Economics is the science of generating wealth. The only problem is that it is interested only in a certain kind of wealth—wealth that comes encased in private property rights and has a price attached to it. This standard economic narrative doesn’t have much to say about the great stores of value that don’t have price tags. How much is the Earth’s atmosphere worth? What about the human genome? Fresh water supplies? Our inheritance of scientific knowledge and culture? Parks and open spaces? The Internet?
These are huge chunks of wealth that matter a great deal to our lives. Sometimes these chunks are given the label of ‘public goods’ and governments may or may not decide to take care of them. But if they don’t make money for someone in the marketplace, they are likely to be neglected and abused.
This article can be found in the Fall | Winter 2011 issue of Kosmos Journal. To download this article as a PDF, please click the link below.
I am an independent policy strategist, journalist, activist and consultant with an evolving public-interest portfolio. My work tends to focus on a few key concerns: reclaiming the commons, understanding how digital technologies are changing democratic culture, fighting the excesses of intellectual property law, fortifying consumer rights and promoting citizen action.