Through a Crack in the Wall

So says Jeremy Rifkin in The Third Industrial Revolution (pp.213-14)…

“The merchant guilds in the free cities of late medieval Europe also had a limited idea about acquisition of property.  They fixed the price and quantity of their production to merely reproduce their way of life, without the intention of acquiring property in excess of what they needed to preserve a steady state of existence.

“The First Industrial Revolution quickened the production of goods beyond that of any previous period of history, allowing artisans and laborers to live better than the royalty of just a few centuries earlier.  Caught up in the elation, Enlightenment economists began to extol the innate virtues of private property relations in the marketplace, and came to see the acquisition of property as an inherent biological drive, rather than a social proclivity conditioned by a specific communication/energy paradigm.

“The market mechanism became the ‘invisible hand’ to regulate the supply and demand of private property and to assure that its distribution was as impartial as the laws of Newtonian physics that governed the universe.  The pursuit of self-interest – also regarded as an innate quality of human nature – would guarantee  a steady advance of the general welfare and move humankind along the road to unlimited progress.  Concepts like ‘caveat emptor‘ – let the buyer beware – and ‘buy cheap and sell dear’ created the context for a new, binary social reality, separating the world into ‘mine’ versus ‘thine.’

“The emergent Third Industrial Revolution, however, brings with it a very different conception of human drives, and the assumptions that govern human economic activity.  The distributed and collaborative nature of the new economic paradigm is forcing a fundamental rethinking of the high regard previously bestowed on private property relations in markets.

“The quickening connection of the nervous system of every human being to every other human being on Earth, via the Internet and other new communications technologies, is propelling us into a global social space and a new simultaneous field of time.  The result is that access to vast global networks is becoming as important a value as private property rights were in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

Do you know Lawrence Lessig?  I know him mostly as a founder of Creative Commons, a set of templates for legal documents that prescribe various flavors of volunteering “intellectual property” into the public domain, but he’s been very busy since.  Here’s some nice coverage of this latest adventure, an effort to kick-start an effort to return American democracy to the people, instead of the current Of the Corporations, For the Corporations, By the Corporations

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