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Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commonsby Peter Barnes
Synopses & Reviews
The commons, all the creations of nature and society we inherit together and hold in trust for future generations, are under siege. Our current version of capitalism — the corporate, globalized version 2.0 — is rapidly squandering this shared heritage. It is driving us headlong into social, economic, and environmental collapse. From Social Security privatization to deregulation of the airwaves and global warming, the threats to the commons often seem insurmountable. Peter Barnes has an answer: it's time to "upgrade" capitalism by reclaiming the commons.
Barnes shows that the market, like a computer, is run by an operating system, one that inherently gives the "right of way" to profit-maximizing corporations who redistribute their profits to only a sliver of the population. And governments — theoretically set up to preserve the commons and police the corporations — are inadequately designed, often facilitating the depletion of the commons.
Barnes proposes an alternative to our current self-destructive path: Capitalism 3.0, an update that includes innovative features to protect the commons while preserving the basic processes that have made capitalism such an effective economic operating system. Capitalism 3.0's major breakthrough is the addition of an asset-preserving trust, a market-based legal entity, neither privately owned nor government run, which would set limits on our depletion of the commons and pay dividends to all of us, the collective owners of the commons.
Just as residents of Alaska currently receive dividends from state oil wealth, a trust model for the commons institutionalizes the contract between generations and between humans and nature. Through the responsible employment of markets and property rights, this new version of capitalism would preserve the principal for the future while paying dividends to today's trustees.
Capitalism 3.0 offers viable solutions to some of our most pressing economic, environmental, and social concerns. It is a remarkable look at the future of our economy, a future in which we can retain capitalism's virtues while mitigating its vices.
"This is a dangerous book — it could revolutionize capitalism. It's also a conservative book — it could save capitalism from its own tragic flaws. Every thoughtful citizen should read it." Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet and Democracy's Edge
"Peter Barnes, a co-founder of Working Assets, has another important idea: Capitalism 3.0. This version of capitalism can save the planet, redress many inequities of wealth, and reclaim the commons — our air, our water, our airwaves, and more. Here is capitalism as you've never seen it before. Take a look!" George Lakoff, author of Don't Think of an Elephant and Whose Freedom?
"Reading Capitalism 3.0 is like putting on a new pair of glasses. It is clearly written, provocative, and fresh. And it offers a sharp new tool for solving the problem of capitalism's threat to the commons." Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma
"Using his years of experience as a successful entrepreneur, Barnes shows how capitalism can be upgraded so that it protects rather than devours our planet. Required reading for everyone who looks further than the next quarter's results." Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
"Barnes' concept of commons trusts is nothing short of brilliant. If applied on a large scale, it would fundamentally change capitalism. This idea has legs." Marjorie Kelly, author of The Divine Right of Capital
"Barnes shows us how to build a new economic sector that is held in trust for future generations. Ecosystems and their services would be managed for long-term benefit rather than short-term profit, and all Americans would get cash dividends." Ben Cohen, Co-Founder, Ben & Jerry's
"Barnes has opened the dialogue of the 21st century. He takes the traditional concept of the commons and marries it to the institutions of modern capitalism. In so doing he exposes those who take from the commons without paying, then make the rest of us buy back what we already own." Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club
Book News Annotation:
Likening the economic system to a computer operating system, Barnes (cofounder and former president of Working Assets Long Distance) suggests that Capitalism 2.0 has become obsolete because it damages the environment and widens inequality. He calls for an upgrade to Capitalism 3.0, the most salient feature of which is the institutionalization of a "commons sector" that preserves and enhances common wealth. Among the proposals proffered are a series of ecosystems trusts, a share per citizen mutual fund that pays dividends to all Americans, a trust fund providing start-up capital to every child, a risk-sharing pool for health care that covers everyone, a national fund based on copyright fees that supports local arts, and a limit on the amount of advertising. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the cofounder of Working Assets comes a visionary plan to upgrade capitalism.
About the Author
Peter Barnes is cofounder and former president of Working Assets Long Distance. In 1995 he was named Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California. He is the author of Who Owns the Sky? and Pawns: The Plight of the Citizen-Soldier, and has written for Newsweek, The New Republic, The New York Times, and many other publications.
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