miércoles, noviembre 02, 2011

How One Percent Grabbed So Much of Our Wealth
The economic benefits of knowledge-- which belong to us all-- flow to the rich

By Gar Alperovitz

Gar Alperovitz, professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, details how the rich have commandeered the commons for their own benefit in his book Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back (with Lew Daley from The New Press). See the excerpt from On the Commons. Here in an essay from Truth Out he shows how the commons of knowledge— a human inheritance which is rightly shared by all—has become the foundation for the 1 percent’s lavish wealth. — Jay Walljasper

Elizabeth Warren points out that there “is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.” Meaning: if the rich don’t pay their fair share of the taxes that educate their workers and provide roads, security and many other things, they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

The biggest “theft” by the 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth—knowledge—for its own benefit.

Knowledge? Yes, of course, and increasingly so. The fact is, most of what we call wealth is now known to be overwhelmingly the product of technical, scientific and other knowledge—and most of this innovation derives from socially inherited knowledge. Which means that, except for trivial amounts, it was simply not created by the 1 percent who enjoy the lion’s share of its benefits. Most of it was created, historically, by society—which is to say, the other 99 percent.

Take an obvious example: Many of the advances that have propelled our high-tech economy in recent decades grew directly out of research programs financed and, often, collaboratively developed, by the federal government and paid for by the taxpayer. The Internet, to take the most well-known example, began as a government defense project, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), in the 1960s. Today’s vast software industry rests on a foundation of computer language and operating hardware developed, in large part, with public support. The Bill Gateses of the world might still be working with vacuum tubes and punch cards were it not for critical research and technology programs created or financed by the federal government.

The iPhone is another example: Its microchips, cellular communication abilities and global positioning system (GPS) all flowed from developments traceable to significant direct and indirect public support from the military and space programs. The “revolutionary” multi-touch screen was developed by University of Delaware researchers financially supported by the National Science Foundation and the CIA. It is not only electronics: of the 15 modern US-developed “blockbuster” drugs with over $1 billion in sales, 13 received significant public research and development support.


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