Wealth and Want
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Feedback Loops

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 1: Time to Upgrade (pages 3-14)

All operating systems contain feedback loops — if certain conditions are detected, do this; if others are detected, do that. These feedback loops can be virtuous (the reaction fixes the problem) or vicious (the reaction makes the problem worse). A stable system has lots of virtuous loops and is good at weeding out vicious loops.

Sometimes, in human-made systems, virtuous loops have to be consciously added. Consider the steam engine of eighteenth-century inventor James Watt. Watt’s design included two critical mechanisms: the steam-driven engine itself, and a centrifugal governor to keep the engine from getting out of control. When the latter detects a potentially dangerous behavior — speeding — it automatically corrects that behavior. ... read the whole chapter

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 5: Reinventing the Commons (pages 65-78)

Thus far I’ve argued that Capitalism 2.0 — or surplus capitalism — has three tragic flaws: it devours nature, widens inequality, and fails to make us happier in the end. It behaves this way because it’s programmed to do so. It must make thneeds, reward property owners disproportionately, and distract us from truer paths to happiness because its algorithms direct it to do so. Neither enlightened managers nor the occasional zealous regulator can make it behave much differently.

In this part of the book I advance a solution. The essence of it is to fix capitalism’s operating system by adding a commons sector to balance the corporate sector. The new sector would supply virtuous feedback loops and proxies for unrepresented stakeholders: future generations, pollutees, and nonhuman species. And would offset the corporate sector’s negative externalities with positive externalities of comparable magnitude. If the corporate sector devours nature, the commons sector would protect it. If the corporate sector widens inequality, the commons sector would reduce it. If the corporate sector turns us into self-obsessed consumers, the commons sector would reconnect us to nature, community, and culture. All this would happen automatically once the commons sector is set up. The result would be a balanced economy that gives us the best of both sectors and the worst of neither. ... read the whole chapter




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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper