So far we have explored reasons for the social and environmental problems that the economy causes:
1. economic links have progressively stretched further and further beyond the reach of community, creating dysfunctional zones in the economy outside of proper ethical scrutiny (economic overreach);
2. the very nature of those dysfunctional zones stops behavioural solutions from being effective there, except in ‘win-win’ circumstances. Therefore structural change is needed (behaviour and structure);
3. the key structural problem that has to be dealt with is competition and in order to do so all players/ competitors at one particular level in the supply chain must agree, or be obliged to agree, an ethical stance. This uses community to temper competition – cooperatition;
4. another key structural problem that currently exists is the tendency for decision-making power to be concentrated in the hands of the few. This inhibits the monitoring of the economy in a diverse, flexible and all-encompassing way, since man-power and creative input are limited (big society). Therefore we propose the crowdsourcing of ethical decisions in the economic sphere.
We think that during the emergence of modernity the nation-state may be characterised as the key force capable of encompassing markets and applying ethical standards across them. However, the ability of the nation-state to do this effectively has increasingly come to be compromised by two factors:
• the progressive stretching of economic links beyond community (point 1 above) which has necessitated an ever greater regulatory burden in those areas; and
• the progressive internationalisation of markets, bringing regulatory regimes into competition with each other.
In our view these two trends have resulted in a snowballing of capitalism, with law, regulation and the nation-state acting as a restraining structure or force, albeit inadequately.
Where to now?
Our task now, therefore, in creating solutions to these problems is to try to:
• transcend the nation-state by project its all-encompassing nature within its territory onto an international scale;
• at the same time as bringing big society principles into play.
Only in this way will the solutions draw upon the broadest resources, flexibility and creativity, and be capable of containing ‘snowballing capitalism’. It is the power of the internet and modern communications/IT that can enable such solutions.
Our solution is therefore all about ‘cooperatition’. This involves a balance of cooperation and competition that retains the positive elements of capitalism, whilst moderating its harmful aspects with cooperation/ community. The problem to be addressed is one of community connectivity. Therefore it is perhaps inevitable that we point to e-community and the revolutionary impact of contemporary IT towards a new unfolding chapter of community and community facilitation that can match the span of economic interactions.
The solution that we propose is e-community, defined as the taking by any community of its decisions through online means or with influence from online activity.
In the context of the economy e-community essentially amounts to a crowdsourcing of current regulatory and other ethical supervisory mechanisms. This would allow for an appropriate (i.e. increased) amount of ethical supervision for business.
e-community would also enable the emergence a much needed international framework for regulation/ ethical supervision. This would reduce the effects of harmful competition between states.
Example of communities that would be able to participate simultaneously in e-community are:
• supporters of various charitable areas;
• communities centred around particular products and their ethical aspects;
• the nation-state;
• the EU; and
• the international community.
e-community and existing community mechanisms
Many e-community models similar to what we have in mind already exist. Examples are Wikipedia, Q&A sites (Quora, Stack Exchange, etc), petition sites and Facebook.
Our solution, Peopletree, is intended to broaden the functionality of these sites to achieve our purposes.
It is also worth noting that we are of the view that personal forms of communication should be prioritised at all times, to the greatest extent possible. Plugins on the site would enable this.
Applications of e-community beyond ethonomics
e-community has applications far beyond ethonomics, to any situation where group decision-making is required. For example:
• in collectively forming and updating views on political issues, in communities and sub-communities, including potentially at international and national levels.
The impacts of ethonomics
Having examined the problems of capitalism through our four key ideas, and some background behind the solution that we propose, we look now at the potential impacts of achieving a situation where ethics and economics would flourish side-by-side.