Despite not being on the ballot, President Obama posted a big Super Tuesday victory in North Carolina this year. March has been another good month for our much-maligned Community Organizer-in-Chief, for Stop Titan, Ocean Alliance and community activists everywhere—even for 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Elinor Ostrom.
Obama’s decision to reverse course and prevent drilling in the southeast Atlantic has Republicans crying foul again. Governor McCrory was ticked about the president exerting his authority and said, “President Obama’s total reversal can only be described as a special political favor to far-left activists that have no problem importing energy resources from countries hostile to the United States.”
That’s practically an endorsement. Our governor ceded a lot of power to community activists. Kudos to him for noticing.
On March 18, Governor McCrory disbanded the Coal Ash Management Commission because it infringed on his executive power. How’s that for executive irony? Governor McCrory’s environmental record, clarity of judgement about clean energy and astounding comprehension of foreign policy is beyond compare. I have so much faith in our governor’s environmental record that if he poured me a glass of water, I’d filter it and boil it for a few minutes to clear it of hog waste and coal ash.
Stop Titan’s victory was one for all of us in these parts. Titan America’s official statement didn’t give credit to Stop Titan. They stated, “The economics no longer support building a cement plant in the region.”
That curt statement makes it sound like Titan’s decision was business-based on cold, hard economic facts. But let’s say I visited my cousin’s house, stood alone at his kitchen table in front of a cookie jar and bottle of vodka. I might consider the cookies and vodka common pool resources and plan a way to transform them into private goods—my private goods. Out of the blue, my cousin and brothers and sisters show up and explain what a bad idea that would be. I might spend a lot of energy trying to convince my brothers, sisters and cousin my plan is a good idea. “We’ll all share the wealth! We’ll all have cookies! We’ll all be drunk, happy cookie monsters together!”
I imagine if I stood at the kitchen table for eight years and failed to convince anyone I might pull out and say, “The economics no longer support my efforts.”
Titan failed to mention eight years of community activism that made their business plan economically unfeasible. Throughout the past eight years Stop Titan has presented overwhelming evidence that, regardless of whether it’s economically feasible for Titan, was environmentally unsound. The plant’s design was inadequate to protect the environment and reduce health risks to levels we could accept. Economic analysts detailed the minimal local economic benefit, and the potential long-term damage to the local ecosystem.
Part of both community organizing victories belong to the first woman Nobel Laureate in Economics 2009 winner, Elinor Ostrom. In 1968 biologist Garrett Hardin’s article, “Tragedy of the Commons,” in Science magazine theorized that if left alone the commons would be exploited and ruined. Professor Ostrom has spent her life in many fields where “common pool resources” exist, and she studied this theory.
For the last 50 years, the ideas within the “Tragedy of the Commons” have been a way of rationalizing privatizing every resource under the sun. Of course, they can also be used to rationalize complete state ownership.
Professor Ostrom’s extensive field and empirical work has refuted both extremes. In fact, her work demonstrates simple solutions to complex problems inevitably fail. Hers is not a black-and-white world in which either central planning or radical capitalism will lead us to nirvana. She offers no panacea and instead invites us to embrace the complexity of polycentric solutions. If “polycentric” sounds complicated, give yourself a gold star. It is complicated.
My life is black-and-white simple though. How ‘bout yours?
Near as I can figure, “Polycentric” solutions go well beyond simple notions of markets and states. Polycentric means we need each other. We need good government. Not fascism. We need functioning markets. Not monopolies. We need competition. Not cartels. And, to sustain the global village, we need Stop Titan and community organizers to keep posting Super Tuesday wins!