Much of our political and economic fervor is a competition between Left vs. Right, and unfettered capitalism vs. governmental regulation. We must remember The Commons that belong to all of society.
For more than two hundred years, mainstream thinking has regarded the market as the primary source of material “progress.” And indeed, to a large extent that’s been true. But yesterday is not forever. Today the market is approaching a point of diminishing returns – systemic diminishing returns. It is yielding less well-being per unit of output by practically any measure, and more problems instead: obesity instead of good health, congestion instead of mobility , time deficits instead of leisure, depression and stress instead of a sense of well-being, social fracture rather than cohesion, environmental degradation rather than improvement.
In place of wealth, the economic machinery increasingly turns out what John Ruskin, the 19th Century essayist on art and economics, called “illth,” which is accumulation that fosters ill results rather than towards weal, or well-being.This is not just a matter of distribution, which is the traditional concern of the Left. Inequitable distribution is a major problem, to be sure, and becoming more so. But to redistribute illth is not necessarily to do anyone a great favor.
Yet there is no contemporary master narrative that unifies such movements; nor a challenge to market fundamentalism that does not carry echoes of old, discredited ideology. The economic problem is not markets per se. To the contrary, markets can be spontaneous and flexible; and can provide an outlet for enterprise and creativity. Most of us would not want to live without them, in some form. The problem is that the modern corporate market—which is very different from small scale local ones — has exceeded the boundaries of its own usefulness. Much of what is called “growth” today actually is a form of cannibalization, in which the market consumes that which ultimately sustains us all. […]
— Jonathan Rowe and David Bollier, Evonomics