St Paul’s within the heart of the City of London. Does capitalism have a heart?
A couple of years ago, Occupy were camped outside offering a different narrative.
Capitalism is a complex system. Every complex system adapts to its environment, and in doing so, modifies its environment. There comes though a point when it can no longer adapt, it breaks downs, flips to another state, dies and its niche occupied by another complex system.
Below St Paul’s, lies a Roman Temple dedicated to Diana. St Paul’s is built on the site of a medieval cathedral.
The Roman Temple was built by military occupiers, probably using slave labour. The medieval cathedral by a feudal system. Wren’s St Paul’s built by mercantile capital.
Capitalism is not set in stone, though the City of London would have us believe so. Mercantile capitalism was followed by industrial capitalism, now we have financial capitalism.
Capital used to finance innovation, invest in productive systems, this generated wealth, from which we all benefited. Now we have financial capitalism, money is invested to create money, silly money chases silly projects like Uber and AirBnB.
Post-WWII we had growth through the 1950s and 1960s. It came to an abrupt end in 1973.
We are seeing boom and bust, bubbles, but no real growth. Crisis follows crisis. We are not seeing innovation.
Marxist Theory of Value, land, capital and labour, determines price. We now have a fourth factor, knowledge, intellectual property.
We have global monopolies, the like of which we have never seen. Companies like Apple. It costs 99 cents to download a track, because that is what Apple says it will cost. It is not determined by the market. Same applies to an iPhone. Apple uses its monopoly position to determine the price.
But this is not sustainable. Knowledge is free, it can be freely reproduced.
Check out FairPhone, or One Plus One or One Plus Two. Contrast with the latest offering from Apple or Samsung.
The price of stuff is tending to zero. Price is a signal on which the market functions. If the price is zero, the market can not function.
We need to move to open co-ops, a sharing, collaborative, gift economy, where we all contribute to the global commons, and draw upon the global commons.
Linux was created by collaborative effort, as was Apache. The internet runs on Linux and Apache, on Open Source Software, the world’s supercomputers run on Linux.
We can achieve more through collaboration, sharing, cooperating. Hierarchical systems are not efficient cannot easily adapt, networked systems are efficient, can rapidly adapt.
The share of wages of the global economy is declining. It is being driven by credit, confected money. If workers lack money in their pocket to spend, we are heading to crunch time.
Many jobs are robotic in nature can and should be replaced by robots. Freeing people to pursue more productive lives. This would necessitate a Basic Wage, sufficient to live on.
Agora is a bar in a quiet plaza in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. It is difficult to sit on ones own, people draw one into their conservations. These are externalities, which makes Agora an interesting place to be. Agora benefits because sells more drinks. Contrast this with facebook, we all contribute, we are the product, we produce the content, facebook then profits, it captures and privatises the externalities.
Ann Pettifor gave a synopsis of PostCapitalism, but in her criticism, showed she had read but not understood. She confused Uber and AirBnB with the sharing economy. A common mistake.
Uber is a cowboy, unregulated taxi operation which offers unfair competition to legitimate taxi operators. The drivers take all the risks, Uber creams off the profits, and pays no tax.
Uber is often used as an example for what is referred to as the sharing economy, but in reality, and and there are many other examples, we have surfs working for apps.
Ann Pettifor is correct to raise her grave concern at this rapidly growing sector of the economy, but should not confuse it with the sharing gift economy, collaborative commons.
Phillip Blond seemed to have completely lost the plot. He talked of morality, bringing justice and fair play into the world. He did not understand the concept of artificial scarcity, monopoly, which forces up the price of what should be freely available. He talked of expensive art. His point though that all could be producers, was relevant. In the sharing, collaborative commons, we all have the opportunity to become producers and consumers, often making our own unique contribution.
Elizabeth Oldfield chaired the meeting. One of her rare interjections was to ask Ann Pettifor the meaning of rentier economy. Earning money from money, not from hard graft, getting your hands dirty, not from labour or the land.
Why is your book not free?
A good question. When we create, we draw upon what went before. Working for the Channel 4 and before that the BBC, public money has paid for the work.
We could also ask, why Penguin, why a big corporate publisher? Why not Zed Books, a small publisher, a co-operative, is that not more in keeping with the ideals of PostCapitalism? The Global Minotour is published by Zed Books, as is Change Everything. Or why not publish Unbound Books, which crowd funds books? It could be argued exposure, Penguin gets books on the shelves. But does not a book like PostCapitalism spread by word of mouth?
A hardback, a real book, real costs, paper, trees, shipping, warehousing, shelving, booksellers. With an e-book, the costs are zero. The costs of the servers written off years ago. Robots convert to appropriate download formats. Any publisher that charges more than a pound is blatantly ripping people off.
- Foyles — £16-99
- Guardian Live — £15-00
- Penguin — £14-00
- Amazon — £11-89
- Kindle — £9-99
- Kobo — £9-99
- Google Play — £9-99
Contrast with Sacred Economics, available for free download, pay what you wish, accept it as a gift from the author. What will you gift in return?
Or Europe after the Minotaur, an update of The Global Minotaur, available as a free download.
Phillip Blond spoke of friendship.
In the sharing economy, everything has a story, a social interaction involved. Not an anonymous purchase in exchange for cash.
I gave a friend a special 25th anniversary limited edition of The Alchemist. I have never before seen someone jump for joy. She did, when she looked inside and saw it was signed, not only signed but signed to her. She could not contain her joy, she ran across the road to tell her mother.
Would she have had the same joy had she bought a copy for cash? Yes, she would have had the pleasure of reading but one copy would be no different to another, replaceable if you have the cash.
If I go away, I do not load a Kobo Reader (far better than Kindle), I take real books. When I have read, I give them away.
I have bought four copies of PostCapitalism. I gave my orignal copy away to my friend. Ten days ago, on my way to Yanis Varoufakis in conversation with Paul Mason, I bought a copy of PostCapitalism to replace the one I had given away. At the venue I bought a copy, then a second copy, of The Global Minotaur. Sadly I did not get them signed. This evening, I brought along my copy of PostCapitalism, and bought two more. One signed for me, two to be given away as gifts.
Having bought four copies, should I not be entitled to free e-books?
Every book should have a unique code, use it to download the e-book. You have already paid for the book, the only difference is the format within which you read the book.
If I give my work away free, should others profit from my work?
Michel Bauwens, founder of P2P Foundation and leading advocate of the sharing economy, has suggested a new type of licencing agreement. Contribute to the commons, from which all can freely draw, but if for-profit draw then they pay a contribution.
Those not familiar with the sharing, collaborative economy, are dismissive, think it will not work, they often give music as an example, people will not pay they will abuse the system.
Bandcamp shows they are wrong. Musicians will release their work, often at low price with people opting to pay what they think it is worth. Fans will willingly pay more than the asking price.
Sita Sings the Blues was released without the usual copyright restrictions. People can show, they are trusted to pay the producer.
In the spirit of the gift economy, tickets were free. Less than one hundred tickets still available the day before. On the night, not a single ticket left, 2,500 people. What will be their contribution to the gift economy, having accepted a gift? Mine, you have just read.
Paul Mason is author of PostCapitalism and economics editor of Channel 4 news.