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Recommendation: “The Penguin and the Whale” by Yochai Benkler

Author: Alex Shillman
Kinneret Zamora Bitan Publishing, 221 pages

On November 9, 1989, at 10:30 a.m., after 28 years of division, the wall separating East and West Berlin was finally breached. In fact, the physical fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized the victory of liberal capitalist ideology over the many centralized systems that rose and fell during the century, chief among them Nazi Germany and the massive social experiment imposed on Eastern European countries under Moscow’s centralized and totalitarian rule. It seemed that the free-market economy had won, and its liberal values, in their American version, had become the dominant ideology.

Few have drawn attention to the fact that, in fact, the two rival systems shared the same premise, the assumption that man is a selfish being who will always act for his own good as long as he is given the chance. The bitter controversy that tore the world into two blocs and caused the suffering of millions revolved only on the appropriate solution to this assumption. The socialist solution of denying individual liberty and meticulous and centralized planning of the economy, versus the capitalist solution of leveraging individual liberty in the belief that the sum total of selfish actions ultimately advances us all to a better future – and above all – the only possible future.

But the future had its own plans. The Internet spread like wildfire and it turned out that in the absence of unnecessary partitions and given an easy and efficient way of communication, people in general prefer to cooperate! Hundreds of thousands of people have simultaneously and without any apparent reward or benefit created Wikipedia – the world’s largest encyclopedia. Millions of people voluntarily shared content on YouTube and Facebook. And Microsoft’s operating system, one of the flagships of the new capitalism, began to retreat in the face of the rise of the Penguin, the open-source Linux operating system. In the book, Professor Yochai Benkler contrasts the “penguin” of information economics with the various “whales” of the selfish human economy, in tribute to Thomas Hobbes’s classic book, and shows that on every possible front, cooperation triumphs over selfishness, this is how it is in the evolution of cells and genes, this is how it is in sophisticated production systems, and so it is in policing and law enforcement systems.

Professor Yochai Benkler knows the tension between the different worldviews, not by hearsay. As one of the founders of Kibbutz Shizafon, he was closely exposed to the socialist model, and later matured and acquired an education in Tel Aviv, and completed his doctoral studies in law in the United States, where he teaches at Harvard University to this day. Benkler is considered one of the most prominent voices in the discourse on the new economy, even demanding some of its founding concepts. He is an articulate intellectual who, on the one hand, was the first foreigner to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and on the other hand, was not afraid to stand up publicly for Bradley Mining, the man behind the Wikileaks leak, an event that marked a watershed moment in the American public’s attitude toward information as a central motif in the economy and society. This is a deep and uncompromising book that builds layer after layer the great defense of cooperation. If you believe that social responsibility and the sharing economy are not a passing episode, Yochai Benkler is your spokesman.

Happy reading !

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