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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Boy Scouts Claim to Own the Word “Scout”

Boy Scouts Claim to Own the Word “Scout”

October 13, 2008

In 2002, attorney Greg Wrenn started a youth group call “Youthscouts” because he wanted his daughter to participate in an organization, unlike the Boy Scouts, that does not discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. But despite countless uses of the word “scouts” before Boy Scouts of America was formed in 1910, and the existence in following years of the American Boy Scouts, the New England Boy Scouts, and the Lone Scouts of America, the Boy Scouts of America is now suing Youthscouts for violating its alleged trademark in the word “Scouts.”

A Chance to Spread the Word

A Chance to Spread the Word

October 10, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

On the Commons seeks your help.

We are preparing a book, The Field Guide to the Commons, and we’d love your recommendations of what should appear in this book—from your own work and that of other people you know who are engaged in the subject. This could include anything from a blog entry you think captures some essential point about the commons to a meticulously thought-out manifesto or artwork.

Free Culture Convergence

Free Culture Convergence

October 9, 2008

The following was sent to On the Commons from Students for Free Culture, Berkeley chapter. Their manifesto says it all. “We believe that culture should be a two-way affair, about participation, not merely consumption. We will not be content to sit passively at the end of a one-way media tube…”

A New Dismal Science -- “Happiness Economics”

A New Dismal Science -- “Happiness Economics”

October 9, 2008 | By David Bollier

In the mid-1990s, my colleague Jonathan Rowe co-authored a major piece in The Atlantic about the gross deficiencies of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a way to measure national well-being and progress. The essential point was that our nation’s obsession with economic growth as an end in itself was (and is) trampling on all sorts of other forms of wealth that we must also nurture. We need stable families and communities as much as economic growth — and sometimes the two are in direct conflict.

Treating Health Care as a Commons

Treating Health Care as a Commons

October 7, 2008 | By David Bollier

From my reading of history, medical care was once a more intimate and ethical endeavor, a calling that involved a respectful communion between doctor and patient. However, in recent decades, at least in the United States, it is clear that medical care has become a technology-driven market transaction. Doctors who were once skilled at seeing illness in the context of the “whole person” are more likely, in today’s environment, to know how to rush patients through 15-minute assembly-line appointments and game the insurance/Medicare system with the right billing codes.

The Embarrassing Transience of Stadium Names

The Embarrassing Transience of Stadium Names

October 6, 2008 | By David Bollier

Imagine the public confusion that would result if your city government changed the names of major landmarks every few years at the behest of some corporation. Main Street could become Home Depot Avenue, and then a few years later, Budweiser Boulevard. This is roughly the scenario now playing out with sports arenas as companies are engulfed by scandal, acquired by other corporations and mismanaged into bankruptcy.

When Free Market Fantasies Collapse

When Free Market Fantasies Collapse

September 30, 2008 | By David Bollier

When irresistible political fantasies collide with inexorable economic realities, the result is…..abject confusion.

Vermont Protects Public Rights to Groundwater

Vermont Protects Public Rights to Groundwater

September 29, 2008

Who owns the water? While oceans, rivers and other surface waters have been recognized as part of the commons going back to the Magna Carta—and beyond that to the Roman Empire, when the public trust doctrine was articulated to ensure people’s right to use seashores—the issue of groundwater has been less crystal clear. In many cases, it’s assumed that landowners are guaranteed rights to all water below the surface of their property.

Video Game Pits Commoners vs. Enclosure

Video Game Pits Commoners vs. Enclosure

September 26, 2008 | By David Bollier

The commons has surely come of age now that there is a video game to illustrate the political dynamics of enclosure! A hearty commoners’ salute to Molleindustria, an Italian team of artists, designers and programmers who create “radical games against the dictatorship of entertainment.” Their latest creation is the flash-animation Free Culture Game: A Playable Theory.

Financial Markets As Commons

Financial Markets As Commons

September 26, 2008

In the fight over the bailout, the rhetoric of Main St. vs. Wall Street is politically important in contrasting the real economy with the speculative casino economy. But we should also embrace all financial markets as part of the commons that sustains healthy communities.

Our sophisticated financial markets have been built over several generations and are regulated at taxpayer expense through oversight institutions such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It's Time to Reconsider Government Ownership of Companies

It's Time to Reconsider Government Ownership of Companies

September 26, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

At a moment’s notice, the old rules and certainties about our economy have been tossed out the window.

For almost 30 years, the clear message from corporate headquarters, economic gurus and Washington itself has been that government has no useful role to play in business. Deregulate everything in sight and then let the market can work its magic—that was Ronald Reagan’s recipe for prosperity, which was eventually endorsed by most Democrats.

How State Government Can Protect Open Spaces

How State Government Can Protect Open Spaces

September 25, 2008 | By David Bollier

Sometimes enclosure is not a metaphor, but literal. A new report from Environment America, the public-interest group, documents how nearly 22 million acres of land – an area larger than the state of Maine – fell victim to development between 1992 and 2003. The sources: suburban sprawl, industrial growth, drilling, logging, mining. The loss of open spaces means that ecosystems will suffer as habitat for wildlife shrinks, and humans will have less clean water, fresh air and recreational spaces.

The Cap and Dividend Solution

The Cap and Dividend Solution

September 25, 2008

Peter Barnes gave this testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington DC on September 18, 2008. For more on the Cap and Dividend effort visit the website.

Private Property and the Power of Magical Thinking

Private Property and the Power of Magical Thinking

September 23, 2008 | By David Bollier

Now here’s a case lesson in how modern industrialized societies are so besotted by the powers of private property that they can’t help but attribute near-magical powers to them.

What Will Commoners Get from the Bailout?

What Will Commoners Get from the Bailout?

September 21, 2008 | By David Bollier

Geez, I didn’t know we taxpayers had $700 billion in loose change to spend on worthless mortgages….er, under-performing assets. Last I heard, it was far too expensive to spend a fraction of that on, say, universal health care, which would at least benefit everyone.…

Debunking the Tragedy of the Commons

Debunking the Tragedy of the Commons

September 18, 2008

The fallacies of the “tragedy of the commons” argument have been made many times since biologist Garrett Hardin made them in 1968. But given the persistence of the metaphor as a justification for privatization, it is always worth revisiting the issue. A recent critique of the “tragedy” myth, by Ian Angus, editor of Climate and Capitalism, appears in The Bullet, an e-bulletin of the Socialist Project, an organization based in Toronto.

Open Source Water

Open Source Water

September 17, 2008 | By David Bollier

Calling itself the “anti-bottled water bottled water,” a company called Tap’dNY is selling purified New York City tap water in bottles. “We don’t travel the world from Fiji to France seeking water or offer the usual bottled water gimmicks. We work with NYC’s public water system to source the world’s best tasting tap water, purify it through reverse osmosis and bottle it locally, leaving out ludicrous transportation miles.”

Fighting Global Warming in Your Own Backyard

Fighting Global Warming in Your Own Backyard

September 17, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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p(photo-credits). Copyrighted image from Ashton Hughes Parish Council publication.


Global climate change hits us as an overwhelming, yet distantly abstract problem. It’s worth losing sleep over, but with the cool summer we’ve had here (only a few days over 90F—a rare blessing) not too many people in Minnesota are complaining about long nights spent tossing and turning.

Publishers Take Aim at Open Access

Publishers Take Aim at Open Access

September 17, 2008 | By David Bollier

Last year, one of the most significant triumphs for public access to scientific knowledge came when Congress enacted a law requiring all research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be available for free on the Internet, under so-called open-access rules. We taxpayers pay some $29 billion a year for medical research, so it is simple justice that we ought to have free and easy access to what we’ve bought.

Paying for Wall Street’s Speculative Greed

Paying for Wall Street’s Speculative Greed

September 15, 2008 | By David Bollier

Ah, now I get it! The “ownership society” means that We the People get to own the distressed and worthless investments that Wall Street suddenly needs to unload. Imagine if all our Social Security funds had been privatized, as the Bush Administration sought in 2005.