Further Reading

This page is devoted to a growing and adapting collection of academic resources, initiatives, and methods of thinking on public goods for us to work with and draw from.

Centrality of Public Goods – Socialist Registrar

This paper, authored by Nancy Holstrom, approaches the importance of maintaining and empowering public goods through the lens of securing a sustainable future. Holstrom argues that given the most recent reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the climate crisis poses a number of challenges that can only be faced when we tackle them as a collective rather than through the individualistic approach of the market.

The End of the Corporation? 

This article by Marjorie Kelly outlines arguments made for the end of the corporation. Kelly begins by criticizing the current regime of regulating and curtailing corporate interests while leaving the profit-maximizing mandate in full power. Kelly argues that the alternative is new forms of company ownership where the benefits of production go towards communities rather than shareholders.

How Should the Economy be Regulated?

This paper by Richard A. Rosen, Ph.D. takes an incredibly broad approach to examining economic regulation in the wake of the Great Recession. Rosen argues that ways of democratizing economic regulation have been greatly overlooked and that the current incentive structure of profit maximization should be replaced by a new regime of prioritizing key social goals. A key goal must therefore be climate change mitigation as a problem that large cannot be solved by discrete actors. Rosen then offers the case study of public utilities as an area where public investment may produce better outcomes for communities.

Public Action for Public Goods

This paper, by Abhijit Banerjee, Lakshmi Iyer, and Rohini Somanathan, focuses on the relationship between public action and access to public goods. It begins by developing a simple model of collective action which is intended to capture the various mechanisms that are discussed in the theoretical literature on collective action. This is an academic analysis and comparison of “bottom-up” versus “top-down” approaches to regulating public goods. 

The Potential Pitfalls of Privatization

This collection of memos, compiled and authored by researchers at In the Public Interest (ITPI) outlines the reasons to be wary of privatization. This would be a useful primer in educating about the larger issue of privatization beyond simply focusing on discrete issues. The literature contained describes the language that is used when privatization occurs, the mechanisms by which the market, the state, and individuals interact, as well as a number of examples concerning education and infrastructure. 

Protecting the Common Good in Public Services 

This memo, also from ITPI, makes the argument for why public services should always be administered through the use of common goods. The argument is made by comparing the efficacy between common goods and privatization and championing why the former leads to better outcomes for communities and individuals. The memo also takes on the risks of privatizing public services such as reduced service quality, loss of middle-class jobs, and loss of accountability. 

Financial Transparency and Corporate Accountability

Conference speaker Savior Mwambwa argues, “A major part of the solution to this global curse is for governments to require companies to reveal more about their finances, with details, such as profits made and taxes paid, published for every country in which they operate.”

Major advances in 2019 toward a more democratic economy

New measures supporting public banking, worker co-ops, and community land trusts were launched across the country, continuing to grow a robust, cooperative economic ecosystem that builds community wealth. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most exciting changes in local and state policy that happened in 2019.

Podcast: From Private Profit to Public Alternatives

Featuring Shahrzad Habibi, research director at In The Public Interest, Thomas Hanna, The Democracy Collaborative’s research director and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, and Cat Hobbs, founder and director of We Own It. It’s an informative conversation that runs the gamut from the pitfalls of the privatization of goods and services to the social benefits of public ownership and envisioning democratic governance thereof.

Ownership Futures: Towards democratic public ownership in the 21st century

Our current political economic system is in crisis. Forty years of market fundamentalism, privatization, and unchecked corporate power have led us to the point of ecological collapse, increasing economic and social inequality, and dangerous political instability and backlash. Driven by the system’s failings, and the real pain being felt by workers and communities across the world, the search is on for answers, and alternative approaches and institutions are becoming increasingly popular. After a long winter in which ideas about economic alternatives were largely banished from public consideration, the seeds of a new economic consensus might be beginning to sprout.

“Running things like a business” versus handing over control: Reframing the conversation

Topos Partnership’s work to reframe issues of privatization are instructive for broader issues of the public good and how to advance understanding of them.

A Narrative of Rural Abundance

A report from the Grassroots Policy Project details the work they did with the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota. The organization wanted to use its words and actions to challenge the reigning free market ideology and promote a positive vision of rural Minnesota, built on the deeply held values of farmers and their rural neighbors. The succeeding process of narrative development helped LSP’s grassroots leaders and staff be more deliberate and strategic about how they intervened in the public discussion over the public good.

Public Benefit, Incorporated

The legal rules binding and defining corporations have changed considerably since the nation’s founding and since Wilson’s time—corporations now have many of the same constitutional protections as human persons—but Wilson’s fundamental point bears repeating because it is still true: the privileges granted to large corporations are just that—privileges—not rights, and they are granted by the government­­­ so that corporations can accomplish public purposes that otherwise would be hard to meet. It follows then that if corporations only exist because we, the people, allow them to, we should only permit them to exist if they are responsive to our needs.