Thursday, June 09, 2005

Scribe : I think what we need now is a radically different idea of economics based on a radically different idea of "property". We need to combine the new paradigm with the old in order to get somewhere useful.

But at the same time, it's not enough to simply come up with something *different*. If possible, a new economy should act as a "superset" of the old, a backwards compatible version 2.0 economy that fills in the holes in the old one that cause all the grief we've inherited today. A lot of what we have works, and we'd be foolish to re-invent the money wheel. Maybe shifting the idea of "property" to take into account all the things of a less tangible nature would simply be enough?


Very good, subtle thinking. Don't be afraid to be radical but don't throw away what we've got that works. Can it all be done by tweaking the idea of property?

I don't know. I think a lot could be done by thinking hard about what kinds of property there should be. Particularly the ideas of "intellectual" property, land, and companies.

Rethinks of intellectual property and companies are already going on, largely because of new technology and "internet culture".

IP is challenged by Free Software, amateur writing, music downloading, remix culture and many similar events.

The idea of companies (qua packages belonging to shareholders with certain rights) is being challenged by some of these above groups too, who are finding co-ordination and division of labour are attainable through spontaneous formations of amateur networks.

There's also a more explicitly political new wave of criticism in the wake of No Logo, corporate scandals in the US and The Corporation.

Land isn't discussed much in public in Europe or the states, but its a big issue elsewhere. Here in Brazil, the MST are the largest mass political movement.

Any other sorts of property to think about? I've been re-reading How Buildings Learn", and I'm struck by the chapter on real estate which shows how the property market, when subject to rapid booms and busts, is often destructive to good buildings. So maybe even here there is room for criticism. An ethic of "preservation" challanges the notion that liquidity is the highest virtue for built property (pace Hernando)

The built environment is part of the aesthetic infrastructure of our lives sometimes needs protection from the weather of the market.

But what about the preservation intuition in Scribe's piece. That if we only reorganize the property modules that's sufficient? Not sure ... let's think.

1 comment:

Scribe said...

I think the main idea* is that we need to get away from simply thinking about an alternative to money. I think ultimately that if you just come up with a different system of guarantee, it's going to be doomed to the same fundamental problems our mainstream money is doomed to.

Capitalism has got us somewhere - I won't deny that - but it needs to move with the world it's created too, and the problem isn't just what currency we're using, or how many people are using it. The ideas behind capitalism need re-adjusting and revising to take into account the new world, and I hope that we can use this shift to address the things we've left behind. This includes the rights of the individual, the state of the environment, how we co-operate on a global scale, and so on and so forth.

An economic paradigm is created to fit the time it's in. I'm not a historian, but I think it'd be enlightening to see how the world has changed since Smith's time and now.

The other thing is that it's important to realise that what we can achieve today is actually a challenge to the way we see the world, our ideas of "posession" and "goods" and "society". Even places that don't have clean drinking water are now inextricably linked to the rest of the world - through media, through people, etc. Capitalism is only a non-zero sum game so long as the playing field keeps expanding. I think it's time to redress the assumption that this can happen infinitely.

* although I admit I wrote it in order to clarify my thoughts, rather than after clarifying them. As usual... :)