OuiShare Fest 2016 in 3 tweets: Ownership

There are three elements of ownership. First, the legal claim to an item, the public record of ownership, respected by a community. Second, the right to a share of rewards generated by the object. Third, power to make decisions about the object, to govern its future.

The first is hollow without the second or third: if I own an object, but cannot benefit from it, or influence it, do I really own it? The second is enough in practice: if I profit from ownership, I might not care too much about the legality of the claim, and I may not choose to change much. The third is the most powerful element: what I rule, I own in fact, if not in title.

Nathan Schneider, in his introduction to platform cooperativism, pitched the idea of shared ownership as a means of combating monopoly power.

Historically, monopoly power has been addressed with one of two routes. Nationalisation uses state control to ensure operations are run for the common good. Enforced competition, through regulation and antitrust laws, seeks to prevent abuses of power by active intervention.

Imagine a third path, where the regulator enforces a shift in the ownership model. In infrastructure sectors that tend toward monopoly, this would require every citizen to have a recognised stake in the organisation, the right to a dividend, and a vote. We can see blockchain technologies making the first two elements trivial, but the issue of governance seems harder to resolve.

Alternatives to centralised ownership are emerging in many sectors. Arcade City, for example, is taking on Uber by giving drivers a better deal: get paid for driving and get a stake in the platform. Professional groups and trade unions may be the best testing ground to see how platform cooperativism scales.

Next up, Hierarchy.

Startuple is François Hoehl and Sinead Doyle. Find out more at startuple.works