In the beginning, the commons was everywhere. Humans and other animals
roamed around it, hunting and gathering. Like other species, we had territories,
but these were tribal, not individual. ...
Why did this happen? There are many explanations. One is that welfare
kept the poor poor; this was argued by Charles Murray in his 1984 book Losing
Ground. Welfare, he contended, encouraged single mothers to remain
unmarried, increased the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, and created
a parasitic underclass. In other words, Murray (and others) blamed victims
or particular policies for perpetuating poverty, but paid scant attention
to why poverty exists in the first place.
There are, of course, many roots, but my own hypothesis is this: much of
what we label private wealth is taken from, or coproduced with, the commons.
However, these takings from the commons are far from equal. To put
it bluntly, the rich are rich because (through corporations) they get the
lion’s share of common wealth; the poor are poor because they get very
Another way to say this is that, just as water flows downhill to
the sea, so money flows uphill to property. Capitalism by its
very design maximizes returns to existing wealth owners. It benefits, in
particular, those who own stock when a successful company is young; they
can receive hundreds, even thousands of times their initial investments
when the company matures. Moreover, once such stockholders accumulate wealth,
they can increase it through reinvestment, pass it on to their heirs, and
use their inevitable influence over politicians to gain extra advantages — witness
the steady lowering of taxes on capital gains, dividends, and inheritances.
On top of this, in the last few decades, has been the phenomenon called
globalization. The whole point of globalization is to increase the return
to capital by enabling its owners to find the lowest costs on the planet.
Hence the stagnation at the bottom alongside the surging wealth at the
top. ... read
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