Politics of the 21st Century: Reviving the Commons for the Benefit of all

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steals the goose from off the common
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose
English Folk Song 1750

THE COMMONS, n., gifts of nature and society; the wealth we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children

Land, the atmosphere, the oceans, radio waves, the money system, the arts and science, the internet are all commons . No one created the land beneath our feet, the earth’s atmosphere, electromagnetic spectrum, fisheries. Cultural or knowledge commons are human products but collective ones – each artist or scientist adds a small contribution to what many others have already done.

When society encloses and abuses common resources for privatised gain the result is overuse and degradation of natural commons – like the earth’s atmosphere when too much carbon fuel is burned, creating climate change. On the other hand cultural and knowledge commons are under-used because corporations, funding incremental contributions to the arts, science and culture, then try to restrict use in order to charge royalties – impoverishing the processes whereby arts, culture, knowledge and science are disseminated and co-created.

Rentiers abuse commons by privatising what they did not create. 0.3% of Britons own 63% of the land – and land rents are a charge for the amenity value of the sites they own – ie for the convenience of access to roads, commuter rail links, city commercial centres, to schools, hospitals, policing, lighting, parks, public management arrangements – these are not provided by landowners who nevertheless cash in by charging for site proximity to common amenities. Meanwhile, because the money system is also a commons on which we all depend, it cannot be allowed to collapse. So we end up paying out for the speculative gambling losses made by bankers with our taxes and our jobs. This is because they have privatised the right to create 97% of the money in circulation as credit creation, and too often this is for speculative purposes in which we end up the losers while they get rescued.

In this talk ecological economist Brian Davey, member of Feasta, demonstrated how many problems can be traced back to the mismanagement of common resources and argue for a new politics for the commons. What can be done given that rentier interests are so influential behind the scenes in the political system?

Can we find a new form of management, propertising without privatising, and managing the commons in the interests of all?

Talk with power point presentation followed by discussion

International Community Centre, 61b Mansfield Road, Nottingham

7.30pm Friday 15th October (World Commons Day)


Nottingham Commons Study Group – in association with Cafe Sci-Culturelle – further info [email protected] 0798 400 2478

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