My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

—Is. 56:7

As part of enclosure, the Scots were driven off the land and replaced with sheep. The peasant farmers weren’t producing enough income, and you could make more money raising sheep. Most of the Scots who emigrated left because they were forced off their land. By forcing people off the land, the private landowners created a desert and called it freedom. And that was the end, in essence, of the commons in Scotland.

What was disabled was a set of practices embedded in that culture. Free market ideas replaced the practices that had made up the Scots’ culture. To depart the consumer culture, the viewpoint of the commons is a way to create, in our own place, a homeland and to reclaim a culture that, in fact, was never forgotten. We are looking for the context for a culture of neighborliness. The commons is what some would call that context—the elements that would allow neighborliness to happen, the nest from which the neighborly culture can grow.


Covenant is central to the experience of community and the commons. Covenants are not required in the market world, which places its trust in contracts. Agreements have to be stated, in contracts. A covenant is built on vows in which more is implied than stated. Think again of a wedding vow, in which much is implied and you don’t know what form the future is going to take.

Using the language of community and ...

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