Thursday, May 14, 2015

Further Notes on Knowledge Use Rights

In "The Puzzle of Liberal Democracy", Dani Rodrik and Sharun Mukand write:
Liberal democracy rests on three distinct sets of rights: property rights, political rights, and civil rights. The first set of rights protects owners and investors from expropriation. The second ensures that groups that win electoral contests can assume power and choose policies to their liking - provided these policies do not violate the other two sets of rights. Finally, civil rights guarantee equal treatment before the law and equal access to public services such as education.
What's missing, from these three "distinct sets of rights"? The lack of knowledge use rights is a relatively new problem. Without a protected right to utilize knowledge on behalf of others, many forms of time investment end in more risk than reward. Democracies can be difficult to maintain, if a marketplace for services becomes limited due to limits on knowledge use.

While knowledge use has nonetheless provided economic benefits in many capacities, there is growing need to utilize knowledge more broadly - especially given the fact other forms of labor continue to be replaced by automation. Knowledge use also needs to be measurable and quantifiable in local time aggregates, so that it may once again provide what has slowly become a missing component of GDP.

Knowledge use - in spite of its vast production potential, has been subjected to limits in a services marketplace which populations have yet to come to terms with. All too often, discussions regarding growth do not consider how to approach services so as to empower individuals, groups and communities. Services are not just important for consumption or (supposed) outcome, because time and knowledge based product are experienced by all involved. The ability to provide services based on one's unique capacity, could also reverse the growing class divisions of the present.

Furthermore, the roles of knowledge based services and time based product have not been well established or understood, in economic models. Even though knowledge use is often centralized, it has not been subjected to the kinds of innovation that traditional production and manufacture have so often received. Meanwhile, knowledge use in its most valued forms, has become largely confined to thriving economic zones and the wealth holdings of special interests.

Few were impaired by the lack of knowledge use as a specific property right in the past, because plenty of other options for production existed in the marketplace - options which still relied on more physical forms of capital. This however has changed, as knowledge use has gradually become the most sought after means of economic activity. Now, a general lack of knowledge use rights can actually impair both political rights and civil rights. The earlier rights of a liberal democracy can no longer be considered complete, because the lack of knowledge use rights often means an inability to remain economically engaged.

Consider the forms of production which sufficed for so long, before knowledge use came to the fore. Land, labor and capital have long been viewed as necessary components for economic activity. In some respects this too has changed. Increasingly one thinks of place, time and knowledge use. How to think about this?

Sometimes, place is little more than digital accounting or a similar "bookmark" for a singular economic event. Even server locations are somewhat tangential to the process. In knowledge use systems, place for economic engagement would have similar local flexibility. Time measure would take the place of labor, and knowledge use would occur within the designated time frame in the form of human capital. In a sense this local formation would reflect an already occurring process at an international level.

With knowledge use rights, local groups would be able to learn how to come together for meaningful purpose, on economic terms. Any time that such terms are not available, foundations for trust and civility can be lost. Even though it would take considerable time to rediscover meaningful economic relations, the rewards would be substantial. Money needs to faithfully represent human intent in its more positive forms. Knowledge use systems which include the efforts of all citizens, would give it a chance to do so.

Previously, we were able to reach out and assist one another as citizens, neighbors and family because of the degree to which we were already productively engaged in the economy. In the future, as automation takes over more of those functions, we will need to reach out and help one another in order to remain productively engaged. Just as positive intent needs to be measured and compensated, voluntary good faith efforts need to be recorded and preserved over time. Doing so could provide means to successfully adapt to the economic changes of the present. A dedicated time based marketplace and knowledge use rights, are both needed for long term growth.

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