Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Zero Marginal Cost Society

The sub-title of Jeremy Rifkin's latest book is The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Collapse of Capitalism. Provocative to say the least.  This new book is a logical and worthy successor to Rifkin's last, which was titled, The Third Industrial Revolution. Rifkin has become something of a world class guru on the clean energy revolution that is well underway.  It's about fossil fuels and a market driven economy giving way to a world powered by clean, inexhaustible renewable energy resources like solar, wind, and hydropower.

In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Rifkin sees industrial capitalism and materialism as giving way to an era that is far more inclusive, empathetic, and sustainable;  a new age in which the cost of goods and services are driven down to near zero by technological innovation and the very market forces that have shaped the world that we know. The millennials, the first generation raised in this new era, are less interested in the accumulation of property and possessions, and far more interested in seeing the world as a collection of commons - like the air, the water, and the biosphere -  that we all depend on and all have a collaborative stake in nurturing.

Many of those that have gotten rich as the facilitators and minions of market capitalism are often quick to dismiss Rifkin's suggestion that they are on their way to being marginalized. But the case he makes is exceedingly compelling.  The profound, global scale changes underway are built on the information internet, the emerging internet of energy, and the just developing internet of things.

Rifkin's credentials are formidable. His more than 20 books have been translated into 35 languages. He has been an advisor to the European Union for more than a decade and has had a significant influence on Europe's adoption of his 'Third Industrial Revolution' vision.

I find the transition Rifkin sees as already underway as reason for hope. Rifkin believes that humanity can weather the storm we have created for ourselves with regard to fossil energy dependence and climate, egregious human overpopulation, resource scarcity and conflict that arises from it, and the perversion of governance by a small number of super rich sociopaths, who use their wealth to prevent change that is contrary to their own personal interests.  The latter, to me, is the biggest threat to Rifkin's positive vision. An example of this: the Koch Brothers, two pathological siblings, who are worth $100 billion between them.  They and their ilk are determined to use their money to pervert history and stand in the way of the kind of change that is critically needed in our world.  The Kochs - who own a massive part of Canada's tar sands -  are heavily involved in fostering climate skepticism and bolstering the Republican party, which has become an almost entirely obstructionist force in American politics.

If the reassuring vision that Jeremy Rifkin illuminates so persuasively in The Zero Marginal Cost Society is to be fully realized,  the ability of the super rich to use their money to derail the transition to a post-market, collaborative future will need to be blunted.   Here again, as I have written in so many of these blog pieces, we have to look at a Constitutional Amendment to turn back the sell out of citizen rights driven by recent decisions of the Supreme Court. The five conservative judges on the Roberts court have opened the floodgates to political influence spending by the Koch Brothers and their super rich friends.  Two decisions,  Citizens United and more recently, McCutcheon vs. FEC
assured that 'he who has the money makes the rules'.

I am inspired by the trends Jeremy Rifkin has identified. As a means of protecting the biosphere, I want to see his hopeful vision  fully blossom.  That is why I  choose to support Move to Amend, an activist organization that is focused on achieving a Constitutional Amendment that says Corporations are not people and money is not speech.  That kind of change would neutralize the ability of big corporate money and the super rich to distort our political process.  If you aren't already on board with this, I urge you to educate yourself then get with the program and be part of the solution.

Jeremy Rifkin's book gives  us reason to hope for a better future. Read The Zero Marginal Cost Society,  then stand with Move to Amend, and do your part to help make it happen.

Here is a link to the webpage for The Zero Marginal Cost Society  

Here is a link to a one hour presentation Jeremy Rifkin made on his latest book to the leaders of Google...

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