NAFTA, Mexican Corn and the Commons

What happens when a market-based agricultural juggernaut invades a 9,000-year-old system of commons-based maize production in Mexico? What are the on-the-ground consequences? How have the farmers using traditional agriculture responded? Journalist Peter Canby offers a stunning account of this saga in his well-reported piece in The Nation, “Retreat to Subsistence.” Highly recommended reading.

Bolivia Stands Up for Common Wealth

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.

They Still Enclose Commons, Don't They?

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!)

Will the Internet Survive as a Commons?

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.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?

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.