Spontaneous Order Denied
By Arnold Kling
Doug Rushkoff says that our capitalist society is neither spontaneous nor an order. He thinks it came about because of some decisions made by monarchs in the 13th century.
The first innovation was to centralize currency. What better way for the already rich to maintain their wealth than to make money scarce? Monarchs forcibly made abundant local currencies illegal, and required people to exchange value through artificially scarce central currencies, instead. Not only was centrally issued money easier to tax, but it gave central banks an easy way to extract value through debasement (removing gold content)…
The second great innovation was the chartered monopoly, through which kings could grant exclusive control over a sector or region to a favored company in return for an investment in the enterprise…
We ended up with an economy based in scarcity and competition rather than abundance and collaboration; an economy that requires growth and eschews sustainable business models. It may or may not better reflect the laws of nature — and that it is a conversation we really should have — but it is certainly not the result of entirely natural set of principles in action. It is a system designed by certain people at a certain moment in history, with very specific interests.
In response, George Dyson writes,
How to best transcend the current economic mess? Put Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Elon Musk, Tim O’Reilly, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Nathan Myhrvold, and Danny Hillis in a room somewhere and don’t let them out until they have framed a new, massively-distributed financial system, founded on sound, open, peer-to-peer principles, from the start. And don’t call it a bank. Launch a new financial medium that is as open, scale-free, universally accessible, self-improving, and non-proprietary as the Internet, and leave the 13th century behind.
Why focus on just finance? In the last sentence, substitute “decentralized non-monopoly approach to government” for “new financial medium.”
By the way, I do not endorse either of these essays. Among other things, Rushkoff needs to say “hoard” rather than “hord.”