25 de octubre de 2011

Micro-ownership revolution

While we should always be weary of technological determinism, the article above makes a very cogent argument about how changing ‘p2p-driven’ transaction costs drive new distributed ownership models. It’s one of the best takes on the subjects I’ve seen and makes a really crucial connection for P2P Theory. Just add the necessity for social struggle and political organisation to make sure such a change is not derided.

Excerpted from Matt Cropp:

“If the cost of information, in fact, influences the optimal structure of a firm in the economy, then the growth of the Internet over the last decade should be understood as a signal that the traditional corporate model is heading the way of the dinosaur. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that small to mid-size firms can use their flexibility to outmaneuver the existing behemoths in many ways; however, there are certain industries in which economies of scale will remain extremely important. However, some very recent developments have to potential to radically alter the ownership structures of such firms.

Of paramount importance is the emergence of peer-to-peer online monetary systems such as Bitcoin. By drastically reducing transaction costs and allowing for true micro-payments (on the order of hundred-thousandths of a cent), such systems have the potential to drastically reduce the minimum barrier to entry to obtaining an ownership stake in a firm. As a result, I believe we might begin to witness the organic transformation of many large firms to co-operative ownership.

The logic of such a transition is as follows. In a perfectly competitive market, the margin of profit trends towards zero, with consumers obtaining products at cost. In such a situation, the motivation for shareholders who do not use the firm’s products to retain ownership is fairly low, while the only tool left for a firm to attract customers away from its competitors would be to offer them an ownership stake in the business, which would guarantee that they would continue to receive the firms products at cost in the future. As such, it would be reasonable to expect the gradual transition of the ownership of many companies in the coming years from absentee shareholders to consumers.

A possible objection to this scenario would be to inquire as to why such a transition has not already occurred? The answer, I believe, lies in the relative cost of ownership. In 1800, owning a share of a London blacksmith’s shop while living in New York would have been prohibitively expensive, due to the fact that the transaction costs necessary to receive the benefits of ownership would eat up most, if not all, of the profits. However, once the underseas telegraph cable was in place, such costs were reduced to the point that such ownership became possible. It seems there is a similar dynamic at play with co-operatives.

In the past, co-operatives have only been successful in economic sectors in which the size of the economic relationship they have with their members is sufficiently large to offset the transaction costs of ownership (i.e., groceries, insurance, feed for livestock), and they have often further defrayed such costs through the use of volunteer labor. However, with such technologies as Bitcoin sending transaction costs plummeting towards zero, the range of firms that could be economically owned by their users/consumers is drastically expanding. The logic is simple – why patronize a for-profit firm when you can be assured you’re receiving goods and services at cost from your co-op store/auto repair shop/social networking website. Just as the first communications revolution gave birth to the age of the corporation, the rapid changes that our contemporary world is experiencing could be paving the way towards the age of the co-operative.”


2 comentarios:

  1. Creo que la esencia económica es gestionar la plusvalía. En un mundo que obligatoriamente tiene que buscar la eficiencia y el ahorro, ya que el modelo quiebra por la no sostenibilidad del modelo de crecimiento, las comunidades que consigan "atrapar" más plusvalía serán las que alcancen mayor bienestar y progreso.

    Desde luego la organización cooperativa es ideonea para estos fines, pero no tiene porque ser la única. Utilizar tu propia moneda ayuda a "acaparar" plusvalía.

    Sobre Bitcoin, creo que es una plataforma tecnológica que supone un avance con el software existente, pero cuidado, que también sufre de especulación, algo que intrísecamente no tiene porque ser malo, pero claro, en la sociedad del conocimiento lo que vale es el conocimiento, donde la plusvalía la obtiene el que es capaz de anticiparse.

    ¿El precio de los Bitcoins está haciendo un suelo?

  2. A mí lo que más me llama la atención de este artículo es la realidad de que los productos cada vez más, se venden sin margen, a coste. Siendo así, la mejor forma de atraer clientes es hacerles accionistas y garantizar que no sólo tendrán los productos a coste en una oferta, sino siempre. Puede ser el camino para la transormación de muchas empresas con estructura de accionariado estándar hacia cooperativas. Además la tecnología de las monedas digitales favorece este tipo de transición y puede potenciar alianzas entre cooperativas que operen en monedas al margen del sistema financiero institucional.