Get the best of Commons Magazine — FREE!


(By LaDawna Howard under a CC license.)

The 2014 Election Could Have Turned Out Differently

January 12, 2015 | By David Morris

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. 

A light rail station in Santa Clara, California. (By Richard Masoner under a CC license)

11 Ways Transit, Bikes & Walk Move Us Toward a Brighter Future

January 11, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

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. 

(By Laity Lodge Family Camp under a CC license.)

How to Save the Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay

January 9, 2015

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

New York's High Line is a popular poster child for Creative Placemaking. (By David Berkowitz under a CC license)

What's All the Buzz About Creative Placemaking?

January 8, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

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

Drinking water for New York City is protected by strict land use policies in places far from the city. (By David Leip under a CC license.)

An Unexpected Success Story Links Our Health to Wild Lands

January 6, 2015

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. 

Will Pope Francis' Humanitarian Values Shape Church Policies?

December 16, 2014 | By David Morris

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.

(By Chris Goldberg under a CC license)

The Retail Jungle

December 15, 2014 | By David Morris

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.   

By Chuck Grimmett under a CC license

Alaska Deftly Balances Privacy Rights and Public Interest

December 9, 2014 | By David Morris

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.

Great city neighborhoods are often mid-rise, not high-rise. (By La Citta Vita under a

Great city neighborhoods are often mid-rise, not high-rise. (By La Citta Vita under a CC license) 

How to Create Commons-Friendly Neighborhoods

December 4, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

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.

(By Jeremy Hunsinger under a CC license)

Hope For Imagining a World Beyond Corporate Control

December 4, 2014

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.

By Moyan Brenn under a CC license

These Trails Are Made for Sharing

December 3, 2014

I love to hike. Some of the things I look for in a good trail are a physical challenge, wild nature, impressive terrain, and solitude.  I’ve hiked in some spectacular places with all of these features – Mount Rainer, the Smoky Mountains, Jackson Hole, Glacier National Park, and Old Pali Road in Hawaii.  These places all fill me with a sense of awe. Sometimes, I also feel a sense of unity or connectedness to a larger world -- an experience I seldom have while indoors.

By Alfredo Mendez under a CC license from flickr.com

Debating the Sharing Economy

November 21, 2014

The “sharing economy” has attracted a great deal of attention in recent months. Platforms such as Airbnb and Uber are experiencing explosive growth, which, in turn, has led to regulatory and political battles. Boosters claim the new technologies will yield utopian outcomes—empowerment of ordinary people, efficiency, and even lower carbon footprints. Critics denounce them for being about economic self-interest rather than sharing, and for being predatory and exploitative. Not surprisingly, the reality is more complex.

By Susan Sermoneta under a CC license

The Great Promise of Social Co-Operatives

November 18, 2014 | By David Bollier

The austerity agenda is often presented as inevitable, which is really just a way for corporatists and conservatives to dismiss any discussion or debate. “There are no alternatives!” they thunder.  But as Co-operatives UK demonstrates in a brilliant new report, there are a growing array of highly practical alternatives that are both financially feasible and socially effective. They are known as multi-stakeholder co-operatives, or more simply as “social co-operatives.” 

By Tripu under a CC license

Birth of A Movement for Healthier & Happier Lives

November 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

There are few things more basic to human life than walking. 

We lost sight of this fact over recent decades, building new communities all over the world where moving on foot is dangerous or unappealing, if not downright impossible. That’s beginning to change now as research shows the simple of act of walking offers surprising benefits for our health, our prosperity and the vitality of our communities.

By Erik Soderstrom under a CC license

Walking is Going Places

November 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Walking is going places. 

Humans’ most common pastime--forsaken for decades as too slow and too much effort-- is now recognized as a health breakthrough, an economic catalyst and a route to happiness. 

Walking is Going Places

November 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Walking is going places. 

Humans’ most common pastime--forsaken for decades as too slow and too much effort-- is now recognized as a health breakthrough, an economic catalyst and a route to happiness. 

By Orin Zebest under a CC license

Democrat Candidates Lose. Democrat Issues Win

November 6, 2014 | By David Morris

On November 4th, Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.  

In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. While the majority of them did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects), scores of initiatives did let voters weigh in on hot button issues.  And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.

By Alba Soler under a CC license

Our Children's Trust

October 30, 2014

An eight-year-old today asks “Will there still be snow when I grow up?” and we know that his question has merit.  The world is changing, and it’s not just about snow.  The world we’ll be leaving our children will be far more toxic and the natural world far less accessible than any other generation has ever experienced.   In addition to extinction of species, there will also be an “extinction of experience.”  

By Lieven Soete under a CC license

Economics As If Future Generations Mattered

October 23, 2014

We have turned a corner on climate change-- a wrong turn-- and it is happening more rapidly than we have predicted. Climate change is already disrupting society, ecosystems, and national economies. We have altered so much of our Earth that we now threaten our own survival. 

(By Steve Rhodes under a CC license)

Our Climate is Everyone's Property

October 20, 2014

Can an ancient legal principle with roots in Roman law serve as a tool for the climate protection movement?