Commons: Alternatives To Markets And States

From Counter Currents:

By Derek Wall
27 August, 2012

Capitalism has failed. Leaving the care of society to the market has led to massive inequality, climate chaos and financial crisis. The system is indeed one of zombie economics, the doctrine is dead but the beast still walks amongst us. It reminds me of the cartoons where Bugs Bunny runs over the edge of the cliff but, not noticing that he has done so, continues to march on air until realization strikes and the silly rabbit plummets to the ground.

However while capitalism is in crisis, alternatives are not obvious to all. The binary choice has been market versus state. If you have more market you have less state or vice versa. State provision of goods and services seems innately problematic. A central plan reduces choice, fails to promote creativity and may be vastly inefficient. When markets fail, neoliberals can point to the failures of a soviet style economy to justify the continuation of a system of supply and demand.

There are number of objections that can be made to this. Fredriedrich Hayek argued, seemingly convincingly, that planners would lack the information necessary for effective planning. Yet markets increasingly provide perverse signals and transmit false information. Think of the way that marketisation has led to commodification of services such as education and housing. Markets lead to speculation and speculation leads to catastrophe. Planning is problematic and imperfect, but marketisation gradually infects an economy with chaos.

Planning can be made democratic by measures such participatory budgeting. Likewise the National Health Service is an excellent example of state planned economic activity that works, although to work better the pharmaceutical companies that make medicine so expensive and the corporations that spend £ms marketing junk food would need tackling.

However what is emerging fast is the alternative of a commons based economy. Peer to peer, social sharing, collaborative consumption, commons, economic democracy are all terms that cover economic activity that moves beyond the market and the state, based on cooperation and harnessing human creativity.

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