George Monbiot, a columnist for the British newspaper and website The Guardian, may be the most prominent champion of the commons that I’ve discovered in mainstream journalism today. He has long been a compelling, out-of-the-box thinker on all sorts of economic and environmental issues. Now he is introducing the commons to his large readership and explaining its importance and its historic neglect by economists and politicians. Bravo!
Monbiot speaks about the need for a new “restoration story” that he calls the “politics of belonging” – a theme explored in his recent book, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. He explicitly focuses on the commons in his column of September 27:
"Are you a statist or a free marketeer? Do you believe that intervention should be minimised or that state ownership and regulation should be expanded? This is our central political debate. But it is based on a mistaken premise.
"Both sides seem to agree that state and market are the only sectors worth discussing: politics should move one way or the other along this linear scale. In fact, there are four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons. The neglect of the last two by both neoliberals and social democrats has created many of the monstrosities of our times.
"Both market and state receive a massive subsidy from the household: the unpaid labour of parents and other carers, still provided mostly by women. If children were not looked after – fed, taught basic skills at home and taken to school – there would be no economy. And if people who are ill, elderly or have disabilities were not helped and supported by others, the public care bill would break the state.
"There’s another great subsidy, which all of us have granted. I’m talking about the vast wealth the economic elite has accumulated at our expense, through its seizure of the fourth sector of the economy: the commons."