The commons and co-operative commonwealth - 4 Nov 2013 - Pat Conaty

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Pat Conaty - Research associate at Co-operatives UK looks at the 'commons' throughout history and argues that the 'commons' are more relevant than ever in the 21st Century.

Transcript of The commons and co-operative commonwealth - 4 Nov 2013 - Pat Conaty

  • The Commons and Co-operative Commonwealth Pat Conaty new economics foundation and Co-operatives UK 4-5 November 2013
  • Resilience and Transition Building a Co-operative Economy Closer to Home BASIC NEEDS: Food Energy Shelter Reclaiming the Commons Democratizing & Localizing Ownership KEY FUNCTIONS Reclaiming Finance 2
  • Four-fold crisis: a Volatile Cocktail 1. Economic: The Great Recession and the Euro-crisis - Greece an indicator of things to come. 2. Ecological: Global warming, climate change and food shortages. 3. Social: rising inequality, housing crisis, rising cost of energy, food and basic needs, huge cuts in public services, growing social unrest. 4. Political: widespread distrust of parties and politicians. Capture of the state by a global financial elite. Big Brother and Brave New World are pervasive.
  • The Ownership Question? 300 billionaires are wealthier than the poorest 3 billion citizens 2 billion people secure their livelihood through natural commons Over 3 billion microenterprises globally One billion people are members of cooperatives 1 to 2 million Civil Society organisations globally working for sustainability and justice
  • Commonwealth - a Provocative Thought 1. 400 US billionaires hold more wealth than 180 million Americans (the bottom 60%) 2. If this wealth was spread equitably, each American family of four could share an annual income of $200,000 or alternatively opt for $100,000 (twice the median family income) and choose to work a 20 hour week
  • The Commons and co-operative networks offer a a democratic way of working and living Commonwealth is wealth beyond measure when times get hard co-operative solutions are always unearthed Micro-change agents need to think of how to connect mutually History and struggles to build co-operative commonwealth provides guidance on the How question
  • The Commons we Share Air and water Parks Libraries and books The internet Streets and sidewalks The airwaves Languages Traditions Dance steps Music and games Outer space Stories and jokes Open-source software Biodiversity Food and recipes Seeds and tools Know-how Caring and friendship Much, much more
  • Silence as a Commons People called commons those part of the environment for which customary law [usually unwritten] recognised claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households. Ivan Illich
  • Mutual Aid origins of the Company Guilds earliest companies, rooted in Fair Trade practice 1. From collegia in ancient Rome: mutual aid groups of artisans for social insurance and burials: similar systems in India, China, Islamic Cordoba and west Africa 2. Con pagus and con panis: companions 3. Charters for delegated self-governance powers in exchange for taxes: Guild of Guilds and Guildhall 4. Local town management just price, holy days, prohibitions, trade marks from the Guildhall 5. Oaths: mutually and to the town (social, economic, religious, political and military obligations)
  • Communal Markets Typical Guild rules for flour and bread: 1. Guild members agree what the price of grain will be with the Justice of the Peace (appointed regulator) 2. Grain may only be sold on market days and during fixed hours 3. Purchases must be for the households own use and limited in quantity to two bushels 4. Grain may be sold later in the market day to resellers (bakers and brewers) who must be licensed by the Justices of the Peace
  • Great Transformation Karl Polanyi thesis: communal markets replaced by the commercial Market 1. Medieval economy: just prices regulated by guilds locally but long-distance trade was unregulated 2. Long-distance free trade linked increasingly with plunder and colonisation under Merchant banking houses 3. Mercantilism: early modern development of international trade and nation state empires 4. Royal Charters from 1407: The Merchant Adventurers 5. Property rights created by private acts of enclosure that commodified work (wage-labour), land (real estate) and money (debt) legitimated in law by John Locke. Roman law displaced commons custom and practices
  • The Loss of the Commons 1. Commons land was widespread until the 14th century in Great Britain and Ireland open fields, no stone walls or hedges and land stewarded based on customs and practice 2. Ancient Roman land law: the law of dominium, private property precedent that sanctified conquest and plunder 3. First enclosure in England, the Statute of Merton 1235 to approve [improve] the land in order to extract greater rent. 4. 4000 Acts of enclosure - Commons and waste land today is only 8% of land in the United Kingdom 5. 40,000 people (0.06% of the population) own nearly half of all land in the UK
  • Common rights: Past and Present Bodmin Moor, Cornwall: Local commons, existing rights 1. Pannage: to graze pigs on acorns 2. Estovers: to take underwood, loppings, braken and furze 3. Turbary: to cut turf (peat) for fuel 4. Piscary: to fish from local streams and lakes 5. Pasture: to graze other animals 6. Soil: to take sand, gravel, stone or minerals
  • Land Enclosure Linked with development of commercial farming: 1. The medieval wool trade under the Tudors 2. Exclusion of serfs and peasants from the land 3. Creation of vagabonds and wage-labour 4. Pre-condition for the development of capitalism: primitive accumulation of capital (debt-based money) and creating the dependency of wagelabour
  • Market Economy and Land Enclosure What we call land..invests mans life with stability it is a condition of his physical safety We might as well imagine being born without hands and feet as carrying on life without land yet to separate land from man and organise society to satisfy the requirements of a real-estate market was a vital part of the utopian concept of market economy. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944)
  • Struggles against Enclosure and for Co-operative Commonwealth and the Vote 1. Levellers and Diggers Arguments to Cromwell for Land tax, franchise, annual Parliaments, co-operative commonwealth: Gerrard Winstanley and Law of Freedom Platform (1652) 2. Thomas Spence Parish Land Trusts for land stewardship locally and capturing rents for community benefit: real rights of man (1775) 3. Chartist Land Company (1847) to secure the vote and develop co-operative villages, community facilities and 2-4 acres per family 60,000 investors and several co-op villages developed
  • Thomas Spence Parish Land Trusts (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (iii) 1774: Inspired by grass roots campaign to stop enclosure of Newcastle Town Moor 1775: Parish Land Trust Plan to capture the unearned increment and differential rents for the people Co-operative Land Society model you use the land, or lose it: community is the landlord and leases to citizens Aristocratic and commercial rents are transformed into community income 1793: Real Rights of Man disagreed with Tom Paine, argued that all dominion is rooted and grounded in Land real democracy needs a commons rights foundation
  • Citizen Corporate Charters USA (1780 to 1860) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. US Declaration of Independence against colonial oppression Company charters issued by US states from 1780 Charters of companies were time limited (3 to 10 years usually) and revocable - both for profit and not for profit companies charters regularly revoked or not renewed by citizen groups Banks had the shortest charters and private banks banned in Indiana and Illinois Jury trials for company directors for corporate malfeasance - Unlimited liability and Directors prosecuted for disobeying their charter conditions Shareholders only had one vote (no voting shares) Political donations illegal and limits to land and property holding
  • Co-operative Commonwealth Movements Re-forged in times of Depression since 1815 1820s: Birth of co-operative movements in Britain and France 1840s: Hungry 40s and Rochdale principles developed 1870s: Long Depression - Knights of Labor and Greenbacks 1890s: Syndicalism, Guild socialism, Garden cities 1920s: Movements on the rise but repressed brutally 1970s: New wave internationally spreads 2010s: A rebirthLa Via Campesina, P2P Foundation, New Economy Coalition (USA and Canada)?
  • 1844: Joint Stock Companies Act (UK) Curtailed Parliamentary charters in the UK companies could be just registered Limited requirements: to keep accounts, complete an annual audited balance sheet 1855 subsequent law introduced limited liability 1862 law abolished accounting requirements, only one obligation to maximise shareholder profit 1929 crash brought back the requirement of audited accounts