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Doug Rushkoff on sharing the means of production at OS//OS

Today’s opening keynote by Douglas Rushkoff wasn’t what I expected. It was better. Main theme: digital platforms can either be corralled into the service of economic monopolists, or recognised as a means of production that can be either shared for the common goal of prosperity. Yes, folks. This is what digital Marxism looks like.

Rushkoff began with a benign question that’s so simple it sounds naive: what would happen if Uber handed - say - 50% of its value over to the people who rack up the miles for it? The first question that comes to mind is “why would they do that?” The answer: because it’d be more valuable.

That may be slightly disingenuous. Even if it’s more valuable over all, it would presumably be less valuable for the elite equity holders looking for the return. But Rushkoff gave another example where profit sharing is proving much more efficient: an American company called Winco.

“Winco has beaten Walmart in every single territory where they compete. And I meet Walmart people who ask, how are they doing that? And the answer is very simple: they’re not handing over 90% of their profits to, umm, you!”

Rushkoff was also very big on localised markets using localised currencies. The monopolists spend an increasingly large amount of time, effort and money on capital for its own sake: making money out of money.

“The brilliance of central currency is that for you to get my time you have to borrow it from the bank and they make money from it. Just the fact that we have an alternative means of exchange puts them on notice.”

What exactly he means by “alternative means of exchange” he wasn’t clear about. Nor, in the time available, could he elaborate on how exactly a country like New Zealand could get by on significantly reduced trade with the aggressively competitive global labour market.

I’ll give this some more attention in a wrap up piece. But I’ll leave it with this one:

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s … the popes were asked to comment on Marx. They were dealing with distributism. They said the capitalists are right, some things need capital. But the communists are also right. They came up with distributism. It’s not about distributing the spoils of capital after the fact, but distributing the means of production before the fact.“

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