I asked to be in the audience of the ABC panel discussion show Q&A. The guests will be two politicians (a Victorian senator and a federal shadow minister), author Rachel Botsman (who writes on the “sharing economy”), an “expert” on “Islamic extremism,” and… Jane Goodall (!). I got a seat, too. So, naturally, I submitted my questions in advance. Perhaps I will get to ask one of them. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Q&A staff,

Here are some questions I would like to ask some of the panel:

Questions for Goodall

Humans and chimps both in engage in forms of reciprocity, but humans have instituted forms of reciprocity where the return on their gift has to be assumed, like organ donation, paying for health insurance, or paying taxes. In your view, is there a big difference between these? What features are present in human institutions to make the difference?

If humans have a sense of a public good or common good which chimps and other primates lack, what then does the privatization of public goods look like in a evolutionary perspective?

Questions for Botsman

Your idea of collaborative consumption suggests that a small group of people can successfully share goods when they all can immediately benefit from each other’s contributions. How big can that group get? Why?

There are some goods which are too expensive for people in small groups to provide for themselves on their own, like a public education system. How do we create the trust necessary to preserve truly public goods for everyone in society?

Question for the panel

Bonnie Honig has recently written that “democracy is rooted in common love for… and contestation of public things” (2017, 4). By “things” she means concrete resources which are shared because everyone needs them, not abstract ideas like equal rights, peace, or security. She goes on to argue that democracy is threatened by a new kind of liberal ideology in which the individual’s self-interest is the only measure of the health of society. It seems like the panelists all disagree on whether a “common love” for things is important to society, and some find social participation based on common love to be threatening, so I would like each to comment on this.


Honig, Bonnie. 2017. Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair. New York: Fordham University Press.