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.