Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why Business is The New Communism

Which companies have changed our lives most in recent years?

Could you argue that Google and Facebook have been at the lead?

Perhaps you've thought about how these companies don't just represent new computer tools but new philosophies of doing business: they organize information to make it accessible and trust that that will draw you into their grasp, that they will find out how to make money off of you accordingly.

What's communist about that?

The fact that these companies have an interest in engaging your creativity. That commitment, to the extent that other businesses adopt it, represents a revolution in the relationship of commercial interests to social development: people are inherently valued as knowledge producers and consumers, and the increasing intellectual efficacy of an individual is seen as an economic opportunity for business.

So what?

Many have argued, over the past several hundred years, for a social counterweight (often this role is taken by, and presumed by, government) to the narrow interests of business. Others have argued that the narrowness of business interests is a good thing, as it counterbalances overambitious intellectuals and bureaucrats, and is the stuff of gradual economic and social improvement.

The business philosophies of the Information Age undermine the supposition that broad social thinking and the profit motive tend to lead to divergent paths (though, of course, they sometimes will).

The key idea is that increased access to, and ability to contend with, information is (a) increasingly essential to our economy and, simultaneously, (b) increasingly understood by businesses as an essential avenue for growth.

I am not arguing that business will solve all of our social problems, only that the emerging business philosophy of interconnectivity can lead to enormous social good and hold government increasingly accountable to making economically effective investments in human capital.

A substantiated belief in the alignment of business interest and human development is, where it exists, a salutary development that has wide implications. That trend is where we should keep our attention in coming years, and decades.