Latest Commonplace Additions


To build a new and vital commons sector

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The great task of the twenty-first century is to build a new and vital commons sector that can resist enclosure and externalization by the market, protect the planet, and share the fruits of our common inheritances more equitably than is now the case.

Peter Barnes


Finish every day and be done with it

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Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could – some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in: forget them as fast as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8 Apr 1854

From the letter To Daughter Ellen


Why People Sing

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Someone once asked me why people sing. I answered they sing for many of the same reasons birds sing. They sing for a mate, to claim their territory, or simply to give voice to the delight of being alive in the midst of a beautiful day. Perhaps more than birds do, humans hold a grudge. They sing to complain of how grievously they have been wronged, and how to avoid it in the future. They sing to help themselves execute a job of work. They sing so the subsequent generations won’t forget what the current generation endured, or dreamed, or delighted in.

Linda Ronstadt, 1968

From the interview in a friend's East Village apartment, NYC


The producing of good citizens

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For they have no conception of the duty of government who wish to limit it to the settling of disputes over money or the punishment of criminals. On the contrary, it is much more important for the magistrates to devote their energy to the producing of good citizens than to the punishment and restraint of evildoers. How much less need would there be to punish, if these matters were rightly looked after beforehand!

Juan Louis Vives, 1526

From the book Concerning the Relief of the Poor


The best thing we can do is treat each other better

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But the point is, I guess, that my politics has always been premised on the notion that the differences we have on this planet are real. They’re profound. And they cause enormous tragedy as well as joy. But we’re just a bunch of humans with doubts and confusion. We do the best we can. And the best thing we can do is treat each other better because we’re all we’ve got.

Barack Obama, 1 June 2021

From the podcast The Ezra Klein Show


Luxuries tend to become necessities

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One of history’s fews iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.

Yuval Noah Harari, 2015

From the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind


We are what we pretend to be

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We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut, 1961

From the book Mother Night


Societies are not merely statistical aggregations

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Societies are not merely statistical aggregations of individuals engaged in voluntary exchange but something much more subtle and complicated. A group or community cannot be understood if the unit of analysis is the individual taken by himself. A society is clearly something greater than the sum of its parts.

Lester Thurow, 1983

From the book Dangerous Currents


Economics is essentially a question of design

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Economics, it turns out, is not a matter of discovering laws: it is essentially a question of design.

Kate Raworth, 2017

From the book Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist


You have to create more than you consume

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If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.

Jeff Bezos, 15 Apr 2021

From the letter 2020 Letter to Shareholders


The Eternal Struggle for Human Rights

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The existence and validity of human rights are not written in the stars. The ideals concerning the conduct of men toward each other and the desirable structure of the community have been conceived and taught by enlightened individuals in the course of history. Those ideals and convictions which resulted from historical experience, from the craving for beauty and harmony, have been readily accepted in theory by man – and at all times, have been trampled upon by the same people under the pressure of their animal instincts. A large part of history is therefore replete with the struggle for those human rights, an eternal struggle in which a final victory can never be won. But to tire in that struggle would mean the ruin of society.

Albert Einstein, 20 Feb 1954

From the speech Address to the Chicago Decalogue Society


Gradually and then suddenly

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‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.

‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’

Ernest Hemingway, 1926

From the book The Sun Also Rises


Managing our planetary household

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The word ‘economics’ was coined by the philosopher Xenophon in Ancient Greece. Combining oikos meaning household with nomos meaning rules or norms, he invented the art of household management, and it could not be more relevant today. This century we need some pretty insightful managers to guide our planetary household, and ones who are ready to pay attention to the needs of all of its inhabitants.

Kate Raworth, 2017

From the book Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist


The only sensible procedure for a critic

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The only sensible procedure for a critic is to keep silent about works which he believes to be bad, while at the same time vigorously campaigning for those which he believes to be good, especially if they are being neglected or underestimated by the public.

W. H. Auden, 1973

From the essay The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays


The productive orientation is expressed in love

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In the realm of feeling, the productive orientation is expressed in love, which is the experience of union with another person, with all men, and with nature, under the condition of retaining one’s sense of integrity and independence. In the experience of love the paradox happens that two people become one, and remain two at the same time. Love in this sense is never restricted to one person. If I can love only one person, and nobody else, if my love for one person makes me more alienated and distant from my fellow man, I may be attached to this person in any number of ways, yet I do not love.

Erich Fromm, 1956

From the book The Sane Society


The more they yearned for omnipotence

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Blackwell was a sad and troubled man, hardly competent to play God with anybody’s life. But the sadder and more troubled they were, the more they yearned for omnipotence. The really troubled ones believed they had it.

Ross MacDonald, 1962

From the book The Zebra-Striped Hearse


The moment we cease to hold each other

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For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

James Baldwin, 1964

From the book Nothing Personal


Larger, freer, and more loving

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If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

James Baldwin, 1962

From the essay Letter from a Region of My Mind


White people will have quite enough to do

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I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be ‘accepted’ by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don't wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this – which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never – the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

James Baldwin, 1962

From the essay Letter from a Region of My Mind


The universe is queerer than we can suppose

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Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

J. B. S. Haldane, 1927

From the book Possible Worlds and Other Essays

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