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COMMONS MAGAZINE

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.

Can the Law be Copyrighted?

Can the Law be Copyrighted?

September 11, 2008

Carl Malamud, the crusader famous for challenging restrictions on access to government information, is at it again. This time, he is taking on the State of California over its claims that its huge body of state law is copyrighted. Malamud argues that laws, regulations and safety standards should be in the public domain.

What's a WWOOF Worth?

What's a WWOOF Worth?

September 11, 2008

WWOOF is a profoundly bad acronym. Sure, it’s useful: it can function, in its various forms, as nearly every part of speech. It’s a verb (“I WWOOFed last summer.”). It’s an adjective (“This is our WWOOF farm.”). It’s a noun (“I am a WWOOFer.”). It’s even a gerund (“My WWOOFing was educational and productive.”).

Who Owns the Public View?

Who Owns the Public View?

September 9, 2008 | By David Bollier

There is a strip of US 192 in Osceola, Florida, that people used to consider “Tacky Town,” a drab stretch of road that was filled with junky tourist amusements and strip malls – a place with ditches lining the side of the road and no sidewalks. In the 1980s, as National Public Radio reported in a wonderful segment yesterday,

Republicans Bash Citizenship

Republicans Bash Citizenship

September 8, 2008 | By David Bollier

The Republican Party used its national convention to ridicule the very idea of public service. In her acceptance speech, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin joked, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.” Similar sneers about community organizing were made by former New York Governor George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Thinking Beyond the Nation-State

Thinking Beyond the Nation-State

September 8, 2008

An international group of citizen activists has decided that one of the best ways to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001, is to honor “Global Interdependence Day” on September 12. This year, the fourth Global Interdependence Youth Summit will be held in Brussels, Belgium, on September 9-13. The event aims at fostering new kinds of trans-national civic cooperation and global awareness.

Take Us to the Water

Take Us to the Water

September 5, 2008

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p(photo-credits). What can you find in the River? Decorate the Well in Gratitude Festival, produced by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, photo by Bruce Silcox.


When was the last time you went to a festival celebrating a new drinking fountain? Indeed, when was the last time you even knew about a new public drinking fountain being built?

New Open Dictionary For Kids

New Open Dictionary For Kids

September 3, 2008

The commons is an important concept and perhaps has no more vital place than in public education. Free education is a basic human right, and yet throughout the world, it remains a challenge. Even in the “developed” world, where free education is largely available, commercial textbook publishers and the politically-driven bureaucracy of education dominates the agenda.


Open education is a potential solution to these complex problems.

About Those Ridiculous Textbook Prices....

About Those Ridiculous Textbook Prices....

September 2, 2008 | By David Bollier

As students head back to school, one of the first things they encounter – besides the high tuition costs – are soaring textbook expenses. I blogged about this problem three years ago, but sadly, textbook prices continue to be ridiculous. The average student now spends $700 to $1,000 a year on books – which is about three times more than what students paid in 1986, according to a federal Government Accountability Office report.

Best Little Moviehouse in the Adirondacks

Best Little Moviehouse in the Adirondacks

September 2, 2008

By D. Megan Healey


It is Saturday night at the Indian Lake Theater in the small town of Indian Lake, New York. The coming attractions have only been playing for five minutes when the sound slows down and the screen suddenly turns black. I am the projectionist so I rush upstairs and find a tangled pile of film unraveling out of the projector onto the floor.

If Ecosystems Had Rights….

If Ecosystems Had Rights….

August 29, 2008

Ecuador may soon formally recognize that nature has its own inalienable legal rights. A constitutional assembly that is rewriting that nation’s Constitution has approved new articles that would treat ecosystems and natural communities as having fundamental rights to exist and flourish; they could not be treated as mere property. Under the new articles, land owners could still pursue development, but they would not be able to interfere with the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish.

Wall Street's Next Target:  Roads and Bridges

Wall Street's Next Target: Roads and Bridges

August 27, 2008 | By David Bollier

In a purported news article in today’s business section, the New York Times gave a big wet kiss to the idea of privatizing the nation’s bridges, roads and civil infrastructure. In a nearly 40 column inches, reporter Jenny Anderson casts investors as thwarted social workers ready to do their part in helping to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure.

Transnational Enclosures Threaten Patagonia

Transnational Enclosures Threaten Patagonia

August 26, 2008

Patagonia, one of the most distinctive ecological regions of South America, is now threatened by a series of major dams that the Chilean government is planning. The chief purpose of the dams is to supply electricity to copper mines, two-thirds of which are owned by transnational corporations whose allegiances are to international investors and pay little for the copper they extract.