Microentrevista: Yann Moulier Boutang


“Involucrar a gran escala al Estado y a las políticas públicas, bajo la restricción inevitable del mercado es un gran reto”.

Esta la entrevista (en inglés) con Yann Moulier Boutang, Economista y ensayista. Es profesor de economía en la Universidad de Tecnología de Compiègne y profesor asociado en la Escuela de Arte y Diseño de Saint-Etienne.

¿How important are free technologies in society?

Free technologies are increasingly important although the disclosure that is necessary to develop the great potential of human cooperation in all sphere of society, encounters a series of hindrances. Some are due to ignorance of the adventages of free solutions both from users and employers, some other to the time required to shift from proprietary systems to free software or open sources format (most of the time, training for this shift is not budgeted), some other to deliberately set up obstacles from firms whose profit is closely linked to the persistance of as many users as possible in non-free solution and to the poor reflections of public authorities about the consequences both economical and political up to last five years.

However a deep trend will sweep these obstacles out of the scenary for two main reasons:

  • a) Free solutions (I hold that technic and machine are less concerned than digital format, licences and new public policies ) fit in a much better way the core what is value in the new cognitive turn of capitalism, that capturing positive externalities from interaction, cooperation and uncodified intangibles of the multitudes equiped by web 2.0 digital equipments. If the new digital commons have become a necessary condition of surplus value, the proprietary standards in the cloud and platforms or cooperation are fare lesse productive than the free ones.
  • b) Free technologies and use of all digital means are much less expensive than old and new enclosures of the actual system of Intellectual property rights. The requirements of the financial crisis sound the knell of the profits of the digital capitalism resting on the rent.

Free culture was born after the emergence of the free software movement, using the same paradigms and free licenses. Is it possible to make the leap from free culture to free architecture, free agriculture or free economy?

We must hold that free culture is already producing free architecture. I was reading that in Shanghai some firm has used the 3D printer (just like the makers movement are doing) to produced already made houses at the incredible price of 8000 yuan per meter square. At the same moment the spare parts of a combat aircraft have been produced by a 3D printer and used to repair it. Free culture through virtual objects is now modifying the material production. You can easily imagine what 3D designed and printed objects are able to produce in agriculture, health, education. The question is that to generalize and massified these prototypes state and public policies must be involved. An to act this, it should be deeply reformed.

How would you define the commons?

The traditional commons and the new ones are the conditions for any kind of market. In the vocabulary of political economy I had characterized them as the sustainable production of positive externalities and the reduction of the imbalance resulting from negative externalities. Using a metaphore, commons of human society are to the market, what pollination of the bees is to production of honey and wax.

Can the Social Knowledge Economy that Ecuador is creating be an alternative to capitalism?

I am very glad that such project has been designed and has received fundings at a State level. The is no individualistic or purely micro level solution to the problem of finding a path to promote and create durable “quilombos”, that is spaces of liberation and to offer a livable economic and ethic future. Involving at a large scale the State, public policies, under the unavoidable constraint of the market is a big challenge.

What are your expectations for Buen Conocer Summit in Quito?

First of all, I think that this alternative submit has both very concrete and ambitious purposes. What is at stake is strategical. It follows the congress organized in Brazil by some governments of Latin America to contrast heavy attempts from the US to strengthen the control of States over the Internet (espionage, questioning of the neutrality of the Internet).

But we all know that defending the new commons in the digital technologies and domain, requires strong practical experiences supported by some states that protect freedom for their own sake (we should not be naive), but also in order to solve the key problems of economic development and education for the multitude. The experience in Ecuador could be very important not only for developing countries but also for the whole world.