Saturday, December 23

capitalism 3.0

Here is a clear description of the commons, how they have been exploited, and the importance of reclaiming them as the common asset they are for us and future generations.

I first came across some background to this process which took it out of the abstract in an article by Derek J. Wilson.

From 1770 to 1830 some 3,280 enclosure bills were passed putting into private hands for private gain more than six million acres of commonly-held lands. By 1830 not a single county had more than three percent of its land open to public use.

According to historian George Sturt: “To the enclosure of the common more than to any other cause may be traced all the changes which have subsequently passed over the village. It was like knocking the keystone out of an arch.” (Kirkpatrick Sale. Rebels Against the Future, 1995.)

Review of Capitalism 3.0 by Peter Montague of Rachel's Weekly

Books full of new ideas are rare, but here's one worth chewing on: Peter Barnes's Capitalism 3.0. The book is original, readable and provocative. It will definitely hold your attention.

But let's get one thing straight. Despite the title of his book, Peter Barnes is no radical. He is an entrepreneur and investor who co-founded Working Assets, the telephone company. He says, "As a businessman and investor, I've benefited personally from the primacy of capital and am not keen to end it." (pg. 24) On the other hand, he recognizes that, "Capitalism as we know it is devouring creation. It's living off nature's capital and calling it growth."(pg. 26) So, "to save capitalism from itself," (pg. 66) the book offers a whole slew of new ideas. the goal of which is to give capitalism a "software upgrade" to fix what Barnes sees as the system's three major flaws:

(1) its disregard for nature;
(2) its disregard for future generations; and
(3) its disregard for the poor.

Barnes's analysis of the problem is succinct: the history of capitalism reveals two threads: the decline of "the commons" and the rise of the corporation. These two threads are linked because corporations make money largely by taking things from "the commons" (or dumping wastes into the commons) without paying compensation to its owners (all of us).

By "the commons" Barnes means "all the things we inherit or create together," which none of us owns individually. The commons is like a river with three forks:

  1. Nature, which includes air, water, DNA, photosynthesis, seeds, topsoil, airwaves, minerals, animals, plants, antibiotics, oceans, fisheries, aquifers, quiet, wetlands, forests, rivers, lakes, solar energy, wind energy... and so on;
  2. Community: streets, playgrounds, the calendar, holidays, universities, libraries, museums, social insurance [e.g., social security], law, money, accounting standards, capital markets, political institutions, farmers' markets, flea markets, craigslist... etc.;
  3. Culture: language, philosophy, religion, physics, chemistry, musical instruments, classical music, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, astronomy, electronics, the Internet, broadcast spectrum, medicine, biology, mathematics, open-source software... and so forth. (pg. 5)

The commons is a set of assets that have two characteristics: they're all gifts, and they're all shared. (pg. 5) Taken together, all the assets in the commons are our "common wealth." Furthermore, the commons are essential and indispensable; they provide sustenance for everyone. If we fail to protect them, we're sunk.

Read on...

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