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The Untapped Power of Social Sanction

Social sanction is a force that our policy makers, in the thrall of economic thinking, have neglected for too long.  It really is effective.  I once visited Calgary, in Canada, and on my first day experienced a “chinook,” which is a balmy wind that raises the temperature into the fifties in winter.   The temperature dropped from there to about ten below in about two hours.  I was downtown, waiting to cross the street, and freezing to my bones.  The signal said “Don’t walk” but there were no cars coming.  Of course I crossed.

Did I say “of course”?  The people waiting patiently on the other side did not feel that way.  In Calgary, I grasped quickly, you do not cross against the light. Their stony disapproving glares cut through me like the artic wind.  Nobody said a word.  For the rest of my visit, which was about a week, I waited patiently along with everyone else.  (I also paid my fares on the city’s transit system, which was on the honor system.)



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The Missing Sector

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Economic Indicators

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  • The Gross Domestic Product

    Testimony of Jonathan Rowe Co-director of the West Marin Commons Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Interstate Commerce, Trade and Tourism March 12, 2008 … More

  • Is Happiness a Commons?

    Gunnar Myrdal, the late Swedish economist, once noted the strange tendency of his profession to barricade itself against human reality. In true sciences, such as biochemistry and physics, hypotheses are … More



Headshot of Jonathan Rowe

Jonathan Rowe was a writer who wrote about the commons, diseconomy, economics, economic indicators, corporations, and many other subjects.
Jonathan was an editor at the Washington Monthly magazine and a staff writer at the Christian Science Monitor. He contributed to Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly, Reader’s Digest, Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, American Prospect, Adbusters, and a host of other publications.

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