But of course, no-one who is not homeless would be going in there. All that happens is that homeless people have to sleep on the street. Chris then told me of a knife attack and rape on one homeless lad a few nights before. Awfully, it turns out it was probably Ley, who I'd met on my first day of the residency. Ley had said how unsafe he felt in his sleeping bag, and that 'at least in the caves you felt safe'. So here, a real danger, a danger in fact realised is deemed less of a danger than a very unlikely danger to a non-homeless (homeful?) person.
These are complicated issues, and I don't want to try to over simplify them, but I'd just read an article by George Monbiot, "Don't let the rich get even richer on the assets we all share" which I think starts to get to some of the underlying issues.
In the article, Monbiot argues that the central debate over whether state intervention should be minimised (and the markets given free-reign) or that state ownership and regulation should be expanded is based on a mistaken premise. "In fact", he argues, "there are four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons. The neglect of the last two by both neoliberals and social democrats has created many of the monstrosities of our times..."
What he says next really chimed with me in terms of all i'd found out about Llandudno - the incredible 'fiefdom' (as many people have described it) of the Mostyn Estate, which still owns the vast majority of the land in and around Llandudno, secured mostly after Enclosure Act that they themselves pushed through Parliament, and the role of groups like Friends of the West Shore, and Hope Restored:
"... another great subsidy, which all of us have granted [is] the vast wealth the economic elite has accumulated at our expense, through its seizure of the fourth sector of the economy: the commons.
"That it is necessary to explain the commons testifies to their neglect (despite the best efforts of political scientists such as the late Elinor Ostrom). A commons is neither state nor market. It has three main elements. First a resource, such as land, water, minerals, scientific research, hardware or software. Second a community of people who have shared and equal rights to this resource, and organise themselves to manage it. Third the rules, systems and negotiations they develop to sustain it and allocate the benefits.
"A true commons is managed not for the accumulation of capital or profit, but for the steady production of prosperity or wellbeing. It belongs to a particular group, who might live in or beside it, or who created and sustain it. It is inalienable, which means that it should not be sold or given away. Where it is based on a living resource, such as a forest or a coral reef, the commoners have an interest in its long-term protection, rather than the short-term gain that could be made from its destruction.
The commons have been attacked by both state power and capitalism for centuries. Resources that no one invented or created, or that a large number of people created together, are stolen by those who sniff an opportunity for profit. The saying, attributed to Balzac, that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” is generally true. “Business acumen” often amounts to discovering novel ways of grabbing other people’s work and assets.
The theft of value by people or companies who did not create it is called enclosure. Originally, it meant the seizure – supported by violence – of common land. The current model was pioneered in England, spread to Scotland, then to Ireland and the other colonies, and from there to the rest of the world. It is still happening, through the great global land grab.
Enclosure creates inequality. It produces a rentier economy: those who capture essential resources force everyone else to pay for access. It shatters communities and alienates people from their labour and their surroundings. The ecosystems commoners sustained are liquidated for cash. Inequality, rent, atomisation, alienation, environmental destruction: the loss of the commons has caused or exacerbated many of the afflictions of our age...."
"I’m not proposing we abandon either market or state, but that we balance them by defending and expanding the two neglected sectors. I believe there should be wages for carers, through which the state and private enterprise repay part of the subsidy they receive. And communities should be allowed to take back control of resources on which their prosperity depends. For example, anyone who owns valuable land should pay a local community land contribution (a form of land value tax): compensation for the wealth created by others. Part of this can be harvested by local and national government, to pay for services and to distribute money from richer communities to poorer ones. But the residue should belong to a commons trust formed by the local community. One use to which this money might be put it is to buy back land, creating a genuine commons and regaining and sharing the revenue.
A commons, unlike state spending, obliges people to work together, to sustain their resources and decide how the income should be used. It gives community life a clear focus. It depends on democracy in its truest form. It destroys inequality. It provides an incentive to protect the living world. It creates, in sum, a politics of belonging."
I don't think I've had a single conversation where the Mostyn Estate has not come up in some way or other. People feel that this 'beautiful/clean/preserved' character of Llandudno is largely down to them, and appreciate that. But they also see it as sometimes being a hidden force, perhaps going too far (eg colours of houses), sometimes keeping it 'stuck in the past', demanding too much rent, not being accountable and so on. What struck me about this meeting with the FOWS is that community initiatives like this were part of the commons, and illustrate ways in which this vast estate could perhaps start to let go some of its grip... and to pay back some of what it has taken?