Economy, Commons, and Mediation

My Economy Story

I was born into an economy of parts richer than their sum. The economic frame put on my existence was Randian, very explicitly so, and the Romantic element that worldview channels was too much for its economic framework. The creative life of my household, the sense that the core of human existence supramundane, made me feel all the more bored and dissatisfied with its more typical suburban, nuclear family elements. I find that where my father is genuinely excited by smokestacks and the symbols of industry, I’m excited by family and community structures that break the bonds of purely “private” life and grow into structures adding organic life back into the dead, mechanistic cycles we associate with anything truly important in economy and society. That is my supramundane reality, and over time, becoming Catholic and then finding its deeper tradition, I’ve grown into believing and even feeling that God makes family with us, and that quite the opposite of this framework characterizing the smaller, parochial structures of the world, I find it the biggest and most encompassing, and a trustworthy guide to how the smaller, hollower structures of economy and society can be revivified. 

When invited to think about “commons”, what comes to mind is something that has stayed with from a presentation on new urbanism I saw 10 years ago. In traditional spaces (what “new” urbanism is guided by) there will typically be a series of several, 5-10, gradations between the truly private and the completely public. I found that profound, and it guided the way I think about private and public spheres, culturally, legally, economically, etc – that it is not a public-private dichotomy, but on every axis, a challenge to meet the human need for, really, every shade of grey between. 

So when I developed a trust economy  “public house”, I was attempting a domestic commons but at the same time I wasn’t trying to make something that was entirely in the commons, and nor did I think there is such a thing (the “tragedy of the commons” is a stock phrase pointing to this; the commons are always in the orbit of people’s particularity and responsibility). What I’m developing now in community banking structures and other associated cooperative mechanisms I see as some sort of mediation between these poles, and something that has to be positioned so as to bring with it as much of the particular as possible while being responsible to human limits and open and welcoming to the world. 

I want to facilitate and share places of mediation in a world oriented to the im-mediate, yet invisibly reliant on the one who is mediation itself. 

One thought on “Economy, Commons, and Mediation

  1. Bert, thank you for your post. The picture you chose struck me as an early Scandinavian co-housing community. Is this correct or am I projecting interest? When you discussed “public house” and “domestic commons”, I thought it was confirmed yet still not explicit. If I am correct to your connection to co-housing, is there a reason you were not explicit in discussing it? If you were not alluding to co-housing with your pictures and words, I invite you to investigate the concept and many examples in the U.S and around the world as seeming to resonate with your words.

    When you say “the commons are always in the orbit of people’s particularity and responsibility,” does that resonate with what you describe as Catholicism’s “deeper tradition”? What else is part of that deeper tradition, of your deeper reality? I wish I were smart enough to understand more of your post, but I fear I missed some essential meanings. Thank you for posting.


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