This is a short introduction in the concept of Incentive Based Circular Commons Production. We will soon publish more detailed information about the components of the model. Many of the concepts are already discussed in various communities - in libertarian and anarchist, but also in liberal and socialist circles. Taking from these concepts we aim to create a holistic theory which really is able to lead to a change in the production model towards the Commons.
Incentive Based Circular Commons Production is an economic model based on the following components:
Commons Production is a way to produce useful things where the producers share their works into the Commons. They share the knowledge they use and generate, and everyone interested in use it can do that.
Commons Production already exists in many areas. The most well-known examples are open source software, like Linux or Firefox, and open content, like Wikipedia. Most works based on Commons production are shared under open-source licenses, like the GPL, that explicitly allow other people to modify the work. We use Commons Production as a slightly shorter term for what Yochai Benkler has called “Commons-based Peer Production”.
Commons Production is very efficient, as there is no forced redundancy due to parallel developments. In traditional market-based “propietary” production, most actors have to develop their own solutions - or pay license fees. This isn’t the case in Commons Production. As an example, Linux distribution projects show that complex software products are possible that rival proprietary solutions developed by billion-dollar enterprises - using a tiny fraction of the costs.
Other aspect making Commons production very attactive is the ability to attract a network of collaborators, creating a network effect (what Eric Raymond called Inverse Commons in his 1999 essay The Magic Cauldron). This leads to a simple equation: The more people participate on a Commons economy, the more efficient and powerful the production process.
The goal of our concept is to expand the Commons Production model not only to “virtual goods” like software and content, but to most goods and services needed by human beings. There are already some projects involved in that work - we cite Open Source Ecology as an example. However, these projects struggle with a series of challenges and difficulties. Our model is intended to provide solutions for them.
The first big challenge for a Commons-based production of “material” goods - like food, houses or cars - is that these goods are based on materials that are scarce in the sense that they aren’t available for free. In traditional economic theories, this is justified by the claim that demand for these materials is normally superior to supply.
Our goal is, thus, ensure a supply of materials that is equal or superior to demand.
The IBCCP proposal is based on the vision of a circular economy, where - everytime it’s possible - products are based:
To transform these materials in usable products, we aim to create automated solutions powered by renewable energies. We call these installations free factories or zero marginal cost factories (citing Jeremy Rifkin’s Zero Marginal Cost concept) run by Commons projects. Free factories aim to cover all steps in production - from material extraction to product finishing and delivery. They form supply chains and networks with the goal being the structure to become circular, re-using materials of goods which have reached the end of their lifecycle. Once the whole supply chain of a product is covered by free factories, we can offer it for free.
The second big challenge: Building up the infrastructure of free factories requires a lot of work and, from today’s point of view, a lot of financial effort. Many present-time Commons projects struggle to get enough participation by skilled people and also to get necessary fund to build up high-quality production infrastructure.
We propose a series of measures to drastically improve incentives for participation and investing in Commons projects. The incentives should be equally or even more attractive than to participate and invest in traditional businesses.
One proposal is Commons finance. Based on the traditional crowdfunding model, people can invest in projects which fabricate goods they need. Instead of getting a financial return, they get the products for a long time, to more attractive conditions than if they would simply buying them on the (futures) market. Once the Commons project builds up the Free Factory infrastructure to produce the good for material costs or for free, investors are sure to get them until the end of their life.
Weighted labour, a concept created by German author Christian Siefkes in his book From Exchange to Contributions, is aimed to resolve the problem that not everything can be automated with today’s technology, and that in the transition period most goods will still not be available for free and need labor to be produced or delivered. In this model, labour auctions create incentives to accept unattractive tasks: The lower the number of hours the project participants want to work on a particular task, the higher the weight of it and the lower the time every person has to spend on them to get access to the goods the project delivers.
Additionally, we investigate strategies to potentiate other incentives for participation in Commons projects. Among these, we can cite the satisfaction for people to work on the tasks they like (self-realization), the possibility to get social contacts when participating in projects, the possibility to work less in the future, and the security to get access for life to much-needed goods (which can, in an advanced stage, replace today’s pension model).