Peter Barnes: Capitalism
3.0 — Chapter 5: Reinventing the Commons (pages 65-78)
Trust and liquidity, I eventually realized, are just two small rivulets
in an enormous river of common wealth that encompasses nature, community,
and culture. Nature’s gifts are all those wondrous things, living
and nonliving, that we inherit from the creation. Community includes the
myriad threads, tangible and intangible, that connect us to other humans
efficiently. Culture embodies our vast store of science, inventions, and
The value of community and cultural assets has been less studied than that
of natural assets. However, we can get an order of magnitude by considering
a few examples.
The Internet has contributed significantly to the U.S. economy since the
1990s. It has spawned many new companies (America Online, Amazon.com, Ebay,
to name a few), boosted sales and efficiency of existing companies, and
stimulated educational, cultural, and informational exchange. How much
is all that worth?
There’s no right answer to this question.However, a study by Cisco
Systems and the University of Texas found that the Internet generated $830
billion in revenue in 2000. Assuming the asset value of the Internet is
16.5 times the yearly revenue it generates, we arrive at an estimated value
of $13 trillion. Another valuable social asset is the complex system of
stock exchanges, laws, and communications media that makes it possible
for Americans to sell stock easily. Assuming that this socially created “liquidity
premium” accounts for 30 percent of stock market capitalization,
its value in 2006 was roughly $5 trillion. If that much equity were put
in a mutual fund whose shares belonged to all Americans, the average household
would be $45,000 richer.
Not-for-profit cultural activities also pump billions of dollars into
the U.S. economy.A 2002 study by Americans for the Arts found that nonprofit
art and cultural activities generate $134 billion in economic value every
year, including $89 billion in household income and $24 billion in tax
revenues. Using the 16.5 multiplier suggests that America’s cultural
assets are worth in excess of $2 trillion.
These three examples alone add up to about $20 trillion. The long list
of other social assets — including scientific and technical knowledge,
our legal and political systems, our universities, libraries, accounting
procedures, and transportation infrastructure — suggest that the
total value of our social assets is comparable in magnitude to that of
our natural assets. ... read
the whole chapter
Peter Barnes: Capitalism
3.0 — Chapter 8: Sharing Culture (pages 117-134)
So far I’ve focused on the commons of nature and community. In this
chapter I explore the third fork of the commons river, culture. By this I
mean the gifts of language, art, and science we inherit, plus the contributions
we make as we live.
Culture is a joint undertaking — a co-production — of individuals
and society. The symphonies of Mozart, like the songs of Lennon and McCartney,
are works of genius. But they also arise from the culture in which that genius
lives. The instrumentation, the notation system, and the prevalent musical
forms are the dough from which composers bake their cakes. So too with ideas.
All thinkers and writers draw on stories and discoveries that have been developed
by countless men and women before them. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, each
generation sees a little farther because it stands on the shoulders of its
predecessors. In this way, all new work draws from the commons and then enriches
it. To keep art and science flourishing, we have to make sure the cultural
commons is cared for.
In addition, unlike most natural commons, the cultural commons is inexhaustible.
Shakespeare’s plays can be “used” again and again without
diminishing them. The same is true of Newton’s theories, Beethoven’s
string quartets, and the information on the World Wide Web. Indeed, the more
we use these assets, the more value they bestow. And thanks to technology — from
Gutenberg’s press to Marconi’s radio to the globe-spanning Internet — sharing
this wealth has become increasingly easy.
Today, unfortunately, this cultural commons, like the commons of nature
and community, is being enclosed by private corporations. The danger is that
corporations will deplete the soil in which culture grows. The remedy is
to reinvigorate the cultural commons. ... read
the whole chapter
share this page with a friend: right click, choose "send," and
add your comments.
links have not been visited; .
links are pages you've seen
pertinent to this theme: