For the past year, I’ve been serving as a senior advisor to the Institute for the Future’s Equitable Enterprise Initiative, along with great new economics thinkers and practitioners from Jerry Davis and Astra Taylor to Jessica Gordon Nembhard and Cory Doctorow. We talk (and argue) about how to create opportunities, develop practices, and build institutions that distribute assets equitably among those who contribute value to the system.
Given the decades of policies and practices based on the idea that the only social responsibility of a business is to increase share value, it is actually a heavy lift. One of the projects coming out of the initiative will be a book of connected essays on how to get from here to there. I finished mine, a proposal for how we move to what I’m calling “digital distributism”, and didn’t want to wait for the book to share it.
Those of you who read my book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus will recognize the initial premise. But what I’m trying to do here is demonstrate that any vision of a functional, human-centered economy is less about that result than the theory of change, itself. How we get from here to there is the whole point.
So here’s a new narrative for our economic past, present, and future. It’s not a short story, so I’ll be breaking it up into four pieces over the month of August. By the time you’re done, I’ll be out with my new book, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, which shares an entirely different “theory of change” from those who have given up on all prospects of a distributed economic future and have chosen instead to accumulate as much money as possible and leave the rest of us behind.
Part I: De-Naturalizing Capitalism
Something’s gone terribly wrong with the way we do business. While digital technology was supposed to augur a new era of distributed prosperity, so far — even with the advent of the much-vaunted Web3 — it has only exacerbated the most extractive features of traditional industrialism. It’s not that the story we were telling ourselves about how digital technology could save the economy was wrong. They did save the economy; it’s just that they did so at the…