Free Knowledge and Commons Perspectives for Industrial Production

The advocates of mass production have identified the superior efficiency of the large corporation with its control over the external environment. But before we continue, let us draw a quick summary of the shortcomings of the large scale industrial model.

  • Planned obsolescence: products of too high quality make their consumption decline. Nowadays most consumer goods are designed for a limited number of years. GM designer Harley Earl in the 1950s confessed: “My Job is to hasten obsolescence. I’ve got it down to 2 years; now when I get it down to one year, I’ll have a perfect score.”
  • Increasing (process) innovations lead to increased productivity, which would be excellent as it means less work we have to do for producing the same output. But no, this causes a serious problem in our socio-economic model, as it leads to less jobs;
  • concentrations of capital and power tend to lead to distortion of political and social processes;
  • profit maximisation leads to neglect negative externalities (violence, pollution, …)
  • non-alignment of interests between producers and customers (agency costs): car makers nowadays make most profit in after-sales: they have an incentive to limit reparation to their licensed car repair centres. This results in strategies for non-standard products that are hard to repair by others. Legislators can soften this tendency. As an example we can take the EC’s recent move to enforce standard power plugs for mobile phones.

Imagine manufacturers would make products that were compatible with those of their competitors. That could lead to increased competition, easier repair, reuse, the emergence of industrial networks.

Complete article: Free Knowledge and Commons Perspectives for Industrial Production