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Losing and Gaining Public Goods

K. Sabeel Rahman
Boston Review

First, what types of goods qualify as “public” in a democratic conception? Or, more precisely, what makes a good “public,” as opposed to merely ordinary? And second, what kinds of policy tools—including but not limited to direct state provision—can we employ to ensure more equitable and inclusive access to these goods?

I share Michael Hardt’s attraction to the idea of the commons as a way to understand the moral aspirations of democratic public goods—goods that are open access and democratically governed. “Publicness,” then, helps label those goods which are so vital that they ought to be governed with a focus on precisely these values of openness, access, and democratic control.

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