This tragic flaw of markets [the lack of voice for nature, future generations and society as a whole] must somehow be fixed. In theory it could be fixed by government regulation and taxation, but given that government itself is almost entirely in the sway of living suppliers and demanders, such a “solution” will never work or last. Far better to make the market fix itself by introducing agents for the currently unrepresented.
This requires populating the market with entities legally accountable to future generations, other species (when appropriate) and all living persons equally — what I have elsewhere called “common wealth trusts.” As legal scholar Carole Rose has put it, these entities might be thought of as “property on the outside and commons on the inside.” Outwardly, the market would see them (and have to respect them) like corporations, but inwardly they’d be coded to protect their assets for future generations and share current income (if there is any) equally.
If this were done, one result would be the monetization of common wealth that is currently unmonetized. I have no problem with this. In fact, it is essential to the whole process.
In Capitalism 3.0, I called this process of legally embodying common wealth propertization — which should not be confused with privatization, which is the giving or selling of common wealth to private owners. Propertization keeps common wealth common, while at the same time protecting it from private takeover. An example is the community land trust.
In my view, propertization of selected pieces of common wealth, if done to scale, can fix capitalism’s two most tragic flaws: its relentless destruction of nature and equally relentless widening of inequality. By making the invisible visible, it can make the invisible hand both smarter and fairer.
Originally published in bollier.org