What If Stalin Had Computers? | The New Republic
It’s fun to imagine how we could do better than capitalism if we all decided to, especially if no one had to worry about creating and maintaining false scarcity around info-tech goods.
The best existing example I can think of for the kind of efficiencies Mason predicts is the difference between Netflix and Popcorn Time. Netflix is, of course, the $28 billion media streaming company with over 2000 employees. Popcorn Time is a legally shady alternative that streams media torrents over a clean ad-less interface. It’s a functional and free alternative, what economists would call a replacement good. Popcorn Time makes no money, and has a staff of 20 around the world who volunteer their labor part-time. Netflix is (as a streaming company) a near-total waste of time. Those 2000-plus workers could be developing a nutritious Slurpee and designing a distribution infrastructure. Or babysitting. Hell, they could be lowering the collective labor burden enough so everyone has time to masturbate one extra time a year, and it would still be more socially useful than charging rent for access to digital content.