May 17, 2023

Kendell Johnson: Subscription Economy

Kendell Johnson: Subscription Economy

The conversation with Kendell Johnson quickly went in a direction that took me by surprise. I fully expected that Kendell was going to push the subscription model as the answer to everything. Instead, we ended up talking about the economy and it was not working for young people.

Buying a house, going on vacation once a year, and that sort of thing is not available to people born in the 1980s and beyond.


Kendell said words to the effect that young people feel trapped by house payments, rent, and car payments. That made me sit up because it was another way of saying that the economy is not working for anybody, but it particularly isn’t working for the young. And that means that we need a new model.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Buckminster Fuller

Lighter and without Friction

For my generation (1951) the belief was that if you “got good grades” and “worked hard”, you had a chance to do good, better than your parents. And indeed, that was the case for some of us (i.e., white, lower-middle-class). I held that belief for most of my working life. It was the truth

This is not the case anymore for most young people. The belief is gone, the reality is different. So, screw it, we are going to try something different.

Not a New Idea

The idea of making the human construct lighter and frictionless is not new,</h1>


Buckminster Fuller talked about making things lighter. The Dymaxion House and the Dymaxion Car were meant to be physically lighter. But another way to make things lighter is by not possessing a permanent house or a car and subscribing to them instead. These days I can “possess” a house for a week, or a month and then move on to the next. I can “possess” a ride, and a driver, temporarily and then move on to the next.


My friend, Álvaro Daza started a company to make things frictionless for digital nomads. Frictionless is equivalent to light in this context.

Digital Nomads have realized that they can live and work anywhere in the world. What Circolo, my friend’s company, is doing for them is to make mundane things like insurance and housing frictionless. Add a subscription model on top and we are making the world pretty light.

As a counterexample, a long while back my friends moved to Japan for a few years and he had to ship all their furniture there. Today that would be a crazy thing to do.


Even residency is in play. The Estonians are making “residency” frictionless with their eResidency program.

What Does It All Mean?

The world is ready for a new economic model. Not one that is going to come from above, but a new model that will come together according to needs. RADICAL is one such model, but there will be many others.

One way to tell the progressive models from the not-so-progressive ones is how they relate to the FIAT model. If they are a rehash of the FIAT model, walk away from it. If they are an alternative to the FIAT model, it is worth another look.

It is very, very important to be able to see the FIAT model that does not work for us. If a new model refers to anything that requires an all-powerful, benevolent person to pass judgment, it is just another FIAT scheme. Anything that requires a center, for making decisions or distributing “bonuses,” it is just another FIAT scheme

The system we crave is decentralized and transparent. It supports our need for a meaningful existence and belonging. It thrives on experimentation. If a system has these characteristics, it is worth a try.