How to make the economy sustainable

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

12 May 2011

The Sustainable Economy Law has turned out to be the most unsustainable of regulations because of its most controversial point, designed to defend an industry that wants to stymie innovation in order to maintain its privileged position.

It is interesting to note that the controversy surrounding the draft bill for the Sustainable Economy Act actually comes from something that has nothing to do with the sustainability of the economy, but rather exclusively with sustainability problems that affect a number of companies that sell copies. Companies that are experts in whispering campaigns, telling lies, launching misleading campaigns, and that do not hesitate to denounce their own country on the basis of false arguments and studies to favour their interests. To think that the sustainability of our economy depends to any extent on such unscrupulous organizations should be a challenge for common sense, even for that of a politician.

We are witnessing one of the biggest examples of exploitation in the history of our democracy: under the false flag of "culture is dying", a coalition that says it “champions creators" (when it actually represents the interests of recording companies, producers and the like) devotes its time to claiming rights so that its members can become even more privileged than they already are. Now, besides charging a royalty, they want special courts because they don´t like what the judges say. And if you don´t like the judgements handed down by judges, the best thing to do is to ask the government to get rid of them and replace them with others. No problem: if you have to be underhanded with the law, that’s what you do. If you have to spread poison then you spread poison. If you have to sue, then you sue. They´ll give us a court and hand-picked judges so that we can do it, even though it will require a piece of absolute legal nonsense. If Spain becomes the “anything-goes country", no problem. We don´t mind as long as it is for the sustainability of the economy [sic] (theirs, of course).

To make the economy sustainable, there has to be a commitment to progress. The aim has to include creating entrepreneurs, favouring the launch of new initiatives, building the right fabric so that they want to come and set up their business in our country. In the United States, where they know a fair bit about innovation, they are modifying one of their immigration visas to attract those who have a technology-based business project and manage to seduce North American investors. The reasons are clear: the greater the number of companies created in an area like technology, the greater the creation of highly qualified employment, the greater the attraction for students and the greater the possibilities of revitalising the economy with ideas filtered through the private capital market, an instrument of efficiency as evidenced by the financial strength of a place like Silicon Valley.

Creating a sustainable economy means favouring those who have ideas, making it easier for them to develop their ideas and put them into practice. Making a commitment to innovation. Devoting efforts to protecting those who prevent innovation is the exact opposite of the concept of sustainability. The industry of intermediaries in cultural creation stands out today because it suffocates innovation, because it creates its own problems. The industries that refuse to accept change, that insult their own customers, that demand subsidies and royalties from governments and that prevent new business models, bleeding them dry by demanding the same levels of profitability they had before the market changed are, in general, not very compatible with the concept of sustainable economy. If our government´s commitment is to this type of company, we are not on the right track.

Anyone who sees the Internet´s resistance to the Sustainable Economy Act as a way of defending downloads is making a grave mistake. Downloads are not a problem: they do not affect creators (they do affect the intermediaries who make their money from the creators) and they are not going to disappear no matter what the government says or does. The fight against technology is an impossible one and technology means that anything that can be reduced to bits will become more and more available more and more readily for all. No, the problem is not the downloads. The problem is making a commitment to those who see them as a threat instead of an opportunity. If you’re Spanish, clever and have ideas and you want to live in a sustainable economy, apply for a visa and emigrate to the United States.

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