I find Peter Barnes proposals in Capitalism 3.0 to be/have:
1. Well intended. That’s important. Smart people, who are willing to try to figure out what is going on, communicate and collaborate, can ultimately figure out what is going on and evolve our culture to continuously richer and wiser states.
2. An insufficient map. “Do not attempt to cure what you do not understand.” Too often, I have made the mistake of trying to define and solve problems by simply looking at the overt world without a full understanding of the covert world — historical and present. Barnes has fallen into this trap as well.
3. Without answers for unanswered question #1 – Cui Bono? The history on our planet is one of some groups subsidizing themselves by stealing from/draining other groups or the environment- whether through organized crime, slavery, warfare or pollution. This type of subsidy extraction has been one of the keys to the success of the English- speaking people. I call this model the negative return on investment model, or the Tapeworm economy. The Tapeworm model has been phenomenally successful for the people who have led it and many of those who have followed them. We have the time to discuss ideas because we are enjoying the economic benefits of the subsidy. Before we can pretend to evolve the model we have to understand who is doing it and why they keep doing it and the manner in which we support them in our daily work and lives. This requires a very deep understanding of the cash and credit flows around us.
4. Without answers for unanswered question #2 – Is Sustainability Possible? One reason to extract subsidy is because it is not possible to be self-sufficient. Another is that self- sufficiency requires advanced technology to be widely available and the human culture is too primitive to manage that power safely. Before we can stop extracting subsidy to support our way of life, we need a serious discussion of whether sustainability is possible at this population level (and growing) and how and why. Shifting the chairs around will do no good when the core issue is that we need more chairs or less people. (This is not to deny that different structures influence productivity and optimization.)
5. Without answers for unanswered question #3 – How do We Enforce the Rule of Law? If I can listen to your board meetings with Echelon, hack your bank and government accounts with PROMIS type software, trigger an earthquake in your town with my electromagnetic weapons, zap you or your family from my surveillance satellite and arrange sex slave benefits and big bucks for you if you do what I want (all without having to assume criminal and civil liability as a practical matter), then the structural governance of assets by trusts matters not a bit — the trustees of whatever it is will do whatever I want them to do. So we need to step back and determine how can the rule of law be enforced given the current state of advanced, invisible weaponry and surveillance technology. Indeed there are ways, but they are not obvious until we start dealing with the practical aspects of economic and political warfare as they are currently practiced.
There are unintended consequences to applying solutions when we don’t have the problem fully diagnosed. Barnes’ proposal — moving significant resources under the control of trusts runs the risk of making the situation far worse. Barnes’ thesis would support the notion that a handful of families and intergenerational private lines/ societies should govern the vast investment wealth of large corporations (which has increased enormously in recent years) while the other assets which have been the bedrock of small business and private family wealth that have supported democracy will be shifted into trusts — leaving all financial wealth centralized into a few hands. This sounds like a formula for feudalism or fascism to me. What this means as a geographic matter is that all the financial wealth in my county in Tennessee will be owned and controlled by a few families in New York, London and the Middle and Far East and the leading wealthy families here will have died off and their assets moved into a trust. As a strong believer in democratic and market process, I am committed to solutions that create rich, robust and highly diverse family financial and human wealth
I wrote a critique of Marjorie Kelly’s book (Barnes references it). I include it here, as it describes sufficiently the same issue with respect to Capitalism 3.0.
“Traditionally, the faith of the US working class in democracy has been one of the most powerful supports for democracy worldwide. It is not enough to bankrupt the American middle class and the American government. The current effort to move to more centrally controlled governance also requires removing this faith that underpins support for global democracy. Part and parcel of doing so is establishing popular support for the notion that the economic supports for democracy – sound money, open and transparent markets and government, and access to equity – are somehow bad.”
“An example of this is Marjorie Kelly’s The Divine Right of Capital, which neglects to integrate the covert revenue streams into the equation and instead attempts to explain problems and resolutions in terms of overt cash flows only. According to Kelly, the editor of Business Ethics magazine, free markets, not organized crime and black budgets, are the problem. Hence, the problem is that shareholders want to make money, not that insiders rip off small investors of their savings and retirement investments using criminal means, protected, not obstructed, by governmental intervention. Kelly’s bio mentions her speaking engagements at Harvard, without concern for Harvard’s leadership in Enron, Harken, the rape of Russia, HUD corruption and other criminal frauds”.
“In the latest escalation of the Orwellian nightmare, we have entire networks of good-hearted progressives and socially responsible investors promoting a framework of “problems-solutions” that provides the perfect intellectual camouflage for their opponents’ control over national and international resources. Now that the so-called “New World Order” has stolen all of the money, those who are most appalled at this state of affairs unwittingly promote policies that will prevent the ordinary person from communicating with integrity or creating and accumulating wealth.”