Through the financial crisis of 2008 to – well, now – as we’re 5 years into a recession, I started to think a lot about the route causes of the crisis:
· People – whether industrialists, bankers, government – not being concerned about the outcomes of their behaviours and actions
· Financiers losing site of the fact that their raison d’etre is to back enterprise; the financial services industry is a service industry to industry.
· An elite governing class of people who have concealed the costs of government, and thereby created a feudal existence for the citizenry of just deferring to them
And I thought … wow, these people wouldn’t survive a day in Entrepreneur Country. They wouldn’t know how to lead people in the trenches, or deal with blow after blow, and keep going. They are BABES IN THE WOOD.
And then I thought – we should take them to Entrepreneur Country. We should introduce them to what it really means to run a business. Where they are the brand. Where their cashflow is at stake. Where they have to find their optimism every day.
But then I came to the conclusion that we are all going to Entrepreneur Country. Not because I want this to happen, but because it is.
Exhibit 1 – Martha Payne
Martha as we all know by now didn’t like her school lunch. In fact, she wanted to make a point. Have camera, will photograph. She posted it online to show everyone that her lunch was truly gross. And boy did she get a reaction. The odds are that school lunches in her part of the universe will be improving soon.
This rise of the citizen consumer – even the citizen youth consumer – actually especially the citizen youth consumer will transform the relationship between government and its citizenry.
Democracy is very important. But the infrastructure of democracy hasn’t changed for 500 years. Back then, you needed someone to come into Parliament to represent you. Today, we could vote online.
But would we ever vote out the Welfare State? What if we became so convinced that economically we could do more through reciprocal exchange than collective exchange?
Exhibit 2 – Spotify, Kindle, Zopa
The web enables hyper-personalisation. Spotify enables me to build my own radio playlist. Kindle enables me to build my own bookshelf. Zopa enables me to build my own loan portfolio online. As I get used to the personalised life that these services provide me with, why would I accept a health or an educational service which is mass-produced?
If I’m dyslexic or blind, or gifted or troubled, why shouldn’t I get a personalised educational solution which fits my needs pretty exactly? We know that people are contributing educational content globally to open source sites. So it’s not even certain that this would cost more. The learning for the individual may also be in the retrieving of information.
For the world is not top down anymore. It’s bottom up, and its self serve. Those people who understand this DIY culture will thrive in the period to come. The Internet will simply bring to an end the closed shop system of education and health care. There is no grand design, but many smaller designs which are created by the groups which need them. Grand designs are typically constructed for the egos of the Grand Designers.
But the power has shifted to the Individual. Big Business used to dominate, but the unit of trading has shifted to the individual making Individual Capitalism the force for the 21st Century.
Yes there are 1 million youth unemployed, but even if they all had jobs, they would think of those jobs differently than their parents do. I know a lot of twenty somethings who work, but almost all of them have plans to set up their own business. They are hatching a plan, and trying to figure out how to organise all of the missing parts. Some are at an earlier stage of just promoting their own ideas and brand on line. They will not be buyers of intermediaries though – big government or otherwise. They will understand how easily groups of people can be enabled with smartphones, social networks, gamified learning, and they’ll wonder how their silly parents allowed so much expensive bureaucracy to control them for so long.
Exhibit 3 – International Finance
I write this day's after some of the biggest banks in the world have been found guilty of fixing interest rates and selling swaps to SME’s that they knew the business owners would never be able to repay.
People are repulsed. It’s time to get more radical. Restructuring the economy starts with restructuring relationships. For all of its oversight, the financial services industry gets away with some pretty heinous crimes – repeatedly. What I also know as a FSA-regulated firm is that the fines for bad behaviour in the industry are shared by the industry. How communist! I follow all the rules, and get whacked with fees to pay the FSA for other people sins. I believe in bottoming out wrong-doing, and making people personally accountable.
Digital infrastructure is here. It’s changing our lives. It’s taking us all to Entrepreneur Country. Actually whether we want to or not, whether we know it or not. Because the web will enable reciprocal exchange between people, and the big structures of today will simply be drained of their importance. Because Individual Capitalism is the emerging force of our century. And because there is no money. Entrepreneurs will be building the new businesses, the high-growth digital businesses, which create the wealth in society again.