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The Future of Business
A Number of Visions
Optionality a Vision?
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Optionality is the perspective from which consultancy company Quintessence approaches issues and topics. Quintessence also publishes a magazine called Optionality, which has appeared monthly since January 1991. In Optionality, topics such as the establishment of a "Free Nation" as well as the future of business have received quite a bit of attention; over the years, the following questions have come up in that discussion:
1. Will there be money (currency) in a Free Nation?
At the moment, currency is strictly regulated by central banks in each country. The Government both monopolizes local currency and determines its value to a large extent. Without government intervention, will money look the same? What will be the difference between money and shares, IOUs, promissory notes, checks, stamps, gold or a bus ticket? Years ago, an article in Optionality speculated that shares will become the dominant form of payment in future (e.g. one pays for a service with, say, 300 shares IBM, or the equivalent in other acceptable shares, say 268 SONY shares). If this happens, then we should no longer be talking about money, but we should properly call it shares.
2. Will there be property (ownership) in a Free Nation?
At the moment, ownership is determined (in case of disputes) by courts. Will a "Free Nation" have courts and laws? If not, how will property disputes be settled, if at all? If multiple owners can coexist (each with a claim on a specific thing, without wanting to share, as shareholders do), will this transform the concept property? If the concept of property changes in character, should we then still talk about property? Perhaps the term "claim" is more appropriate, or, should I say, more claimable.
3. What will trade look like in a Free Nation?
At the moment, disputes about (all) contracts are similarly settled in court. Trade could be regarded as transfer of ownership in a broad sense; even employment can be regarded as a form of trade; labor contracts are essentially a trade of future work for a future salary; future labor could thus be seen as owned by the worker, until the owner (worker) signs away (part of) the rights to an employer. In this broad sense, our current society is dominated by trade, given that trade encompasses not only financial transactions and transfer of property, but also employment contracts and other contracts.
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The magazine Optionality has drawn the conclusion that if one takes away the government, concepts such as trade, property and money are likely to take on an entirely different meaning, if not lose their meaning. The magazine Optionality does not pretend to know exactly what will happen, it is just trying to discuss these matters in a way that makes sense. In that process, a number of "visions" have come up as to what the future may look like.
1. The "Action Man" Approach
One of these visions is that all such matters should be left to market forces and that the thing to focus on is how to establish a nation that has no government that intervenes in the free market. Subsequently, methods to establish such a nation have been discussed, including a suggestion to back a party aiming to democratically end the government, e.g. by liquidating the government as if it were a defaulting company. In the magazine Optionality, this has been referred to as the "Action Man" approach. In a recent version of this approach, it was suggested that a State without government could participate in not one, but multiple Federations of States, which would prevent any Federal Law from going beyond the level of the lowest common denominator.
2. Don Paragon's Vision
The magazine Optionality currently favors Don Paragon's Vision of the Future, that anticipates a shift away from activities such as trading, making profits, earning money and making investments for the sake of dividends, towards activities that strengthen one's talents, name and profile, and broaden one's horizon, by developing ideas for the sake of personal fulfilment and appreciation. In Don's Vision, trade will continue in future, but without the dominance it has today; Don envisages developments such as more intense competition, on-going progress in technology and growing globalisation to make it ever easier for consumers to achieve a similar standard of living that now costs a large part of people's money. With more "free time" to spend for the bulk of people and with less profits to be made in trade, more and more people will seek to interrelate on the basis of mutual and voluntary agreement to achieve what they jointly appreciate. Don anticipates the Government as an institution to become less and less relevant due to such developments. Don Paragon is a composer and musician, who sees his "Vision of the Future" primarily expressed in the lyrics of his music, rather than in articles.
3. Differences Between These Two Visions
These visions have some elements in common, e.g. they both reject government intervention. However, the "Action Man" approach seems incompatible with the globalization aspects of Don Paragon's Vision. Also, any territorial approach depends on the implementation of borders, which implies the use of force to ensure that people respect such borders. In Don Paragon's Vision, the use of force becomes a less and less attractive solution to whatever is perceived to be a problem; the concept of crime resolves itself in the light of global exposure and of a change in focus from possession of physical objects towards appreciation of creativity. A focus on specific borders inherently is a legalistic approach, a "law and order" solution with entrenched values that are out of step with the developments as pictured by Don Paragon.
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1. What is "Freedom"?
Interestingly, the concept of optionality plays an important role in both the "Action Man" approach and Don Paragon's "Vision of the Future." The issue of coining names should be of concern for supporters of a "Free Nation." The "Action Man" approach does not regard the concept "freedom" as its ultimate vision. Instead, the "Action Man" approach claims that its ultimate vision is "optionality" as a global concept, rather than "freedom."
Ironically, it was Don Paragon who first suggested that the concept "optionality" is superior to the concept "freedom," as "optionality" is a positive concept, whereas "freedom" is essentially a negative concept, in that it focuses on what one does not want.
By contrast, Don Paragon regards "optionality" only as part of his Vision; Don's Vision also describes what will be the most common practice in future, i.e. how people will interrelate, what their activities will be and what will be the measures of success and prosperity. "Optionality" represents only the ideological part of Don Paragon's Vision; or, if you like, the dominant belief of the future.
2. The Territorial Debate
Both in the "Action Man" approach and in Don Paragon's "Vision of the Future," the concept "optionality" is seen as superior to the concept "freedom," as discussed above. The "Action Man" approach further uses the term State instead of Nation. A State can be part of a Federation that looks after issues such as Constitutions, relations with other nations, borders, etc.
This may be regarded as semantics, as a cosmetic discussion over terminology. Even so, the difference with Don Paragon's Vision is of a fundamental nature. Don Paragon rejects any territorial focus. In Don Paragon's Vision, globalization will make territorial borders (and subsequently the Government as an institution) less and less relevant in future. Don Paragon thus rejects the territorial focus of the "Action Man" approach as a paranoid regression into isolationism.
Don wonders: "Does anyone who appreciates 'freedom' really want to restrict 'freedom' to one specific nation?" In the case of the "Action Man" approach, the territorial focus was to be the first step in a broader vision that ultimately advocated "freedom" (or rather "optionality") beyond the borders of this initial State without government. But Don Paragon rejects even such a staged approach. Don Paragon wonders again why establishing freedom initially in only one specific territory is preferable to advocating it worldwide in the first place. Is this territorial approach perhaps a compromise, a concession, in the sense that what one really (ultimately) wants to achieve is global freedom, i.e. optionality? Is choosing to establish freedom locally first not inconsistent, similar strategically to libertarian politics, where people argue against interventionist government, yet choose to become part of an interventionist governmental system with the strategy to make the government less interventionist? Can any "free territory" be part of a global vision of optionality? Not in the eyes of Don Paragon, who regards globalization as an essential element in the evolution of his Vision.
3. Relevance for the "Free Nation" Concept
The idea behind this article is to assist people in considering the implications of terminology on anticipated scenarios. As discussed above, the very terminology "Free Nation" leans towards one specific scenario. The "Action Man" approach, as described above, presents a slightly different scenario, that similarly has a territorial and legalistic focus, yet regards "optionality" as its ultimate vision. Personally, I prefer Don Paragon's Vision and, as mentioned above, "optionality" represents only part of Don's Vision of the Future. In the end, however, I believe that people should not be coerced into choosing for any one scenario. I like to avoid saying that all approaches are wrong except for that one specific approach that is the only right way to go; I don't want to be locked into any one scenario. Quintessence uses "optionality" as a perspective in consultancy, which implies comparison of a number of scenarios, a number of visions; for me, this is the essence of optionality. D
Ben Mettes is Managing Director of Quintessence, a private marketing and consultancy company.
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