Monday, June 29, 2015

Post-launch, parsing common good, public good, public use and moral rights for "Blued Trees"

Detail from the June 21, 2015 overture launch of Blued Trees for the Summer Solstice in Peekskill, NY, where the projected Algonquin "natural" gas pipeline expansion would intersect the Indian Point nuclear plant. The slurry of ultramarine blue pigment and buttermilk that would grown moss, began the sine wave on each painted tree at the base of the trunk and reached as far as our tallest participant could paint, to evoke the course of precious clean water from roots towards the sky for the good of all life.
Last weekends' launch went very well, with about 26 participants, press, 6 international venues for the Greek Chorus and about twenty trees painted on the overture site in Peekskill. It concluded with a performance, which has been documented and will become part of a video. Soon, I will be assembling the documentation of the day. It will be filed for copyright protection with the purpose of redefining the moral rights of the art, where it intersects the contemporary meaning of public good.
Today, the Supreme Court should be ruling on the scope of the EPA's powers to regulate emissions. This morning, someone reminded me that today is also the anniversary of the notorious Kelo case on eminent domain takings for public use and questioned whether the phrase public good in referring to what Blued Trees address is appropriate? The Kelo case in the Supreme Court was a landmark case in the history of ruling that private land could be take for public use. The Kelo case and the EPA ruling both address this crucial question of what is public good in todays world?
Pope Francis has addressed these concerns about public good by asking the world to consider the common good as something beyond greed. Recently, some young people in the Netherlands have sued their government for endangering the common public good by not doing more about global warming.
The legal definitions of public good and use go to redefining the economic benefits of public good in public use. In an ideal American courtroom, a witness should be Robert Costanza, an ecological economist who has written extensively about factoring in the value of “natural resources” when calculating a fair price on the use of those “services.”
"The services of ecological systems and the natural capital stocks that produce them are critical to the functioning of the Earth’s life-support system. They contribute to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, and therefore represent part of the total economic value of the planet. We have estimated the current economic value of 17 ecosystem services for 16 biomes, based on published studies and a few original calculations. For the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of US$16–54 trillion (1012) per year, with an average of US$33 trillion per year. Because of the nature of the uncertainties, this must be considered a minimum estimate. Global gross national product total is around US$18 trillion per year.  Costanza et al 1997
If the goal would be the Supreme Court, then Scalia’s love of verbal specificity is critical. I think Blued Trees might be in good company going forward, with many others setting new precedents. Today’s ruling on the EPA may be especially critical.
Re: Kelo decision: "the Court held that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.” -wikipedia
"In economics, a public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous in that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from use and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others.[2] Gravelle and Rees: "The defining characteristic of a public good is that consumption of it by one individual does not actually or potentially reduce the amount available to be consumed (used) by another individual” '. -wikipedia
"In philosophyethics, and political science the common good (also common wealth or common weal) is a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all or most member of a given community.
The good that is common between person A and person B may not be the same as between person A and person C. Thus the common good can often change, although there are some things — such as the basic requirements for staying alive: food, water, and shelter — that are always good for all people.” -wikipedia
"In its 5-4 majority opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court stated in Kelo that the government can never take property from one private party for the sole purpose of giving it to another, even if just compensation is paid. On the other hand, the government can always do so if the general public acquires some actual use of the property. The court has been defining the ground between these extremes since the late 1800s. From the start, "it embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as 'public purpose,'" the court said in Kelo, and deferred to legislative declarations about public use and purpose. 

The Public Good vs. Public Goods

Economists recognize a difference between "private goods" and "public goods." Private goods are both "rival in consumption" and excludable. Rival in consumption means that one person's consumption of a private good denies others the opportunity to enjoy the good. The price of a private good is essentially a result of the good's scarcity, and some individuals will be excluded from consuming the good because they are not willing to pay the price of the good. Unlike a private good, a public good is both non-rival in consumption and non-excludable. The textbook example of a pure public good is national defense because if one U.S. citizen receives the protection of national defense, then others will necessarily benefit from that protection. One person's consumption of a public good does not deny others from consuming the good, and people can use the public good without paying for it. Because the additional cost of providing the good to another person is essentially zero (since all people can use the good once it is provided to one person) the market price for additional users would be zero, which would not be practical for profit-making firms, and the good would tend to be undersupplied in the market."

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