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Everything written by Michel Bauwens

Cooperatives are breaking into the domain of the sharing economy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th July 2015

After a good overview of the faultlines within the so-called sharing economy, the authors outline emerging cooperative alternatives.

In short: if the sharing economy is the problem, then the cooperative economy is the solution!

Excerpted from Brian Van Slyke and David Morgan:

Cooperatives are breaking into the domain of the sharing economy – in theory and in practice – and many of the people leading the charge are those dissatisfied with what both the traditional economy and the sharing economy had to offer them.

Here’s Hansen again, telling the story of Wolde Gebremariam in YES! Magazine:

After [Gebremariam] moved to Denver from Ethiopia in 2006, he worked minimum-wage jobs at the baggage claim in the Denver International Airport, and then at a nursing home. Though he enjoyed working with seniors, he wanted to go back to school and study pharmacy. The flexibility of driving a cab seemed like the right way to go. “I could work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday driving,” he says. “Then, I [could] go to school full time.”

That’s how he thought it would work, anyway. But the reality turned out to be more difficult. In 2012, he spent six months driving for a company called Metro Taxi, with a lease that required him to pay $800 per week for the use of the vehicle, dispatch, and other services. The need to earn that much every week, in addition to what he needed to live, pushed him to drive 10- or 12-hour days, seven days a week.

Gebremariam wasn’t finding the flexibility he was looking for, and turned to Uber instead. But, after driving for the company for a few months, Gebremariam says it was more of the same. “They are taking like 20 percent of our income,” he says. “We have to be on the road all the time.”

Gebremariam isn’t just complaining about it. Instead, he and 644 other drivers are on a mission to form a new taxi company that will be both worker-owned and unionized. The new co-op, Green Taxi, will have a fleet of hybrid or high-efficiency vehicles, and will offer a ride-hailing app.

As Jay Cassano makes clear in Co.Exist, this is part of a larger movement. Green Taxi was actually inspired by another cab co-op in Denver.

Rather than pay for expensive leases from traditional taxi companies or give up a portion of their earnings to startups like Uber and Lyft, many taxi drivers are banding together to form their own taxi cooperatives.

In these co-ops, each driver is an equal owner of the business, with a share of the profits and a voice in how the business is run. Denver, Colorado has one taxi co-op, Union Taxi, founded in 2009 with about 250 driver-owners. Now cab drivers in the city are already talking about setting up a second taxi co-op.

“We’re actually seeing a mini-explosion of interest in taxicab co-ops,” says Melissa Hoover, executive director of the Democracy at Work Institute. “These groups are responding to the same weaknesses in the industry that Uber is, but from a perspective centered around bettering workplace conditions, worker control, and compensation rather than ‘disrupting’ the model to benefit investors at the expense of workers.”

Drivers in a cooperative get to collaboratively establish their pay, the hours they work, and their working conditions—no small matters in an industry that employs many recent immigrants.

Of course, while the explosion of worker-owned cab companies are new, their existence is not. The Union Cab of Madison Cooperative, a worker-owned co-op of more than two-hundred members, has been around since 1979 – proving that these co-ops can be in it for the long haul while also revolutionizing traditionally exploitative industries. Union Cab was actually born out of a strike, when cabbies decided to fight for better pay and working conditions. But rather than negotiate with the aggrieved drivers, their employer chose to simply shut down the business. Shortly thereafter, several of the now out of work drivers decided that they could run the business better together – and also for the benefit of all the workers (dispatchers included!).

…if a cab driver has a bad day, they may not earn enough fare to pay back their lease and so they may end up owing the company money

The cab industry has actually regressed in some ways since 1979; drivers are often no longer considered employees but rather independent contractors (like with Uber). Generally speaking, at a normal cab agency, the company earns their income by renting the car out to the drivers. But what this means is that if a cab driver has a bad day, they may not earn enough fare to pay back their lease and so they may end up owing the company money.

For the worker-owners at Union Cab, the differences couldn’t be more significant. The co-op owns all of the assets and drivers earn a commission off their fares – so if they give a ride, they make money. Also, because the drivers own the company, they split a share of its profit at the end of every year. What’s more is that Union Cab provides health insurance to all of its drivers, which is virtually unheard of in the industry. Finally, no one worker is allowed to make more than 2.5 times the amount of any other worker. (You can read more about the Union Cab difference, here.) Why is this the case? Well, it’s because the workers, who are also the owners, voted to make it happen.

This is a complete contrast to the way typical cab companies and the executives of ride-sharing services run their businesses.

In addition, the argument has been made that Uber itself can and should be turned into a worker-owned cooperative. Again, Konczal and Covert in The Nation:

But… what exactly are the capitalists at Uber contributing to the company? Almost all of the actual capital is already owned by the workers, in the form of cars that they pay for and maintain themselves. And these workers labor individually, doing the same tasks, so there’s no need for a management class to control their daily operations. The capital owners maintain the phone app, but app technology isn’t the major cost, and it’s getting cheaper and easier by the day. […]

But a transition to workers’ owning their firms is necessary, economically smart, and one way for workers to gain power in the digital age. Because you know what worker-run firms do? Share.

The transition of an online company into a cooperative isn’t unfounded, either. As Janelle Orsi argues in Three Ways to Put Tech Platforms into the Commons, it’s happened before. Here she imagines how AirBnB could function as a cooperative while also explaining how another tech company already made the transition:

Co-bnb, as I’m calling it, could be an online marketplace owned and democratically controlled by the people who rent space to travelers. You can call it a “freelancer-owned cooperative,” a term possibly coined by Josh Danielson, founder of Loconomics.com. Loconomics just bought out its shareholders and became a cooperative corporation to be controlled by the freelancers who use the platform to offer services such as babysitting, home cleaning, and dog walking. The mission of Loconomics is to enhance the viability of freelance work, a task most reliably led by freelancers, themselves.

Soon, 40 percent of the US workforce will consist of freelancers, many of whom will cobble together income from multiple sources. We can’t allow companies like Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRabbit to take 5 percent to 20 percent of freelancer earnings. If those companies remain the gatekeepers of critical work opportunities, they’ll continually adjust search algorithms, fee structures, and terms of service to extract more out of workers.

So we don’t need to shut down platforms like Uber and AirBnB. We just need to either out-cooperate them, or, better yet, turn them into cooperatives. Because in the sharing economy, people rent out their labor and resources for the overall benefit of billionaires. But in the cooperative economy, people pool their labor and resources for the overall benefit of each other.

It’s time to forget the sharing economy. The cooperative economy is the one challenging the tech industry and changing people’s lives for the better.”


Posted in Cooperatives, P2P Collaboration, Sharing | 1 Comment »

Pope Francis on the need for structural social change

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th July 2015

“In conclusion, I would like to repeat: the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you. Let us together say from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age.”

Excerpted from the speech of Pope Francis to a meeting of social movements in Bolivia:

“Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?

Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?

So let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.

In your letters and in our meetings, you have mentioned the many forms of exclusion and injustice which you experience in the workplace, in neighborhoods and throughout the land. They are many and diverse, just as many and diverse are the ways in which you confront them. Yet there is an invisible thread joining every one of those forms of exclusion: can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?

If such is the case, I would insist, let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable … The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable.

We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!

Today I wish to reflect with you on the change we want and need. You know that recently I wrote about the problems of climate change. But now I would like to speak of change in another sense. Positive change, a change which is good for us, a change – we can say – which is redemptive. Because we need it. I know that you are looking for change, and not just you alone: in my different meetings, in my different travels, I have sensed an expectation, a longing, a yearning for change, in people throughout the world. Even within that ever smaller minority which believes that the present system is beneficial, there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction and even despondency. Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns.

Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

I do not need to go on describing the evil effects of this subtle dictatorship: you are well aware of them. Nor is it enough to point to the structural causes of today’s social and environmental crisis. We are suffering from an excess of diagnosis, which at times leads us to multiply words and to revel in pessimism and negativity. Looking at the daily news we think that there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and friends.

What can I do, as collector of paper, old clothes or used metal, a recycler, about all these problems if I barely make enough money to put food on the table? What can I do as a craftsman, a street vendor, a trucker, a downtrodden worker, if I don’t even enjoy workers’ rights? What can I do, a farmwife, a native woman, a fisher who can hardly fight the domination of the big corporations? What can I do from my little home, my shanty, my hamlet, my settlement, when I daily meet with discrimination and marginalization? What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with their hearts full of hopes and dreams, but without any real solution for my problems? A lot! They can do a lot. You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels.

Don’t lose heart!

You are sowers of change. Here in Bolivia I have heard a phrase which I like: “process of change”. Change seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure. That is why I like the image of a “process”, where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results. Each of us is just one part of a complex and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and to live with dignity, to “live well”.

As members of popular movements, you carry out your work inspired by fraternal love, which you show in opposing social injustice. When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when we see the faces of the endangered campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, the mother who lost her child in a shootout because the barrio was occupied by drugdealers, the father who lost his daughter to enslavement…. when we think of all those names and faces, our hearts break because of so much sorrow and pain. And we are deeply moved…. We are moved because “we have seen and heard” not a cold statistic but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh. This is something quite different than abstract theorizing or eloquent indignation. It moves us; it makes us attentive to others in an effort to move forward together. That emotion which turns into community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone: it has a surplus of meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.

Each day you are caught up in the storms of people’s lives. You have told me about their causes, you have shared your own struggles with me, and I thank you for that. You, dear brothers and sisters, often work on little things, in local situations, amid forms of injustice which you do not simply accept but actively resist, standing up to an idolatrous system which excludes, debases and kills. I have seen you work tirelessly for the soil and crops of campesinos, for their lands and communities, for a more dignified local economy, for the urbanization of their homes and settlements; you have helped them build their own homes and develop neighborhood infrastructures. You have also promoted any number of community activities aimed at reaffirming so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three “L’s”: land, lodging and labor.

This rootedness in the barrio, the land, the office, the labor union, this ability to see yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles and their little acts of heroism: this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter. We do not love concepts or ideas; we love people… Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities… of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.

So I am pleased to see that you are working at close hand to care for those seedlings, but at the same time, with a broader perspective, to protect the entire forest. Your work is carried out against a horizon which, while concentrating on your own specific area, also aims to resolve at their root the more general problems of poverty, inequality and exclusion.

I congratulate you on this. It is essential that, along with the defense of their legitimate rights, peoples and their social organizations be able to construct a humane alternative to a globalization which excludes. You are sowers of change. May God grant you the courage, joy, perseverance and passion to continue sowing. Be assured that sooner or later we will see its fruits. Of the leadership I ask this: be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you will surely be on the right path.”


Posted in Activism, Ethical Economy, P2P Movements, P2P Spirituality, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

A realistic way out for Syriza supporters ?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th July 2015

The recent years of struggle have developed the famous grassroots solidarity movement that began – as all organizing must – by addressing the needs of people. Out of this grew the some 400 solidarity groups all across Greece addressing basic community needs through self-organized democratically run collectives which provide support for people’s health, food, housing and other needs. Syriza members were among those deeply involved in establishing and maintaining the solidarity networks and its MPs elected in 2012 contributed 20 per cent of their salaries to them. But since the Syriza government was elected this year it has done very little to change and use the state so as to sustain and broaden this remarkable movement.

The strategic proposals by Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch make a lot of sense:

“Those advocating an exit from the euro acknowledge that there will be costs. Yet they also tend to understate, sometimes rather glibly, the chaos this would entail especially for a state steeped in two centuries of clientalist practices. Along with this comes an exaggeration of what exiting the euro would, in itself, achieve. The economics of a new devalued currency are sure to lead to high inflation and further dramatic reductions in living standards, nor can it of itself produce new competitive industries. Where the depth of the crisis is as severe as it is in Greece and partly rooted in the very restructuring of its economy that came with its deeper integration into Europe, changes in the currency are unlikely to restore old industries or develop new ones. It is worth remembering how many states with their own currencies are unable to withstand the ravages of neoliberalism.

That the options open to the Syriza government are even more limited by the way the new memorandum is structured to cruelly discipline Greece’s integration into neoliberal Europe is obvious enough. It should also be increasingly obvious to those in the party whose commitment to the EU was foundational that staying in the eurozone is inconsistent with restraining neoliberalism’s negative impact on most Greeks. It is much to be hoped that Syriza, and the European Left Parties in general, will abandon the notion that an even more centralized transnational European state would be more progressive. But it does not follow from any of this that it would be correct for Syriza to lead a Grexit right now, without a much deeper preparation for dealing with the consequences.

What about resigning from office to free itself from administering the memorandum? It would be highly irresponsible, having entered the state in the first place promising to try to at least ameliorate the effects of neoliberalism in Greece, to step down now after what has been imposed on the Syriza government for its anti-neoliberal orientation and its democratic temerity in calling the referendum. This only deepens its responsibility to do all it still can to restrain the impact of neoliberalism. To do otherwise would be to acquiesce in the goal of those who tried to use the negotiations as a way to bring this government down.

Toward a Real Plan B

The point we are getting at is that framing the issue in terms of an exhausted Plan A (negotiating with Europe) and a rejection of the euro (Plan B) is too limited a way to frame the dilemmas confronting Syriza. What the deeper preparation for leaving the eurozone and possibly also the EU, actually entails is to build on the solidarity networks that have developed in society to cope with the crisis as the basis for starting to transform social relations within Greece. That is the real plan B, the terrain on which both Syriza and the social movements might re-invigorate now. What, more concretely, might this mean?

The recent years of struggle have developed the famous grassroots solidarity movement that began – as all organizing must – by addressing the needs of people. Out of this grew the some 400 solidarity groups all across Greece addressing basic community needs through self-organized democratically run collectives which provide support for people’s health, food, housing and other needs. Syriza members were among those deeply involved in establishing and maintaining the solidarity networks and its MPs elected in 2012 contributed 20 per cent of their salaries to them. But since the Syriza government was elected this year it has done very little to change and use the state so as to sustain and broaden this remarkable movement.

Two leaders of the ‘Solidarity for All’ assembly of these groups told us how frustrated they were that they could not even get from the Ministry of Agriculture the information they need on the locations of specific crops so they might approach a broader range of farmers and develop more direct links between them and people in need. Only 12 people in total are employed in working for Solidarity for All – their numbers should be multiplied with the state’s help. The military trucks sitting idle between demonstrations could be used to facilitate the distribution of food through the solidarity networks as a way of offsetting some of the cuts to the poorest pensioners, and of compensating for the increased VAT on food imposed by the latest memorandum. Various state departments could be engaged in identifying idle land – of which there is plenty in the countryside and in light of the crisis also in urban areas – which could be be given over to community co-ops to create work in growing food, and coordinating this across sub-regions.

The Ministry of Education should be actively engaged in promoting the use of schools as community hubs that provide spaces for the social movements organizing around food and health services, and also to provide technical education appropriate to this. We talked with many students who were clearly enthusiastic about working in the community but were also quick to admit that while they were adept at competing in student union elections and good at distributing pamphlets and organizing demonstrations, their skills for longer-term community organizing were very limited. The Ministry of Education could help overcome this by setting up special programs to prepare students to spend periods of time in communities, contributing to adult education and working on community projects.

Similarly, the privatizations forced on the Greek state should be accompanied by requirements that the new owners make a compensating commitment to establish industrial parks where new jobs might be created. Privatized firms might be required to source inputs inside Greece, while the state’s own purchases of furniture, materials and supplies (including for schools and hospitals) might be sourced from new production units set up his way. With so many structures standing idle and under-used (like the Olympic sports facilities), all manners of co-ops and small businesses should be supported in setting up operations in them, aided by groups of young architects and engineers recruited to reconfigure these spaces. The U.S. New Deal Work Projects Administration could serve as an example not only in this respect, but especially in respect to the broad range of artistic, theatrical and cultural activities in which so many unemployed young people are already engaged.

We do not want to overstate this. These experiments would not themselves be ‘solutions’. And they would no doubt lead to objections that they negate the intent of the new memorandum’s structural adjustment demands. But seen strategically, they invite a constructive approach to linking the state to communities in new ways that would offset the black and grey markets which might otherwise overwhelm an economy that moved out of the eurozone. And it helps lay the foundation for a new stage in addressing the domestic barriers imposed by the inequalities of wealth and private property, and concretizes the need for investment planning and public ownership so as circulate society’s social surplus to local, regional and sectoral institutions.

Conclusion: Leadership of a New Kind

The Syriza government currently retains a store of good will, even if this has been damaged by the memorandum. To prevent the further erosion of that popular support it will need to concretely counter the Troika-imposed legislation. For every negative bill it puts forth it should creatively put forth a positive bill that confirms its continuing commitment to the fight against neoliberalism. Syriza’s ministers must never depart from treating the negative impositions as something positive, and indeed be expected to act as socialist educators, helping people grasp the barriers to improving their lives and raising rather than lowering long term expectations by continuing to attack neoliberalism and speak to a socialist vision of solidarity and democracy. And it is this that should inspire and guide the transformation of state structures away from the old clientalism.

None of this can happen unless Syriza as a party develops the orientation and capacities to lead the Greek state and society in this direction. We have met with people in the party and social movements, as well as the state, who are concerned that Syriza falls well short in this respect. Among the various reasons for being critical of Syriza, this is the most significant.”


Posted in Commons Transition | No Comments »

Why the killing of Greece is really the killing of Europe

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th July 2015

Economic individualism, the degenerate son of liberalism, now turns into nationalist egoism. The political leaders of this Europe have let us down because they are denying us our future: the cynical and indifferent face of the rich appears, as it turns away while Greece is abandoned just as the boatloads of desperate refugees are left to sink in the Mediterranean. These leaders look to us like those men of Weimar Germany in bowler hats and tailcoats portrayed by George Grosz’s satirical pen. The enemies of the European project have it easy against this caricatural, but partially lifelike, representation of the real European Union. And we Europhiles and federalists remain speechless because the national leaders and communitarian institutions do not lend us any support.

Excerpted from Piero Ignazi:

With hair-splitting obtuseness, the new EU engine with German drive has dictated that Greece must stick to agreements that entire legions of economists, practitioners and experts at international institutions, beginning with official studies by the IMF itself, consider detrimental to the recovery of a country’s economy and to its accounting liquidity.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in it, and it reminds us of the cupio dissolvi, or self-destructive impulse, of so many tragedies.

Marching toward destruction because it has been so decreed, as many tragic events in history remind us, is typical of a detrimental political culture that has ‘imposed infinite sorrows’ on the Europeans.

Mutatis mutandis, the logic applied to Greece in recent years reproduces the same self-destructive compulsion of the past. The fetish for rigour joined with the pleasure of punishment, as Foucault teaches us, overcomes all rationality.

It is no surprise if feelings of detachment, distrust and even disgust have increased exponentially in recent years in the face of this scowling and ‘wicked’ Europe.

Of course, while the economic benefits of a country’s membership of the Eurozone were widely distributed in a win-win situation, dissent was confined to the margins of the Kerneuropa, or ‘core’ Europe, among the perplexed Danes and the proud British.

And the generous impulse to open the Union up to the Eastern countries in order to guarantee peace, security and the wellbeing of the brothers who were lost for half a century added new lustre to European ideality.

The founders’ dream of building Europe to avoid the resurgence of nationalisms and war, went forward by sharing strategic economic resources with the aim of promoting mutual trust, found new lifeblood ten years ago. The warm welcome to the liberated people beyond the Wall breathed new life into the European project.

All of this has been squandered within a few years. The mismanagement of the crisis in Greece, the violent reawakening of national egoisms proclaimed by mediocre politicians and the persistent democratic deficit, notwithstanding a few new prerogatives conceded to the Strasburg parliament, advanced the Eurosceptic position.

Even in Poland, a country that has benefitted more and better than any other from entering the European Union, we now find a president who is a fierce enemy of Europe (balancing out Donald Tusk, the useless president of the EU: useless both on account of his inexperience, and because of the obscure functions of that role).

What is the point of proposing new measures for a stricter fiscal-economic integration (such as those outlined in the all in all commendable report of the ‘Five Presidents’), if a small and poor country is kicked out of the Eurogroup?

The European leaders did not understand that the Greek question had an infinitely greater value than the handful of billions spent saving from suffocation a country that had fallen thirty years behind in its standards of living, thanks to the bad treatments prescribed by the Troika.

The real issue at stake was the capacity or incapacity to face up to the hardships of ‘the last’. In the past, a more distinctively catholic approach of ‘understanding and forgiveness’ resolved many critical situations, avoiding deepening divisions.

Now a kind of egoism typical of – and actually belonging to – bankers has prevailed over the political leaders’ ability to mediate. The latter cannot just allow themselves to give way to financial algorithms.

They have a very different role: that of setting objectives and envisioning a future. But what future have the political leaders of the member countries put forward for us in the last years? A future of inflexibility and rigour without any higher end, without vision. Just to balance the books (to someone’s advantage, of course), and nothing more.

The ‘Europhile’ lifeblood is drying up as a direct consequence of the absence of real political leaders, of statesmen. When the Euro becomes the source of all evil in the eyes of the vast majority of public opinions across Europe this means that something is missing from the project.

In its early days, thanks to leaders of great experience and vivid memory, the single currency was endowed with the symbolic power of an element of cohesion and brotherhood. Not only and not so much a technical matter, but the materiality of sharing a common existence and a common destiny.

But when the first difficulties caused by opportunists during the changeover (outstanding was the economic advantage offered at the time by the right-wing Italian government to all self-employed workers) were followed by the additional, objective, macroeconomic problems of the greater crisis, then Europe became a fatherless child.

The Europhile front was not able to raise its voice above the harsh, often irrational, if not downright grotesque, criticism coming from so many populists; it was not able to answer in kind or to communicate the innovative, prospective import of the single currency.

They overlooked them, trusting that the economic recovery would eventually do away with these protesters. But now that the crisis is not waning, feelings of hostility are on the rise.

If then we add to the general unease the arrogance of the rich who are not capable of giving a shot in the arm to their poor relatives, then the gap of trust in the EU widens out of all proportion.

Let us be honest: if we take to the streets, what can we federalists and Europhiles say to confront the Eurosceptic, and by now purely Europhobic, populists?

Which non-technical arguments (but these too eventually wear out) can we use to claim that the European edifice is indeed a great thing, the future that entire generations dreamed of? Even the spectacle of the sea of corpses that the Mediterranean is gradually turning into cannot restore our pietas.

Even a radical secular thinker cannot refrain from regretting the benefits that the Catholic and, more generally, confessional culture brought to the early stages of the construction of Europe. Economic individualism, the degenerate son of liberalism, now turns into nationalist egoism.

The political leaders of this Europe have let us down because they are denying us our future: the cynical and indifferent face of the rich appears, as it turns away while Greece is abandoned just as the boatloads of desperate refugees are left to sink in the Mediterranean.

These leaders look to us like those men of Weimar Germany in bowler hats and tailcoats portrayed by George Grosz’s satirical pen.

The enemies of the European project have it easy against this caricatural, but partially lifelike, representation of the real European Union.

And we Europhiles and federalists remain speechless because the national leaders and communitarian institutions do not lend us any support (with some exceptions, of course: and I am not referring to Mario Draghi by accident).

From now on, with the failure of Greece, everything will be more difficult. Let us not be fooled into thinking that we can return to business as usual. The stigma of egoism and closure will be long lasting.”


Posted in Empire, P2P Governance, Politics | No Comments »

From Local Common Wealth Trusts to a Global Network of Bioregional Commons Trusts

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th July 2015

the most transformational part of Barnes’ vision is that common wealth trusts would be administering a sustainability budget—calibrating the input and output of material and energy within a bioregion—to rebalance the preservation/production of the primary resources in a geographical area. Hence, the metric used by common wealth trusts is not monetary value but biocapacity

This is a response to an earlier and important text by Peter Barnes, i.e. Common Wealth Trusts as Structures of Transition.

James Quilligan writes:

“This is a fine stump speech for the structural transformation of the emerging eco-society. I heartily agree that creating common wealth trusts as legal entities with legitimacy and power could change the way that wealth is presently organized. As Barnes says, holding the commons in trust through our “fiduciary responsibility to future generations” would provide the equilibrium that is now lacking between businesses, governments, citizens, and the biosphere.

In my view, the most transformational part of Barnes’ vision is that common wealth trusts would be administering a sustainability budget—calibrating the input and output of material and energy within a bioregion—to rebalance the preservation/production of the primary resources in a geographical area. Hence, the metric used by common wealth trusts is not monetary value but biocapacity (i.e., the carrying capacity of Earth in support of its population). The value of this wealth is then expressed in proportion to the biolabor of the producers who are consumers of their own resources (i.e., the commoning activities which create and distribute biocapacity to meet peoples’ needs within the resource limits of the planet).

It’s easy to spot this evolving culture of sustainability in the small eco-social systems that are flourishing across the globe, from urban gardeners and impact hubbers to makers and hackers. Everywhere we look, there are open resource management systems in the form of producer and consumer cooperatives, community currencies, gift and barter economies, free shops, fair trade markets, crowdsourcing, software code creation and distribution, information management, production design, renewable energy networks, creative commons agreements, and Internet platforms.

Barnes is confident that co-worker groups such as these will create common wealth trusts around the world simply through their self-guided, local activities. But I wonder about that. Where is the scale and clout that Barnes is aiming at in developing trusts for the atmosphere and oceans? What is the international roadmap for creating these trusts? Does he expect to leapfrog sovereign claims to the commons? Or should we try to accomplish all of this randomly through municipal courts, as he suggests?

Certainly, the natural rights to produce and consume resources bind people to the ecosystems where they live and work. Although local sustainability groups are spreading rapidly, they are also failing to connect with each other regionally and internationally. Most communities have already surrendered their instinctive, practical incentives for regional cooperation to their sovereign political districts. That’s because the configuration of modern governance jurisdictions—whether in representative democracies or authoritarian states—removes the urban populace from an orientation or awareness of its natural place of habitation. Connected obliquely through markets, governments, and media, communities lose touch with their greater ecosystems. And where natural boundaries are consciously erased through the heavy preponderance of political boundaries, people have no way of coordinating their broader ecologies or using the full capacity of their technologies for the biophysical and social good. As a consequence, the political potential of citizens at the grassroots simply fades to an ember.

That’s why I think the community resilience movement is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great that many local people have set their sights on self-sufficiency, regeneration, and fair and equitable decision-making. But in relying mainly on ‘local only’ approaches, commons groups have not recognized the significance of open information and knowledge networks for meeting the biocapacity needs of regional and international ecosystems through organized biolabor. What is stopping common wealth trusts from creating bioregional councils, guilds, entrepreneurial hubs, and strategic planning agencies dedicated to coordinating the efforts of local communities in protecting their ecosystems and ensuring that the resources which belong to everyone actually meet the needs of everyone?

For example, regional commons trusts could develop their own cooperatives, information systems, networks for open circulation of knowledge, and open licenses for production and provisioning. They could apply open electronic media to spatial analysis, mapping, community structure, and economic development. They could use digital tools for the management of flora and fauna, hydrology and watersheds, agriculture and climate, geography and geology. They could use collaborative knowledge and design in landscape ecology, community planning, recreation, and tourism. They could support the use of social media in studying the history, literature, and arts of a region. Regional trusts could also educate producer-consumers on their rights; mentor and advise them on quality practices of commons management, use and access; and develop a membership of certified bioregional networkers.

I know that many people are fixated now on disruptions in the cycles of the biosphere, and rightly so. Yet, considering the history of human civilization, ecosystem boundaries have exhibited far more stability and predictability than any political boundaries. So, in thinking about the ecological limits of planetary borders, we also need to think about the ecological limits of political borders. This raises an interesting question: could human society possibly undertake a political redistricting of its bioregions, creating political accountability districts within bioregions, both inside individual nations and across national borders?

It would mean reorganizing digital and physical labor to empower our producing and consuming communities with the capacity to restore and regenerate their regional commons. It would also enable communities to develop the local and regional management of ecological systems in the interests of biocapacity and biolabor, while their political districts remain under the sovereign system of states.
Here are a few practical reasons for looking in this direction. The benefits of allowing common wealth trusts to slowly bend political boundaries toward bioregional boundaries include the following: lowering the carbon dioxide emissions involved in global trade and reducing the ecological footprint; waiving cross-border monetary exchange rates to synergize investment in regional trade and sustainable energy; increasing the sustainability and self-sufficiency of the resources upon which regional communities depend; strengthening peaceful, participatory decision-making in the production and distribution of goods and services; and enhancing the well-being of all living beings within an ecosystem. Meanwhile, nation-states would not be able to mount a lasting resistance to an international network of common wealth trusts that are producing valuable biocapacity through biolabor non-violently, autonomously and sustainably within and across sovereign borders.

This is also a matter of urgency. With hegemonic market forces driving an endless contest for the common needs of the planet, we are facing a Century of Decline. Global warming, resource depletion and population growth are enormous challenges to the ecology of Earth.

Climate change has rapidly become a matter of military security. Water shortages have created civil wars in Syria and climate refugees in Central America, the Sahara and Middle East. Many non-renewable resources are becoming scarce. World society is witnessing a plateau in the availability of energy, agriculture, water and mineral supplies. The prices for essential resources have increased significantly and will continue to do so.

If there is no significant policy intervention in the economy, and human civilization is still in the mode of business-as-usual by 2030, it’s possible that governments will invoke emergency powers to decide how resources will be allocated on behalf of their citizens. That’s why a major effort is needed to bring Barnes’ sustainability institutions to scale, so that common wealth trusts are making democratic and orderly decisions on the management of resources for present and future generations.

Yet Barnes also states, “I would not place too much faith in public policies that can fluctuate with the vagaries of politics.” Of course, the current political system is highly ineffectual. But how can Peter claim, on the one hand, that common wealth trusts are necessary legal institutions authorized by government and that the State is integral in mediating between common wealth trusts and for-profit enterprises; and then say, on the other hand, that citizens creating common wealth trusts do not need to be actively involved in shaping the policy decisions of the State?

Indeed, common wealth trusts require a new generation of political leaders, with a robust political movement which brings ecological activists together with producer-consumers in a broad campaign for carrying capacity and the provisioning of human needs. This will involve the lobbying of elected officials. It will also mean the creation of Commons Parties, the education of a new electorate on the platform of ‘Protecting Our Wealth for Future Generations,’ and the training of many young co-workers to stand for political office. Local community engagement is where this starts, regional gatherings are where it builds solidarity and power, the Net is how it spreads, and international legal approval is what changes the rules of the game. Barnes’ essay is the right foundation and a first step in this process.”


Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, P2P Ecology, P2P Governance, P2P Theory | 1 Comment »

The place of the Commons in the Pope’s climate change Encyclical

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th July 2015

Excerpted from Mike Sandler:

“The Pope calls for “an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of “global commons”.

175. The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty. A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions. The twenty-first century, while maintaining systems of governance inherited from the past, is witnessing a weakening of the power of nation states, chiefly because the economic and financial sectors, being transnational, tends to prevail over the political. Given this situation, it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions.

The Pope’s call for international institutions to step forward to address the governance of the global commons, and tackle the combined issues of climate and poverty brings to mind the work of the late Elinor Ostrom. Dr. Ostrom received a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, the first time a woman had received the honor. Ostrom’s book “Governing the Commons” decries the same overuse of common pool resources that the Pope does, and using empirical research, concludes that there are indeed solutions to the so-called “tragedy of the commons.” Ostrom suggests bypassing centralized government and so-called “free market” privatization efforts, and instead engaging the users of the resource to develop fair rules to share ownership. In the case of climate change, an international institution could implement an upstream global carbon price that returns revenues to everyone equitably. In 2008 Dr. Ostrom and several other visionaries including Paul Hawken, Peter Barnes, and Robert Costanza called for the creation of an Earth Atmospheric Trust.

Around that same time, members of the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability in Ireland and the UK came up with similar approach called Cap & Share. Most recently under the banner CapGlobalCarbon, they are seeking partners to become affiliates in a citizen’s initiative to create a Global Climate Trust, and are planning to make an appearance at the UN Climate Conference in Paris this December.

Unfortunately, the major players at the UNFCCC have abandoned the “top-down” strategy in the aftermath of the failed 2009 Copenhagen conference. Instead, countries are volunteering “bottom-up contributions”, which presumably will later be strengthened. As the Pope implies with the urgency of his tone, it is likely that these contributions will fall short on emissions reduction as well as on poverty alleviation and equity.

If the Pope wants to build linkages between climate policy and fighting poverty, one way to make that connection would be a global upstream carbon price returned directly to people as a “climate dividend” connecting climate, poverty, and international development. This type of carbon price, unlike Cap & Trade, would outlaw market speculation and gaming. Instead, a carbon price that rebates money to everyone equally can act as a new sector of the economy, one based on a recognition of energy resource limits and universal equality.

The climate dividend concept can be a bridge to global anti-poverty movements, which have begun to coalesce around the concept of “basic income,” and international development scholars are using compatible terms such as “unconditional cash transfers.”

Meanwhile, monetary reformers are promoting “Cash transfers to the people” and Quantitative Easing (QE) for the people.

The Pope’s Encyclical raises the possibility that in the coming months leading up to the UN Climate Conference in Paris, a project could emerge to link protection of the climate commons and battling global poverty. As those planning to attend Paris prepare to assess the equity components of their Parties’ contributions, and consider how to ratchet up their ambition, they should pause, think of the Pope’s Encyclical, and remember to advocate for a global institution that can implement a carbon price and return revenues back to people.”


Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, P2P Ecology, P2P Governance, P2P Spirituality | No Comments »

The key social innovation behind the blockchain: from the invisible hand to the visible hand

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th July 2015

In old security models, you tried to lock out all of the greedy, dishonest people. Bitcoin, on the other hand, welcomes everyone, fully expecting them to act in their own self-interest, and then it uses their greed to secure the network.

In many of my lectures, I try to explain the following to highlight the key civilisational breakthrough that p2p systems represent in terms of dealing with ‘human nature’.

Premodern class systems assumed that people could be good if they followed the precepts of divine law, it assumed humanity could only be civilized through alignment with a transcendent power that had laid down the rules. The result was a hypocritical society where those that believed the right things were assumed to be good, and those that disbelieved were assumed to be bad. It didn’t end well especially in the European context, with three centuries of religious civil war.

I believe that the reaction of liberalism / modernity etc … was essentially to recognize that all humans were motivated by self-interest (hiding by religious motives to justify this), and that if this was recognized, society would be well. Everyone’s recognized self-interest automatically leads to the augmentation of the common good. It’s the famous theory of the invisible hand, attributed to Adam Smith.

We today know that it doesn’t work and that the invisible hand destroys our biosphere, and creates increasing social inequality, while massively privatising essential human knowledge. But we can’t go back to the moralising past either. So what to do.

The answer is to recognize motivational pluralism, i.e. to recognize self-interest and many other motives, including altruism and the practice of cooperation. And to create social systems that are based on the conscious convergence of these motives, to the creation of a common good. In other words, we are moving from the worship of the invisible hand, to the conscious creation of a ‘visible hand’, i.e. the building of social systems that allow anyone to contribute to common projects, whatever their motives. Hence, whatever your motive is to contribute to the Wikipedia, you are still co-constructing a universal encyclopedia.

It is sometimes difficult to see this in all systems that claim to be peer to peer. Bitcoin is a case in point, since the currency part is based on a rent-extraction mechanism, which is designed to increase its value, and hence appeals essentially to self-interest and greed. And the result is known, Bitcoin’s spread is more unequal than sovereign currencies.

Yet the blockchain part has a genuine peer to peer aspect built in. It creates a visible hand to steer self-interested behaviour to the creation of the common good of the blockchain, while it also allows any other motivation to participate.

Here is the significant quote, from Morgan Peck:

A Nakamoto blockchain, then, becomes more secure as more people participate in the network. But why would they? In the case of Bitcoin, it’s because they are paid to do it. Every time a block gets solved, a virgin transaction is created with a handful of newly minted bitcoins signed over to the first miner who completed the work.

In old security models, you tried to lock out all of the greedy, dishonest people. Bitcoin, on the other hand, welcomes everyone, fully expecting them to act in their own self-interest, and then it uses their greed to secure the network.

“This is, I think, the main contribution,” says Ittay Eyal, a computer scientist at Cornell who studies Bitcoin along with other decentralized networks. “Bitcoin causes an attacker to be better off by playing along than by attacking it. The incentive system leads a lot of people to contribute resources toward the welfare of the system.”


Posted in Commons, P2P Collaboration, P2P Epistemology, P2P Hierarchy Theory, P2P Theory | No Comments »

The neoliberal background to the Greek crisis

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th July 2015

The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.

Excerpted from George Monbiot:

“The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

The same programme is imposed regardless of circumstance: every country the IMF colonises must place the control of inflation ahead of other economic objectives; immediately remove barriers to trade and the flow of capital; liberalise its banking system; reduce government spending on everything bar debt repayments; and privatise assets that can be sold to foreign investors.

Using the threat of its self-fulfilling prophecy (it warns the financial markets that countries that don’t submit to its demands are doomed), it has forced governments to abandon progressive policies. Almost single-handedly, it engineered the 1997 Asian financial crisis: by forcing governments to remove capital controls, it opened currencies to attack by financial speculators. Only countries such as Malaysia and China, which refused to cave in, escaped.

Consider the European Central Bank. Like most other central banks, it enjoys “political independence”. This does not mean that it is free from politics, only that it is free from democracy. It is ruled instead by the financial sector, whose interests it is constitutionally obliged to champion through its inflation target of around 2%. Ever mindful of where power lies, it has exceeded this mandate, inflicting deflation and epic unemployment on poorer members of the eurozone.

The Maastricht treaty, establishing the European Union and the euro, was built on a lethal delusion: a belief that the ECB could provide the only common economic governance that monetary union required. It arose from an extreme version of market fundamentalism: if inflation were kept low, its authors imagined, the magic of the markets would resolve all other social and economic problems, making politics redundant. Those sober, suited, serious people, who now pronounce themselves the only adults in the room, turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.

Those sober, suited, serious people turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult
All this is but a recent chapter in the long tradition of subordinating human welfare to financial power. The brutal austerity imposed on Greece is mild compared with earlier versions. Take the 19th century Irish and Indian famines, both exacerbated (in the second case caused) by the doctrine of laissez-faire, which we now know as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism.

In Ireland’s case, one eighth of the population was killed – one could almost say murdered– in the late 1840s, partly by the British refusal to distribute food, to prohibit the export of grain or provide effective poor relief. Such policies offended the holy doctrine of laissez-faire economics that nothing should stay the market’s invisible hand.

When drought struck India in 1877 and 1878, the British imperial government insisted on exporting record amounts of grain, precipitating a famine that killed millions. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices”. The only relief permitted was forced work in labour camps, in which less food was provided than to the inmates of Buchenwald. Monthly mortality in these camps in 1877 was equivalent to an annual rate of 94%.

As Karl Polanyi argued in The Great Transformation, the gold standard – the self-regulating system at the heart of laissez-faire economics – prevented governments in the 19th and early 20th centuries from raising public spending or stimulating employment. It obliged them to keep the majority poor while the rich enjoyed a gilded age. Few means of containing public discontent were available, other than sucking wealth from the colonies and promoting aggressive nationalism. This was one of the factors that contributed to the first world war. The resumption of the gold standard by many nations after the war exacerbated the Great Depression, preventing central banks from increasing the money supply and funding deficits. You might have hoped that European governments would remember the results.

Today equivalents to the gold standard – inflexible commitments to austerity – abound. In December 2011 the European Council agreed a new fiscal compact, imposing on all members of the eurozone a rule that “government budgets shall be balanced or in surplus”. This rule, which had to be transcribed into national law, would “contain an automatic correction mechanism that shall be triggered in the event of deviation.” This helps to explain the seigneurial horror with which the troika’s unelected technocrats have greeted the resurgence of democracy in Greece. Hadn’t they ensured that choice was illegal? Such diktats mean the only possible democratic outcome in Europe is now the collapse of the euro: like it or not, all else is slow-burning tyranny.

It is hard for those of us on the left to admit, but Margaret Thatcher saved the UK from this despotism. European monetary union, she predicted, would ensure that the poorer countries must not be bailed out, “which would devastate their inefficient economies.”

But only, it seems, for her party to supplant it with a homegrown tyranny. George Osborne’s proposed legal commitment to a budgetary surplus exceeds that of the eurozone rule. Labour’s promised budget responsibility lock, though milder, had a similar intent. In all cases governments deny themselves the possibility of change. In other words, they pledge to thwart democracy. So it has been for the past two centuries, with the exception of the 30-year Keynesian respite.

The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Empire, P2P Hierarchy Theory, Politics | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Social Media, Politics and the State

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th July 2015

* Book: Trottier, Daniel and Christian Fuchs, eds. 2015. Social media, politics and the state. Protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. New York: Routledge.

Here is the summary of the book:

This book is the essential guide for understanding how state power and politics are contested and exercised on social media. It brings together contributions by social media scholars who explore the connection of social media with revolutions, uprising, protests, power and counter-power, hacktivism, the state, policing and surveillance. It shows how collective action and state power are related and conflict as two dialectical sides of social media power, and how power and counter-power are distributed in this dialectic. Theoretically focused and empirically rigorous research considers the two-sided contradictory nature of power in relation to social media and politics.”

We recommend reading the introduction here at http://fuchs.uti.at/wp-content/introduction.pdf


Posted in Featured Book, P2P Books, Politics, Social Media | No Comments »

A critique of Sensorica’s open value accounting

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th July 2015

Update statement by author Lars Zimmermann: ” I wrote this article a while back (in very bad english) and i want to add something to it today. I am still in for all the points i made in general. But i am not so sure if they really fit to what Sensorica is actually building in reality. In past, present and the future. And i don’t want the article to harm the project. But i leave it here as “a warning” for everything Sensorica or similar projects could develop in.”

A critique by open source circular economy pioneer Lars Zimmermann from Berlin.

I disagree with the critique, which focuses on two points:

* that Sensorica commodifies contributions and thereby risks deterring intrinsic motivation; but that is precisely not what Sensorica does. It allows all contributions, does not guarantee payment, and allows you to record them. In the eventually of generated income, it will be divided according to the contributions. This insures a fair social contract so that the work of all cannot be captured by some. But it does not commodify contributions by paying for each of them and conditioning contributions on income.

* that an open value network is a surveillance machine. Tiberius of Sensorica answers this charge adequately in the comments section of that article.

This being said, in the approach that I recommend at the P2P Foundation, we do prefer a separation between the commons field of contributions, and a separate fair distribution between those that create livelihoods in the marketplace, but Sensorica’s experiment may well turn out to be a vital and viable alternative.

Here is an excerpt from Lars Zimmmmermann, followed by a comment from Tibi.

Lars Zimmermann writes:

“At the OuiShare Fest in Paris i saw a talk by Tiberius Brastaviceanu that really scared me. The talk was about a project called the Sensorica Open Value Network.

There is still a little chance, that i understood everything wrong – hopefully. In that case this blogpost marks down what a network like this in my opinion never should become.

What is Sensorica? The builders have a background in Open Source Hardware. And the new goal of sensorica is to create an open network, that measures and counts all sorts of contributions people make to a project and put them into an account. Your little contributions will bring you a share of the revenue made in the end. In short: You find a project online and tweet about it. Now your little tweet about it is a little marketing job for it, gets counted and is worth something in the end.

They say, they do it, to make Open Soure Hardware work better and grow. But i think they are also likely to do it a lot of harm. Because what i see here is, someone presenting in the name of Open Source Hardware a big and scary surveillance machine, something really fit for undermining intrinsic motivation..

Surveillance because they have to save, measure, evaluate and store all the things you do.

And undermining intrinsic motivation because they take and extend the logic/idea of money (which is creating something abstract to represent different concrete things and make them comparable). Money and its logic is an interesting thing but it has a lot of downsides too.

One of this downsides is, that it is very good in destroying intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is a therm that tries to describe, that there are things, we are doing just for fun, because they interest or fascinate us or bring us joy. Nobody has to give us something for it, we just do it for the task itself. This kind of motivation does not work very well together with money all the time. A little story to illustrate this i found in some book:

Money and especially small sums of it are very good in destroying intrinsic motivation.

But intrinsic motivation is a huge driver in the whole open source world! The beauty you can find everywhere in Open Source Hardware is a result of massive amounts of intrinsic motivation.

And when i think about sensorica is see someone trying to create this high surveillance machine that tracks down your every little move, transforms it and makes you think about its possible economic worth! It is 5 cents or less.

They measure your every little move.

This system is even more dangerous than money, because money ends, there are things that money can not reach. So there is still room for free thinking and acting. But this system creeps in a lot more niches, into every little corner of your day and actions bringing in the logic of money. Numbs you with counting and calculating.

The reason i am scared of this, is that so many people will probably think of it as a good idea. Because they are used to money and its logic. Yeah, when money is not really working, let’s create SUPER MONEY! And than they will start using it.”

Here’s the response from Tiberius from Sensorica, focusing on surveillance:

“Thank you for paying attention to our work. We need critics like you.

For now, I am only going to address your point on surveillance. Think about Bitcoin. Every transaction is recorded. No p2p system can be built without keeping traces. But the identity of those who exchanged is not known.

We are committed to p2p, to free the individual.

We are building a p2p economy to replace centralized platforms, which centralize all the information about our economic activity and use it against us. In a p2p economy everyone has access to all the information, and individuals have the choice how much information to release to the public.

Think about facebook. Your have in there what they call private data and communication and public ones. But really, the private is only private for your friends, not for Facebook employees, and certainly not for NSA, or for companies who buy data from Facebook. A p2p social network runs in a very different way, your private information is only for you. Now you can transpose that to a p2p economy.”


Posted in Commons, P2P Business Models, Peer Property | No Comments »