Posted by: Khepera | Sunday, 22 August 2004

The Principles of Commerce in a Righteous Society


Many clamor for a righteous alternative to capitalism as the primary paradigm of commerce in our western society. Some even argue that until it is altered, radically, other necessary changes will be all but impossible to render effectively. Without a swordplay of “isms”, how do we go about crafting a model for Principles of Commerce in a Righteous Society?

The oldest system of commerce — and still going strong — is barter, a system the puppeteers of the IRS have chosen to attack unmercifully in the USA. Barter has always been a staple of commerce because of the intrinsic personal context of such an exchange. Each party must come to an agreement on relative values, terms and circumstances. The money-changers dislike this because there is no independent way to arrive at a taxable value for said transaction.

Even in the midst of our stark capitalist sharkfest, we have remnants of barter. In fact, these remnants are become steadily more popular. Frequent flyer miles, and many analogous systems are springing up all over the place, as a means of instilling consumer *loyalty* — and a supposedly unobtrusive means for tracking their purchases, tastes, and interests. Yes, those supermarket cards are also tracking devices — think of the card as a *cookie* generator which registers every time you make a purchase.

So, with the inexorable wave of change coming in the dissemination of all sorts of copyrightable content, we must begin to think of how best to surf this wave, or be swept away by it. Let’s imagine for a moment, if musicians began to use the Net as a distribution source — deliberately, strategically, perhaps even exclusively. Presuming that a large percentage of their fans would have CD/DVD burners on their computers, they could sell their music directly, bypassing the music labels(read parasites/leeches) completely. This might even spawn a new business for music stores who would, for a fee, burn a CD/DVD compilation of music and music videos from artists you select from a kiosk in the store. You pay the store, they take their percentage, the artist gets their money via PayPal, and you get a custom high quality disc complete with case and cover art.

One might say this seems like a decent idea, but what incentive would a consumer have for buying such a CD/DVD when they could let one person buy one, and make copies? This is of course always possible, and is a risk no different from the present circumstance. However, since the disc is customized to each consumer, this may even be less likely than with discs as they are now where each one is identical.

The real clincher may be in the inclusion of a points system, a la the barter method mentioned previously. What if India Irie or Outkast or Angelique Kidjo offered that with each song/video purchased, the consumer would get *points*, which could be used towards the purchase of other items — including concert tickets? Perhaps they could even offer streaming video web concerts for such fans — concerts which would be pay per view for everyone else?

Now if they make these points transferrable, they have begun to generate a *currency* of their own, creating a niche of self-determination, if not independence. Why transferrable? Because not all purchasers will have access to locations where concerts may be presented, or may not have access to equipment suitable to streaming video displays. With such a system, the merchandising possibilities are endless.

One of the critical nexus points of capitalism is marketing and distribution. In many ways, the Net levels this playing field. No longer can one argue that the critical key to a successful business is “location, location, location”. With a website, your location is virtually everywhere. If we are to leverage the Net to our benefit, we must shift they way we think about commerce, to best utilize the environment. If the day of the football came arrives rainy and muddy, the winner between two otherwise evenly matched teams, will be the one who is best able to adapt to the shift in circumstance. In some cases, an otherwise overmatched opponent may triumph simply on their greater facility for adaptation. If you doubt this in any way, witness the lesson of the dinosaurs, the most powerful creatures we have evidence of ever walking the Earth:

Adapt, or die.

by Jamal Ali

© 21 August 2004

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“The great battle in any cultural war is for the primacy of symbol.”

jamal ali
© 1 sept 90

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