Market Dominance

April 2005


We live in a consumer society. We are part of a market paradigm. Like ordinary people everywhere, we assume that what is currently so for us is the apex of all human development. What is the result?

Even people who claim to believe in nothing, believe in a great deal. Everyone lives within a hegemony, a paradigm resulting from choice, chance and history. We live in a consumer society. And regardless of what you believe in, much of your life is spent in the pursuit of things to consume.

We participate in a market paradigm. Everything we do, everything we make, everything we create, or accomplish, we place a value on. The value we assign most things is their value in the market. We think in this way because we rely on that market. We are dependent on the market. We get everything we need and most of what we want from the market. Without the market, we would starve. The market does not care about us. You produce or you expire.

When people in the market started making things with their minds instead of their hands, they devised intellectual property and a whole culture of ownership and enforcement. We are all of us afraid of someday having to live in a cardboard box downtown. The whole concept of intellectual property arises from this fear. The market owes us nothing, not even a bare subsistence. We guard our intellectual property the same way a wino guards his shoes.

And we're ruled by that market, too. It determines what we do. We don't do it because we want to or need to. We don't often do something just because it is right. We do it because it pays. And we insist on retaining rights of ownership practically forever, because we're greedy and afraid.

Imagine a magic TV controlled by a computer. I can request on this computer any television program ever recorded. If I feel like it, I can watch the Captain Kangaroo show that ran on the first Monday in March of 1964. On this magic box, I can see any film ever made, with or without subtitles. I can listen to any recorded music, or read any book. I can listen to the recorded lectures of famous professors, or witness ground breaking medical procedures. I can read the words Lincoln read into the Congressional Record or thumb through the minutes of yesterday's meeting of my local Water Board. The sum total of all recorded human achievement and knowledge is available to me at a moment's notice on my request. And this isn't magic. It is perfectly within our current technological ability. It is equally within our technological ability to provide this access to the greater part of all the human community.

Just one snag. It would be totally illegal. No one has, or could have the rights to collect all that intellectual property and provide it to others. If it were all collected together like that, no one, except the tiny minority of billionaires, could afford to use it. The market has become a straightjacket.

We consider ourselves and our consumer market society to be the apex of human achievement and development. Our pundits speak (as pundits always do) as if ours were the only feasible path for human endeavor or achievement. Well, imagine a world not dependent on the market. Imagine a world in which everyone's basic needs and wants were assured. Imagine a world where the joy and benefit you could give to the world was not mitigated by means. Do you realize what all that art and creativity wasfile:///home/hwm/Weblocal/global/ram/market_dominance.html supposed to be about? It wasn't about being able to buy lunch for your grandson when you're 74. It was about reaching out across that void of time and space and circumstance and touching another human being in some way that made a difference.

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