Managing common property is a challenge

In our time, there are a lot of thinking that many resources should be managed as common properties instead of being privatized. For example, I just watched the documentary Flow the other week: http://foodandwaterwatch.org/

As I came from China, a common reflection we had since the start of economic reform (which is 2 years after the culture revolution) is that managing common properties is very difficult and is a big challenge. Socialism values collective goods, and advocates individuals to sacrifice for the collective. For example, if an electric pole fall down in the river and are taken away by the river, you should jump into the river to save the electric pole, even that means you might get killed by the torrent river, because the electric pole belong to the public. The reflection of the generation after culture revolution is that whether the value of individuals’ life is more important than that electric pole. Are we, the individuals, also part of the collective? If so, are we human beings more valuable property than an electric pole? This kind of thinking wasn’t allowed traditionally, since the holiness of the public should not be questioned.

A common reflection of our socialism time is that collective is good. But there is no reliable way to tell if the thing belongs to everyone, how can everyone OWN it? Since there is no way for everyone to OWN it, the result you can get is a small minority is selected (by whatever means) to govern it, and whenever a small minority is chosen to represent the majority, there is a problem of how this minority can really REPRESENT the majority.
In the current crisis of America, we know even here the democracy is broken. The elected officials cannot really represent the people’s interest.  For many things in our social life, you can be very eloquent that people should sacrifice for our country. But it is really hard to tell who is making that sacrifice.

So these are the reflection in China as it is going through the process of going from an agriculture society to an industrial society, and thus a process of modernization. That is how China is trying to learn of the wisdom in the design of capitalism and market oriented economy.  I bring this up so it might be helpful to remind some people here of the history of their own. It is not easy to come up with the market oriented economy (The Wealth of Nations,btw, is really a great work.). We have to remember this history, then we can know how we can do better.

So managing common properties is a challenge. We need to use our wisdom to come up with something better. This takes a lot of wisdom, creativity, and time to accumulate experiences. And here I want to point out the hope is that the software and web, by connecting people’s consciousness and provide tools for people to manage the flow of consciousness, provided a big opportunity for us to meet the challenge.

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Filed under About Software, Cross Culture Communication, Grassroots, Social Software

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