Among the many dangerous ideas percolating through the progressive movement, “the commons” is one of the most insidious.
Since Roman times, it has been held that certain resources, such as air and water, cannot and should not be privately owned. Instead, these resources are held “in common” and they should be protected by the state. While this may seem plausible—you can’t put a fence around air—it is utterly and dangerously false. Property rights to air and water can be recognized.
The premise behind “the commons”—that the resources necessary for life should be held “in common”—has remained unchallenged. And progressives are taking it to its logical conclusion.
According to “commoners” (those who advocate for “the commons”) resources such as software, infrastructure, education, and information are now a part of “the commons” because they are so important to modern life. Ignoring the distinction between the man-made and the metaphysical, progressives want to subject authors, software developers, and others to the same dictatorial powers now exercised by the EPA. Of course, they don’t put it that way, but they certainly make their intentions clear.
For example, Nancy Kranich, in a report titled The Information Commons: A Public Policy Report, decries the fact that some websites require a paid subscription to access their information. She calls this “the enclosure of the commons of the mind.” She goes on to say that information should not be under the control of individuals, arguing that “the group” should define “who may participate in resource use and to what degree, and designating who will make management decisions.”
All of this is made to sound democratic, which it is. Remember, democracy means unlimited majority rule—the majority may do as it pleases because it is the majority. If the majority decides that your new software program should be available to all for free, you should not have any say in the matter. Your mind, according to Kranich, is a part of “the commons.”
The mind is man’s tools of survival. It is the mind that makes possible values such as software, infrastructure, and education. Environmentalists have long sought to destroy all human values. Commoners seek to shackle the human mind.