If I could give a TED talk today, my topic would be "massively distributed capitalism," a phrase I think I coined about 3 weeks ago. It doesn't appear in the Google index yet. But it will be in a minute when I press Share.
The Google link below that references "distributed capitalism" appears to be mostly about distributed consumerism. I'm less interested in that than I am in finding a way to get millions of people an ownership interest in hundreds of companies that could turn out to be the next big thing--to encourage them in Berkshire Hathaway fashion to be long-term investors.
I keep wondering whether Google, Apple, Facebook or Berkshire Hathaway will be the first trillion dollar company. In any case, the ownership of the first trillion dollar corporation will be concentrated in the hands of very few people. Someone will be the first hundred billionaire. Someone will be the first two hundred billionaire.
A trillion dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A trillion dollar investment fund -- let's call it Berkshire Hathaway 2.0 -- owned by a million shareholders. A million millionaires--with no billionaires, no concentration of wealth among them. I keep wondering if it might be possible to set up such a fund.
I don't believe in socialism and redistribution of wealth. But I also don't believe in crony capitalism, where industry incumbents lobby government and change the rules making it harder and harder for innovative startups to compete in fields like finance/banking, health care, energy, transportation, education. There are many onerous regulations. Compliance is too expensive for all except the biggest players or best funded companies. Entrepreneurship is declining when we need it the most.
I do believe in innovation. I do believe that technological innovations have the potential to benefit the entire world. As the Whatsapp founders have figured out, in an era of massive connectedness, a service can be created that spreads to hundreds of millions of people and creates enormous value and wealth in just a few years.
The pace of billionaire creation is going to accelerate. When 5 billion people have smartphones and tablets and someone invents a medical device that attaches to these mobile supercomputers that diagnoses illnesses better than doctors and replaces 80% of doctor visits--someone is going to make billions. When robots and 3-D printers enable homes to be built with very little labor cost, for a fraction of the price of a modern home, someone is going to make billions. I can think of so many inventions that are coming that will displace millions of workers but create enormous value for their inventors. What I don't know is what the overall social impact will be. Will the recent widening of the gap between rich and poor continue to worsen?
When inventions can spread to the world with virtually no advertising or marketing costs, inventors and the corporations they work for will make hundreds of billions of dollars.
I'm a fan of innovation--even of disruption--but I fear the long term consequences if the ownership of the means of production isn't distributed more widely. But it can't be done after the wealth is created. That creates resentment and conflict. It needs to be done in advance.
So what I'd like to believe in is that millions of people could find a way to come together, pool small funds, invest in the next big thing, over and over and over again, and turn a small fund into a massive fund--over decades--with massively distributed ownership.
If the worldwide market for lottery tickets is really $260 billion per year (the US market is reportedly $60-70 billion), what if we could get 1% of those funds to be redirected into a pooled fund that might--in 30 or 40 years--provide its investors with enough capital to actually retire on.
What if investment opportunities from Angelist, Y Combinator, Techstars, IndieGoGo and hundreds of incubators, accelerators, and equity crowdfunding platforms worldwide could be sourced by a large group of investors--investors who want to build wealth over the long term and share it with others--and somehow, the wisdom of the crowd, or the power of predictive markets, or expert networks could be tapped so that this fund could made good to great investment decisions week after week, month after month, year after year.
Maybe the motto could be E Pluribus Plenum.