22 November 2009

A Modest Proposal: "How to Fix Capitalism"

"How to Fix Capitalism" is an insanely ambitious post that ranges over, well, just about everything concerned with business and all it touches. The following proposals give some hint of its deep wisdom:

# Abolish patents. They have not been proven to speed progress: the evidence seems to be to the contrary. They definitely increase costs, are an inefficient way of funding R & D and allow oligopolists to block competition.

# Reduce the copyright term to the optimal length suggested by research of about 15 years. It ought to be obvious that works produced in the reign of Queen Victoria should not be in copyright in the 21st century.

# Exclude works distributed with DRM from copyright to ensure that copyright works do fall into the public domain when the copyright expires.

# Reduce the copyright term on computer software to two years, and make copyright contingent on disclosing source code (so others can alter the software when it comes out of copyright).

This section also warmed the cockles of my collaborative heart:

by telling people that they are expected to be selfish, they become more selfish. Economics students become more selfish because they are repeatedly taught to expect that people are rational and selfish: the association between the two can only strengthen the effect.

Society is permeated, especially in business, politics and economics, with the idea that is people pursue their own interests, this will automatically lead to the best outcome, and that, therefore, people should be selfish. This cannot be fixed by endless incentives to align interests: life and business is too complex for that to work. A free market is not a substitute for integrity.

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12 comments:

zotz said...

Reminds me of my:

A Free Market may be Necessary but it is not Sufficient.

phrase...

Jose_X said...

>> Abolish patents. They have not been proven to speed progress

..and they most certainly abridge the rights of essentially everyone on the planet.

At a minimum, I think the benefit of the doubt in US courts should lie with those accused of infringing. Rather than simply showing in court that a given patent claim describes a given product, the plaintiff should also be tasked with "proving" that their patent for 20 years will promote the progress of science and useful arts.

With a fair and high enough bar, the number of patent applications and lawsuits should drop in number, allowing for serious reforms (for those that think the patent system can be fixed).

Absent the above Constitutional approach, perhaps software and all other Thought Products should be removed from the realm of patentability.

Additionally, the monopolies should be reduced to much less than 20 years (unless the plaintiff can prove a longer period would promotes the progress...), or instead (of monopolies) have Guaranteed Marketshare Awards (eg, 20% instead of 100%), tax credit, grants/prizes, etc, be given.

Additionally (and as an absolute defense), "independent" creation should be allowed in all cases [ http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?perm=593056000000001904 ].

Additionally, perhaps automatic patents might level the playing field some more to the fairness of those without a lot of money to patent combinations after combinations and then combinations of these combinations, etc, etc, etc.

[Beware: Reading through a groklaw thread, I get the feeling that it's only a matter of time until "all" music, movies, performances, etc, will be patented since the binaries to these (copyrighted) works either serve to transform DVD or other players or else provide a method/process (instructions) for using DVD or other players, much as a spreadsheet application does same for a computer.]

glyn moody said...

@Jose_X: interesting point about patents and media files...

Stephen M said...

I find the reform model relatively useless. We know capitalism adjusts to reforms and then removes the reforms later. Pre-WWII was era of no constraints to capitalism growth it crashed and then post-WWII brought heavily regulated reformed capitalism. When the 1970s happened reformed capitalism reached it's limit to expand, so it sought to remove the regulations and reforms, aka neoliberalism. We are now seeing the limits capitalism can achieve under limited regulation and we are right back to pre-WWII era. We need to think of a better economic system other than capitalism

glyn moody said...

@Stephen: sounds good to me - what do you suggest?

Stephen M said...

gly moody...my suggestion is we start thinking about what democracy means and figure out how to implement it in the work place. I am more radical than Michael Moore, but his resent film actually does a good job of underscoring the importance of democracy in the work place. Though I do have to admit that it is not an easy battle, it can't be achieve via reform, unless there is an utter collapse of the capitalist economy, but even then war is bound to break out. So in the mean time I suggest look at the model of Mondragon from the Basque country. Focus on developing worker run cooperatives instead of corporations. That's a start. Second to that don't buy software that has an opensource equivalent it undermines the market system. Third support the labor movement. That's a start.

glyn moody said...

@stephen: I agree - we should do what we can, and supporting free software is a small but important step in the right direction

zotz said...

I think one possible quick improvement (but very unlikely) is to limit ownership in corporations to human beings only.

In a free society based on the knowledge economy, who should own the means of production?

Stephen M said...

zotz I think the idea holds merit, but the problem, is how the law actually sees a corporation as a human with no body. But even if corporations were required to only include humans, it wouldn't change the fact that it would still be held by a profit driven capitalist. This results in the same problem existing.

zotz said...

@Stephen M

might not fix all problems, but it would allow some social pressure at least on those owning corporations that are seriously harming their communities.

You would not be able to pretend to be a caring benefactor of your community while the company you held via s long shell play was wrecking it.

drew

Stephen M said...

drew,

I agree it would be nice to see corporations respond to social movements be it local, national or global. The concern I have is that I am not convinced a small thing like requiring leaders to be human would do enough. Even non-profits take a profit route like at universities.

zotz said...

@Stephen M

It likely wouldn't do enough, but it might do some and something else might do some more...