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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Time Magazine Heralds Common Wealth as an Idea Changing the World

Time Magazine Heralds Common Wealth as an Idea Changing the World

March 30, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Time magazine did not come right out and say the commons is a key idea influencing our future in its March 24 cover on “10 ideas that are changing the world.”

But it came close.

Leading off the cover story in the number one slot was economist Jeffrey Sachs’ essay on Common Wealth, where he made a case for embracing sustainable development and eradicating global poverty in language that evoked the commons, even though he did not use the word.

Openness in Health Care

Openness in Health Care

March 30, 2008 | By David Bollier

If there is one area of American life that could benefit from greater transparency and participation, it is the health care system. Now comes a terrific new report that describes in rigorous detail the many ways in which the open sharing of information could improve the quality of health care for everyone. Harnessing Openness to Transform American Health Care (pdf file) is a new report by the Committee on Economic Development, the business research group, released in January 2008.

The Cape Town Declaration:  A Vision for Open Education

The Cape Town Declaration: A Vision for Open Education

March 26, 2008 | By David Bollier

For years, thousands of teachers and students around the world have been applying the principles of free software, free culture and Web 2.0 to education.

Key Portion of Wireless Spectrum to Be Open Access

March 25, 2008 | By David Bollier

In the recently completed FCC auctions of wireless airwaves, enough money was bid for the much-coveted “C” block of spectrum that it will have to be offered for us on an “open access” basis. This represents a major development in assuring that wireless access to the Internet. The network will be wide open for competition and consumers will be able to plug whatever devices they want into the network.

Commoners Gather in February in Point Reyes Station

Commoners Gather in February in Point Reyes Station

March 25, 2008

The sun is setting above the forested hills of the estuary and the golden light streaks through the windows of the Old Schoolhouse Bed and Breakfast in Point Reyes Station, CA. I am here with 25 other artists, writers, organizers, activists, musicians, and educators for the annual gathering of the On the Commons to discuss our individual projects and evolve the vision of how the commons can thrive.

A Major Victory for Open Access

A Major Victory for Open Access

March 17, 2008 | By David Bollier

One of the biggest treasure troves of knowledge will soon enter the commons: a major victory for the open access movement! It involves a huge reservoir of federally funded medical research that will be put into the public domain.

The Man Who Started a Revolution in the Streets

February 10, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Hans Monderman was a Dutch traffic enginneer who transformed how Europe thinks about streets. Monderman advocated returning streets to their true role as commons by getting rid of all traffic signals and even curbs that separate pedestrians from motorists. The idea was that people should negotiate among each other how to share this public space—an idea which sounds crazy but won the enthusiastic support of those who see it in action in the Netherlands and other countries.

Business Week Praises Sky Trust Idea

Business Week Praises Sky Trust Idea

February 8, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Business Week gives admiring attention to the Sky Trust as a mechanism to deal with global warming. The piece, “Carbon Dividend?” clearly likes the idea of distributing dividends from a pool of money generated by auctioning off the right to emit carbon into the sky. A commoners’ salute to our colleague Peter Barnes!

New Eco-Patent Commons

February 8, 2008 | By David Bollier

Four major companies have just announced an innovative plan to put 31 of their patented inventions into an “eco-patent commons” so that other companies can freely use them, without first getting permission or paying a royalty. The idea, inspired by open source software and the Creative Commons, is to promote more eco-friendly manufacturing and waste-reduction processes. Bravo to IBM, Nokia, Sony and Pitney Bowes! For more, see the Eco-patent Commons web site.

The Ivy League's "Dangerous Wealth"

December 5, 2007 | By David Bollier

The presidents of major private colleges and universities like to tout their commitment to equal opportunity and diversity. This is terrific, of course, and a real change from 30 or 40 years ago. But a recent article
in Business Week suggests that the enormous wealth of elite schools is itself causing new types of savage inequality.

A Bright Outlook for the Muni Wi-Fi Commons

November 30, 2007 | By David Bollier

In recent months, after major vendors like EarthLink pulled back from their once-ambitious plans to offer wireless broadband in many major American cities, the future of municipal wireless services was seen as dismal. It was disappointing to learn that a promising new local commons might not, in fact, be economically viable. The good news is, wi-fi is alive and well.

Piracy Creates a Hit Film in Brazil

November 26, 2007 | By David Bollier

Hollywood studios have always insisted that piracy hurts the financial returns for a film – and likes to count every unauthorized viewing as lost revenue. Critics generally respond that pirated DVDs do not necessarily represent lost revenue, especially in countries where ticket prices are high and average wages are low. Piracy in those circumstances is symptomatic of an out-of-whack market that refuses to meet actual consumer demand.

Insurgents Fight the Christmas Shopping Frenzy

November 23, 2007 | By David Bollier

The day after Thanksgiving is purportedly the busiest shopping day of the year, so naturally Adbusters, the culture-jamming magazine based in Vancouver, B.C., has proclaimed today “ Buy Nothing Day.” It’s an inspired idea to raise people’s consciousness about the excesses of consumerism, which increasingly has a more apocalyptic implication, global warming.

The Brave Struggles of a Scholar/Activist

November 21, 2007 | By David Bollier

Bob McChesney is that rare bird, a scholar’s scholar who is not afraid to plunge into the real world with both feet. Five years ago, at a time when the media reform movement desperately needed some fresh ideas and energy, Bob and Josh Silver co-founded Free Press, a new grassroots, activist organization that has led the charge against media concentration.

Jamendo, a Global Commons for Music

November 19, 2007 | By David Bollier

There is a growing category of Internet-based companies known as “open businesses” that deserve far more attention than they are getting. These companies incorporate the spirit and mechanisms of the commons into for-profit business operations. To the either/or mind, which insists that everything must be public or private, profit-making or nonprofit, the idea of open business sounds like an oxymoron.

Post-Autistic Economics

November 16, 2007 | By David Bollier

It is something of an open secret that neoclassical economics has serious limitations as a way of understanding the world. But because the intellectual mindset has become so pervasive – despite its remoteness from empirical realities – it is weirdly functional. “Everyone” believes it, so it must be true. It reminds me of the closing joke in Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall about a guy with a crazy brother who thought he was a chicken: The doctor says, “Why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.”

The Coming Market in Body Parts?

November 13, 2007 | By David Bollier

The current supply of donated hearts, kidneys and livers for transplants is far too little to meet demand. So economists have a simple solution: create a market. Let people sell their organs and let donors buy them. It’s a case of balancing supply and demand. Today’s Wall Street Journal gives fresh attention to the perennial idea of establishing an organ market as a way to decrease the growing waiting list for kidneys. Organ sales have been banned in the U.S. since 1984 under a bill introduced by then-Rep. Al Gore.

How the Wealthy Deal with Wildfires

November 12, 2007 | By David Bollier

A ship capsizes and everyone is in the water, waiting for the Coast Guard to arrive. But wait! Suddenly a helicopter arrives and drops a ladder down to you, and only you, because you have paid in advance for such service. That’s more or less what is happening in fire protection in certain high-end neighborhoods these days – it’s going private.

Opting Out of Junk Mail

November 7, 2007 | By David Bollier

As the holiday season approaches and we brace ourselves for a blizzard of unsolicited catalogs, it’s perhaps worth asking: Is the U.S. Postal Service really serving our long-term interests in promoting junk mail? It is a little-known fact that the post office actively encourages junk mailers to send us 19 billion unsolicited catalogs a year. Second- and third-class mailing constitutes a huge segment of its revenues.

Outsourcing Libraries

November 6, 2007 | By David Bollier

There may be no more eloquent statement about the erosion of our civic connectedness than the news that public libraries around the country are starting to outsource their daily operations. Yes, public libraries are being privatized. This should not be entirely surprising, given how jails, highways and even military operations are being privatized these days. Yet it does raise the distressing question – If libraries are vulnerable, where will this momentum for dismantling our civic institutions end?