Four years ago, the international press sent up red flares when the President of Boliva, Evo Morales, announced that he would reclaim his country’s natural resources for the benefit of Bolivians. As I wrote at the time, most press coverage took the “skeptical and fearful perspective of foreign investors, who consider themselves the rightful beneficiaries of Bolivia’s natural wealth. ‘Dammit!’ goes the subtext.
Here’s a surprise: the enclosure of the village common — as it occurred in medieval times — is still occurring, in a literal sense. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia, a mining company working in tandem with the Australian government has taken possession of the village common of Camberwell, Australia. (Thanks to Leo Burke for alerting me to this story!)
A federal court ruling this week opens up the door to a chilling possibility — that cable and telephone companies might be able to interfere with transmissions of Internet traffic to suit their own business purposes. Paying partners could get "fast lane" service while the rest of us are shunted into "slow lanes." Objectionable transmissions could be interfered with or blocked.
The weekend news showed exultant customers hoisting their newly purchased iPads over the heads in stunning images of triumph, transcendence and rapture. You gotta hand it to Steve Jobs. He knows how to stage a PR coup.
Too bad that the iPad is hardly a paragon of "freedom." It is actually a "tethered appliance," as tech guru Jonathan Zittrain puts it — a closed, proprietary system that enables Apple to control what we may do with the iPad and which new applications may run on it.
The venerable English pub has long been a place where everyone from the businessman to the housewife to the student, factory worker and vicar could meet as equals — a social commons that reflected the neighborhood and its idiosyncrasies. Over the past twenty years or more, however, large corporations have consolidated the ownership of British pubs so that some companies own thousands of them. The trend has accelerated in recent years, forcing hundreds of independent local pubs to close.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for corporations to enclose our democracy. The Court ruled that corporations must legally be considered “persons” who are thereby entitled to First Amendment rights. By this tortured logic, long-standing limits on corporate contributions to political campaigns constitute an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.
Funny, if corporations are persons, why don’t they have the same kind of affirmative moral and legal responsibilities that real people have?