Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Restoring the Commons is Essential for Shrinking the Economy

Richard Heinberg at Post Carbon Institute ranks the re-establishment of the commons as the third most important way of shrinking the economy.
3. Restore the commons. As Karl Polanyi pointed out in the 1940s, it was the commodification of land, labor, and money that drove the “great transformation” leading to the market economy we know today. Without continued economic growth, the market economy probably can’t function long. This suggests we should run the transformational process in reverse by decommodifying land, labor, and money. Decommodification effectively translates to a reduction in the use of money to mediate human interactions. We could decommodify labor by helping people establish professions and vocations, as opposed to seeking jobs (“slavery on the installment plan”), and by promoting worker ownership of companies. As economist Henry George said over a century ago, land—which people do not create by their labor—should be owned by the community, not by individuals or corporations; and access to land should be granted on the basis of need and the willingness to use it in the community’s interest.

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