Home | About | Donate

It's the Planet Stupid!: Capitalism and The Destruction of the Commons


It's the Planet Stupid!: Capitalism and The Destruction of the Commons

John Atcheson

There is a war going on right now between those who are working to protect the commons and the hard-core capitalists, who are working to privatize our economy, culture, ecology, environment and government.

The stakes are high. The outcome will determine whether we live in a dystopian chaos, or a civil society; whether we preserve our natural life support system, or live on life support.


On one side of the pond sat Frederic Taylor, the ice king, contemplating the money that could be made from this resource. On the other side of the pond sat Henry David Thoreau.


Capitalism doesn’t plan for “the future”. It’s all about now. Without perspective, resources are not finite. Right now anyway. Exploit them to the max with no thought for conservation or the distant future. The pine forest that covered most of Michigan until the late 19th century wasn’t conserved. It’s gone. Hartwick Pines is a sad reminder, a small remnant of what is gone. The small patches of prairie found in Michigan are gone. Some today initiate prairie restoration projects. A small plot just for a reminder of what has been entirely plowed away. My observation is not enough time has passed since the start of industrial revolution for people to understand how population growth, technology, exploitation of the common, and capitalist philosophy can lead to a bitter end for humankind. Many smart people have seen the grim future and tell us about it. Most of us aren’t listening. When the news reports a catastrophic result (it’s creeping up on us now), people might wake-up and realize we can’t continue as we have for the past 200 years for the infinite future. If a change does not happen, human beings will have a finite future.


GDP - gross domestic PRODUCT. Externalized costs: everything that is cheapened/marginalized so that a PRODUCT is “competitive”. helloooo… sure looks like a parasitic bubble system to me - oops they’re pulling out those trusty old market research spreadsheets and data so that the mendacious advertising, political and military campaigns of the model of useless stuff won’t slump as it impacts the impervious wall. Quick! Figure out how they’ll go from parasite to zombie after impact.

On the other hand, I recall a talk by Winnona LaDuke telling about a conversation with her father after receiving her academic degree. To paraphrase, he said that was all well and good, but did she know how to grow corn, rice other foods? Did she know the natural community and cycles? Wise woman - she turned her attention to the ongoing doctoral work of all the wisdoms together - now THERE’S a life worth living!

Another example: article at YES! magzine: What’s Next for the World’s Largest Federation of Worker-Owned Co-Ops? A conversation with Mondragon President Josu Ugarte on the future of the mega-cooperative.


John - you need to read your own article. By referring to edible seafood, you indicate that you are an exploiter of living things just like the capitalists.


I wonder what a capitalist utopia would look like and how many more years it willt take for capitalism to reach that utopia.


I think it shpuld go without saying that all of this has at its roots the concept of private property and the notion that once the Commons turned into property the “owner” can do what s/he and it wishes to do to it.

A forest and all the life that inhabits it can be said to have natural rights when part of the commons yet be stripped away of that when it becomes PROPERTY.

I would also extend the meaning of the commons. It can not be just what is held in common by the society of the human species. As humans we must recognize the rights off all life that relies on the natural world for its survival this means of course that a Tiger has as much right to the natural world for its well being as does a man.


it is also a war on our great grandchildren and they are already dying and losing to greed the life blood of capitalism.


Thank you for a spot on succinct summary of the choice ahead. It’s our environment stupids. High culture is respect for it and tolerance of others.


I came across this in another news article and thought it very pertinent to this discussion. According to this article…

Senate Bill 12 recently was passed in the State of Wyoming. This bill, in an attempt to protect property owners is referred to as the “data tresspassing bill”. What it does is make it illegal for a citizen to collect environmental data from any open land and submitting that data to a Government agency.

In other words if you want to take a water sample in Wyoming so as to prove it contaminated by a nearby farm operation you will be a criminal and charged with Data tresspass. This is not just the collection on private lands. It the collection of such samples on public lands that may have been contaminated by a nearby private property owner,

The fact that the resource such as water has been contaminated is deemed as DATA that belongs to the entity that contaminated it and such data will not be admitted in court unless that entity that contaminated it gives permission So if you suspect a local fracking operation is contaminating an aquifier you would have to ask that operator if you can take a water sample in the aquifier…

This property laws taken to an extreme but shows how such laws in fact erode freedom.


From the article:

“There is a war going on right now between those who are working to protect the commons and the hard-core capitalists, who are working to privatize our economy, culture, ecology, environment and government.”

Although I find the war frame problematic, the statement does show that there are certainly more than one camp of individuals. It also explains that up until relatively recently, which is to say before our nation became a whole-sale subsidiary of Corporations, Inc., this item known as “The commons” and its relationship to the principle and premise of “The Greater Good” still meant something.

Still, in properly diagnosing the conflict between those who care about others along with The Commons and those corporate plunderers fixed on Disaster Capitalism (while externalizing costs along with the inevitable fall-out), it then becomes disingenuous to attach this statement as conclusion to the article’s opening thesis:

“But since Ronnie “gubmint-is-the-problem” Reagan, Americans have behaved like slack-jawed yokels at a three-card Monty festival, disabling, underfunding and discrediting government and turning the country over to a bunch of crazed Ayn Rand acolytes, making ourselves poorer, while destroying natural capital, our children’s birthright.”

What part of the covert maneuvers of the Deep State, the blowback of deregulation, the full blown influence of the Military-Industrial-Media Complex, and the costs of elections (causing them to become absolute candidate sell-outs) did Mr. Atcheson miss?

Too many people STRAIN to make the problem into that of “Americans.” That kind of homogenous blanket condemnation makes a mockery of the article’s opening statement since so many ARE fighting on so many fronts to oppose oligarchy and/or its New World Order intentions (with TPP and TIPP factoring substantially into that calculus).


Tigers, cows, pigs, chickens, fish and other so-called “food” animals.


As usual, conflating what the Dominators do with what the citizens want… as if the citizenry has the agency with which to turn things around. The fruit of deregulation inverted all of the regulatory battles long ago won to allot to corporate plunderers the “freedom” to do as they would. It’s been proven that profits have risen to the tippy top without dribbling down; and increasingly, entities like our nation’s Supreme Court (none of which are elected officials) set law that is favorable not to communities or human health or human welfare, but rather to the greatest plunderers.

What Power does is seldom to never indicative of the public’s will. So all of the philosophizing about what people see or don’t see is moot. This is about Power and its misuse of law, courts, media, elected officials and policies that are global in their rapacious scope.


I’m not sure that arguing over what is best, government run programs or privately run ones is a good way to address the problems of capitalism. In some cases one is better or worse than the other. However, there must be ways to combine the good things in each one and exclude the bad things:

Voting is a good way. Voting for candidates that partly or entirely support things like fair elections, a maximum wage, electronic direct democracy, economic democracy, defunding war, ending the War on Drugs/Private Prison System, renewal of the Fairness Doctrine, regulating banks and corporations, jailing big bankster and corporate criminals, prosecuting polluters, prohibiting political bribes and so many other things we can change by voting in elections, referendums and polls.

Many of us sign petitions daily. By petitioning the government with our votes, we can change things for the better. Countries with 100% voter turnout have the most democratic governments.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
― Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum Swing


It’s disgusting to couple capitalism with the word sacred.


… as the song goes, “Learn how to pretend.”

You seem pretty adept at it. After all, this paean to good ole’ Democracy leaves out all of the following:

  1. The mind control saturation properties of a corporately controlled mass media that lies 24/7… with impunity
  2. A Supreme Court that steps in to adjust the vote count to arrive at its own elected election outcome
  3. Proprietary firms controlling voting machines that can be programmed via computer chips to established specific “vote” counts
  4. Republican led gerrymandering of voting districts to ensure that the R team gets more representation per capita
  5. Using a War on Drugs to rob millions of “felons” of any right to vote
  6. This Supreme Court turning back the clock on The Voting Rights Act
  7. How media screens out 3rd party contenders
  8. The phenomenal costs of campaigns and what that sets up in the way of quid pro quo… regarding Big Donors/campaign financiers

What’s needed is proportional voting, run-offs that don’t allow the worst candidates to win due to split votes, an open media, the public hearing from other than the twin dynasties and what they can cook up in the way of marriage partners and/or progeny, and impeaching THIS Supreme Court for its repugnant, anti-human rights decisions. It just rubberstamps whatever the corporate plutocrats want… and right now, what they want may become enshrined into INTERNATIONAL law.

The latter means that American voters’ choices won’t mean shit to a tree… decisions of importance will emanate from a global body loyal to its corporate overlords. ONLY.


I think you describe the problem well. Instead of despairing though, I vote. Politicians seem to respond to public pressure. Al Gore says so too. Even dumb Republicans know that, otherwise they wouldn’t spend millions in (successfully) suppressing the vote.


Thanks for posting that - this sounds like a torqued legacy of manifest destiny putting the pedal to the metal knowing its speeding toward a wall of its own making.

In case anyone else would like to read the brief bill:


Your argument lends a new dignity to the old word ‘commoner’.


What we must do to save the planet if we were serious about global heating (warming is too mild a term). In the final analysis, we are the ones who support the energy industry and it is our standard of living that will need to change. So picture how this will effect you. Reorganize cities, building taller residences with a smaller footprint (the end of suburbia); institute a carbon tax; end our love affair with the automobile— promote car pooling subsidize and expand mass transit, walk and bike more; expand bike paths;, and have shareable (zip) cars, ban gasahol; turn off the air conditioner and dial the thermostat down in winter; rein in the militaries for defense only and outlaw war; ban night baseball; ban electric outdoor signs; shift from long distance truck to rail transport; ride more trains and buses, fewer planes; promote conference calls and web cams; promote zero population growth with free condoms and family planning world-wide; many more people would become vegetarians or vegans; phase out the cattle industry; discontinue bottled water; discontinue aluminum cans with and without carbonation; maximize reusable bags and products; minimize or ban disposables (Pampers, Ikea furniture); limit endless gadgets; end yearly auto model changes; limit all the advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc.; eliminate “fast junk food”; go to “slow food”; replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion”; bring back mending, alterations and local tailors; completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, house wares, furniture, etc to be as durable and long-lived as possible; bring back appliance repairmen and such; design and build smaller housing to last for centuries and to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable; recycle maximally, especially aluminum cans; maximize solar and wind power; drive and accelerate more slowly; practice regenerative agriculture; reverse deforestation, plant more trees; climb more stairs; restrict spray cans;; eat and farm organic; use manual tools instead of power tools, use rakes rather than leaf blowers; push rather than power small mowers; replace lawns with vegetable gardens; compost as much as possible; more stairs, fewer elevators; promote subsidies for renewal energy