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The New Capitalists

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"She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented 'place'... She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand."
-- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.


The old capitalists were robber barons -- pocket the profit, and sell the loss.

The old capitalists went to bed with government for a few quickies here and then. Favors and regulations, one in the same, were the foundations of a demented, symbiotic relationship between two parasites feeding on the host that was deemed the U.S. economy.

These old capitalists are still the ones in charge, but not for long.

I really don't blame them, these corporations. They're old men trying to make a living in a young economy. If our business models were as terrible as theirs, we'd fight in support of protectionist legislation, too.

Candlestick makers felt this when Thomas Edison came into the picture.

Horse and buggy drivers felt this when Henry Ford came into the picture.

And, just like them... well, it's what the current CEOs felt when we came into the picture -- no one in particular, but nonetheless "we."

Piotr Czerski's poetic manifesto, "We, the Web Kids" -- short and sweet but truly golden at its core -- explains our generation's passionate love for free information.

This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not 'surf' and the internet to us is not a 'place' or 'virtual space.' The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and alongside it.

Similarly, we do not have to be experts in everything, because we know where to find people who specialise in what we ourselves do not know, and whom we can trust. People who will share their expertise with us not for profit, but because of our shared belief that information exists in motion, that it wants to be free, that we all benefit from the exchange of information. Every day: studying, working, solving everyday issues, pursuing interests. We know how to compete and we like to do it, but our competition, our desire to be different, is built on knowledge, on the ability to interpret and process information, and not on monopolizing it.


The italicized emphasis is mine, and I see that one sentence as the single most important section of the entire piece. It states clearly what our generation is trying to scream in its loudest voice: "We are happy sharing things that exist without limit."

Make no mistake -- I'm no confused ideologue who believes that everything should be free. Our reference to free information is a short way of saying "freedom." We expect no free lunches and most likely would not take a free lunch if the offer were to arise.

I'm a free market libertarian, an economic realist who understands -- as most of humanity has grown to understand throughout the years -- that products and services are worth only as much as people are willing to pay for them.

To quote a 15-year old girl whose ideals will no doubt lead her to the peak of Silicon Valley-based power, "We don't want everything for free. We just want everything."

Social networking services are beginning to understand these points of view, too. And the ones who wish to continue their user-dependent revenue streams are changing their policies to meet these voluntary demands. Tumblr, for example, openly encouraged the free flow of information and ideas via the recent release of its new terms of service.

Countless Tumblr blogs have gone on to spawn books, films, albums, brands and more. We're thrilled to offer our support as a platform for our creators, and we'd never claim to be entitled to royalties or reimbursement for the success of what you've created. It's your work, and we're proud to be a part (however small) of what you accomplish.


Reading these words felt like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, one of the first times a major player in the tech world wasn't ambivalent about whether it'd sue you for mentioning its name in public without explicit permission and legal contracts.

As these companies learned all-too-well during their entrepreneurial days, openness is the one characteristic that gave them power in the first place.

Steve Jobs once basked in the atmosphere of our free, open sphere. He even bragged in 1994 about Apple's disregard of intellectual property.

It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done, and then [trying] to bring those things into what you're doing. Picasso had a saying, he said, "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.


Thirteen years later, he was telling jokes about Apple's patent on the iPhone's new multi-touch technology. Pointing this out isn't meant to downplay the man's genius by any means --- especially since someone else may have patented it if he hadn't (see: prisoner's dilemma) -- but it does demonstrate how most new companies' seemingly love use other people's ideas... only until it's their own turn to do the sharing.

Here's to hoping the reciprocity of exchange will continue to flourish in our economy, lest we'll stagnate due to individuals who refuse to adapt to new circumstances.

We'll see in the near future that the test of a free market isn't how close you can get to the government -- it's how far away you can get, and how long you can stay there.

We would know -- we're the new capitalists.

Around the Web

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