Popup co-ops and the end of profit
Cooperative enterprise for a new economic era
- New Org
- Issue 2
At one point in my zigzagging, brainless wonderspun youth, myself and a couple of people I met in a cafe decided to build a biodiesel electric hybrid car that could, once parked in your garage, power your kitchen blender—based upon some excellent designs scribbled on a scrap of paper. In the end nothing came of it—except I did a professional course in metal inert gas welding (MIG).
MIG welding involved an electrically powered ‘gun’ that upon pulling the trigger pushed a coil of solder through a nozzle in a shroud of gas that prevented oxidisation (weakening) of a weld. An arc of electricity melted the solder on contact. In the process of setting myself on fire a couple of times, I learnt a few things.
One of the interesting things our instructor told us was that despite that advances in welding from oxy-aceteylene to electric stick arc to MIG, and its more subtle cousin TIG, if you went to any large farm you would still find an oxy-acetylene kit in a shed. Oxy-acetylene welding kits don’t require electricity just two canisters of gas—they are how we used to weld before electric versions became options. On a farm in the middle of a large paddock there’s no electricity. If you don’t have a generator, oxy-acetylene can always be trundled out to do the job, albeit a bit more slowly. It’s a robust fallback.
Nearly 450 years after the European innovation of the moveable type printing press [Note 1] —in the mid nineties—as the internet took off, people started talking about the paperless office. Now we had digital, everything could be stored on hard drives and online and there were visions of cloud based storage. People were obsessed with the idea of it. To a significant degree it came to pass. Now most office work is done on screen—but not all of it. There’s paper everywhere. People keep notepads by their computers, make printouts to scribble on and explain things to co-workers. Paper is also a robust fallback. We will never do away with paper. You are sitting in a cafe and you have a brilliant idea for a new quantum computer (or a hybrid biodiesel powered car kitchen) but your phone is out of batteries? You grab a napkin and a pen.
This is the nature of creative emergence. Those solutions that were in their time truly robust, truly useful fundamental modes of getting something done are the method by which things are done and the node from which new methods emerge. Their robustness and time-tested usefulness means they will always have a place, and a use. Something that useful is the thing we riff off, improve, develop, evolve, but also, keep.
Emergence is based upon robust developments and the adjacent possibilities they generate.
This emergence also takes place in the evolution of our cultural formats. The survival groups that were our very first format of human culture over 300,000 years ago still live on in our culture as that most fundamental building block of society: the family. We don’t get rid of things that good. We use them as foundations and build upon them.
Whether it be technology, values or cultural formats, they are all the results of a series of creative emergences, each building upon and using previous incarnations to make new ones. In talking about new modes of human life I think this is a critical point to understand. Emergence is based upon robust developments and the adjacent possibilities they generate.
In this article I want to turn that thinking to the great but shaky definitely no longer good enough economic system of our time—capitalism and it’s associated modernistic values.
The subliminal mythsof post-moderns
In the era of impending climate change from excessive carbon emissions, to the ever increasing inequality in the world of the "1%", capitalism and the industrial revolution in general is getting a very bad rap. The grand era of modernism has eschewed a whole new range of seemingly insurmountable problems.
There are various ways of generally responding to these problems. Progressives, or ‘post-moderns’ dream of a return to a more tribal, sustainable, ecologically focused, collectively oriented and more caring society.
Whilst I hold dear progressive values, there are a few things we post-moderns have generally got wrong in our thinking—acting as subliminal myths in our outlook. We hold assumptions on the periphery of our vision that we don’t question, but are indeed erroneous:
1a) The idea of returning to better ways—there’s nothing better to go back to.
This is one of the great myths of post-modernism: that we come from some golden age of tribalism. We don’t. That is, yes, all cultures are descendant from tribal cultures, but our tribal past was no golden age. The predominantly tribalistic era that ended ~10000 BC was (bar pure survivalism, probably) the most violent unecological, and unequal period in our past. There’s extensive archaeological, anthropological and historical evidence describing this. As a brief example: The Maori arrived in New Zealand approximately 1250CE. Before any Europeans arrived they had burnt down ~50% of New Zealand’s forests and made approximately 50% of all bird species extinct—including the Moa and a great eagle with a 12m wing span (that scavenged the Moa)—along with several frog and lizard species[Reference 1a]. This was common practice in our nomadic age—set everything on fire. The native Americans burnt the living bejaises out of North America for thousands of years before Europeans turned up.[Reference 1b] When Europeans arrived in North America, the only truly undisturbed flora was to be found in bogs and swamps—because you can’t set them on fire. Violence in tribal cultures was standard as well as slavery and rape. For instance, when ethnographers studied the highland tribes of Papua New Guinea in the 1960s they found ~30% of the population died in warfare[Reference 1c]. Compare that to ~3% of the world population that died in World War 2, or 0.8% of the population of the United Kingdom that died in the same war.
I think a large part of the reason for this myth is the apparent closeness that tribal people’s have with the ecosystems around them. It seems there is a glib assumption that because they explicitly live in ecosystems, they must care about them and therefore have other sophisticated values as well. On the ground, in reality this tends to not be true. As Michael Alvard concludes in his book Testing the ‘Ecologically Noble Savage’ Hypothesis,"...the appearance of balance between traditional native groups and their environment has more to do with low human population densities, lack of markets, and limited technology than it does with any natural harmonious relationship with nature."
1b)Also, closely related to the previous point: For all intensive purposes, environmentalism is a post-modern invention. Post-moderns invented and dramatically innovated ideas of ecological and sustainable culture, but don’t realize it—the myth of an eco-tribal past tainting clear thinking here. Because there is a progressive trend to discard all concepts of hierarchy, including natural emergence, cultural emergence is rejected as a hierarchical description, rather than an actual fact. The general emergent series of history is not TRIBALISM (golden age) > BAD THINGS > GO BACK TO TRIBALISM. It’s far more like this: SURVIVAL MODES > TRIBAL (extremely primitive and violent non-golden age lacking in useful conceptions of ecology) > BARBARISTIC > TRADITIONAL > MODERN (Conceptions of ecology developed) > POST-MODERN (Environmentalism invented, amongst many other cool things). Many environmental values didn’t exist until post-moderns invented them. This again reinforces the previous point—there is nothing to go back to, actually it’s the evolution of complexity in culture that has resulted in our best developments, not origins. That brings us to a final issue here:
2) The idea of rejecting modernism, capitalism and industrialisation—a popular idea amongst many environmentalists and progressives—is simplistic and spectacularly hypocritical. Post-modern liberal perspectives are the emergent result of the rampant affluence created by science, the industrial revolution and capitalism. That’s a hard fact. We are basking in the success of it. Most of us wouldn’t exist without it. Much of the opposition is expressed in discussion via the internet—that amazing conglomeration of computer processors and complex telecommunication networks. The same people seem happy enough simultaneously using electric light bulbs, trains, cars, jet planes, mobile phones, steel, plastics, modern medicine, satellites, print machines, machined rubber, printing presses, glass windows, and the resulting schools, universities, cities, extended lifespans, etc. Most would in reality not want to go without many of these things—all creations of the modern era.
The rejection rhetoric is not universal, but not uncommon and also I think, subliminal—an almost subconsious notion. I believe it’s also an extension of the general fundamentalism expressed by all current major value systems as their populations keep trying to delete each other in a kind of endless value systems Cold War—unaware of this emergent relationship between them.
In my opinion any successful post-capitalism must build upon, emerge out of and innovate the achievements of modernism and capitalism. Why? Because like families and paper, it’s been a robust and critical development. Attempts to pretend it never happened or that it was just all wrong and we need to start again are brainless. I do appreciate how out of touch with much of the progressive status quo that makes me sound—but my reasoning is right on the money—it’s the only way things will proceed. I have the entire emergent history of creation itself on my side of the argument. It’s just how things work.
What if corporations started thinking of themselves as essential organs of communities, essential functions that are embedded in communities, as a function of society - rather than seeing society as a function of their desires and profit objectives?
"The corporations" and the limited company
A common trigger of this ‘total rejection’ response by progressives about Modernists is the behaviour of corporations. The "corporation" has become a dirty term for greed and corruption. But of course, all companies are corporations. Your favourite coffee shop, bike shop, health food store are all corporations. Also all charities are corporations. All charitable entities are based upon the same legal innovation of the limited company. Since the register of charities was launched in the 1960s, the number of charities has grown steadily, with at least 2,500 organisations registered every year. The legal innovation of the limited company unleashed this era of unparalleled innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and new possibilities.
Multinational corporations like Bayer (the inventor, manufacturer and distributor of Neoctinoids—an ecologically devastating type of chemical used in mechanised monocrop agriculture) and Oxfam are both founded upon this legal format—so it’s not incorporation itself that is an issue so much as the reason for incorporation and subsequent operations. The corporation is a legal entity (brought about in English Law by the Limited Companies Acts of 1856 and 1862 [Reference 2]) that acts as an empty vessel that we can fill with our values and motives. It is agnostic to values. It can be used for good or bad (or neutral).
The reason I mention all this is because, in my opinion, the Limited Company is one of those robust developments we just cannot do away with. However, the way this innovation is used is in desperate need of development and improvement—and it’s foundational to the concept of cooperative enterprises and post-profit economics, as I will discuss.
Presently a corporation (not a charitable one) is usually seen as a vehicle for individual aspirations. A way of getting rich or at least becoming independent through some creative enterprise or another. The very nature of the idea of a corporation is to create a vehicle that will free oneself to fulfil self interest. They are, broadly speaking, vehicles for individualism. Also, at the heart of most businesses is the idea of making money. A lot of small businesses know they won’t make a lot—and they’re ok with that - the business being about self control, self determination, freedom from the ‘man’. But I think most businesses want to make as much as they possibly can.
I want to ask: What could happen if we took this entity and simply redefined the whole point of it? What if corporations started thinking of themselves as essential organs of communities, essential functions that are embedded in communities, as a function of society—rather than seeing society as a function of their desires and profit objectives? What if we visibly transformed the way they operate - with a new value for collective well being built into the heart of the ways they actually undergo all business transactions?
Autonomously limited profit
An approach to how we can revitalise the corporate format has very little to do with reorganizing or changing markets or legal frameworks or taxes or anything like that. It simply requires we innovate our values. Innovate our own motives and reasons for starting an enterprise in the first place. The rest flows from that.
In the article "Rethinking what it means to be rich" (in this issue) I discuss a "new affluence" that prioritises living a full diverse and time rich life that has dramatically reduced dependence on cash. We pay a high price making the money we need personally and collectively, and I suggest we need to contemplate what’s really important in life by rethinking what real affluence is, and how we might obtain that without endlessly struggling for money. How can businesses correlate with this type of value? By autonomously limiting their ‘profit’—profit being a concept I’d like to do out-mode by the end of this article.
The problem of greed
We are naturally greedy by default. It’s perfectly understandable and I don’t think for a second there’s anything especially wrong with us—it’s a very sensible animal instinct to aspire for more and it’s a desire that’s served us very well in the harsh and wild conditions of our past. But for a species as successful as us - this desire is now becoming extremely counterproductive—to the point that we are signifigantly impacting an entire planet’s biosphere. We don’t need more. Endlessly needing more is proving to be unsustainable.
Apparently when you place cancer cells in petri dishes unlike a normal healthy cell, cancer cells don’t stop growing when they come into contact with other cells. They keep growing and invading. Healthy cells on the other hand - once they sense their membrane is now in contact with other cells stop reproducing in order to form stable organs and such [Reference 3]. I can’t help but think of our endless need for more as well… cancer-like. We need to learn how to need less and do that whilst still truly realising our potentials as individuals and societies. It’s only really out of this kind of thinking we might consider autonomously limiting our profit.
The baseline requirement in autonomously limited profit is simply deciding upon what we really actually need. Some profit is actually something we need, so that can be included as needed. Excesses to these needs are abandoned. In their place the excess allows prices to be reduced and explicit ‘profit’ beyond the requirement explicitly fed back into the community of customers.
I understand it’s a brave thing to do. We live in a society that just doesn’t care about your care, and will ruthlessly punish you for failing to have the money you need. So, yes, it’s a big step to take.
We now live in a world so interconnected that thinking only about yourself has become ultimately futile. Surely we are too connected to be conservative in ways that do not embrace our interrelatedness. It’s only through a recalibration of our fundamental modes of operation—what we value as meaningful, and truly important—that we can collectively innovate our economics. Capitalism is based upon the assumption that we all act out of self interest. The way to out-mode capitalistic modernistic mentalities is to simply stop doing that. Run enterprises, ...erm..., not out of self interest. Act out of collective interest.
Collective interest is self interest, just in a more expanded context. It includes you, and everyone else as well. If we only take what we need, everyone and everything is going to be better off, and thus we’re better off too, in a more robust way. It’s a more subtle expansive form of self interest that cognises we are not separate from the rest.
Cooperative enterprises don’t demand that customers also do this, just the owners. Owners of popup co-ops thus create a new social and economic environment in-house. A pod-like innovation of a new way of doing things. Pods contain the seeds of a new idea. Through patronisation of customers experiencing this new environment, it can spread and grow.
Constant sharing of success with those who contribute to it leads to increased stability and greater general affluence and happiness.
So how does a pop up coop actually work? (Be warned - to the best of my knowledge, this is a new idea and untested, so please adopt with caution!).
Firstly the business needs to decide how much it needs to be making to cover its costs, including paying its owners the fair gain they’ve decided they really need. It needs to know how it’s income and expenditure translates into taxes and it needs to understand all it’s other costs. It can continue feeding further understanding into it’s algorithms as it goes. It also has to establish some sort of expected rate of sales and income so it can dynamically calculate latest prices based on expected sales, actual sales and previously established needs of the business.
Secondly, in my first conception of it, it requires digital sophistication. Retail stores have either a live visual display of the business status: essentially a real time description of the business’s daily/weekly/monthly/yearly status in terms of its goals or a downloadable app (use QR codes for ease of access), or both. Non-retail business have their live status online or available via an app.
As transactions take place they feed (at least) into a local software (updating to online) that is effectively running a full accountancy algorithm that can calculate instantly where the enterprise stands financially in terms of its goals (with sensible buffers built in for unknowns).
As a customer makes a purchase they can instantly see their interaction and it’s affect upon the business status and goals and other customers—their purchase has now kept future purchases more than likely also cheap for the next customer. This is the "pop-up" part of this: every customer making a purchase is instantly part of the collective making this venture viable. No accounts, no signing up to anything, no memberships, no obligations. A popup coop is not a charity, it’s an enterprise. It’s not accepting payments as donations, they are it’s business. It’s different to the traditional concept of a co-op in that it’s not an organisation run by members—it’s run by the business owners, but they run it for everybody, not just themselves. In this way it’s cooperative and profit sharing. So I’ve been slightly cheeky with the title: I’m using cooperative in it’s true definition: "Involving mutual assistance in working towards a common goal. Collaborative, collective, communal, common, joint, shared, mutual, allied, cross-party, pooled, mass, concerted, coordinated, interactive." A more correct name might be non-profit enterprise , but this is commonly used and understood to be only profit sharing with staff.
The enterprise also explicitly describes on the live status its nature, e.g. "50% shared" or ideally "100% shared"—describing how much of it’s excess it’s sharing with customers, staff, charities. "70% Customers, 15% Staff, 15% Banardos" might be a common format.
Is it on track to hit it’s targets? Status indicates green, prices are reduced, amber, prices are standard, red, prices are higher and the business isn’t doing well. If the business isn’t doing well trying to make minimum amounts, it’s probably not viable as an enterprise. If everything is going well the buffers which were placed in prices to survive unknowns can be removed and the product sold at cost. In situations like this the enterprise also has the option to continue keeping prices low or consider placing excess elsewhere, into charities or offsetting the carbon released in production and transport, etc.
The business’s accounts are fully transparent. So if you wish to see how much the owners have decided to keep for themselves you can delve deeper into the accounts via the app or in store screens. You can see their rent and staff costs and product markup, expressed as percentages (instead of actual figures, if so desired) of the total turnover. Customers can decide if they feel the cooperative’s cooperativeness is authentic and reasonable via a process of collective intelligence, social media, reviews and footfall. If there’s a similar business being more equitable, customers can choose it, just as before.
Product prices are dynamically updated within the accountancy algorithm (hopefully an open source free software) and display live updates in store. They can also be wirelessly updated to digital paper on shelves or menus. This technology already exists and is being used in French supermarkets. Whilst the electronic version is live and instant and easier once set up, it can also be done on a daily or weekly basis in smaller operations with a chalk board and a laptop running the accountancy software.
Other costs such as expenses need to be entered into the same system to keep it updating a live status accurately. A live accountancy system is a tricky thing in that some expenses are not monthly and some expenses are not known. To help mitigate errors monetary buffers for error could be a part of the calculations with "sales" at financial year end once clear what the final status actually is.
The danger of low profits is, of course, lower buffers. If there is a sudden economic downturn, the enterprise may have little in the form of reserves to weather it. Building in safe monetary buffers may be important to keep things viable. These could be built into the transparent accounting, and when they reach a sufficient level, those buffers are maintained. There may be another issue with this approach in bad economic conditions: cutsomers aware of raised prices through the business’s transparency, may decide to stay away.
However, the feedback into prices allows the customers to express the value the enterprise has to them. The more value it holds the cheaper in-house prices become. Any real laws of supply and demand will still operate outside of the business, but within the enterprise, prices reduce with increased demand, and can go down to ‘cost’ price. This transparent feedback loop also allows customers to self organise their community by caring for—through their spending - those companies they value. As opposed to businesses suddenly closing their doors because they couldn’t survive. It’s happened to me many times I’ve come back to a place I loved to find it’s gone.
Often small business owners can experience loneliness and extreme stress trying to make their enterprise work. Transparency also allows customers to be aware of the financial status of a business. If it’s not doing well they can help it by "crowd bombing" or similar if they deem it as a valuable part of their lives. Live feedback creates a new living and visible relationship between customer and outlet. The business’s financial status is no longer the private concern of the owner(s) but the province of every single person who walks through the door. It’s a networked embedded shared economy tied into its community of customers.
By only taking what it needs from the community it leaves the community richer and happier and more robust. It means the community of customers can patronise the business in harder times because as a whole, it’s richer. It stabilises local economics rather than gutting them. Personally I disparage references to the natural world as if it’s the only source of perspective and wisdom etc—as Humans we are just as natural as everything else and generate spectacular amounts of intelligence and wisdom found nowhere else in nature. Having said that: Like seeds wrapped in edible fruit growing on trees&mdashthe fruit is free—it’s natural profit sharing, and it creates a more liveable system. A liveable system feeds back to the tree, giving it a sustainable habitat and happy creatures to disperse it’s seed. Constant sharing of success with those who contribute to it leads to increased stability and greater general affluence and happiness.
The End of Profit
Here I’d like to suggest the end of the concept of profit. Instead of the excesses an enterprise makes being seen as something to be kept, it’s seen as something to share—success being measured by one’s ability and willingness to do that. Like showing off by throwing a magnificent dinner party - there’s real kudos and success in being profoundly generous. I think we can happily and very safely redefine profit as "need" or "fair gain". We do need some excess, it buffers us, it helps us grow. But - we only need so much. Beyond a certain point, when looked at in a real environmental, social and historical context, excessive excess becomes obscene.
There’s more and more talk about post-growth economics these days, but I find it hard to find clear descriptions of what exactly that might look like. These new enterprises may well be the organs of post-growth economies.
Investment and development without profit
As I understand it, the main way companies share profit is through floating on stock exchanges. Usually the people buying stocks are other wealthy or rich people. Not only, but there’s a distinct exclusivity to the nature of it, especially if you want to do it well. In pop up cooperatives, profit sharing is instant, free and simple - profit is shared directly with the people making the enterprise successful.
Whilst membership is not required it may be that retail and services cooperatives try and get loyal customers to join as ‘members’ in order to leverage crowd funding options. Previously investment needed rich investors. Cooperative psychology places origins of all riches with the customers. Investment can be raised at point of purchase as part of the very nature of the business, something that customers can not only find amenable, but also providing them with income. Who better to benefit from the growth of a successful enterprise than those who help make it successful by patronising it.
Because these institutions are explicitly operating for the general good - there’s far more likelihood that government investment into new ventures filling important gaps would be well supported. Business development could be seen as social construction to an even greater degree than ever before.
In these ways, the popup co-op can extend the brilliant innovation of the limited company. I think it’s the only way to "out-mode" capitalistic endeavour in a truly constructive way: to be better than it, whilst keeping all it’s best bits. By doing everything that it does but more cheaply and far more considerately. People are always going to prefer that, so that version wins - even though it will always make less money. Picture this: Two shops side by side selling the same service or product - one explicitly sees itself as a function of collective well being, and is cheaper, whilst the other is a standard business as we know them now. You tell me: Which one gets the most customers?
Corporate social responsibility
More and more large multinational brands are donating to charities and doing good deeds to make good with their customers - personally I rarely believe their intentions are coming from the right place. True cooperativeness can sort the wheat from the chaff in these instances. If company is willing to give up it’s profits and become an autonomously generous origin of collective sustainability and stability, then we’ll know that it really means business (no anti-pun intended).
Also, it seems many companies really don’t warrant support in the first place due to their overall ethic. Pop up cooperatives have care and concern for collective well being explicitly built into the heart of their operation. There are other advantages to this: apparently organisations with demonstrated "corporate social responsibility" (CSR) receive 10-25% more job applications and far better applicants [Reference 4].
Business to business
Business to business relationships would be restricted if your company went cooperative as it would ideally want to seek cooperative partners. Interestingly, once business are associated in cooperative partnerships, they would become far more resilient than ever before. Old business networks would be inevitably outcompeted.
Entrepreneurial innovation and achievement is not negated or deleted by the cooperative enterprise format: it simply places and recognises that achievement always has and does occur in a larger context. Running enterprise in this larger context redefines what achievement is and innovates it. But innovation and achievement are still foundational, elementary and important. All enterprise is based upon these things. Cooperative enterprise simply recontextualises what they are for by negating profit as the measure of their success, and replacing that with new measures of new good things. The owners still get what they need but everyone else benefits from the enterprise, more than ever before.
Two high street stores are side by side and making good profits - why would they want to become a coop? There’s no clear economic reason. BUT, as soon as one does do it, the other should lose footfall and purchases. Beyond that point we’re in a different operating context. Many small businesses are running on fumes so understandably profit sharing is not an option for them. Ideally such a phenomenon starts through a really big company taking the leap. Imagine Marks and Spencer’s (UK) somehow de-floating on the stock market and deciding to profit share? It would be a revelation. They are already seen as a national institution but this could possibly make them a truly sustainable organ of social function, impossible to lose.
Actually, on the point of large companies, what is profit actually for? I find it the strangest thing. Whats the meaning of the profit once the company is owned by a largely anonymous collection of random investors? It’s just money. In smaller companies with a small collection of owners or an individual owner it seems to make sense. On this large scale something seems to break. A strange heartless abstraction occurs when these large companies aggressively operate for profits that are distributed to anonymous shareholders. They could explicitly operate for everybody, in a way everybody understands.
Similarily, utility companies could run as cooperatives. Cooperative utilities stop multinationals gutting countries, stops elite networks handing contracts to each other, stops the public being ripped off and ‘farmed’. In the case of utilities it can still be decided from within the company, so, bizarrely, privatisation (a hot topic in the UK) can still work, but in a new completely different way that shouldn’t feel like privatisation at all.
I mention utilities because I ran the numbers on standard profits in the retail sector and the margins are very slim. If M&S shared all their profit, you would feel a small difference in price when you visited one of their stores. However if it was a society wide phenomenon, utilities, services, retail, transport, etc, along with possible profit sharing with staff, I believe the overall difference would be felt by everybody. That may sound like a pie in the sky possibility, but remember, when one major player in any given sector does it, everybody in that sector is going to have to do it to compete.
Amazingly, whilst editing this article an ad appeared in my Instagram feed for "People’s Energy", a new utility company who claim to be sharing 75% of their profit. Now they have started this, how will the other utility companies be able to compete?
Cooperative enterprise would essentially look like self imposed voluntary socialism, but created authentically and organically from the ground up - not an imposed system - a voluntarily added system. In my opinion this has always been one of the major flaws of socialistic style politics—a strong desire to regulate liberalism and equalities into existence. I’m of the belief that real change must originate in our own hearts and minds, not in government regulation, always.
There’s more and more talk about post-growth economics these days, but I find it hard to find clear descriptions of what exactly that might look like. These new enterprises may well be the organs of post-growth economies. They together could form a standing stable maintainable system that steadily but slowly generates growth and affluence. The enterprise being seen far more as a function of a community, an institution for the development of society, rather than a vehicle for individualistic achievement alone.
We have a bizarrely overrated obsession with economic growth, whilst social happinesses barely gets a look-in. A post capitalistic measurement of (economic) status looks at both—with growth as one of the many sub factors of development. In a finite context like a planet, sustainable economies cannot possibly grow at the rate they have previously enjoyed. It’s simply impossible. Whilst there will be some minimal economic growth in future economies I would argue that doesn’t preclude the absence of development—development of our humanity, our society and our culture. Development can be profoundly subjective and not requiring endless quantities of not-recycled physical and material objects being produced. In a world that’s increasingly finding its products are information based (information economies kill classic capitalistic supply and demand measures as information is infinite and costs less to reproduce - there’s infinite supply and limited demand which drive prices inevitably towards $0)—measures of development over growth may be just the thing we need. Development is a complex measure. Ideally a sophisticated measure would include measurements of positive and negative complexity, moral development, happiness, angst, freedom, bondage, community, recreation, etc, across society.
This type of measurement can also apply to our businesses. Instead of only monetary measures of success in business, we have the option to start measuring it’s ‘subjective yield’. How happy is everyone in the company? How happy is the company making other people? What is its subjective impact upon society?
- Note 1.
The Chinese also invented the printing press in 868 C.E. It was reinvented in Europe where it was better received, partially due to a simpler character set. Go to reference in main text
- Reference 1.
Provan, Iain. Convenient Myths, 2013. a) p73, b) p77, c)p64. Go to reference in main text
- Reference 2.
John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge , The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, 2003 Go to reference in main text
- Reference 3.
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/how-cancer-starts/cancer-cells Go to reference in main text
- Reference 4.
“Does Doing Good Give You License to Be Bad?” Freakanomics podcast, 17th May, 2018. Go to reference in main text