On the Commons:

A newsletter about ownership, private property, and what we lose in the privatization of the commons, by essayist and author of A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom—One Step at a Time Antonia Malchik. I have written essays for Aeon, The Atlantic, Orion, High Country News, and many other publications (most published essays are on my website). I live in northwest Montana with my spouse, two kids, a dog, and a whole lot of wildlife.


On the Commons explores ownership and its inevitable injustices. It looks at the losses of physical commons—land, water, air, knowledge—in tandem with human rights throughout history, and the little-known stories of people working right now to reclaim stolen commons and rebuild lifeways shaped by ethics of kinship and caregiving rather than ownership and domination. I don’t ignore current events here, but if I write about them it’s in the context of deep structures and systemic forces.

A paid subscription supports the research and writing of my book-in-progress, No Trespassing: How the Ancient Struggle for Ownership, Private Property, and the Rights of the Commons Will Define Our Future, which is being published right here, and wider research into the commons, privatization, and commodification and the ways in which they shape our lives. This project grew out of my first book, A Walking Life, which was about how walking makes us human, and how we lost it through a century of car-centric infrastructure—enclosure, essentially, of public rights of way and access in service of the automobile.

Paid and free subscribers have access to the same writing and ability to comment. But more paid subscriptions translates into more writing and deeper research shared with everyone—no gated community or enclosure.

My research on private property discards centuries of philosophical and legal arguments made in its defense for a much simpler explanation: theft. Or, as I put it, “I took it; now it’s mine.” A proposition I’m exploring here through ownership of land, water, seeds, people, data, and more.

On the Commons also donates 5% of revenue each quarter to an Indigenous-led not-for-profit in Montana, such as FAST Blackfeet, All Nations Health Center, the People’s Food Sovereignty Program, and the Montana Two-Spirit Society. Please consider supporting sovereignty wherever you are.

A little about me: I was born and raised in Montana, where my great-great-grandparents (from Denmark-ruled Prussia) homesteaded in the early 1900s. A lot of what I grapple with comes from being a descendant of homesteaders I respect while knowing that that land was stolen, and I don’t want to sugarcoat that reality. I didn’t inherit that land and don’t have any power to return it, but do advocate for Land Back.

My father grew up under Stalin in the Soviet Union. I lived in Soviet Moscow in my early teens and my father has been running a small business there since 1991. Much of my approach to politics and discourse comes from that perspective and his experience, along with the fact that I live in a very conservative county in northwest Montana, where I advocate for more political and social engagement at local and regional levels, and for public lands and walkable communities.

Feel free to browse around my first big project here, an extensive list of readings and essays related to private land ownership throughout history, including the original 15th-century papal bulls comprising the Doctrine of Discovery that Europeans used to colonize as much of the world as they could; the messy nature of modern private property law; or the first installment of No Trespassing.

I cross-post every newsletter to my WordPress site, where you can also find contact details and other published writing.

THANK YOU for being here!

Subscribe to On the Commons

A newsletter about ownership, property, and what we lose in the privatization of the commons.

People

Essays in Aeon, The Atlantic, High Country News, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. My book "A Walking Life" is available anywhere books are sold. I live in and write from northwest Montana and speak widely on a variety of subjects.