Shraga F. Biran
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Tel Aviv–based entrepreneur/lawyer Biran explores avenues to ameliorate the vast gap between the haves and the have-nots.
The author takes a look at capitalism and its legal/political underpinnings and finds it lacking: so many outmoded legal constraints, an economy that still touts the free-market panacea and a political system that fails at nearly every measure of social decency. Times have changed, and Biran sees that as an opportunity. Opportunism may have a bad name, but consider it as an individual or group foreseeing an outcome from a particular constellation of facts, circumstances, events and conditions and acting to bring about that outcome. This is the burgeoning creative sector of the economy, and it provides great opportunity for a variety of jobs, including scientists, engineers, architects, designers, writers, artists, musicians and others. However, before the wealth it generates can be co-opted by the politically connected, deep-pocket haves, writes Biran, we need a way of regulating the accumulation and distribution of new capital and the equitable access to national assets. The author does not espouse the destruction of the essential meaning of private property. Rather, he suggests reforming intellectual-property law to include a more rangy definition, one that starts with the nascent idea, not the finished product. He also explains how communal economic rights can be served by social privatization of state assets—not through wholesale sell-off to elites, but along the lines of the Homestead Act and the Internet, or through licensing. Occasionally, Biran finds himself at knotty junctures: The dot-com explosion enriched "junior engineers, salesmen, and even secretaries," yet "a handful of creative entrepreneurs and their financiers had cleared billions, and the rest were left with the crumbs." Though the definition of "intellectual property" is hazy, Biran senses the possibilities—the opportunism, as it were—through the haze.
Valuable considerations to tap the latent, community-wide benefits of a newly vitalized economic terrain.