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Developing a New Economic System

by hannes grassegger Wednesday, May. 18, 2011 at 10:36 AM

The stubborn Basel businessman Georg Hasler has a new economic system in mind. He joins two economic concepts that are often discussed these days: unconditional basic income and a radical change of property rights in ideas called free knowledge.


By hannes grassegger

[This article/blog is translated from the German on the Internet, http://hannesgrassegger.twoday.net/stories/55997731.]

This may sound very tempting. With enough money, one has time for ideas that are really interesting. Because one isnt dependent, one can share these ideas with others. A wealthy Swiss businessman took the time to present his economic system that could make this privilege possible for everyone.

The stubborn Basel businessman Georg Hasler has a new economic system in mind. He joins two economic concepts that are often discussed these days: unconditional basic income and a radical change of property rights in ideas called free knowledge. In the IT area, Open Source is an example of free knowledge. Hasler emphasizes this. The wiry self-made man is a trained violin maker, worked as a programmer for a long while and is now a successful property giant. Hasler is 38 and very unexpectedly gained whole blocks in the Basel center, the Basel caf and cultural center (where one doesnt have to consume anything and can freely spend a lot of time).

The working title of his first book is Pollen Economy. I am an economist and read his work. Discussing Georg Haslers ideas is not a waste of resources. His concept appears in a renowned Swiss publisher.

We find ourselves in a great chaos. We live with habitual ways of thinking and laws of an industrial society amidst an information society. The two worlds do not match. Information and ideas are opposites and should not be treated as objects but as a new economic system that uses this potential.

What is the difference between objects and information regarding their economic use?

There is a fundamental distinction between a chair and an idea, for example the idea of how to build a chair. Only one person can sit on a chair. Many persons can apply a certain idea. A chair can only have one owner. Who that is must be settled to avoid a dispute. Conflict does not occur with an idea because no one is deprived when the same idea is used by everyone simultaneously.

What would this new economic system look like?

A new more effective and freer economic system is best oriented in nature: wasteful in diversity, generous in passing on genes and economical in dealing with scarce resources. The industrial age leaves behind the opposite: material waste and intellectual property. The result is a damaged eco-system and a stressful daily routine that is alarming for many. I propose the introduction of an unconditional basic income to interrupt the forced production of meaningless goods. Open Source could be a model in all areas of knowledge.

Why Open Source? Why basic income?

The main argument against free knowledge, for example free music, is always the question how the thinkers, researchers or musicians should live. The two questions are directly connected.

What do you mean by basic income?

No one should starve to death. Industrial states achieved this long ago. The conditions tied to achievement are the problem. An unconditional basic income for every person from birth is crucial. This income must be sufficiently high so people have the genuine choice of intellectual freedom and material freedom and of doing something different.

Open Source refers to open source codes in software. Do you mean communal ownership of ideas, free knowledge?

Knowledge could be simply viewed as cultural inheritance. How is bread baked? How are computer chips formed? Culture means sharing, spreading and developing knowledge. If culture only passed on its freshly mutated genes for fees, there would be no evolution.

What does free knowledge mean in the daily routine, for example, for an advertising firm that lives by selling its ideas?

The economic distinction between knowledge and ability is important here. Transferring ability to a concrete contract pays. The knowledge that arises should not be withheld from neighbors.

What part of the value creation of the economy would be affected by your idea?

The economic system is completely affected because everything is connected. Many things would be shifted in a very interesting productive direction because the human core of economics, creative work, would be freed from many obstacles and difficulties.

Is your proposal socialist or capitalist?

For me the two systems are like man and woman. Each must complement the other and developed much further for an information society.

What is the nature of the person in your eyes? Is a person a hollow profit-maximizer or is he or she productive by nature?

Obviously both. For example, children simply want to do something from their first day. The unemployed receive an income but are unhappy about idleness or doing nothing. People want to do something, something that is meaningful. Discovering this is what is pleasurable in work.

Can the unconditional basic income function in nation states generally? If an individual country would pay out the basic income unconditionally, everyone would set out for that country to utilize this system. Must not the state limit the basic income to citizens? What would happen with the non-participating inhabitants of a country? Would a class society arise?

This is a difficult question that demands practical answers. A basic income system only makes sense in the large framework. This means the next task is to design models and do unbiased theoretical work. Then courageous decisions will be necessary. Iceland could be an excellent test case today. A plebiscite could be carried out in Switzerland. The dimension of the challenge reminds me of situations in the 19th century when slavery was abolished. For a long time we stopped doing this.

Will introducing free knowledge necessitate giving away all ideas to everyone?

Property is not a natural law but a legal title, a cultural invention. The question is what things should be owned. This must be constantly redefined. In the past, for example, people, slaves, counted as property. That was abolished. In the last decades, property titles were given to biological and physical discoveries. This is new and catastrophic. These areas are economically more relevant but less visible than downloading music or software.

The present copyright system is fantastic. Anyone can float any idea that he or she wants. He has the freedom of reserving patents etc. If your proposal takes away these possibilities, would the freedom of individuals be less? Is your system illiberal?

The present system is not so free now. For example, whoever is a member of the GEMA may no longer be published under Creative Commons (a flexible copyright system). Whoever researches at the university or in firms is subject to strict rules.

What stands behind combination of free knowledge and unconditional basic income? Will you profit from this?

This is not only my idea. Many have worked on the unconditional basic income and Open Source for a long time. Both seem to be logical solu9tions for creating a more sustainable joyful world corresponding to our technology.

Will your idea break down?

I dont think so.

If you are for free knowledge, will your book be free of charge on the Internet?

The book can be downloaded. Printed books are still easier to read. Hopefully the ideas will be taken up and developed further.


"Enough is Enough" by Herman Daly and others

"Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig

"Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson

"Needs and Limits" by Frank Rotering

"Culture Change" by Alexis Zeigler
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