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This is your mind on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Communism Is Too Loaded These Days (part 1)

A recent discussion was sparked by Bill Gates’ use of the word “communist” to describe people who want to see a change in the way copyright works — namely the folks at creative commons who like to give artists the power to put their work in the public domain or allow people to use it for collaborative purposes. Gates backtracked slightly in this second interview with Gizmodo but not really.


p>For me the whole discussion is moot because the word communism has no meaning anymore. Does it mean state-owned? Do “the people” own all means of production? Are we not talking theory and discussing the dictatorships that have existed under the claim that they are/were communist? And even if you are talking theory is communism really an approriate description for producing something and giving it to the public (be that something art or software or whatever). We need a new economic paradigm to describe a cooperative system (community) in which people contribute labor for compensation other than money. I would like to propose Donarism as that paradigm. donare is the greek root for gift. Anthropologists and sociologists have described gift economies for years. The native americans of the Seattle area were some of the most well-known societies in which it was common for the wealthy to give their wealth away. In fact, the more you gave away, the more wealthy you were considered to be. But “Gift Economy” carries a stigma of primetiveness with it. It seems “cute” and also seems to be treated as such by most economists. Capitalism is THE system and the final say on the way things should be distributed according to most. (I don’t even remember studying gift economies in my early economics classes in college.) But that’s the key problem with capitalism: it is concerned with distributing things. Ideas are simply not like things. Jefferson most famously noted this when he compared the notion of an idea to a candle — namely that you could light someone else’s candle without reducing the amount of light/flame that you possess. I can give you an idea and not reduce what I possess.


p> The fact is, ideas are more valuable the more widely they are held. What’s the most valuable art in the world? — the most widely recognized art. Software becomes more valuable the closer to a standard that it becomes. An entire industry is based on Apache, an application that is not only free but almost ubiquitous. Therein lies a great deal of its value and that value was developed by it being given away. Donarism then would be the economic system that describes how FREE distribution of ideas is what actually creates value — not the idea itself.

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