Try Explaining This to an MBA

I can't even tell you how happy I am to see the brief wordpress-and-garland contraversy resolve in the way it did. This isn't because I saw them porting 5.0's theme as a threat per se --- but rather because it once again demonstrated why open source's way of doing things is going to kick "the Microsoft-Apple-Adobe everything is mine-mine-mine, and I'll bite you if you try to steal it" 's ass.

So, I've decided to celebrate by sharing an essay that each and every open source advocate should read. I promise: this is the most interesting link I've ever shared with Drupal Planet. Here's a teaser from A Renaissance of the Commons* by David Bollier  (who's site uses drupal, btw), and John Clippinger.


Because the free market dogma (FMD) systematically fails to recognize the powerful influence of social context, it fails to appreciate that its own structure of property rights, contracts, enforcement, profit incentives, etc., are sustained by a vast social apparatus and cultural norms which entail huge agency and transaction costs. It is very expensive for a company to offer high salaries to top management, hire attorneys to draft contracts, go to court to enforce violators, and so forth. But when leadership, coordination and motivation can be achieved easily through self-synchronizing, self-enforcing means, gracefully leveraging our natural social tendencies, why should anyone be surprised that such a system of exchange will be more efficient, effective and equitable than a market system? Communities of trust and transparency can be fantastically efficient! The rise of the Internet and various software systems are so powerful precisely because they leverage people's natural desire for meaning, trust and social belonging -- traits that FMD cannot understand, but which are deeply embedded in our evolutionary history.

(read the full essay).

Or.. more excerpt:

This is the as-yet-untold story of the commons. In the commons, price alone is not the sole arbitrator of value and property rights may actually impede the creation of value. A larger set of human values, embodied in historically unique communities, determines the meaning of "value." Money is not the only meaningful currency. Such concepts are difficult for people steeped in our current property-bounded traditions to accept. How can we collectively create valuable resources that are not owned by anyone (or that are owned by everyone, by way of government)? We assume that resources must be treated as "property" to make sure they are distributed, by way of the market, to those who can exploit them most efficiently. We believe that we should create "public goods" by means of government. But in the age of the Internet, these obvious propositions are not necessarily true. Intangible resources that we often treat as "intellectual property" increase in value as they are made available to the Internet, where others can easily find them and add value. (The rub: private companies may or may not be able to capture that increase in value for themselves alone.)

Significantly, this commons perspective is entirely supported by the findings of the evolutionary sciences. Human beings share a common genetic heritage with all forms of life, and we are therefore indivisible and interdependent with other species. Far from evolving as independent, self-actualizing and materialistic actors, human beings emerged as a relatively small and vulnerable species 150,000 years ago because we developed unique set of social contract algorithms based on language and cooperation. How oddly appropriate: the Internet and related technologies are simply allowing us to give fuller expression to our evolutionary legacy!

Do Read The Whole Monty...

*I put it on my site to free it from being PDF-format-only