Class Warfare Blog

February 11, 2014

The New Crisis of the Commons

A funny thing happen on the way to the present: we lost our sense of the common good. Early in our history of our nation the idea of “the commons” was structurally woven into the fabric of our culture. We embraced the idea with things like “the public domain” for intellectual properties and common lands for grazing livestock and even planting crops. These were concrete expressions of our devotion to the common enterprise of making our lives better here as opposed to “in the old country.”

Most recently, a libertarian streak has exposed itself in the fabric of our culture. We now only believe in individual liberties and not collective liberties (e.g. you are free to own all of the guns you want but I am not free from being shot by a gun wielding moron). As Robert Nielsen, a rather brilliant young Irishman, puts it: “So the left does believe in freedom, but they just view it differently. In this sense there are two types of freedom. There is negative liberty or freedom from, which is the main principle advocated by the right and there is positive liberty or freedom to, which is the main principle advocated by the left.”

Republican want freedom from government, freedom from regulations, freedom from taxes. basically the freedom to do any damned thing they want. In the past there was some semblance of balance, a balance that considered the whole rather than just the individual (aka “E Pluribus Unum”). Corporations once expressed goals concerning being good members of their communities. Now many say they are just focused on “shareholder value” but that is just a vehicle for CEO enrichment. The political parties used to express collective populist values but today they serve the rich almost exclusively. Rich people (the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, etc.) used to feel a call to public service to give back for all that our society provided them as opportunities. Today rich people are buying the political and judicial processes to serve their own agendas and are actually trying to remake society to reflect their values rather than serving the common good.

The new “Crisis of the Commons” or as it is sometimes called the “Tragedy of the Commons” is that we have lost contact with the commons entirely. The commons is not being slowly eroded by individual self-interests; it is flat out gone, lost in a sea of “individual liberties,” real or imagined.



  1. I fear its a trend in all but the Scandinavian countries.


    Comment by john zande — February 11, 2014 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

    • I believe the disease causing it is *affluenza*, first encountered in my country, the country which is sending drones with missles targeting cell phones that meta data searches believe *might* be associated with terrorist groups, but not knowing whose phone it really is. My country has done many evil things in the past but most we could confess to and endeavor to try harder to be good: apparently we have given up on that approach.

      On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 2:14 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by stephenpruis — February 11, 2014 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

      • I almost choked when i first heard the defense: affluenza. I still can’t believe it.


        Comment by john zande — February 11, 2014 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

        • It’s right up there with the Twinkie Defense. Lawyers know no shame (Judges either).

          On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 2:56 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



          Comment by stephenpruis — February 11, 2014 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

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