Lessig on the Two Economies

3 October 2006 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

The Internet has given us an alternate, parallel economy, says Lawrence Lessig:

One economy is the traditional “commercial economy,” an economy regulated by the quid pro quo: I’ll do this (work, write, sing, etc.) in exchange for money. Another economy is (the names are many) the (a) amateur economy, (b) sharing economy, (c) social production economy, (d) noncommercial economy, or (e) p2p economy. This second economy (however you name it, I’m just going to call it the “second economy”) is the economy of Wikipedia, most FLOSS development, the work of amateur astronomers, etc. It has a different, more complicated logic too it than the commercial economy. If you tried to translate all interactions in this second economy into the frame of the commercial economy, you’d kill it.

Lessig is an articulate and passionate advocate for legal rules that favor this second economy. I think he tends to overstate the differences between the two economies, and that a single set of behavioral models, frameworks, theories, etc. works fine for both. Hence I’m not convinced that special rules are needed to promote what Lessig calls the “hybrid” economy, one that links the first and second economies. But his thoughts on licensing practices like FLOSS (not to be confused with Foss) that “inspire the creative work of the second economy, while also expanding the value of the commercial economy” are worth reading.

For alternative perspectives on the relationship between norms and law in cyberspace compare Lessig’s Code and Bruce Benson’s “The Spontaneous Evolution of Cyber Law.”

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Recommended Reading.

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