Sunday, February 14, 2010

Capitalists and Parking Spots

Kevin Carey writes,
Driving around my neighborhood today, I saw dozens of parking spots blocked off with orange cones, garbage cans, broomsticks, etc. This is ridiculous. I spent over an hour this morning digging my car out from under a week’s worth of snow. It was hard work, but not some feat of public generosity–I needed my car! Upon completion of the digging, Maureen and I spent the entire afternoon shopping, having lunch, buying groceries, and picking up stuff from the office. Rendering that spot inoperable for five hours would have wasted a scarce public resource. Hoarding parking spots is the equivalent of saving seats in a restaurant while someone else buys the food — a small act of malice against civil society. People reveal important things about themselves at times like this.
My response:


Welcome to the fight between capitalists and socialists.

You are on the side of the socialists. You are reacting against the capitalists, who feel that by virtue of performing some labour on a public asset, they have now converted that public asset to private ownership.

Witness how this labour breeds sanctimony on their part. “The problem is those who don’t bother digging out a spot for themselves and then take the one in front of my house overnight.” As though they are somehow stealing from them! But the spot is a PUBLIC spot – it was never owned, and isn’t converted into private property by means of shovelling.

The fight between capitalists – who are the ones actually doing the stealing – and socialists – who are the ones actually trying to protect the original owner – continues in all domains. In the information age, notice, they believe that by adding value (digitizing) to public knowledge and information, they are claiming to now own it.

4 comments:

  1. In the case of a public resource like parking spots, it's not a case of the market vs the state. It's rather that a common-pool resource is not being governed properly by the people most directly affected (ie, the residents on the street). Take a look at the video and slides (pdf) of Elinor Ostrom's 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, especially the 6 or 7 design principles that appear in successfully managed common-pool resources. There's a message, I think, for OER & a learning society in the research and history of the commons. The link to Ostrom's Nobel stuff is: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/2009/ostrom-lecture.html

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  2. > it's not a case of the market vs the state.

    I never said it's a case of the market versus the state.

    Unless by 'market' you mean people who steal public resources and claim them as their own.

    It is these people who require the resource to be 'governed properly', as they typically leverage the means to the state to legitimize their theft.

    Oh, and I love the way you imply that I am not familiar with Ostom's work while not actually showing how it refutes my own views. It's funny, because I actually cite this work elsewhere: http://www.downes.ca/post/50397

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  3. Elinor Ostrom neatly shows that common property works, in fact it is the only thing that works!

    Capitalism encloses, steals resources and challenges ecology, however the left needs to learn from Elinor.

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  4. Doug,
    How would you fit your ideas into the recent Olympic Hockey rosters? Who are the capitalists and who are the socialists?

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I welcome your comments - I'm really sorry about the moderation, but Google's filters are basically ineffective.