Collective Action is not Collectivism
June 2nd, 2006

I’m not going to get into a critique of Jaron Lanier’s Digital Maoism — indeed, I agree that new notions about collective intelligence and peer production should be viewed critically and not embraced in a spirit of magical thinking — but I find it strange that someone as educated as Jaron should fall into the same simple fallacy the Cato Institute fell for: collective action is not the same as collectivism. Commons-based peer production in Wikipedia, open source software, open source biology, prediction markets is collective action, not collectivism. Collective action involves freely chosen self-election (which is almost always coincident with self-interest) and distributed coordination; collectivism involves coercion and centralized control; treating the Internet as a commons doesn’t mean it is communist (tell that to Bezos, Yang, Filo, Brin or Page, to name just a few billionaires who managed to scrape together private property from the Internet commons). Hello? Can anybody spot the differences?


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