Bob Dylan’s autobiography Chronicles offers a good demonstration of the old saw that great artists steal — though in fact, I wish we’d get rid of the theft image here. Let us say instead that great artists are commoners. They enter and live in that vast inheritance, the cultural commons.
Would it be possible to map Dylan’s own debts to that heritage? He himself tells us a lot about where to look.
An in-law of mine who does rural development work in the Philippines told me about a new water system he worked on in a mountain village. It proceeded in two stages. First, the water was piped to a common containment pool. In stage two it went from there to individual houses.
It has been a tough couple of years in the effort to unite labor, community, and environmental groups, an alliance that has always been strained.
We’re clomping through a field of scrubby, rough grass when Seitu Jones suddenly motions skyward. I spot an indistinguishable shape soaring above. “It looks bigger than a hawk,” he says after close study. “I saw an eagle here last winter. All kinds of birds use this area as a flyway down to the Mississippi River.”
(By Alyce Santoro under a Creative Commons license.)
For people who participate in commons, peer production or co-operatives, the emerging economy presents a frustrating paradox in the enormous mismatch between cooperative culture on the one hand and the organizational forms, on the other hand, that can sustain it and advance the general well-being of society.
If chilly days are part of your town’s weather, you can be sure your winters are getting colder in the eyes of the world even though temperatures may be getting warmer.
Many people take vitamins to promote their health. Most vitamins come in tablet or capsule form and are sold in bottles. Recently, Richard Louv in his book, The Nature Principle, suggested a type of vitamin that doesn’t come in pill format. This is Vitamin N, with “N” referring to nature.
Louv’s basic theme is that we can become happier, healthier and smarter through more contact with the natural world. A growing number of pediatricians and other physicians are actually prescribing a daily dose of Vitamin N as a way to enhance our health and well-being.
Understanding the commons is critical for saving us from climate chaos. The fact that we all depend on the earth’s atmosphere for survival provides a strong foundation for new policies to protect us from polluters who wantonly jeopardize everyone’s future.
This view is being voiced frequently on the frontlines of green activism. But it’s also being heard in unexpected places too, such as the Vatican.
Since its passage in 2009, ferocious opposition to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) had proven a devastatingly effective electoral strategy for Republicans. In 2010, they gained a net 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives. They gained political control of 11 additional states, bringing their total to 25. When the ACA went into effect in late 2013 virtually all 25 were refusing to expand Medicaid, a decision they were permitted to make by a June 2012 Supreme Court ruling overturning the mandatory expansion provision in the law.
Americans made 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2013--the highest number since 1956 when the massive mobilization to build highways and push suburban development began.
There’s long been a notion that, because money is a prerequisite for survival and security, everyone should be assured some income just for being alive. The notion has been advanced by liberals such as James Tobin, John Kenneth Galbraith, and George McGovern, and by conservatives like Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Richard Nixon. It’s embedded in the board game Monopoly, in which all players get equal payments when they pass Go.
And yet, with one exception, Americans have been unable to agree on any plan
This is an exciting time for America’s neighborhoods as people come together--block by block, coast to coast--to boost the places they call home. Too many communities are still devastated by disinvestment, poverty and crime, but signs of hope are sprouting everywhere as folks roll up their sleeves to restore a sense of place and possibility in cities, suburbs and small towns
Environmental disasters caused by human folly are all too familiar. But what about the environmental serendipity? The unexpected stories where nature and humans co-exist harmoniously. They do happen, and some may be found close at hand by looking at your faucet and following the water back to its source.
By the Catholic Church of England and Wales under a CC license.
On December 10th the Vatican released the text of still another vigorous message by Pope Francis in support of oppressed workers. “(M)illions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery,” he asserts.
Every month the federal government issues a new jobs report. Then, the stock market gyrates, pundits pundify, politicians politic. Whether employment expands slowly or fast one central fact remains. The fastest growing occupations all pay low wages: retail salespersons, cashiers, food preparation and food service workers such as waiters and waitresses.
Politicians left and right often use pet phrases to justify their positions: states rights, individual liberty, personal responsibility. Rarely are these consistently applied.
Even more rarely do politicians or political parties offer a coherent framework for deciding when a higher level of government should preempt a lower level of government or when individual liberty trumps state regulation. Which makes what has happened in Alaska so refreshing and instructive. The issue addressed was the right of individuals to use drugs when the state outlaws their use.
Battle lines are shaping up across American cities and suburbs today over urban density. On one side stand neighbors and developers who explain that convenient transit, walkable communities, environmental protection and continuing economic growth depend on welcoming more people-per-acre to our communities. On the other side stand developers and neighbors who plead that everything we cherish about our communities is about to vanish in the wake of hulking mega-projects.
The commons is not just a battlefield between corporate predators and those who resist them – it is also a source of hope for those willing to imagine a world beyond capitalism. It represents a space between the private market and the political state in which humanity can control and democratically root our common wealth. Both the market and the state have proved inadequate for this purpose. In different ways, they have both led to a centralization of power and decision-making.