Tuesday, December 25, 2007

TINA? Part 2

In the part 1 I addressed the Caja Laboral Popular (CLP) of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation as one example of an alternative to capital. In this posting I want to address other alternatives.

According to Gar Alperovitz, in his book “America After Capitalism”, a Community Development Corporations (CDC) is a “self-help entity that operates at both the community-building level and the economic level.” He goes on to say that the CDC, “initial goal involved a community-building vision and included the provision of services, the ownership of productive enterprises, and advocacy on behalf of local residents.” Along with CDC’s there are Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s), which are meant to provide credit and capital to low income and economically distressed communities.

One example of a CDC is the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) in New York City. The BSRC provides start-up capital along with other assistance to local businesses as well as training programs for local residents. The BSRC is self-funded through its ownership of Restoration Plaza, a construction firm, a property management company, a supermarket, and a theater.


Another example is the Kentucky Highland Investment Corporation (KHIC), which seeks out and provides venture capital as well as ongoing support for entrepreneurs in areas of Southeaster Kentucky with high poverty. One of the requirements of these new enterprises is that they must promise to hire unemployed residents from those areas.


We’re now prepared to explore a possible model of non-capital investment mechanism to replace capital, which will be covered in a future installment.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

TINA? - Part 1

There’s a popular myth that in 1899 the Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, Charles H. Duell, was to have written, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” An equally absurd comment is often attributed to Margaret Thatcher in reference to global capitalism, “There is no alternative,” which is often reduced to the acronym TINA.

The use of TINA proves that the capitalist apologetics are simply out of ammo in the war of words with critics. It further shows that there is a serious need for us critics to provide that better alternative that we claim is out there. If we fail to do so then we run the risk of proving that the Iron Lady was indeed right and that there is no alternative to capitalism.

There are several real world examples in operation today by which a framework can be built of a better alternative system of investment. In this posting I will address just one example, which is the Caja Laboral Popular (CLP) of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation.

An important aspect of the CLP is its Empressarial Division, which is responsible for establishing new cooperatives within the MCC. It provides the needed investment and then provides support, such as product development, until the new cooperative is established and is fiscally sound. The CLP is self-sustaining for it funds itself and the ongoing creations of additional cooperatives largely through the deposits made by those same cooperatives that it had helped to create, which have nearly a 100% success rate.

The Caja Laboral Popular provides us one glimpse of an alternative investment system. In future postings I will address other examples of alternatives to capital.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?

Once in a while a movie comes along that is so important that it must be seen. One such movie is “What Would Jesus Buy”, which follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. The good Reverend along with his choir travels the country calling the corporations to repent for their greed and for people to “stop shopping!” During the movie he clarifies that this hyperbole is actually a call to get us to moderate our shopping, choose our goods wisely, buy American, and spend our dollars locally so that the money stays in the community.

If you see no other movies this holiday season go see this one.

Visit the official movie site at http://wwjbmovie.com/

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Authoritarian Oligarchy

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” ~ Winston Churchill

It’s important to point out that in an economic democracy the primary goal of a non-capitalist investment system, as mentioned in several previous posts, would be the creation of economic enterprises that are owned and democratically managed by the workers of those same enterprises.

Capitalist firms are actually authoritarian governances. The employer controls when and where one eats, when one can use the restroom, how one can dress, when one can speak, to whom one speaks, and in what manner one speaks. Even if the employer doesn’t exercise such authority it’s usually because they choose not to rather than being restricted from doing so.

Most capitalists will acknowledge the reality of the dictatorial employee-employer relationship but will say that it’s not a problem because the employee has a legal right to quit. This denial of a problem ignores the hardship and risk involved with being unemployed. Plus, changing jobs simply means going from one dictatorship for another in the hopes that the next will be less abusive and degrading. The worker is not truly a free agent but is dependent upon the employee-employer relationship for his or her survival.

Even if an employee purchases shares of stock in their own firm they won’t have enough shares to exert any form of governance over their own workplace. In reality only a small percentage of Americans own controlling shares in the corporations. The capitalist mode of production is not only authoritarian but oligarchic.

This authoritarian oligarchy extends to state socialism as well. Whether the workplace is managed by a capitalist class or a bureaucratic class the worker is still in an economic dictatorship.

Democracy can be defined as government by the governed. It’s time for democracy to be expanded from its current limit of public self-governance to also include economic self-governance.