Review: The Big Disconnect – Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet)

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Micah Sifry

5.0 out of 5 stars Should Be Top Ten Book Across All Progressive Communities, October 5, 2014

This is one of the most useful important books I have read in the past couple of years, and I am stunned that the publisher has failed to properly present the book for purchase on Amazon. This book should be one of the top ten books across the progressive communities of the world.

I rate this book at SIX STARS, which puts it into the top ten percent of the 2000+ non-fiction books with some DVDs (139) I have reviewed at Amazon. This is an *amazing* book of passionate informed truth-telling and in my view, it should be the starting point for a totally new conversation among all progressive minds going into the future.

I read this book on the way back from The New Story Summit as hosted by the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. While the book is deeply supportive of my own views on the desperate need of the distributed progressive community for tools and methods that bring together all minds and all information into a coherent whole, attending the summit and listening to the leaders of major progressive organizations including the Global Eco-Village Network and Transition positioned me to better appreciate this book by Micah Sifry.

QUOTE (34): “…has not made participation in decision-making or group coordination substantially easier.”

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Oct 5

Review: Creating a Learning Society

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Joseph Stiglitz, Bruce Greenwald

4.0 out of 5 stars Glass Half Full — Cannot Be Ignored But Also Off the Rails, September 4, 2014

Among all economists in the English language, I hold Joseph Stiglitz to be among the most enlightened and virtuous. When I formed a “dream” coalition cabinet in 2012, he was on it. His co-author is of less interest to me — finance geeks have been demonstrably impotent these past fifty years — and particularly those who fall prey to mathematical formulas lacking in social integrity — and I believe with book would have been stronger had Stiglitz either gone it alone, or collaborated with an educator such as Derek Bok. The book is also rooted in old lectures, starting in 2008, and it is focused on Kenneth Arrow’s work, which is best appreciated on its own merits. See, for example:

Moral Hazard in Health Insurance (Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series)
The Limits of Organization (Fels Lectures on Public Policy Analysis)
General Competitive Analysis, Volume 12 (Advanced Textbooks in Economics)

The weakest point of this book, which does indeed have much to offer for anyone who cares about the future of academia, commerce, governance, and society, is that is “assumes” integrity on the part of the government, and that industrial policies are somehow going to corrupt deep ethical and intellectual failings across all major forms of organization (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit). This is the same mistake made by Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update and the Club of Rome. The *losing* alternative to the Limits to Growth assumption that top-down government would deal responsibly with climate change and other high level threats focused instead on education from the bottom up — the central point of Will Durant’s 1919 doctoral thesis, now available as Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition.

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Sep 4

Review: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)

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Elinor Ostrom

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons, May 27, 2014

I read this book shortly after I had read Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre) and my first impression is that the book should be re-issued in 2015, a quarter-century after it was first published, with additional material on how everything here is applicable to governing the cyber-commons. I have to recommend the two books together — STOP THIEF lays down with deep historical and multi-cultural foundation that gives GOVERNING THE COMMONS even more credibility — and for those that do not realize, this book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics.

On that note, I would point out that this book crushes the traditional explanations for why the state or the firm are superior decision-making alternatives to bottom-up citizen common sense. This book is also consistent with the LOSING proposal to the Club of Rome that recommended we focus on educating the global public (a universal bottom-up approach). As well now know, the Club of Rome chose the wrong solution, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, because is assumed that top-down mandated measures were the only measures that could be effective.

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May 28

Review (Guest): Bowling Alone – The Collapse and Revival of American Community

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Robert Putnam

5.0 of 5.0 Stars. The Promise of Social Capitalism

By Ed Brenegar on May 18, 2000

When I first came across the idea that Robert Putnam wrote about in his 1995 article Bowling Alone, I felt like a whole new world and language had been openned up to me. Every thing he writes about in his book is familiar, and yet it is fresh and insightful. The crux of the matter is that our social connectedness is diminishing. Social capital, or the value that exists in the level of trust and reciprocity between individuals, institutions and communities needs to be strengthen. This isn’t just about being better people or having a stronger economy. This is about the network of relationships that determine whether a society, both local and national, can meet the challenges of its problems, and thereby sustain a high quality of life.

Putnam’s book should be read as an exercise in building social capital. By this I mean, you should distribute it to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and especially elected officials in your community. Then plan to meet and discuss it over lunch or coffee. This book has the potential for being the most significant book on society in a generation. When we scratch our heads and wonder why in the midst of a booming economy, we have such tragic social dysfunction in our society, you can look to Putnam’s book as a perspective that offers promise that social capitalism is a signficant aspect of the answer.

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May 26

Review: STOP, THIEF! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance

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Peter Linebaugh

5.0 out of 5 stars David Bollier’s Review is Better, This Is My Attempt, April 21, 2014

I was very impressed by David Bollier’s review of this book at his web site (look for < “Stop, Thief!” – Peter Linebaugh’s New Collection of Essays > and am encouraging him to port that excellent review here to Amazon. Indeed, after working my way through the book myself, I consider myself unable to do proper justice to this deep work that integrates history, poetry, political economy, anthropology, and sociology among other disciplines. Hence I hope others will write substantive summary reviews and I again recommend Bollier’s review above.

Three thoughts keep recurring as I went through this book of original current essays and presentations:

01 Holy Cow. This guy is DEEP and BROAD in terms of arcane as well as popular sources, delving down into little known poems, essays, public statements, etcetera. This book is the one book version of the Durant’s Story of Civilization applied to one topic, the commons.

02 Holy Cow. This is what my top political science professor was trying to explain when I was in college in 1970-1974 – yes, a half century ago — and I was just not smart enough, patient enough, to appreciate it.

03 Holy Cow. This book is not just subversive, it does a magnificent job of head slapping every politician, economists, talking head, and other pretender who presumes to talk about public welfare without for one instant understanding that wages are a form of slavery and disconnection of humanity from everything else. Lionel Tiger makes related points in The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution and the Industrial System but this book — if you focus and do not get lost in the poetry and minutia of exemplar citation — beats the commons versus capitalism drum along every possible note on the musical scale.

Among my high-level notes:

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Apr 29

Review (Guest): Governing the Commons – The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

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Elinor Ostrom

4.0 out of 5 stars Addressing the Collective Action Problem August 2, 2007

By Matthew P. Arsenault

Ostrom attempts to refute the belief that only through state and or market-centered controls can commonly pooled resources (CPRs) be effectively governed. Ostrom writes, “Communities of individuals have relied on institutions resembling neither the state nor the market to govern some resource systems with reasonable degrees of success over long periods of time” (p. 1). Governing the Commons sets out to discover why some groups are able to effectively govern and manage CPRs and other groups fail. She tries to identify both the internal and external factors “that can impede or enhance the capabilities of individuals to use and govern CPRs.”

The first section of the book examines both state-controlled and privatization property rights regimes, and illustrates failures in both regimes; namely, that central authorities often fail to have complete accuracy of information, have only limited monitoring capabilities, and possess a weak sanctioning reliability. As such, a centralized governing body may actually govern the commons inaccurately and make a bad situation worse. In the case of privatized property rights regimes, Ostrom illustrates two main points: 1) it assumes that property is homogenous and any division of property will be equitable; and 2) privatization will not work with non-stationary property (fisheries, for example).

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Apr 28

Review (Guest): Working Together – Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice

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Elinor Ostrom, Army R. Poteete, and Maroc A. Janssen

5.0 of 5.0 Stars An inspiration for Transdisciplinary Researchers By Herbert Gintis on June 7, 2010

This book, which is based on the several decades of research by Nobel award winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom and her talented colleages, vigorously asserts two messages with equal fervor. The first is that “it is possible for individuals to act collectively to manage shared natural resources on a sustainable basis.” (215) The second message is that the existing structure of academic disciplines in the system of higher learning deeply handicaps researchers from attaining true insights of this type. The possibility of people managing their own common pool resources through democratic and egalitarian participation was determined through research “based on field studies, laboratory and field experiments, game theory, and agent-based models,” and no discipline recognizes the legitimacy of models that span such a broad range of statistical, qualitative thick description, formal analytical and computer simulation methods.

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Apr 28