A Proposal for the Open Capital Corporation (“OCC”)
Our little company, Open Resource Group, LLC, is obviously based on opening up resources to an enterprise that it might otherwise not be able to tap into. By “enterprise,” I mean any project that has a vision, a mission, a plan and is ready to start executing the plan. The Open Source Software movement has taught us that a project no longer requires a formal organization, so “enterprise” does not even mean a company or a non-profit, but it helps a lot. Just as open source software commoditizes the code we combine to create value, so must organizations assemble tangible resources to create value. Blaser’s Second Law states that “There’s no such thing as a resourceless project.”
That’s why I’m not a fan of what you might call the Kumbaya school of project development, because it ignores the money side of the equation. Face it: we all like money – a lot. We like it so much that we get resentful of those who are more skilled at acquiring and spending it than we are, which drives some of us – the more disaffected – to shun projects that reward people well for creating value. Portable money is one of society’s most egalitarian inventions, but sometimes it needs a little help to keep the playing field level and to ensure free entry.
To get money we have to put up with accounting systems. Accounting systems are closed data structures designed to grab as much money as possible from a collective effort and to concentrate it in the hands of those who set up the effort’s accounting system. We may not like those folks much, which is why we don’t actually go to work for them, even though they think we do. We go to work for their accounting system.
In their defense, accounting systems are the arteries which nourish society and bathe us in the creeping abundance that is set to wash over the world. It’s the closed part that we have a problem with, unless we’re skilled at setting up those closed data structures. In that case, we see the capitalized value of a going concern as the natural order of the universe, to be defended to the death. Some people confuse that zeal with patriotism.
Open Capital Company, Unlimited
Under corporate law, the terms “Inc.” and “Limited” are interchangeable. All they mean is that the participants in the corporate legal fiction enjoy limited personal liability for the actions they take on behalf of the corporation. That’s why people with families and mortgages like to work for them and own them. Crooks like to own them too.
So what would an “Unlimited” organization look like? It would have a way of attracting enough capital via a tip jar. Above all, the OCC’s accounting system must be totally open and transparent, maintained in real time on the web, with clear mechanisms to demonstrate that the money’s being spent somewhat reasonably. This is not a big deal – public companies must also be transparent. The OCC would simply do it on the web.
Now let’s imagine the OCC plans to create something we care about. How might we put together our time and money to incentivize some of us to do the work we consider important, especially when those laborers are highly valued in the marketplace and cannot just give away their time and effort? Another way of putting it is that we want our spouses and children to think these projects are as cool as we do. Jeff Jarvis described something similar and called it Mutual of Blogosphere.
Here’s the Twelve Step Program I propose to harness our idealism and our greed into a more useful structure than the current one, which Shoshana Zuboff has labeled “Managerial Capitalism.”
*It might look a lot like what Jeff Jarvis described as the “Mutual of Blogosphere.” That’s the term he coined after Terry Heaton’s health scare last year, which resulted in a spontaneous outpouring of financial support for Terry’s medical bills. Like Howard Dean supporters or Katrina donors, many of us are willing to throw a sawbuck or five into the tip jar for someone who is facing an underfunded medical crisis. And we’ll do it without an explicit expectation that we’ll be similarly supported.