How could a P2P Economy save the Planet?
I attended a conference given by Michel Bauwens yesterday in Barcelona that really went above and beyond my expectations and, to my astonishment, it made me see things through a different and hopeful prism.
Earlier on Financial Translation I wrote about the blockchain and even tackled some very alternative tools for organsing economy (see Wörgl, the miracle of a local currency) or Fuller’s World Game (see If we ruled the world), but yesterday Michael Bauwens took it up a notch.
Michael Bauwens, the founder and director of the P2P Foundation, is a top figure in the field of P2P economies and the commons movement. He presented his last P2P Foundation report “Towards a P2P Infrastructure for a Socially-Just Circular Society” . It explains how using shared perma-circular supply chains, post blockchain distributed ledgers, protocol cooperatives, and other forms of post-capitalist accounting, could save the planet.
Whether you are a fan of neoliberalism or not, and regardless of ethical and moral considerations, at this point, one thing that few people seem to doubt is that, at the current rate of growth, this system will end up depleting our natural resources and threatening our very existence. As we all know, the logic behind neoliberal capitalism is continuous growth. It just can’t stop growing. It’s like a shark: It has to constantly move forward or it dies. In a world of limited resources, it is sentencing human beings —and along with us many other species— to extinction. So it is not a question of ideologies or ethics, it has become an issue of sheer survival.
Since the fall of the soviet bloc, there has been no alternative to predatory ‘capitalism’ (which nowadays is not even capitalism, but an oligarchy exercising economic, social, and political influence out of all proportion). When you look at it, the paradox is that real capitalism was against oligarchic economies, and liberal countries were the ones with more antitrust laws to ensure free competition… That being said, what if ‘capitalism’ , ‘communism’ or any of their hybrids weren’t the only systems under which human societies could be organised? Ever since slavery, including feudalism, communism and capitalism, power has always been centralised. Even under communism, power was centralised in a single political party. Not surprisingly, it has been the source of corruption, plundering of natural resources, abuse and misuse of power, destruction of the environment, inneficiency, inequity, modern slavery, injustice and grievance…
The point is that maybe there is a decentralised way of organizing human societies in an era when states are losing legitimacy and becoming obsolete. It is hard to conceive because we have been born and raised imbued with the logic and spirit of market economy, as if we were born in a Matrix where we can’t even figure out other alternative realities to the old-fashioned post-liberal states. Michael Bawens is not himself an anarchist. He still believes there’s a need for a state and an administration, but a very different one in nature, a P2P state, a commons economy based on decentralised technology —most probably the Blockchain.
So if you want to think ouside the box, beyond the classical paradigms and expand your mind to new, decentralised ways of organising community life, listening to what Michael Bauwens has to say is a must. It actually might save the planet, which is not small feat.
P2P Accounting for Planetary Survival by Michale Bowens and Alex Pazaitis