Friday, August 2, 2013
Outlaw of the commons.
The history of the commons is a sordid tale. Depending on the time and circumstance we see ebb and flow, wax and wane. The commons when thought of as space, is a place where exclusion is out of the ordinary and inclusion is the norm. If we look to the commons in terms of resources we think of them as belonging to the community as a whole to determine the usage of as a group through predetermined methods. "Private property from a democratic point of view amounts to the surrender of democratic control of social resources to private individuals." (Anatole Anton)
The rise of neo-liberalism features the decline of shared societal responsibility and the dis-empowerment of democracy. This dis-empowerment is needed to privatize the last vestiges of the commons (education, water districts, civic projects...) This practice is a symptom of market ideology with its never ending quest for economic expansion.
I wonder what it is that draws human beings together. Is it a sense of shared responsibility, a sense of fear or the dominant modern narrative of "in order to profit"? The way our society works now it cannot be the first reason. If we were drawn together by a shared responsibility our society would not be so exclusionary. Of course exclusion is the basis of market ideology, so is it fear? Are we so fearful of external realities that we as a society bind together? We can definitely use this as an answer during times of great turmoil. The third suggestion has to be closest to the mark as it stands today.
If this is true, why do we strive for democracy? Why not do away with it in favor of some kind of gilded aristocracy? Of course we as Americans stand for democracy over tyranny in our own eyes, unless this tyranny is in the form of economics. Adhering to a modernized version of Thucydides maxim "the rich do as they will and the poor suffer as they must." Tyranny when it comes to the means of production is exactly what we stand for.
What would happen if the means of production were a part of our modern assortment of the commons? I hear cry's shouting down the perils of big government in my cable news brain. In the age of privatization, deregulation and gridlock what simple ways can I as one man contribute to a greater emphasis of equity, in order to seek liberation from private or public tyranny? What if we were to re-appropriate all abandoned land be it once privately owned or not. What if we used that land for creative projects including the creation of raised gardens? I like to think that this would help stave off distribution issues we currently witness with availability and cost of fresh produce. What if we were to use these appropriated spaces as solar energy hubs to create decentralized power grids? I am sure there are plenty of reasons why the answer is "shut up you hippy that is not economically viable".
Is the biggest reason we cannot do the projects I mused about because that would be a return to having a commons to draw from instead of privatized dependence? We can't knock it untill we try it. I for one am tired of seeing Milton Friedman's vision tell me what I can and cannot do. It's a problem? YES IT'S A PROBLEM WITH ME!