Opening up (Open Source and the commons)

Opening Up Francis McKee

In November 2003, Wired magazine published an article on the rise of the open source movement, claiming that. “We are at a convergent moment, when a philosophy, a strategy, and a technology have aligned to unleash great innovation.”

Open source ideology has now moved beyond the coding and programming to inform the broader fields of information and content distribution. At this level it acquired the power to fundamentally change the way in which society is organised.

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The term ‘open source’ originally referred to the development of computer software. Rather than a propriety piece of software that a customer would buy but could not then modify, open source software is developed collaboratively by many programmers and the source code is shared freely in the public realm thereby allowing anyone to modify or improve it. Often the programmers developing this software are volunteers, part of a larger collective enterprise producing reliable products that are then in competition with those sold by corporations.
The most obvious success story in open source must be the development of the Linux operating system. In 1991, a Finnish student called Linus Torvalds began writing a new computer program and solicited help via the internet from other volunteer programmers or hackers. Within a few years their exchange of information had spawned a global network of participants who had created a new operating system that was more reliable than many commercial alternatives. And it was free.
As Thomas Goetz points out in his Wired article1, this use of collective intelligence has spread far beyond the basics of computing:
Software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts. Biologists have embraced open source methods in genomics and informatics, building massive databases to genetically sequence E. coli, yeast, and other workhorses of lab research. NASA has adopted open source principles as part of its Mars mission, calling on volunteer “clickworkers” to identify millions of craters and help draw a map of the Red Planet. There is open source publishing: With Bruce Perens, who helped define open source software in the ’90s, Prentice Hall is publishing a series of computer books open to any use, modification,
or redistribution, with readers’ improvements considered for succeeding editions. There are library efforts like Project Gutenberg, which has already digitized more than 6,000 books, with hundreds of volunteers typing in, page by page, classics from Shakespeare to Stendhal; at the same time, a related project, Distributed Proofreading, deploys legions of copy editors to make sure the Gutenberg texts are correct. There are open source projects in law and religion. There’s even an open source cookbook.


Open source ideology is closely bound up with the right to free speech and it is argued that there are links between the rise of the free speech movement in Berkeley in the early 1960s and the later developments in software in the same locality. Ironically, it is an attack: on machinery that lies at the heart of the most celebrated moment of the free speech movement. Concluding a speech on the Berkeley campus in December 1964, activist Mario Savio declared :

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

In his history of free software, Andrew Leonard3 cites a graduate student from Berkeley at that period who was familiar with both the free speech movement and knew the developing Unix software scene in the area:
Gage grins. Berkeley Unix, he proposes, offered a different way forward from the painful agony of hurling oneself into the operation of a demonic crankshaft. Berkeley Unix, with its source code available to all who wanted it, was the “gears and levers” of the machine. By promoting access to the source code, to the inner workings of that machine, the free-software/open-source movement empowered people to place their hands on the gears and levers, to take control of their computers, their Internet, their entire technological infrastructure.

“The open-source movement is a free speech movement,” says Gage. “Source code looks like poetry, but it’s also a machine—words that do. Unix opens up the discourse in the machinery because the words in Unix literally cause action, and those actions will cause other actions”

It wasn’t just the free speech movement however that provided the context for the development of free software in Berkeley. As the hippie culture evolved in San Francisco it also spawned groups that began to formulate ideas and practical solutions that would provide a framework for an ‘alternative’ society. One of the most important of these groups were the Diggers, activists who tried to create an infrastructure for the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury scene. Their work ranged from radical street theatre to more practical support for the communities appearing across the city, setting up free clinics and soup kitchens. Like Mario Savio, they vilified an industrial culture that folded man into machine though they identify computers as a means to free people from this relationship. In ‘Trip Without, a Ticket’, they state that Industrialization was a battle with 19th-century ecology to win breakfast at the cost of smog and insanity. Wars against ecology are suicidal. The U.S. standard of living is a bourgeois baby blanket for executives who scream in their sleep. No Pleistocene swamp could match the pestilential horror of modern urban sewage. No (children of White Western Progress will escape the dues of peoples forced to haul their raw materials.

But the tools (that’s all factories are) remain innocent and the ethics of greed aren’t necessary. Computers render the principles of wage-labor obsolete by incorporating them. We are being freed from mechanistic consciousness. We could evacuate the factories, turn them over to androids, clean up our pollution. North Americans could give up self-righteousness to expand their being.

This vision grows into a declaration of a free economy that is linked to a freedom of human impulses:
The Diggers are hip to property. Everything is free, do your own thing. Human beings are the means of exchange. Food, machines, clothing, materials, shelter and props are simply there. Stuff. A perfect dispenser would be an open Automat on the street. Locks are time-consuming. Combinations are clocks.

So a store of goods or clinic or restaurant that is free becomes a social art form. Ticketless theatre. Out of money and control.
“First you gotta pin down what’s wrong with the West. Distrust of human nature, which means distrust of Nature. Distrust of wildness in oneself literally means distrust of Wilderness.” (Gary Snyder).

Diggers assume free stores to liberate human nature. First free the space, goods and services. Let theories of economics follow social facts. Once a free store is assumed, human wanting and giving, needing and taking, become wide open to improvisation.

Written in 1968, these statements provided a Utopian blueprint for the communes and alternative cultures that followed. The practical realities of such schemes often meant they crashed quickly or descended into the same power struggles and petty greed of the society they were supposed to replace. Some practitioners though found practical applications of these ideas in a limited form which worked and revealed alternative economic models which were viable. One remarkable example was the archetypal hippie band, The Grateful Dead, who tacitly permitted the taping of their concert by fans. This led to the formation of a tape-swapping community that bypassed the traditional economics of the recording industry where music was heavily protected by copyright and taping was perceived as a threat. One taper, Alexis Muellner, recalls the events that sprang up around the tapes :

Software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts.

The beauty of it was that we were doing our part to expand the taping phenomenon by educating more and more people, and helping to unlock mysteries surrounding the tapes…At the same time, we spread the magic of the music through our events, which then went beyond just the music. They became a fertile ground for exploring artistic and creative freedom through multimedia, dance, and improvisation – some of the same themes the Acid Tests explored. In doing all of this we were creating a large community of active Deadheads in western Massachusetts, who in turn were sharing the music with all of their friends. It was a classic snowball effect.

The tapes not only spread the word about the Grateful Dead’s music but spawned a whole new series of cultural events. The real economic impact of this phenomenon only became clear long after the demise of the Haight-Ashbury culture. By the eighties, the band seldom recorded but toured prodigiously. The tapes in circulation generated such a reputation for the group that they consistently expanded their fan base and established themselves in a secure, and lucrative, position outside the trends of pop or fashion.


It was within this radical, Utopian context that programmers at Berkeley developed the world’s first standard operating system for computers – Unix. While few of these programmers were active radicals themselves, the general spirit of the region at the time certainly seems to have permeated their labs and gelled with a general academic respect for the sharing of knowledge. As Andrew Leonard6 points out, the most striking aspect of the Berkeley coders was their attitude:

Berkeley’s most important contribution was not software; it was the way Berkeley created software. At Berkeley, a small core group — never more than four people at any one time — coordinated the contributions of an ever-growing network of far- flung, mostly volunteer programmers into progressive releases of steadily improving software. In so doing, they codified a template for what is now referred to as the ‘open-source software development methodology.’ Put more simply, the Berkeley hackers set up a system for creating free software.

This general spirit of freedom and cooperation would have consequences that eventually reverberated far beyond Berkeley. Richard Stallman, a programmer who worked at Harvard in the ’70s, practiced a similar philosophy of sharing, establishing an ‘informal rule’ that if he distributed free copies of the software he was developing, hackers would send any improvements they made baCk to him. When Stallman’s lab community of hackers was eventually drawn into a private company in the ’80s, Stallman retaliated by matching their innovations program by program (distributing his work freely) in an unprecedented bout of coding that lasted almost two years. Setting up GNU in 1984, an organisation dedicated to ‘free software’, Stallman laid the foundations for the emergence of the open source movement in the ’90s.

At the same time, the world’s media was being transformed by several key developments. The video recorder was about to become a domestic commonplace, revolutionising viewing habits for cinema and television as films became infinitely reproducible. For musicians, the rise of sampling technology revealed an equally radical future as elements of one song could be lifted and then dropped into an entirely new musical context. The economics of cultural property and intellectual copyright began to be Challenged in ways in whiCh the movie industry, the music business and the art world had not foreseen.


In the early 21st century ‘open source’ begins to make sense of many of these developments. The ’90s saw traditional media industries flounder as they attempted to come to terms with a changing world where Napster, video pirates and web publishing overturned previous certainties for good. Now, recent initiatives in science and business are beginning to describe a new landscape. Looking at ways in which open source could benefit his business, for instance, Paul Everitt, of Digital Creations explains:

Thus, the question was, “Can going open source increase the value of our company?” Here’s what we saw:

Going open source will increase our user base by a factor of 100 within three months. Wider brand and stronger identity leads to more consulting and increased valuation on our company.

Open source gives rock solid, battle-tested, bulletproof software on more platforms and with more capabilities than closed source, thus increasing the value of our consulting.
Fostering a community creates an army of messengers, which is pretty effective marketing.

This is not the last innovation we’ll make.
In the status quo, the value of packaging the software as a product would approach zero, as we had zero market penetration. What is the value of a killer product with few users? The cost to enter the established web application server market was going to be prohibitive.

The investment grows us into a larger, more profitable company, one that can make a credible push to create a platform via open source. Since our consulting is only on the platform, a strong platform is imperative.
Open source makes the value of our ideas more apparent, thus the perceived value of the company is apparent.

Our architecture is ‘safer’ for consulting customers. With thousands of people using it, the software is far less marginal. The customer is able to fix things themselves or reasonably find someone to do it for them. Finally, the software will “exist forever”. Dramatically increasing the base of users and sites using it gives us a tremendous boost in “legitimacy”.

The exit plan isn’t about the golden eggs (the intellectual property) laid last year. It is about the golden goose and tomorrow’s golden eggs. The shelf life of eggs these days is shrinking dramatically, and the value of an egg that no one knows about is tiny. Give the eggs away as a testament to the value of the goose and a prediction of eggs to come. The community can work with us to dramatically increase the pace of innovation and responsiveness to new technical trends, such as XML and WebDAV.

Ride the coattails of the nascent Open Source community and its established Channels suCh as RedHat. OSS has a certain buzz that is greater than its real customer-closing value, but this buzz is getting hot. Moving aggressively towards Open Source can make us a category killer for the web application server market segment.

Perhaps the developments in science have been even more surprising. Interviewing biologist Michael Eisen, Thomas Goetz (2003) discovered that older models for scientific publishing are in decay:

“The guiding principle of science has been that freely available material is more useful; it’s more likely to generate better science,” Eisen says. But freely available is not the same as free of Charge. Science journals, with their historically narrow readerships, often charge thousands for a subscription. One of the biggest disseminators is Elsevier, the science publishing unit of an Anglo-Dutch media conglomerate, which distributes some 1,700 academic journals, from Advances in Enzyme Regulation to Veterinary Parasitology.

“The whole premise for that model just evaporated with the Internet,” Eisen continues. “Technology now makes openness possible; it’s maximum openness. The rules of the game have changed, but the system has failed to respond.” Proof that the scientific community at large have recognised this failure came in 2003 when TheWellcome Trust: produced a position statement on scientific publishing that acknowledged the value of open source8:

With recent advances in Internet publishing, the Trust is aware that there are a number of new models for the publication of research results and will encourage initiatives that broaden the range of opportunities for quality research to be widely disseminated and freely accessed.

The Wellcome Trust therefore supports open and unrestricted access to the published output of research, including the open access model (defined below), as a fundamental part of its charitable mission and a public benefit to be encouraged wherever possible.
This statement returns science to the spirit of the early natural philosophers sharing discoveries through networks of letters and journals such as the Transactions of the Royal Society.
With the acceptance of open source ideas in such areas of society it becomes more likely that these concepts will have a lasting impact. The collapse of the dot com bubble proved that older models of entrepreneurship lack the intuitive grasp of the internet as a medium and do not yet comprehend the odd mix of gift economy and commerce that have shaped its development. A more agile approach now seems necessary for any entrepreneur entering this new economy.


In 2006 CCA began to develop an ‘open source’ approach to its organisational structure as a pragmatic response to the expansion of the building in 2001. The lottery refurbishment of CCA added greatly increased the size of the building which now occupied most of the Greek Thomson structure, and all of the 19th villa behind it. The organisation struggled economically to fill such a large set of spaces and the aggressive business model that accompanied the new building did not work with the kind of programming that was expected by CCA’s audiences. It was clear though that the new building has fine resources, excellent gallery spaces, an acoustically perfect performance space, a dramatic central courtyard with a restaurant, a wood workshop, a small cinema, an artist’s flat. And Glasgow is a city with a large artists community, a great music scene, audiences hungry for film, literature and performance. It seemed clear that the building had much to contribute to those wider groups. In its debilitated state in 2006, the preciousness

The collapse of the dot com bubble proved that older models of entrepreneurship lack the intuitive grasp of the internet as a medium

of the building as a ‘lottery jewel’ had also faded. This gave us an opportunity to ‘repurpose’ several spaces. The bookshop space that felt misplaced became a third gallery on the ground floor. CCA office spaces that felt overly luxurious became a hack-lab and the Creative Lab residency space. Glasgow Life came in to support an independent programme for Intermedia Gallery which had become unmoored from King Street. Initially through word-of-mouth the theatre, clubroom and cinema were made available to artists and organisations that needed temporary project space.

When it became clear that offering the space in this way was useful and supportive to other organisations we started to formalise the process. For artists and organisations with minimal funding we would offer space for free. Technicians and Front of House staff would have to be paid for if needed but we offered our staff at cost, taking no profit from the organisations. Of course, if organisations clearly had additional funding we would charge for the space but still at a subsidised rate. The galleries on the ground floor remain at the heart of CCA’s own programme and are programmed solely by our own curatorial team.
To make this policy work two elements are vital. The first is co-ordination. As activities grew in the building, we created a role for someone to liaise and co- ordinate the multiple events across the building. The second vital element involves selection. Clearly such a policy could easily be taken advantage of or it could quickly become a kaleidoscope of random events. To prevent this, each event and every partner programme is considered internally and every new event must be proposed to the CCA.
Our criteria for inclusion in the programme are based on a wide variety of things. Quality is a priority and we also give a great deal of consideration to whether the proposal is appropriate to CCA. Our programme stresses experimental work and activities that cannot be easily housed in other venues. So, for instance mainstream theatre proposals are not a high priority as there are many venues

across the city that are better suited to those proposals. Equally, proposals that tend to demand high amounts of rehearsal time are not high priorities as they occupy space that could be used by other, more public, activities.

Over several years we have built up many long term partners through this open source policy. Regular users tend to come to. us at the beginning of the year and speak to us about dates across the entire year. The benefits for everyone from this include a much greater feeling of ownership of the space by a wider spectrum of the arts community. The openness of the programme also brings in a broader variety of audiences and helps us break down some of the barriers to access that can easily grow around an art centre. The building can provide support for a large section of the arts

community in the city and the programme can reflect more cultural perspectives than our small team could achieve on its own. Perhaps the bottom fine is we hope the activity cultural momentum and diversity of the programme demonstrates the best possible use of public funding for the arts in the city.

Opening up Francis McKee

Source: East End Transmissions I 15

Common Good Games


As part of the “Common Good Games” celebration at the January Reshuffle. Our city council, who are full of people of challenging ambition for our city and are keen for the competitive sports. We challenge you to a tug-of-war on any of the bomb sites of Govan that are not earmarked for business development or green space invasion. If we win, we demand proper democratic decision making and consultation on developments that are public led for the benefit of the public first – That is, not forced on the public by the induccommongood2 14dec07ement of seemingly benevolent business schemes and public relations propaganda. A “Win-Win” situation as you are often heard to say. Come on down to Govan this Sat. 26th. And by the way, don’t think to use school kids as cheerleaders for your team by giving them a day-off lessons – It’s on a Saturday

Bob I send you the record of the inaugural Commongood Games. I am delighted to be able to report the following result: Fatcats 0, Kelvingrove residents 1. A 3&2halfs team turned out at the Kelvingrove park blaise pitches tonight for a game of footnoball in the pitch dark to celebrate the end of the fatcats disco-in-a-tent event. Yes, everyone making a fuss won a great win for commonsense. I would like to think that my efforts as a councillor were backed up by residents’ and others’ efforts in drawing the various committees and boards attention to the obvious (to us anyway) daftness of drink-all-you can to a loud band_taut_rope-hankie in a tent within a few metres of private homes. The two pix show us in front of the compound wherein deconstruction seemed to be underway. Yay!

Why To create awareness and draw attention to the total lack of accountability of the Glasgow City Council, to public opinion. To object the Councils full attention being focused on foisting on the public extravagant spectacles such as the Commonwealth Games, which will only create a land grabbing culture, rather than a community culture. The destruction of the idea of Common Good, rather than preservation of it.

The Common Good Games (How to play) Make up a game | Join in one | Take photographs of games activity – Sent Them to City strolls. Send pictures of places you see games being played – Football pitches – Park – Green spaces – Spare ground – Streets – indoors




Games you remember playing – Would like to play – Have seen of interest. Finals of “Common Games” May Day Glasgow Green.

What is the Common Good (The simplest explanation)

The common Good can be found all around you. It is what makes up our communities. It is all of our cities institutions, Art galleries, museums, schools, parks. It is also the history of how these things came about. The Common Good belongs to everyone both rich and poor alike. It is common to us all. The Common Good is what we do for each other, and what we give to each other. If the common good is privatised it will be rendered meaningless. See links on right.

common-sticker The page you are looking at is part of the Common Good.

The Commonwealth Games is a kickback from British Empire days. There is nothing Commonwealth about them, apart from the robbery of the commonwealth into the pockets of the not so common wealthy.

Now it is much easier to convince people that the Commonwealth Games is a wonderful achievement for the city and we will share and benefit from winning this prestigious event. People like sport – so our kind and generous city administrators are giving the people what they want? Did they not give us “The Garden Festival” “Culture City” “City of Architecture” and many more accolades that we can be proud of? Did we not enjoy ourselves for a few weeks? Did not each succeeding council leader in turn promise that the profits from these events would be spent on creating social inclusion? And do we not see the benefits of this social inclusion all around us? All these beautiful flats along the river – nice hotels, bistros all the shopping retail outlets and Tesco’s we could only dream of before these accolades became ours – the people’s of Glasgow.

It is through the profits of these events and achievements that we have been able to afford to welcome so many asylum seekers to our city. Have we not spread this wealth and social inclusion to the folk in Keppochhill, Parkhead, Hutchesontown, Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Queenslie, Royston, Braidfauld, Ibrox, Barlanark, Ashfield, Milton, Wyndford, Easterhouse, Summerhill, to mention a few. OK perhaps a few of these places fell through the regeneration net. But we really promise this time. If you let use have the Commonwealth Games and allow us to sell of some old dusty buildings a few parks that no ones bothered about anyway. We will make sure everyone benefits. Honest.

What is a game?

Games are about interaction enjoyment therapy fun. When we were kids we learned through playing games. The Olympics and such like aren’t about games, they are about power and the glorification of power. Imagine folk training for 4 years just to run round a track faster than everyone else. Is that fun. It night be for those who do it and those who watch. I’m OK with it up to here. But why should it create so much human misery, devastate so much community and cost the poorest the most money. For if we take the time to study what happens before and after these short lived gatherings – we would understand why the people of New York were ecstatic about – not by winning the bid for the Olympics – but losing it.

Are you fed up listening to this rubbish? Then the Common Good Games are for YOU

What action you take will become part of the Common Good

There are 4 ways you could contribute.

Do some serious research, some scholarly militancy.

You Could help to create noise, create informative propaganda,

Do your own thing then link up, or have unbridled “meaningful” fun.

Or all 4

The Common Good Concept (For armchair gamists)

Common good The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific ” good ” that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy, ethics and political science

Common good (economics) In economics the term common good is used to refer to competitive non-excludable goods .

Other games

Play Democracy Rules: ( “rule by the people” ) This game is participatory and has been played for centuries

Play Accountability Rules: ( In leadership roles, it is the acknowledgement and assumption of responsibility for actions)

Play “Practicing real Consultation” listening to and taking on-board the views of the public and interested groups.”

Enough of this stuff. If the Common Good games are to be successful they need to be visible. After all the games committee, [you] do not have a million bucks to spread adverts all over buildings. We are not allowed to spend public money without the bosses making sure we don’t do anything useful with it. So we need to use what is already here, what we got.






Common good assets being given to new leisure Trust?

For the attention of Ronnie Hinds, CEO Fife Council
Please find below for your information a copy of an e-mail sent to all 78 councillors in Fife.
Common good assets being given to new leisure Trust?

Dear Councillor, as an elected representative in Fife you will be aware that you have the responsibility of ensuring that the common good assets left by past benefactors to the burghs of Fife are, by law, your responsibility. This onerous legal responsibility was the subject of a letter written to the C.E.Os and Directors of Finance of all 32 local authorities by the Scottish Executive Minister and the Head of Best Value practice. See: Letter from the Head of Best Value & Performance Team, Scottish Executive to Directors of Finance – 16 March 2007 (24 KB pdf)

Given the need for councillors to act as stewards of the common good assets of the former burghs, I read with interest on your website and in the Scotsman yesterday that Fife Council are expected to approve the setting up of a Trust by way of a company limited by guarantee to oversee various leisure centres in Fife. One leisure centre in the list featured on Fife Direct website is the Carnegie Leisure Centre Dunfermline. You will no doubt be aware that the site on which this building is situated is common good land.

Whether or not there are other sites or buildings in the list of leisure centres that belong in whole or part to the common good is not clear as the collation of a comprehensive list of common good assets is still a “work in progress”, despite the fact that the council has a clear obligation to have “comprehensive and accurate registers of common good assets”.

Given the uncertainty as to who owns what in Fife (the common good or the council) it is possible that there are other common good assets that may be transferred to the proposed new limited company. Can you please advise me if this is the case?

As far as the Carnegie Leisure Centre is concerned would the new limited company act as the stewards of this common good asset? If so, how would this square with the recent statements by the Scottish Executive on the stewardship of common good assets by elected representatives? Given that the limited company would appoint members by some means as yet not disclosed?

What would be the position if the common good asset being transferred or stewarded by the new limited company if it were classed as an inalienable common good asset?

Would the revenue from the lease or rent—or other receipts—of the Carnegie Leisure Centre continue to be paid into the common good fund?

On the assumption that revenue from the lease or rent of the Carnegie Leisure Centre would continue to be paid into the common good fund, which body would fix the rentable value?

Would the Fife Council’s 2004 guidelines regarding receipts from common good assets apply to the new company?

These are some of the questions that come to mind initially, but I would ask you to consider the more general question of the fairness of transferring assets out of the public to the private sector.

The people of the burghs have had no say in this matter and it certainly was not an issue that the political parties campaigned on at the recent elections. Once in the hands of a private body (even a private company limited by guarantee and regulated by OSCAR) the public will have no say in how these assets are managed, or disposed of.

In November 2006, The Scottish Labour Party at their annual conference in Oban passed a resolution condemning the use of charitable trusts as a vehicle for the avoidance of VAT (by way of rates relief) and the receipt of Lottery Funds.

This was hardly surprising as, a/ the rate-relief given to such bodies will cause a shortfall which others will have to make good; and b/ the voluntary sector—representing many worthy causes—will be the loser as it is already competing for a share of this finite cake, which will soon disappear if the big councils take the lions share.

The misuse of common good assets in the past is reckoned by Andy Wightman (See: ) to have resulted in assets worth £1.8 billion disappearing from Scottish burghs.

It was because of the misuse of these assets that the Liberal Democrat’s leader Sir Menzies Campbell, at the party’s conference in Dunfermline in 2006 called for: “New legislation to regulate, protect and modernise the management of all common good assets across Scotland”.

The Scottish Parliament is currently considering three public petitions on common good issues and there is the possibility that this consideration might extend to the European Parliament because of the concerns of MEPs arising out of the Glasgow transfer. I will certainly be raising the proposed transfer of Fife’s assets with an MEP and with Audit Scotland.

So before handing over the leisure assets of the people, the citizens of Fife, to a private limited company please consider the implications of the common good—in the narrow and broader sense.

Yours in the common good, Tom Minogue, 94 Victoria Terrace, Fife, KY12 0LU.

How to untie the knot

The need for appropriate ownership and access regimes Toby Lloyd Land & Liberty Autumn/Winter 2002/3

Breaking the multinationals’ stranglehold on natural resources is vital if everyone is to benefit, but Toby Lloyd believes what is really needed are appropriate ownership and access regimes. Too often, this debate has been presented as a straight choice between private and shared property.

In 1968 the academic and author Garrett Hardin described ‘the tragedy of the commons’ like this: if everyone has a right to graze cattle on a village common it will inevitably suffer over-grazing, because it is in each individual’s interest to extract as much as possible from it, knowing the effects of overuse will be shared by everyone.

This argument has since been deployed to demonstrate private property’s merits and to justify the privatisation of socially held assets. With diminishing resources left under social ownership, attention has shifted to various ‘unowned’ resources. The atmosphere, oceans and genome are commons – assets in which we all have a notional shared ownership – and therefore, we are told, are susceptible to Hardin’s ‘tragedy’. The only solution, according to the new market fundamentalism, is to enclose the commons, creating private assets and incentives for owners to preserve them. In this way, it is argued, the ‘tragedy’ will be averted.

India’s neem tree offers a striking example of bio-piracy in action where marauding multinational corporations seek to plunder the knowledge of the global South. To market fundamentalists, the knowledge of neem’s uses is a common that should be privatised, allowing most efficient use. The flaw in the argument is that it fails to differentiate between open-access and what are often called common property systems.

Hardin’s hypothetical grazing land was an open-access system: no rules govern by whom or how much it is used. In reality, most pastures are types of shared property, owned by members of a limited group with the right to exclude non-members from using it.

No fences doesn’t mean no owners or no rules.

Complex shared property systems have evolved everywhere, governing the use of water, grazing lands, fish stocks and knowledge. Open access, common, limited shared and private property are different types of property regime – rules that govern rights of access, use, exchange and so on, and their corresponding obligations.

There are many different types of property regime and some are more suitable in certain circumstances. Open-access regimes are best for say public health information. National parks are a recognition of common property in national heritage. Shoes are best owned by individuals. More complex resources may need more sophisticated ownership regimes.

Perhaps in neem’s case common ownership combined with resource rental is best. Or perhaps a true open-access system nobody could privatise would ensure its benefits were spread as widely as possible. Yet efficient and extensive exploitation, whether privately or in common, is not the fundamental criterion. The regime must ensure the re-creation of the resource. For the products of labour, private property rewards creation. For fish in the ocean, or rain forests, that which sustains their re-creation, brings abundance.

We have to recognise common ownership as both real and valid, and resist the efforts of the bio-pirates.

They will never tell us when we succeed

The one thing that comes out of these campaigns [Canongate] is that the peoples voices can be heard. It may take all of our energy and invention to fight the biggest banks, the fancy law firms and our own councils. (Who continuously work against our interests, using our money to fund others interests)

With only our emails, blogs and photo copiers and what meager funds we can raise – It is us who create the intelligent arguments against the
tyrannies of corporations, and the workers who sell there souls for the
mortgage payment. It is us who attempt to educate a public consumed by television and the rhetoric of market advertising – passed off in the
dailies as journalism.

The good folk of Canongate are not busybodies out to spoil ever ones
fun, or stop “progress”. They are responsible citizens, engaging in the
life of their city. They are educators who have done all the legwork,
read all the reports, produced all the relevant arguments for the public
good – and will receive no brown envelope for their efforts

I sat for a few hours on Wednesday in Edinburgh City Chambers, as about 30 odd folk round a table earned there wages clinically describing the deconstruction of hundreds of years of history for the benefit of bankers. Is this all we can expect from those paid to serve the public? Perhaps it is.

The other lesson we should be learning is it is not inevitable. We do
not need to put up with corrupt councils who reinterperate the promises
they made to get into office. We can get rid of them like we have done
many times in the past. We can also inform the new ones with the
experiences gained and lessons learned out of these kinds of campaigns. For we need as well, to tell our future representatives what we “do” want and how they should go about getting it- as well as what we “don’t” want. The importance of these struggles, even if they are not won, is – they inform us of how we build a stronger movement ready for the next battle.

But we shouldn’t be fooled into listening to the opinions of lawyers and
experts – They are to used to telling us what we can’t do. We need to
start listening to our own kind, who do the work in our “real”
interests. Some of them will be pushing buggies, some of their ideas may seem a bit strange at first – but the glow in their eyes is because they can see a vision of a better future, it is not the dull glimmer in the
eye of the bankers assistant – nor the cynical bystander.

There is nothing in our history other than, only ordinary people change
things for ordinary people – That is, once we learn to stand up and
support each other. This has always been the story of our successes. You [Canongate campaigners] are an example and inspiration towards these ideas. I congratulate you and take inspiration from your work and efforts.

Power to the Independent Republic of the Canongate

Solidarity. Bob.

Repatriating the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt and the twilight of the Common Good

This autumn sees the 10th anniversary of the repatriation of the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt, to the Lakota people – which was in the possession of Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow.

It is possible to take almost anything from people, once you have removed the symbols of their culture, because symbolic culture is an important part of a type of value system that creates taboos and boundaries that help to maintain and protect a common good. The Lakota know this well – together with the symbolic value of objects – not as museum pieces – but as part of their daily rituals. The value of our culture, if there is any, is in how it intertwines in our daily lives – it is not, as it has become for many – a day out at the art gallery to see the “Doctor Who” exhibition.

The 10th anniversary of the repatriation of the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt, to its rightful owners, should remind us that it is almost the 3nd anniversary of the robbing of the Glasgow people’s Common Good by the cities administrators.

The Lakota, travel across oceans to reclaim their cultural heritage – Glaswegian’s, apart from a dedicated few, have hardly started to cross a symbolic road, to reclaim “their” common heritage.

American Indians see at first hand how the destruction of there culture and value system goes hand in hand with the destruction, colonisation and appropriation of their land and livelihood. We need to learn from the Lakota, and demand the repatriation of Glasgow’s common good to the city – and for it to be used for the benefit of local people.

Common Good
A beginners guide

The New Bohemia
How business took over the cities culture

Subterranean methods to shift control of assets

27 February 2007 Herald Letters

I Have now heard from the chief executive of Glasgow City Council, in reply to my recent letter about the council’s surprising decision to transfer council assets (including common good – heritable and moveable – assets) to a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

I understand that, following the executive committee’s advice on February 2, councillors subsequently voted 58 to eight to approve seismic changes in the functions and duties of current departments, in a negation of current duties by councillors as democratic representatives of the electorate, with powers of scrutiny and voting rights, in the “workings” of all current departments.

In the entire subterranean consultations and negotiations, involving millions of pounds of citizens’ current assets, there has been no consultation with the stakeholders (Glasgow citizens), no attempt at information, via the media or councillors, while the council executive has been involved, over a lengthy period, with advisers, consultants, the Inland Revenue, the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator, organisations/charities outwith Scotland, and others.

There has been no evidence in political party manifestos of a desire to offload councillors’ current paid duties into a charity, and also a trading company, where councillors will have no useful input whatsoever, nor any legal obligations and duties.

Were all these major changes from accountability to citizens, and the electorate, part of the reason the present councillors were voted into office four years ago, there might be some acceptable excuse for the haste, which is restricted to a three-month period prior to the forthcoming elections (MSPs and councillors) on May 3.

In fact, all “arrangements” for a new charity and trading company, along with management arrangements, transfer of staff, and transfer of assets, are to be completed by April 1. The charitable company is to be fully operational by May 31 – with no democratic input, including via the elections on May 3.
Consultation with staff and trade unions appears to be unimportant in current negotiations; obviously staff have been instructed to remain silent.
While a chief executive may be satisfied that the entire proposal is “both lawful and wholly consistent with the principles whatever they are governing common good” this is negated by the fact that the Common Good Register has to be “reviewed and updated” – in spite of the statutory obligations to “maintain” this and the statutory obligation to “have the accounts audited annually, and open to public inspection”.
Clearly, there has been no duty of care of separate common good assets, heritable and moveable, by the current trustees – ie, all elected councillors – which remains a separate legal issue.
Under separate headings there are to be 35 services transferred to the new charity and the trading company.
In view of the ongoing involvement of the Scottish Parliament (through the Petitions Committee, followed by the Local Government and Transport Committee), it is important to raise the profile of the legalities concerning proposals which affect “disposals” of current (and future) common good assets, heritable and moveable, and to ensure that these remain legally safeguarded.
M E Mackenzie, Springhill Road, Peebles. 28 February

Rushed decision to transfer control of Common Good

M E Mackenzie (February 27) is right to draw attention once again to the woeful lack of information and prior consultation by Glasgow City Council regarding the transfer of control of certain services and assets to a separate charitable company.
Common good assets included in this transfer were donated or bequeathed to Glasgow by many past benefactors, to be held in trust and administered by the city council for the benefit of the whole community. Whatever argument there may be about the actual ownership of these assets, there is no doubt that the elected councillors have both a legal and a moral duty of trust, which they are now in process of abandoning.
Readers may be interested in the recent comments of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee, in its report to ministers after taking evidence and debating this matter. “The committee is concerned that the standard of record-keeping of common good assets by local authorities does not appear to be consistent.”
“Assets should be properly valued and clearly and correctly recorded, and this information should be transparent and easily accessible.”
“Common good assets should be promoted better to allow communities more influence over their use,” and “there should be formal consultation with a community before the disposal of any common good asset.”
Glasgow City Council’s rushed decision to transfer control of some of these assets to a separate company is hardly the best way to meet these requirements. The action is not just irresponsible, it shows total contempt for the citizens who put them into power.

It seems that council leader Stephen Purcell is now behaving like Big Brother Tony Blair, ignoring all opposition and using an unrepresentative majority produced by an undemocratic voting system to drive through his own personal agenda.

Iain A D Mann, 7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.

Council plans on museums ‘against party policy’

Plans by Labour-run Glasgow City Council to hand over control of its museums, galleries and sports facilities to an independent charitable trust is against party policy, it has been claimed.

Opposition politicians and unions have pointed to Labour’s latest policy document which opposes the creation of charities for outsourcing services, claiming there is a massive paradox between what the party is pledging and what its largest council is trying to do.

The policy was inserted into Scotland’s Future: Report of the Scottish Policy Forum at the insistence of the Labour-affiliated public-sector union Unison.

It is understood it was drafted in 2006 with specific reference to proposals at Fife Council to hand over the management of its facilities to a trust, and was approved last November at Labour’s Scottish conference in Oban.

The policy states: “We will look at ways to ensure the legitimate incentives that apply to charities are not used as vehicles for outsourcing by local authorities.”

Unison, which is pursuing a number of avenues to halt the hiving off of the culture and leisure department, has been quietly raising the issue with Labour politicians in an effort to encourage them to highlight the contradictions with its elected members in Glasgow.

But the policy document has now fallen into the hands of opposition councillors, who will use the proposed transfer and creation of Culture and Sport Glasgow, which has now been cleared by Scotland’s charities regulator, as an election issue.

Christopher Mason, leader of Glasgow council’s LibDems, said: “This is an extraordinary twist to the tale of (GCC leader) Steven Purcell’s crusade to Blairise’ the council.

“This part of the Labour Party’s new policy statement was written with the deliberate purpose of committing it to oppose the kind of thing Steven is seeking to do.”

Mike Kirby, Glasgow branch secretary for Unison, added: “Unison was instrumental in having this policy included and of course we are raising this with politicians in the run-up to the elections. We’re concerned the party in Glasgow is moving away from the general policies in Scotland.”

But John Lynch, executive member for culture and sport, said: “Dr Mason’s comments are disingenuous and clearly an attempt by the LibDems to hide from the fact their expensive plans for a Local Income Tax would add 6.5p in every pound to income-tax bills.”