Renaissance of the Commons
Cyndy of MouseMusings points us to Renaissance of the Commons, by Harvard Law’s John Clippinger and David Bollier a very long paper that describes the ‘ghost dance’ of our intellectually and morally bankrupt culture, the desperate clinging to antiquated and dysfunctional beliefs and denials of the grim reality the culture has wrought. The authors explain that ‘free market dogma’ is a form of fanatical belief that construes government and regulation as inherently evil and inefficient, that has solidified into a quasi-religious catechism and inviolate creed.

Drawing on a variety of work from the sciences, economics, anthropology and social sciences, they argue that ‘human nature’ is ill-served by the free-market dogma, and that the Internet, and particularly social networking, are manifestations of true human nature: inherently and instinctively collaborative, altruistic, built on trust and mutuality, empathetic, collegial, non-hierarchical, sensory, psychologically rooted in the natural interdependent ecosystem, and constructivist. They argue as well that most competent economists realize that free-market dogma is hopelessly simplistic and logically flawed — that a balanced economy is inherently better suited to optimize human well-being than one based on untrammeled and unregulated ‘free’ markets.

What is emerging, due to thought- and action-leadership in all fields of human endeavor, and evident especially in Internet-enabled discourse and activity is a ‘Renaissance of the Commons’. “Not only do these new self-organizing, ìbottom-upî networks of individuals arise spontaneously without the customary ìtop-downî organizing apparatus of a corporation, government agency or nonprofit, they tend to be much more innovative and efficient than market mechanisms…Because free-market dogma systematically fails to recognize the powerful influence of social context, it fails to appreciate that its own structure of property rights, contracts, enforcement, profit incentives, etc., are sustained by a vast social apparatus and cultural norms which entail huge agency and transaction costs. It is very expensive for a company to offer high salaries to top management, hire attorneys to draft contracts, go to court to enforce violators, and so forth. But when leadership, coordination and motivation can be achieved easily through self-synchronizing, self-enforcing means, gracefully leveraging our natural social tendencies, why should anyone be surprised that such a system of exchange will be more efficient, effective and equitable than a market system? Communities of trust and transparency can be fantastically efficient. The rise of the Internet and various software systems are so powerful precisely because they leverage peopleís natural desire for meaning, trust and social belonging ñ traits that free-market dogma cannot understand, but which are deeply embedded in our evolutionary history.”

They conclude: “The rudiments of a new citizen-based global culture are sprouting up. But we must remember that the old rarely yields to the new without a struggle. The new must be actively and imaginatively built. That will require forging new networks of visionary thinkers and bringing disparate disciplines together into new
conversations. It will require challenging the comfortable shibboleths of free-market dogma and taking
new risks to develop a more accurate understanding of the human species.”

Very engaging reading and worth some serious study.

Collective Processes
Indigo Ocean has discovered Collective Processes, a three-volume online guide to collecive work processes, consisting of three parts:

  • the effective conduct of collaborative and collective work (what is consensus, how to make it work, and how to deal with differences and subversions of the process)
  • the application of the principles of collaborative and collective work to the development of a model for global social and environmental justice
  • some pragmatic suggestions for creating a code of conduct for some work, and applying it in practice

This is an exhaustive, well-reasoned and practical guide to building consensus, and running an organization or body politic based on respect, trust, egalitarianism and collective action. It is a valuable companion to other materials needed to run or be part of a Natural Enterprise or Intentional Community.

Internet on the Road
Above the Fold reports that you can now get broadband Internet connections — and satellite TV — for your car, that works even when the car is moving. It’s currently cumbersome, large, and expensive, but it’s the first prototype for what I’ve been predicting for the next decade — portable always-on high-speed Internet access that we’ll all carry easily with us.

Larger, Cheaper, Sharper Flat Screens
Another Above the Fold story covers CNet’s report on carbon nanotube field effect display technology, and its promise to provide much larger, lighter, and less expensive flat-screen displays than today’s technologies.

On a Lighter Note
Dan Greenburg’s Expected Legislation from the President in last week’s New Yorker is hilarious.

Egret photo by Ashly Schilling from the astonishing photoblog

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  1. Art says:

    “They argue as well that most competent economists realize that free-market dogma is hopelessly simplistic and logically flawed — that a balanced economy is inherently better suited to optimize human well-being than one based on untrammeled and unregulated ‘free’ markets.” Would this then mean that a controlled economy produced more liberty? It is counterintuitive that a managed economy is superior to a market driven economy. New ideas and wealth are not derived from controlling/managing the incubator in which they occur. This postulates that we just need to find the benevolent regulator that will inherently know fair and unfair without regard to the forces of free will. Take the internet and blogs… under your suppositions it would not be self regulated, but managed by some higher authortiy responsible for the content. Under this system might not your musings be considered as not serving the markets needs and therefore terminated?

  2. Art says:

    If managed economies were functional why is the USSR not succeed… don’t tell me it’s the best sytem tried by the wrong people, that’s not an answer.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Art — I thought that I, and the authors, were quite clear that we’re arguing for a balanced economy, not a managed one. It’s precisely this ‘all or nothing’ argument that causes the authors to call the arguments of the free-market absolutists ‘dogma’.

  4. Rick Walker says:

    I read Renaissance of the Commons and thank you for making me aware of it. I also thank ElderBob for leading me to your blog. Since there is no better system a this tim, we need to continue to accomodate free market and human foibles, but we more desparately need to value nature which is much more dominant and dictate our future. As the authors rightly note, FMD does not take these forces into account, and this will prove the death of us.

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