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Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics by Jane Jacobs

1994; 236 pp. $13. Vintage.

If there is a tragedy of the commons, it is not commoners over-exploiting their resources. On the contrary, most commoners do a pretty good job. The tragedy is invasions-sometimes by the military (so many villages burned in Africa wars), but mostly by traders and commerce. The two attitudes-the guardianship ethical complex of the commoners and the commercial ethical complex of the trader-are brilliantly contrasted in Jane Jacobs's book. It is, really, the only book on the subject, presented as a Platonic dialog among gathered friends at various evening salons.

Jane Jacobs (author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities ) asks all the right questions: When is it ethical to deceive? When does business enhance or subvert the common good? When is industriousness a virtue? When a vice? How can guardians preserve guardianship and not contaminate it with commercial enterprise? For any of us involved with green businesses or community economics or free trade and sustainability, this idea-dense book clarifies and enriches the very contemporary and intense struggles over the future of the planet.

ISBN: 0679748164

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