do it. More truthfully, their eyes are open with a level of awareness usually sufficient to avoid serious injury, but with actions more akin to a computer program than a fully aware individual. Many can communicate, of a fashion, but it is cursory and stilted. It’s an appropriate metaphor when describing the functional level of a typical citizen, compared to the fully connected and aware pre-industrial human.

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Wealth is not Property


Svetlana Jovanović
[Guest post by Ellen, a long-time reader of this blog that I've only just heard from recently. She makes a valid point, one I couldn't have made better myself. It makes me happy that a woman is making it, although that doesn't make it any less incendiary (for some people).]
Thank you for your series on Communities that Abide. I have been looking for a summation of successful and proven strategies for communities for some time. Reading your checklist was something of an “Aha!” moment.

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What comes first?

Lua de Proverbia

Without exception, all communities that abide have a unique and specific ideology, or faith, or set of principles, which they accept unquestioningly, and which they attempt to practice to the greatest extent possible. I decided to use the term “ideology” because it is the most neutral term and gets us away from discussing the intricacies of religion versus other types of ideology. It may be argued that all ideologies possess an element of faith. Even faith in science is still just faith: the scientist believes that the truth is discoverable through experiment rather than, say, revelation, and, as is usually the case with ideology, it is pointless to argue either way. One either accepts it, and passes, or does not, and flunks out. If you join a community, you either accept its ideology, or you don’t join.

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How (not) to organize a community

[This post first appeared in October of 2010 and met with a mixed reaction. Some people found it painful to hear that resilience and sustainability are often little more than middle-class hobbies, while the overwhelming trend throughout the world is toward a different kind of steady state, one characterized by something called durable disorder. However painful, the point stands.]

Dire predictions made by authoritative figures can provide the impetus to attempt great things: establish community gardens and farmer’s markets, lobby for improved public transportation, bike lanes and sidewalks, promote ride-sharing initiatives, weatherize existing homes and impose more stringent construction standards for new ones, construct of windmill farms and install solar panels on public buildings, promote the use of composting toilets and high-efficiency lighting and so on.

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Communities that Abide—Part V: An Example of Success

Pete Ryan

Last week’s post featured an extended excerpt from Peter Kropotkin, who counted off the main reasons of failure among communist groups: communal living, small size, and separatism from the wider world. Yes, an anarchist worker cooperative of a few dozen members that relocates into the American wilderness, shuns the world, and tries to make a go of it is likely to fail: the members will fall out with each other and live out Sartre’s dictum that “hell is other people”; they will lose their young people who will flee to seek new experiences elsewhere; they will either become enslaved by a “big brother” or become “utterly depersonalized.” Give up the thoughts of farming and of complete self-sufficiency and zero in on the concept of gardening in close proximity to a city that can offer a stimulating environment, a market for the produce and opportunities for the children as they grow up. Keep in mind, says Kropotkin, who you are: you are not “monks and hermits of old” but industrial labor that wants to get out from under the heel of the capitalists and the rentier class.

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