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Simone Cicero: beyond the sharing economy to a fair economy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
13th May 2013


In this review of the marvelous Ouishare fest, Simone Cicero also reacts to my closing keynote speech at the event, which called for an ethical economy.

Excerpted from Simone Cicero:

“Bauwens kindly reminded everyone in the room that capital, the inc, the corporate has one principle in it’s very raison d’être : that of shareholder value maximization, which is somehow often contrary to the common good.

Beyond political and philosophical concepts that everyone is free to use, in my eyes there is a very clear and simple explanation in layman’s terms for this misconception: the market does not take into account negative externalities. Pollute a river? Free. Send workers to suicide? Free. Produce obsolescent and pollutants machines? Free!

Companies think of profit maximization, as it is written in their DNA: it’s an endless cycle that ends in the perpetual growth and consumption and exploitation of resources.

Bauwens has therefore closed with a call: if you want change, devote yourself to the community, to no profits, to social enterprises, in short, to the third sector.

This position left some a little ‘stunned but, in my opinion, it contains a seed of truth.

How can the field of social innovation be measured within the same market and with the same financial sustainability requirements that we use for companies? How can this be? Especially when their main products are human and social capital, motivation and enthusiasm that are usually not included in the budget.

Ouishare fest was this: a huge loan of social capital that we all put under the same shared mission. The budget of the ouishare fest is public, but I assure you that if we had approached the market for conferences in the traditional way the numbers would have been very different. We might not have organized the ouishare fest at the end. Have you any idea what it’s worth the work of nearly 20 people for months?

The question “How do you pay the rent?” should not be asked to anyone who found the strength to create a context for the discussion of the solutions, but rather perhaps to our legislators who still wonder whether to establish a basic income today is right or not, with a myopia that is hardly tolerable.

Personally, I am skeptical that such a thing as ouishare may one day comply 100% with the mainstream currency system. I think that, at today, money is the biggest challenge for ouishare and hopefully will not screw up everything once it eventually gets in the picture. Maybe Pavlik is right, he’s moneyless for choice, and he was in fact a push for transparency and inclusion that paid in the end.

If all this sounds hippie to you, then you probably didn’t get it. You should realize that democratization has eventually come to philosophy and politics itself and that citizenship is no longer geographical but it is a matter of creativity and passion: these new nations have great potential.

There’s no doubt now: it is about reaching emancipation through the understanding of the tools and phenomena.

Entrepreneurship, not businesses, is what we should start to incubate. The mission is in inclusion.

We need a new mindset: Evolutionary, Emotional, Entrepreneurial. Coupled with the ability to embody horizontal structures of collaboration where everyone can express her talent. This will be the key to change.

But there is no doubt that, in this framework, the role of the mainstream fiat currency was overvalued and sometimes have also been harmful (the story of how VC screwed up the community in couchsurfing is exemplary). It’s also equally clear that the current alternative currencies ecosystem has a huge potential that is scarcely disruptive today. Certainly we can expect a future of monetary democratization or, as Eli Gothill dubbed it at the fest, of democratization of “the illusion of money”, the idea that a symbol can be a medium of exchange. But the point is: how much time do we need for this? Is it not time to promote deregulation policies such as those ??recently made in Brazil for the birth of more experimentation with alternative currencies?

By now it is clear that Bitcoin is not enough, even if it was a good discussion engine in recent months, even if pushed the European Central Bank to a study, Bitcoin now appears too dark in the origins, and vitiated by what Bauwens called a oligarchy (of early adopters) that really looks like the deus ex machina today in BTC dynamics.

Certainly, the real sharing currencies of today are learning and social capital; with the first used as a tool to convert – in a more or less efficient way – the second in financial sustainability: this is today the real opportunity for the homo interneticus.

Instruments such as crowdfunding are dramatically accelerating this convergence of values and, as the story of Amanda Palmer tells, often artists and emotional people are the ones being able to get more credit.

Ouishare is basically about this: trying to figure out how to turn social capital – which is not your Klout, but it’s about real people you Meet In Real Life – in sustainability in the long run, to ensure we can move forward and get more results. That’s the key problem and I expect experimentation with new models for resilience and solidarity among us in the future, this will be decisive for our potential and impact.

We are living the paradox that we need radical answers but, however, we must adopt methods that are familiar to the status quo, to eventually generate the disruptive change. For this reason we should not forget the market and companies, in my opinion, we have no time to sit on the bank of the river and wait for social enterprise to become the leading force. The corpse would be that of human society.

Of course, our efforts will be that of those who believe that today no innovation is more possible without transformation.”

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