Telegraph Hill Stairs
How much of the light is yours?
How much, how much?
How much of Treasure Island?
And across the bay,
How much of the Mormon Temple grounds, and north,
How much of Sproul Plaza and the carillon?
How much of those Oakland hills and Berkeley hills?
How much of these steps is yours?
How much, how much?
Now look at the eastern span of the bay bridge,
Which, like a cocoon in progress,
Or like a daring spider's grand opus spun from the tower,
How much, how much?
And the water and land,
The air, the green,
The stuff of which the cities in view are built,
How much is yours?
How much, how much?
Lying on my back, looking up at the sky,
It's all gone black, 'cept the worlds far away;
And if you believe in a God of those realms,
I wish you luck whenever you pray
'cause the stars twinkle like spit from the sneeze
Of a God who's 30,000 light years away
And on this dark night when I'm feeling alone,
And on this dark night when the earth's got my back,
And on this dark night when I surely don't know,
It's you and this satellite,
Just a wee little us and this planet I crave.
Frank de Jong of Toronto produced this three minute 48 second youtube addressing public infrastructure and community land values. By permission of the Schalkenbach Foundation, rsf.org
The 1st quarter 2011-12 Kate Kennedy Prize goes to Dee Allen,
of San Francisco, for his prescient 2009 poem
When land is left vacant,
Pitch up a tent on poles
Drive ropes & stakes into the ground to secure it,
And a new home is established.
Many more tents will follow.
A village in formation.
Fertile, safe ground.
When foreclosed houses are left vacant,
Fill them up again.
With families. Give each other a roof.
A home in formation.
Warmer, safer ground.
When the workers lose jobs and the factory floor threatens to be empty, sit.
Stay. Own & operate
The means of production,
The source of your livelihood.
You don't need a boss.
When the fees for higher learning increase and teachers & classes are eliminated because the Regents hunger for more money,
The halls of education are yours
To re-shape as you see fit.
Live outside another's dictates.
The perfect storm
Hit Wall Street one year ago
And only the elite were spared.
The storm's path of destruction
And before it could bury us all,
We took shelter
What occupies our lives all along.
It is the right & a biological necessity.
What you see are warning signs
Of an insurrection forthcoming.
Bigger than this crisis.
Capitalism is on its last legs,
Turning to ruining lives & Fascism
It has then, now & always
Been the crisis.
To survive the storm surge,
here is the cure:
Strike. Take over. Occupy everything.
c Dee Allen, 2009 all rights reserved
Sun Yat-sen and Henry George
Our most recent addition to this page is the 1957 Asian Studies Journal article by Harold Schiffrin about the georgist legacy in Chinese nationalist revolutionary Sun Yat-sen's economic thinking
We link to it here, saving space on this page
Broadening the Movement:
A Blueprint for Achieving Social Justice
through Sharing Common Heritage
By Clifford Cobb*
The world faces a series of worsening crises, climate instability, rising energy costs, economic apartheid, and erosion of democratic institutions. What is required is not a set of technical instruments that try to resolve these, one at a time. We need a new social philosophy that addresses all these crises simultaneously.
Alfred Andersen promoted such a philosophy. He based it on a long line of thinkers who affirmed the principle of sharing the value of natural assets (such as land, air, water, and minerals). Andersen added the idea that the value of inherited social assets, particularly technical knowledge, should also be shared. Despite the strong pedigree of his philosophy, Andersens proposed universal sharing of those common heritage assets has not been widely embraced. On the contrary, a philosophy promoting increased privatization of the earth has grown in recent decades.
The advocates of sharing common assets need a new strategy that will have broad appeal to counter the trend toward privatization. Fighting poverty by dividing the earths bounty equally among all people must remain the guiding principle of any campaign for justice, but it is necessary in the short run to focus on social issues that are already have large constituencies. If the common heritage philosophy can provide new insights on popular social issues, it should then be possible to build a new base of political support for the economic aspects of Andersens philosophy. This essay proposes a strategy to create a political base of support for economic justice by starting with popular social issues.
The basic principles that guide the philosophy of sharing common heritage assets need explanation first, and since those principles evolved from historical discussions, we begin with a brief sketch of that history.
A little over three centuries ago, at the end of the wars of religion in Europe, there was a need for new principles of political order. Economies were being transformed from feudalism, a system based on hierarchies of personal loyalty, to capitalism, a system based on impersonal exchange. New rules were needed to define the role of private property and corresponding social duties. The principles required had to transcend the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants by defining rights and responsibilities in terms of nature rather than religion.
Starting with Hugo Grotius and his work on the law of the sea, through Samuel Pufendorf, John Selden, Thomas Hobbes, Richard Cumberland, James Tyrrell, and John Locke, commentators of that era grappled with a fundamental problemthe justification of private rights to land and other natural goods previously held for common use by members of a community. This had no simple resolution. How was it possible for a single individual to own something that God had given to all people in common?
This question arose in the 17th century in the context of specific disputes. Grotius sought to resolve an argument between the Portuguese and the Dutch over whether it was possible for one nation to have exclusive ownership of the Indian Ocean. Hobbes wrote Leviathan in search of some universal principle of order in the midst of the English Civil War. Lockes Second Treatise was an argument with Robert Filmer over the rights of royalty arbitrarily to confiscate private property. The disputes were over concrete issues and conflicting interests, not merely mental exercises.
All 17th century authors took it for granted that God had given the earth to all people in common, not just to those who had claimed title to a part of it. Starting with that premise, the difficulty lay in justifying private ownership of nature. They saw that private property in land or ocean or other gifts of nature was an obvious usurpation of the rights of the rest of humanity. Private ownership was deemed a necessary evil to achieve more productive use of nature, but it was clearly an evil, never an institution that was good in itself.
In the past three centuries, a number of writers developed the idea of common ownership of nature and balanced it with advocacy of private ownership of humanly created goods. Thomas Paine and Thomas Spence were among the strongest defenders of this balanced view in the 18thth century. Each had a distinctive method of achieving the same end, but all agreed on the need to balance private ownership of goods produced through human effort with public sharing of the fruits of nature. century. Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry George were the two of the staunchest advocates of making land common property in the 19
In the 21st century, all of that has changed. Among intellectuals, nature is now regarded as socially constructed. Creatures have become their own creators. Arrogance has replaced reverence and humility, because there is no reality greater than oneself. Even the concept of society has lost its legitimacy, in part because anything that transcends individuality seems suspiciously theological. Private property has been absolutized as an ethical principle, and one now has to make a considerable effort to defend any claims of common ownership or sovereignty. Life itself has become a new form of property through the process of patenting gene sequences. Nietzsches 19th century proclamation that God is dead has had tremendous social and political implications, and they have been suffocating, not liberating.
The erosion of support for common ownership of natural and social assets was not inevitable, and it can be reversed. To do so, we must first recognize a fundamental mistake that has been made by many progressives who favor the social proprietorship of the commons: they have lumped all forms of property together. They conflate the communal principle of sharing the gifts of nature with the idea of sharing the wealth created by labor. In this manner, some advocates of sharing the earth have undermined their own credibility and allowed the supporters of privatization to claim the moral high ground in public debate.
A clear distinction must be made between universal rights in nature and legitimate property rights in created products. This is not merely an abstract philosophical issue. It has numerous concrete implications in our daily lives. Above all, it means shifting taxes off labor and onto the ownership of property, particularly those forms of property that derive their value from nature.
During his lifetime, Alfred F. Andersen promoted a vision of sharing the value of natural resources among all people, first within nations, and ultimately on a global basis. The Tom Paine Institute, established by Andersen, advocated the ideas first developed in Thomas Paines 1797 treatise Agrarian Justice, which proposed leasing land and other resources at market value and distributing the revenue among all residents. Extending the original proposal, the Tom Paine Institute recommended taxing the excess profits of high-tech firms and distributing those revenues in the same manner. The logic behind this technology tax was to capture for the public the value of intellectual property that is inherited from past generations. Andersen regarded this as another aspect of common heritage that should benefit the entire population and not merely a small number of individuals. (I would recommend a slightly different alternative: an excess profits tax on firms that make substantial use of intellectual property. That would collect the economic surplus for public use and avoid the unnecessary destruction of marginal firms in this category.)
Like other recent authors, Andersen proposed that all natural resources should be treated as common heritage. Thus, he endorsed ideas such as the Sky Trust concept developed by Peter Barnes in his book Who Owns the Sky?, which presented a way to collect a fee from those whose carbon or methane emissions would modify the global climate. The same principle would apply to fees collected from those who add pollutants to air and water, to congestion charges on highways, and even parking fees. Such charges represent the use of prices to allocate the scare resources of nature. The proceeds would be transferred to the entire population.
The idea of charging a fee for the use of nature and sharing the revenue equally might seem like a proposal that would not be threatening to powerful interests, but it is. The wealthy at present take a disproportionate share of the common stock of resources, both renewable and non-renewable, and they aim to keep it that way. The staff at Redefining Progress learned first hand just how controversial such a proposal can be. In late 1994, the Irvine Foundation commissioned us to conduct a study of green taxes to determine if they could finance the operations of state and local government in California. The 200-page preliminary report submitted to Irvine demonstrated that green taxes were more than sufficient for the purpose. Soon after submission, we were told that there would be no follow-on grant to produce a final report and distribute it. Apparently, some elements of the report struck a nerve, particularly the chapter that recommended the public collection of fees on land values. If implemented, those fees would have transferred to the public a significant portion of the assets of many wealthy people and corporations, including the Irvine Company, which has some of the largest land-holdings in Orange County, California. Those are the assets that presumably finance the Irvine Foundations capacity to make grants.
In contrast to Redefining Progress, which shaped its message to suit its donors, the Tom Paine Institute spoke openly about the social benefits of sharing the value of common heritage assets. Whereas the focus on most discussions of green taxes has been on the environmental benefits, the use of the revenues has been treated as a side issue. For Tom Paine and his eponymous organization, the principal reason for sharing the value of resources was to alleviate poverty. Andersen estimated that in 1997 the revenue from common heritage assets in the United States would yield around $9,000 per person (or around $16,000 in 2010). Distributing that amount of money to every person in the U.S. would not make anyone rich, but it would go a long way toward keeping families out of dire poverty. For example, it would make homeownership and higher education accessible to millions of people for whom those stepping stones to middle-class life are now beyond reach.
But that vision of sharing the value of natural resources has not been able to shape modern political thought. Even though there are trillions of dollars in common heritage assets that could, in principle, be collected by a trust agency and distributed to the entire population, that plan is unlikely to gain political acceptance on its own terms. Although the logic is entirely sensible and valid, it fails the most basic political test: after many decades, it has persuaded only a small number of Americans. The rest hear it as utopian dreaming and idle speculation only distantly related to their daily livesor as a threat to their private wealth. Few Americans will give serious consideration to the redistribution of natural or inherited assets until that issue has been incorporated into a strategy based on a more encompassing vision of common heritage assets. We need a radically new strategy to challenge the now deeply engrained notion that nature can be privatized and owned by individuals without any reciprocal obligations to the community.
The implementation of Andersens concept of universal sharing of common heritage assets can thus be realized only by going beyond the terms of his vision. (The same proviso applies to other groups advocating carbon taxes, pollution fees, or taxes on land values.) What is needed is a strategy for gaining acceptance of these principles, one that is not based solely on what people ought to want. To build an effective political movement to protect common assets from further encroachment and privatization, it will be necessary to find the issues that most resonate with people today. The public will have to be roused from complacency in order to challenge further privatization. To do that, those who believe in sharing our common inheritance must begin with existing efforts and build on them, rather than trying to start from nothing.
To form a broader political constituency for sharing common heritage rights, we must first consider the many forms in which common assets appear. The commons consists of: 1) the natural resource commons, which interests the followers of Tom Paine and Henry George, who were concerned about economic equity, 2) the genetic commons, which interests medical researchers, indigenous peoples, and anyone concerned about the future health of the population, 3) the environmental commons, which interests those who care about the health of nature, 4) the information commons, which interests those who are concerned about the value of knowledge in the digital economy, and 5) the social commons, which deals with health care, immigration, abortion, education, human rights, and many other issues that have thus far been ignored by advocates of common heritage rights.
Which of the many forms of common heritage assets provides the best vehicle for gaining popular acceptance for sharing the wealth derived from them? The answer, I believe, is obvious: the issues closest to peoples hearts. No single category of common assets will appeal to everyone, but if a coalition could be built that contained all of the above elements, it could transform politics. However, a stable coalition cannot be constructed around fragmented elements. An underlying philosophy must bind the elements together, and it must be a philosophy rooted in experience.
Common Heritage in Sacred Objects and Sites
The best place to go to begin formulating a philosophy of common life is to seek cultures where that worldview is already taken for granted. In most indigenous communities in the world, common heritage assets are not simply objects with utilitythey are religious symbols. In Bolivia, a protest occurred in Cochabamba because a company had privatized the water through an agreement signed by the government. But the ensuing popular uprising in 2000 could not have been sustained if water were understood merely as a necessary and useful object. The privatization of water was a violation of Pachamamathe goddess who provides for peoples needs. This suggests that privatization of nature will only be fiercely resisted if it can be framed in terms that transcend mere utility. People will risk their lives for sacred symbols long before they will protect mere economic interests. Unfortunately, there are few cultures in the world in which nature retains that sacred quality.
In the desacralized cultures that have embraced modern values (which is now a world culture), it is difficult to mobilize action on behalf of our common heritage precisely because nothing is sacred. Ironically, what comes closest to being sacred in modern societies are individual rights, private property, and personal freedom. As we will see below, there are other values so widely held in our culture that they come close to the level of being sacred. Whether or not they achieve that status, they may point towards a new way of presenting common heritage rights to the American public.
Self-ownership as an Element of Common Heritage
One way to reassert a public claim on common heritage rights follows a strategy of paradox: using one category of private property to question other forms of it. Let us consider how this might work.
Probably the first form of private property in history (and pre-history) was the treatment of women as chattel. One of the perennial arguments for that status was the idea that women were somehow closer to nature than men are and needed to be managed. The ownership of women represented the power to control a group of people who were considered a threat to culture and social order. (Essentially the same argument was used to justify slavery.) In the 20th century, however, the sacrality of property was turned against the subjugation of women and minorities. For women, the clearest reversal came about through the assertion of a reflexive property right: a womans ownership of her own body and the right to control it. The fact that this still remains controversial forty years after the Supreme Court recognized that right in Roe v. Wade is testament to the abiding anxieties about women and nature in our society.
Feminist claims to self-ownership are not based simply on classical liberalism. Instead, they are based on a critique of the distinction between culture and nature. (This parallels the traditional distinction regarding common rights between legitimate rights in humanly-made property and invalid claims to private ownership of nature.) To escape from the bondage of being someones property, feminists have refused to accept the idea that men actively create culture, whereas women organically belong to nature. By denying that nature is somehow feminine, the critics of the nature-culture dichotomy have also cast serious doubts about the capacity of any culture to control nature, because nature is both within and outside ourselves. Although this analysis does not lead in any simple way to the principle of sharing assets derived from nature, it validates the idea that nature constantly ruptures humanly constructed boundaries and defies efforts to divide it into self-contained parcels. Nature is full of spillover effects that make a mockery of private ownership.
Feminists have emphasized the nature that lies within each person, more as an energizing source than as a limiting force. This gives the body a sacred quality. The body represents a boundary that must not be crossed, except by permission. Symbolically, we each participate in a common heritage through our biological condition, and we are each allowed to take from that common domain only what belongs to usour own bodies.
This effort to tie personal control over ones body to what one might call a corporeal commons is best understood from the perspective of Trauma and Recovery, a ground-breaking book by Judith Lewis Herman. In it, she demonstrates that the assertion of a right to bodily integrity by survivors of incest, rape, and post-traumatic stress disorder has been based on political solidarity. It is as if a body politic had to take shape before the rights of individual bodies could be protected.
Any form of human solidarity must ultimately depend not only on interests, but also on transcendent symbols. Although violations of womens and childrens bodies happen one at at time, there is also a sense in which the violations extend beyond the person. At least some feminists have implicitly defined those violations as an assault on the sacred, which is why the claims of womens rights are powerful and, at the same time, threatening to those who would keep women in a state of submission.
Health as a Common Heritage
Another expression of how we individually derive benefits from a common pool greater than ourselves is the health that we experience as members of a population. Although we are constantly reminded that we are each personally responsible for our health, that individualistic understanding ignores various collective dimensions. In fact, our language is so oriented toward individualism that it is difficult to find the words to describe the ways in which health is an aspect of our common heritage. Nevertheless, it is important to try, because there is a sense in which health is considered sacred to many members of society. (The word health derives from the same root as holy.) Thus, the issue of health could be an effective way to introduce common heritage principles to millions of people who might otherwise never think about those ideas. There are three ways in which the social dimension of health is manifest.
First, our private health is socially linked through the distribution of income. Everyone, rich and poor alike, is healthier in communities, regions, or nations where income is evenly distributed than in locations with wide income gaps. It is possible to measure and predict the physical health of an entire society based on a purely relational factor (the gap between high and low incomes), independent of spending on medical care. This finding was disconcerting to positivist social scientists, who equate science with material causation. So, the correlation was retested several times in different contexts by epidemiologists during the 1990s, and reported in Lancet, the British Medical Journal, Milbank Quarterly, the New England Journal of Medicine,and other scientific publications. The results consistently showed that population health status was positively related to equality of income.
A second way in which health is a social phenomenon that has characteristics of a common heritage asset is that disease resistance and prevention are collective goods. Helping one person avoid infection with a communicable disease protects not only that person, but everyone else. Globalization has now made the world population a common repository of infectious diseases. That means protecting Americans from those diseases requires protecting people in Zambia and India and Paraguay. In this way, population health is a common pool resource or common heritage asset. But the required action is a mirror image of most common heritage assets. Rather than sharing the value received from a common resource, we should all share in spending to prevent a universal harm.
A third way of thinking about health from the perspective of common heritage is in terms of a rationale for public subsidy of insurance (as in Canada) or medical care (as in England). Public financing of medical insurance or services is often based on the assertion that health care is a human right, but the basis for that claim is mere assertion. A common heritage perspective can provide a coherent basis for the argument. Imagine for a moment a genetic commons that belongs to all humans equally. At birth, some people receive a large natural endowment from that commons (high immunity, high life expectancy), while other people receive a low natural endowment (low immunity, low life expectancy). Since those outcomes are a matter of luck, not effort, we should be willing to pool our resources to equalize health outcomes by providing medical care according to need, not ability to pay. Those who received little in the way of an initial endowment would be compensated in part by participating in a system in which costs are shared by all.
In each of these three cases (health and income distribution, public health, and health care coverage), common ownership is abstract and intangible. Neverthless, health has a sacred quality for many people, which means that equal provisioning of health is a salient issue for far more people than the concept of sharing the value of natural resources. Thus, health presents an opportunity to introduce the principles of common heritage to a new and larger audience than it has reached until now.
Children as a Common Heritage
There is one element that is sacred in every society. That element may be referred to as our children, the next generation, or simply as the future. But the meaning is the same: people care deeply about the continuity of their culture and their families. In Environmental Values in American Culture, Willett Kempton et al. explored competing ideologies regarding the environment by interviewing people with different affiliations. They expected to find that strident environmentalists (EarthFirst! activists) and staunch anti-environmentalists (loggers and dry-cleaners) would disagree sharply on values. To the surprise of the researchers, they discovered that people across the ideological spectrum held values in commonespecially the need to pass the world on to the next generation in better shape than we found it. Of course, there was sharp disagreement about environmental facts and the methods of improving the world, but the stated values were almost precisely the same.
Yet, even at the level of values, there is a snag in looking to children as a way of talking about what we share. When we cease to talk purely in abstractions and consider actual children, they shift from being a common heritage to private property, owned and controlled by their parents. For example, when most people insist that they support public schools, what they often mean is that they are willing to pay taxes to support the schools their own children or grandchildren attend. Revenue sharing among school districts has diminished support for public education, because rich local districts can no longer serve as private enclaves, since they must share their wealth with other districts.
It seems that most people are concerned only with the future of their own children, not with the next generation as a whole. If so, then the idea of children, either as a common heritage or as the recipients of common heritage assets, currently has only ambiguous value as a rhetorical device. Nevertheless, it is possible that this situation could be reversed. Since children so frequently symbolize the future of society, we should not give up efforts to sustain the idea that we have a stake in the lives of all children, not just our own.
Other Social Dimensions of Common Heritage
There are many other social issues that can be defined as matters of common heritage.
These examples of how social relationships exhibit qualities of common assets indicate the range of topics that can be brought under the same general rubric. No particular issue will be the one that will carry the day. What is important is to recognize that the philosophy of common assets, combined with common responsibilities, could unite a wide range of seemingly disparate issues. We must apply ourselves to the task of seeing those connections.
To become a large-scale movement that can reverse the trend toward privatization, a large segment of the population will need to articulate their concerns in terms of a comprehensive philosophy. For that reason, the common heritage principles must be broadened to explain as many different domains of policy as possible.
Success in creating a movement in support of sharing common heritage assets depends on coordinating the activities of numerous groups already acting independently. This does not mean management from above. It means devising a language and frameworks that can be agreed to.
There is already a loosely affiliated movement that is dedicated to the idea of the commons as a resource for everyone. Some of the organizations or networks that have defined themselves as advocates of common use or ownership are:
It is significant that most of the organizations that explicitly use the language of the commons focus primarily on sharing the digital commons or other forms of information. That is important, of course, because it represents the cutting edge of privatization efforts, but it involves only one strand of common assets.
One might add to this list the many conservation organizations that seek to protect ecosystems against human encroachment. They have also made use of the concept of the commons, primarily in the form of the public trust doctrine.
In all of these groups, however, there is a glaring absence of concern for the relationship between poverty and common assets. That is true today of the movements to protect the digital commons and it was historically true of the conservation movement, which had its roots in aristocratic preservation of nature. This is even true of the IASC, which emphasizes natural resource issues. Ostrom and her colleagues have mostly focused on very small-scale commons (such as local fisheries or irrigation systems), which exclude outsiders and thus do nothing to avert poverty in society at large. In general, the inattention to equity issues creates the impression that the commons movement is elitist, a charge that has also been leveled at the conservation movement.
For that reason, the commons movement and the traditional conservation movement need to ally themselves with the common heritage movement, which emphasizes economic equity. Building a coalition on behalf of the commons that embraces equity entails more than lip service to this value. It requires making a concerted effort to understand the equity implications of all activities related to common assets and qualities. It is not enough for the policies advocated in support of the commons to be neutral with respect to poverty. The commons movement must be publicly perceived as pro-poor in its overall outlook.
But tying together the existing strands of the commons movement (common heritage, information commons, and conservation of nature) is not enough. The much bigger challenge is finding ways to bridge the gap with mass movements for social justice in health care, immigration reform, education, and nonviolent defense, among others. The activists on those issues have not typically thought of their work as having any connection to the digital commons or natural resource endowments. They will see it to their advantage to make those connections only if a common, inclusive language treats their concerns as central, not peripheral.
Many activists will undoubtedly dismiss the need for a common language. As Jay Walljasper says in All That We Share: Its not necessary that everyone adopt the word commons. What matters is that people understand that what we share together (and how we share it) is as important as what we possess individually. But what Walljasper fails to recognize is that the shared understanding that he hopes to achieve will come about only when there is shared language. At the moment, the language we have available gives us only dry, rationalistic images, competing interests, and fragmented political thinking.
Creating a new language of shared connections will almost certainly mean dropping the heavy reliance on the unwieldy metaphor of the commons. (In that respect, I agree with Walljasper.) The most effective language for discussing the organic relatedness among humans and nature derives from religious and spiritual traditions. Unfortunately, there are few symbols of solidarity or commonality that transcend particular traditions. Our best hope may lie in inter-religious dialogue. The process of seeking a common language to talk about our shared heritage and values has become even more complex than it was in the 17th century, when theorists first articulated the concept of natural rights as a starting point for analyzing common assets. That language served a purpose for approximately two centuries, but now a new effort is needed to form a nonsectarian political language that can unite progressive forces in fighting for the equitable sharing of both natural and social assets.
Never in human history has there been a greater need for a philosophy of equitably sharing the gifts of nature. Following the precepts of that philosophy would make it possible to end poverty, prevent much environmental damage, and reduce the political corruption that arises from allowing the value of natural resources to be privatized.
Yet, despite the efforts of Alfred Andersen and other like-minded advocates, such a philosophy has been unsuccessful in gaining a large following. Even Green Parties around the world have been slow to adopt it. We can speculate about the reasons, but there is little to be gained from doing so. Instead, those who hope to enact policies to share the common heritage of humanity will need to change course. To attract a large following, we must work together with those who profess a concern for the commons as well as those who actively pursue social issues without making any reference to common assets or rights in common.
The key to reaching a new audience is to find issues that already attract attention and emotional energyissues such as health care, national security, and immigration. The next step is to find ways to frame those issues in new ways, using concepts drawn from the principles of common heritage assets, but using language that is applicable to social issues. A simple transposition of language previously applied to natural resources is unlikely to be successful. What is most likely to work is language that appeals to a sense of the sacred, since our connection to the earth and to others is in fact the experience in which most people find some sacred elements.
It will not be easy to build a coalition of groups with overlapping concepts of the commons with groups that do not currently use that category. But it is necessary. In the short run, single-issue politics may be successful, but in the long run, a political agenda needs to be based on a coherent philosophy. A movement to reclaim our common heritage will not overcome the trend toward privatization until it can energize groups across a spectrum of issues by showing how they are interconnected. That is the challenge we face.
*Authors email address: cliff.cobb[at]gmail.com
 Peter Barnes, Who Owns the Sky? :Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2001).
 I should perhaps add that the Irvine Foundation approached us with this idea, based on our previous work on true cost accounting. I say us because I was research director at Redefining Progress in its first three years, from 1994 to 1996.
 Just as President Nixons secret tape recordings tell us more about the actual conduct of government than any public pronouncements do, so also the private stories of what goes on inside advocacy groups and their relationships with their funders would reveal another set of secrets. Decisions about what is openly discussed in American politics and what stays in the closet (issues such as fees on common heritage resources) are largely shaped by the economic power of donors. Nonprofit groups, such as Redefining Progress, dare not bite the hands that feed them. (Foundation program officers share a great deal of information with each other about grantees.) So it is possible to restrain the publication of fundamental critiques of the economic system with the mere hint that future funding will be withheld.
 Original estimate is from Alfred F. Andersen,Challenging Newt Gingrich Chapter by Chapter: An In-Depth Analysis of America's Options at Its Economic, Political, and Military Crossroads (Eugene, Or.: Tom Paine Institute, 1996). The updated estimate is based on the assumption that the value of the net stock of common heritage assets has grown about 15% more than the value of all durable, non-consumer assets. In general, since the value of land, air rights, and petroleum (for example) appreciates simply by becoming scarcer relative to demand, common heritage assets always increase in value faster than human-made capital, which must be produced with labor.
 Andersens 1997 estimate of $2 trillion (in Challenging Newt Gingrich) is certainly an underestimate. An extrapolation from the above-noted study by Redefining Progress indicated that in 1991, the annualized value of land in the U.S. was already around $2.4 trillion. If Andersens proposal to eliminate other taxes were carried out, that amount would have been closer to $3.5 trillion in 1991, and probably around $6 or $7 trillion in 2010.
 It is hard to take seriously the claim that the sacredness of potential human life is the root of the animus toward abortion. If the leaders of the so-called right to life movement were pacifists, Buddhists, and vegetarians, who sacrifice something to defend life, it would be more credible. Instead, the movement is led by representatives of male-dominated institutions that do not respect women as equals. There is strong evidence that the absolutist Catholic view on the right to life of a fetus is a based on a defensive posture, out of step with older, more flexible Catholic doctrines. Until the end of the 18th century, Catholic doctrine forbade baptism of an aborted fetus that showed no human shape or outline, a position that clearly contradicts more recent claims that the soul enters the body at conception. Daniel C. Maguire, A question of Catholic honesty, Christian Century, September 14-21, 1983, pp. 803-807. Maguire cites Joseph Donceel, S.J. as his source. Since all moral absolutes are inherently unstable (particularly when they encounter other absolutes), I presume that there are unstated values that hold the absolutes in place. In this case, it seems that the explicitly patriarchal values of many church leaders (both Catholic and Protestant) are the deepest source of the intensity of opposition to abortion.
 Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery, New York: Basic Books, 1992.
 The following is a sampling of the articles that were published on the relationship between income distribution and population health in medical journals, beginning with ones from the British Medical Journal (BMJ): Fiscella K, Franks P. Poverty or income inequality as predictor of mortality: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ 1997; 314:1724-7. Kennedy BP, Kawachi R, Glass D, Prothrow-Smith, D. Income distribution, socio-economic status, and self rated health in the US: a multi level analysis. BMJ 1998; 317:917-21. Wilkinson RG. Income distribution and life expectancy. BMJKennedy BP, Kawachi I, Prothrow-Stith D. Income distribution and mortality: cross sectional ecological study of the Robin Hood index in the United States. BMJ 1996;312:1004-7. Kaplan GA, Pamuk ER, Lynch JW, Cohen RD, Balfour JL. Inequality in income and mortality in the United States: analysis of mortality and potential pathways. BMJ 1996;312:999-1003. Ben Shlomo Y, White IR, Marmot M. Does the variation in the socioeconomic characteristics of an area affect mortality? BMJ 1996;312:1013-4. Smith, GD. Income inequality and mortality: why are they related? BMJ 1996;312:987-8. Daly MC, Duncan GJ, Kaplan GA, Lynch JW. Macro to micro links in the relation between income inequality and mortality. Milbank Q 1998; 76:315-39. Pappas G, Queen S, Hadden W, Fisher G. The increasing disparity in mortality between socioeconomic groups in the United States, 1960 and 1986. N Engl J Med 1992;304:165-8. 1993;329:103-9.
Willett Kempton, James S. Boster, and Jennifer A. Hartley. Environmental Values in American Culture, Cambridge, Mass. :MIT Press,1995.
 In 1978, Proposition 13 (which limited local property taxes) was adopted in California in part because of public anger over court-ordered sharing of school revenues among school districts. Parents were not strongly inclined to pay high taxes for childrens education in other school districts.
 The recent movement in the U.S. to highlight the value of social capital stems largely from Robert Putnams book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000). A blog devoted to anecdotal evidence of the social benefits of social capital can be found at http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/category/robert-putnam.
 See Clifford W. Cobb, Responsive Schools, Renewed Communities (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1992) for a discussion of the educational value of community-based education, as compared to the generic, one-size-fits-all approach to public education.
 Gene Sharp has published numerous books on active, nonviolent methods of political action and national defense. Among them are 1) Civilian-Based Defense:A Post-Military Weapons System (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 2) From Dictatorship to Democracy:A Conceptual Framework for Liberation (Boston, Mass: Albert Einstein Institution, 2003), and 3) Social Power and Political Freedom (Boston, Mass. :P. Sargent Publishers,1980).
 This quote comes from Jay Walljasper, All That We Share, an article in YES! Magazine, which can be read online at http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/all-that-we-share. Walljaspers 2010 book by the same title can also be ordered from the Yes! Magazine website.
 I have found the language of commons cumbersome in writing this essay, and its unwieldiness is obvious when David Bollier, one of the most prolific writers on the commons, refers to its advocates as commoners. (He lists some of those commoners at http://www.bollier.org/commons-resources/individuals.) The indelible political associations with the words communism and socialism preempt the possibility of giving those words entirely new meanings. I have tried at times to use the Greek word koinoneia (community) in making reference to common goods, but it is not likely to catch on, except among some Christians. The problem of language is a more formidable obstacle to political cooperation than is generally recognized.