Welcome Gar Alperovitz (GarAlperovitz.com) (University of Maryland) (New Economics Institute)  and Host David Dayen (DavidDayen) (Salon.com) (NakedCapitalism) (Twitter)

What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution

In What Then Must We Do?, political economy professor Gar Alperovitz slowly and deliberately nudges readers off the traditional course of political activism assumed to bring about progressive change – elections, legislative fights, protest actions, firing the twin engines of grassroots Democratic groups and organized labor – arguing that these methods have failed. He finds readers at that moment of despair, when the best efforts we’ve known to create the space for change have failed. Indeed, he doesn’t believe that these efforts can reverse what is now a decades-long march of structural economic, environmental and political decline. “Absent major national shocks,” he writes, “the capacity for fundamental political change is limited in the American context.”

What then must we do? We must work, gradually, opportunistically, insistently, for democratization of the economic sphere, creating a nation of worker-owned cooperatives and publicly provided goods and services. This shift in the control and ownership of property – energy, broadband Internet, agriculture, banking, health care services, etc. – is happening, at an albeit glacial pace, in areas across the country, in ways we often don’t recognize. 130 million Americans are members of some kind of cooperative, 95 million through credit unions, which have benefited from the nascent “move your money” campaign out of big banks (I am among the ranks of credit union membership).

To use an isolated success story, Chattanooga, Tennessee, has the largest publicly provided municipal broadband Internet service in the country, delivering speeds as high as two hundred times faster than the national average, at an affordable price, distributed by the city’s publicly-owned electric utility. This deliberate effort to generate world-class local infrastructure has attracted businesses to Chattanooga, as well as other economic development. Examples like this litter the book.

It’s nice to think that an evolution of further democratization efforts, focused on the communities most receptive to the idea, while using them as models to bring the rest of the country along, can succeed in creating a more equitable society where prosperity is broadly shared. And certainly, shifting how wealth is owned and controlled could generally have a salutary effect, though I’m skeptical of automatically fitting all public ownership examples into a frame of absolute good. (Should state-owned oil companies excite us, or Alaska’s public distributions of dividends on oil deposits? Or airlines that happen to be publicly owned in countries controlled by dictatorships?)

I wish more attention was provided to the flip side of the democratization scenario, which is also happening right now around the country – the privatization of public assets. This has accelerated since the Great Recession, as cash-strapped municipalities seek ways to balance their budgets by stripping their cities and regions of their resources. And it’s happening with the full culpability of largely Democratic urban mayors. Philadelphia is selling off its historic Gas Works. Chicago sold its parking meters, to disastrous effect. Operations and maintenance on the main highway between Denver and Boulder, Colorado is now in private hands. And there are dozens of other examples of outright privatization or public-private partnerships, a key initiative of the Obama Administration. Alperovitz mentions this in passing, but stresses that there need to be simultaneous strategies of holding the line against these predatory privatization efforts, the selling of America to private interests, while also moving forward on other fronts with public provisions of things like broadband Internet and electricity and banking. (Sadly there was no mention of one of my personal hobby horses, a public option for simple banking through the US Postal Service.)

It’s also unclear to me whether Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and worker-owned cooperatives have always and forever “embraced with a specific political-economic intent,” as Alperovitz claims. He notes the General Motors rescue as an example of how the government can take over a private company, and how the Voluntary employee benefit association (VEBA) of GM’s union partially owned the company in the aftermath. But of course, a feature of post-rescue GM is lower salaries for its line workers, hardly the intended outcome of worker ownership, in Alperovitz’ context. To use another example from the book, the biggest region in America for employee ownership is Ohio, which has been actively involved in such democratization for three decades. I don’t get the sense that their economy, wages and standard of living are somehow in better shape over that period than regions which have not embraced this model; in fact, quite the opposite. But perhaps this just means that they haven’t yet moved far enough in that direction. Alperovitz talks of evolutionary cycles, and when you are up against entrenched corporate interests, that’s probably the right way to think.

The book is excellent on dispelling the myth of privatization as an inherently more efficient manner to distribute goods and services. This conveniently neglects all the negative externalities private ownership incorporates, such as the threats to the economy from private banks (and the cost of the inevitable bailouts), the poor set of outcomes associated with our largely private health insurance system, the costs of “throwing away cities” by constantly moving factories to take advantage of tax benefits or lower wages, and so on.

Overall, I think Alperovitz nails the insufficiency of the current ways in which we think about motivating progressive change, and the suggestion of putting efforts into different economic models with workers and public interests at the forefront is a far better reaction than simple despair. “All of us have a vested interest in pessimism,” he writes, because it enables us to merely carp from the sidelines. We should rather have a vested interest in developing institutions that are sustainable, that aren’t dependent on endless growth at the expense of community interests, that serve the taxpayers who fund the system rather than narrow corporate lobbies, that will work toward reductions in inequality and the preservation of the planet instead of the pure profit motive.

I look forward to a good discussion on these issues. Welcome Gar Alperovitz to FDL Book Salon.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

149 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Gar Alperovitz, What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution”

BevW May 12th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Gar, David, Welcome back to the Lake.

David, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:01 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Greetings! Looking forward very much to the discussion! Gar Alperovitz

dakine01 May 12th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Gar and DAvid and welcome back to FDL this afternoon.

Gar, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in there, but how do people overcome the built-in advantages of the monied class who seemingly will always resist having government of any size run things like ISPs or even the traditional government orgs that David mentions such as water plants or parking meters or roads, etc?

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Hello Firepups! Great to be back here. And thanks to Gar Alperovitz for his participation.

I have a question about one of the themes of your book. You say that most periods of progressive change had unique characteristics, like the desperation of the Great Depression or the postwar boom that defined the Great Compression period culminating in the advances of the 1960s. Near the end you say that another Depression is unlikely to happen again, because economists understand the economy better, and also because politicians will be held more accountable for economic performance. I’m not so sure about this one – our current mania for austerity seems to preclude any kind of even temporary stimulus spending in the event of trouble, though I could be wrong (maybe we’ll get the kind of unsuccessful tax-side stimulus we saw in the GWBush era). Could you expand on these views? Are we certain that policymakers will do what’s necessary to avoid a deep depression should more crisis strike? Certainly this has not been the case in Europe.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:04 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

The answer, as usual, has to do with a combination of organizational development and political development, on the one hand, and the level of pain created by ongoing conditions and failure on the other. Think not of just one election. Think of the several decades of slow and quiet development that built up enough power so that when moments of opportunity arose, new things could be achieved. Think of the decades prior to the New Deal when the experiments in the states and localities laid ground work for what came next. This is a very, very common process in history.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Let me first say a word or two in response to David Dayen’s opening comment:
What Then Must We Do (hereafter WTMWD) suggests that two important trends are emerging in the United States; and that it is important not to confuse them:

The first is a trend of decay, pain, and growing inequality: Thus, the top 1% has increased its share of income from roughly 10% to roughly 20% over thirty years; CO2 emissions have gone up 30% since 1970; poverty has increased, not decreased; in many cities Mayors have privatized (as David Dayen points on); etc., etc. etc.

WTMWD holds that the trend of decay reflects a systemic crisis in the nature of our corporate capitalist system, not simply a political crisis. The problem is institutional not political in the narrow sense:
Quite apart from globalization, race and many other factors numerous studies have shown that labor union strength has been necessary to keep corporate power in check worldwide—and it is the decline of union membership over the last several decades from 34.5% of the labor force to the 11% range (6.6% in the private sector) that is one of the most important sources of the decaying trends. Labor no longer has the political power to “counter” corporate political power.

The (currently dominant) trend of pain is well known; the fact that it derives from deeper institutional and systemic sources is less often stressed.

WTMD points out, however, that in significant part precisely because of the pain arising from this situation something else has quietly begun to develop throughout the United States—and it is also a trend involving institutional change. The press has done little to cover this trend; not surprisingly the public and many writers know little about it. Reporting on the new developments is one of the main things WTMD does. This quiet, slower moving trend involves the democratization of ownership at many different levels. Thus there are 10,000 employee owned companies; 130 million co-op members; 5000 neighborhood corporations; thousands of “social enterprises, etc. (Little of this is covered by a beleaguered press with little capacity to report on local realities.)

Though many cities (trend #1) have privatized services; hundreds of others (trend #2) have created public internet companies; 750 are now making money through companies set up to turn methane from garbage into electricity; still others are setting up publicly owned utilities; public land ownership (land trusts and real estate development around mass transit exits) is becoming another way for cities to develop ownership, etc. etc. etc. In some cities (most dramatically Cleveland) sophisticated and large scale worker co-ops are being bolstered by the purchasing power of large hospitals and universities, etc.
Still other “blockages” and “reversals” have occurred: Precisely because of the difficulties Chicago has had with privatization, New York scrapped plans to privatize parking meters earlier this year. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey stopped attempts to privatize major public toll road operations; an effort in Pittsburgh to go forward with a proposed privatization of its parking system was blocked. A few months ago in Cincinnati a private concession plan was abandoned in the face of opposition, etc. By establishing direct public ownership of areas surrounding transit station exits, public agencies in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and other cities earn millions capturing the increased land values their transit investments create.

There are also profound problems building up in connection with health care and banking, problems which WTMD suggests are beginning to point towards long term, slow moving new possibilities: Vermont is likely to be the first state to create a single payer health system; California passed it twice (vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger); etc. Numerous states have seen legislation introduced to create state banks like that of North Dakota; etc.

The core argument of WTMD is that the first trend of pain and decay flowing from the collapse of labor is not likely to be reversed by traditional politics: it reflects underlying institutional power shifts.
The new argument of the book is that the slow build-up of many forms of democratized ownership offers longer term hope of a counter-trend that also involves institutions, but institutions different in nature from unions—and that such institutional shifts begin to suggest a new basis for progressive political power.

The book clearly states that we do not know how far the new trend can be pushed, but that in addition to traditional political activism, it is important to self-consciously develop the new trend so as to bolster progressive politics wherever possible, since the old institutional basis of progressive politics—labor unions—is now in decay.

It also points out that more and more Americans—particularly younger people—are actively exploring various ways to develop what is increasingly termed the “new economy.” And it suggests that growing social and economic pain is building up in ways that appear increasingly to force this choice: either build in a new direction, or the pain will continue.

I look forward to a spirited discussion!

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Great to see you here David, welcome Gar, really looking forward to this salon.

hpschd May 12th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I am curious about legal roadblocks to worker managed companies.

There appear to be elements of the Pacific ‘Free Trade’ agreement (being secretly negotiated on the ‘fast track’) that would restrict cooperative endeavors.

e.g. the above mentioned post office banks and state public banks.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 4

Good question David. Actually, I don’t think the primary reason a great Depression is unlikely is because politicians have learned more (though I think when push comes to shove, they are not likely to let things get really out of hand.) The main reason we are unlikely to have a great depression style collapse is that government provides a much, much higher level of support to the economy now than in 1929. It was a mere 11% of the economy that year. It is now roughly 32-24% of the economy depending upon the year you measure it–which means the “floor” under the system is much higher. Yes, major stagnation and decay; probably not crisis collapse ala 1929.

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Hi, Gar. So glad you are here for your new book.

I remember back in the days of Bush that the Ports had a privatizing event where the UAEmerites were to purchase one or more from America. People made a big stink about it, and the Longshoremen did too.

After a few media propaganda tricks things calmed down. We now have that private ownership. Is there anyway to track these sneaky sales of America’s infrastructure?

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Even though much of the book is describing our current mess and the institutional difficulties we face, this book has given me more hope and inspiration and energized me more than anything else in recent times. Especially, the conclusion.

You ask what DO you want if you don’t want capitalism or state socialism? And you ask us all to envision what we want and what our place will be in bringing it about. That gave me plenty of food for thought.

Phoenix Woman May 12th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Hello Gar and Dave!

Gar, I notice that you make a point of discussing how even “failed” efforts can wind up bearing unexpectedly successful fruit, and cite the example of the efforts to convert a steel plant to employee ownership. Can you name similar efforts that had similar outcomes?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to hpschd @ 8

So far cooperatives have not been blocked in the various trade agreements that I am familiar with; I am not sufficiently familiar with the provisions of this kind in the Pacific Free Trade agreement. That said, many governments have public or quasi public banks; also, these various agreements are all likely to be challenged if, as time goes on, politics builds in the direction we are talking about. Step by agonizing step…

Elliott May 12th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Welcome back to the Lake guys, thank you for coming.

-I look forward to this discussion because I am among those despairing of late.

-I live in PA and our not so dearly beloved Governor is busy helping to sell off our assets as well.

-Plus I am intrigued by the Chattanooga example of blanket broadband. My town isn’t so prosperous anymore and blanket wireless sounds so promising – it would give us a real lift, I think. Of course it wouldn’t be for free but the costs would be borne by us all. It’s a great idea. But I know Chattanooga works very hard to best serve their community (a friend lives there).

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:12 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 10

Good question: Some of this IS very difficult to track. And, indeed, many of the very interesting developments reported on in the book have hardly been noticed by the press (which is under severe financial pressure, and reducing reporting staff in many, many areas.) That said, the internet and individuals who are concerned have become a powerful force–including individual whistle blowers within some of these organizations.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 6

I guess my read is that the growing privatization at the municipal level was a response to the recession, and the need for quick cash. With our molasses-style recovery, municipal finances have come back up a bit, and that relieves pressure on cities to privatize. However, this doesn’t halt any ideological belief toward privatization or public-private partnerships, which we’re still seeing. And the big financial companies have a very overt role in all this. JPMorgan Chase is financing with $10 million out of their business development funds a project with the Brookings Institution to promote (I would say lobby) public-private infrastructure partnerships, basically borrowing off the “objective” analysis of a think tank to push privatized projects across the country, which are then financed through JPM, which is making a big move in infrastructure financing. This seems like a greater hurdle to get over, connected with the policies in the White House promoting PPPs (the biggest acolyte is the mayor of Chicago). I recognize the slow evolutionary trend you’re documenting, but what if the somewhat better economy and the growing privatization efforts get linked to the degree that a false equivalence is built? What if it’s not seen as the problem but the solution?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:15 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 11

Thanks for this comment. My wife is a psychoanalyst and we often discuss the psychological aspects of all this. Especially because the press keeps reporting all of the negative difficulties (and there certainly are plenty!!)–but also because people do not know about the positive developments–pessimism is widespread. I am by no means a utopian optimiist, but as a historian I know that the place to look is at the grass roots level, and what to look for are long quietly developing trends. The book tries to report on some of these, and I think they offer reasons for cautious hope.

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Gar, does your understanding of this problem carry over to other areas? Like the Bradley Manning Grand Marshal thing in San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade — it seems to me that the gay community is finding out that the Gay Pride Board doesn’t represent their interests at all, doesn’t have transparent policies or decision-making, and when the board held a meeting last week it excluded pretty much all the public and all the press. One camera, a few people were allowed in and got to speak for one minute only. It was a sham and a shame. And apparently Manning won the first vote itself with 5 out of 15 votes. Meanwhile 100 people in the street who supported him could not get in. It looks like our national/global problem – all power at the top, where there’s no there there. Do you see a way out? I’m wondering if San Francisco is going to find its own way.


greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 2:18 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 17

What do you see as your place in emergent democratization? To bring the message to more people? Are you also actively advising folks who are making conversions?

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 15

I think this is a key issue in the book. You have one theme where you say that the growing decay will lead to a search for new solutions. And that’s certainly true to some extent. But what if the mass media response to that decay are precisely the solutions, be they reducing the “unaffordable” safety net or privatizing infrastructure or whatever, that are separate and apart from your vision of the future? I have some concern that the causal links will be so easily recognizable to a mass audience, and they certainly won’t get much help from traditional media.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 12

This is very, very common in history–and in many, many areas. To move outside of the current range, think of the many American automobile companies at the early part of the last century that started up, and failed, but also taught others how to move forward. Think of the complex agonizing development of labor unions at that time, and how many different union structures were attempted until the dominant model became widespread. I had a friend who was involved in management training in the Federal Government: The first days of his course the students were shown films of 100 or more missle tests–all of which failed until a model was perfected. Efforts at getting the vote for women in the late 19th and early 20th century often failed several times in different areas before success was achieved, etc. etc. etc.

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 2:20 pm


Back in the day when I was in college, I took Business Law classes, etc. One of the things that keeps haunting me is that biz should satisfy the needs of the workers. I am all excited about the co-op trends and really hope to push them. With that said, do you think that a good place to start would be those biz law fundamentals of, food, clothing, and shelter?

In this global economy when all of our goods and services that we little people need are being shipped to the new Asian product centers.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to Elliott @ 14

Bottom line: YES, working hard, both to make these things work when in place is necessary. AND working hard to get from a to be over time building new directions is necessary. Political-economic change in general, and the kind described in the book in particular, is not easy. Not for the feint of heart. But possible. The question is how far we can take the new trends; and that depends in part on how painful the next decades are, forcing us all to consider new directions.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Not sufficiently informed to give a specific answer. In general, however, the game of politics is not for the feint of heart: there are always setbacks and situations of the kind you describe. Think back, however, on all the successful historic movements–including, for instance, the Civil Rights movement which had to overcome not only political maneuvering, but assassinations, murder, torture, bombings, etc. And yet persevered…

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for coming. So good to see people thinking and writing on this subject. But I think we have far to go. So far what i have seen for some 40 yr from liberal intellectuals is a lot of whining elitist language. This is accompanied by a strange reluctance to embrace or recruit the necessary populist base, labor and the ordinary people.

IMO it will not happen spontaneously as a result of disenchanted voters purely at the ballot box. I think now is a period of vulnerability of the credibility of neo-liberalism.

What hope do you have that we are on the way?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 19

We all have different roles to play. My first responsibility is to try to report on what I learn from research, and to suggest some possible directions that seem to emerge from this work. At quite a different level, simply as a citizen like everyone else, we all have a responsibility to try to make our democracy work. Hence advocacy, and activism, too, as anyone committed to democratic decision-making must understand.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I know we do need a cohesive philosophy and doctrine that can be easily stated and understood on the ready for when opportunity arises. And the people to know how to act. Sort of a shadow government structure.

Do you have an elevator description you could share?

Do you see any indication of such being developed? I have to say I don’t.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Since so much of what you write is targeted at the municipal level – indeed, you argue with respect to banking that “I am not that big on nationalization” and that you prefer regionalized public enterprise – do you believe that Congress and the Presidency should be de-emphasized as a progressive concern, in favor of paying more attention to either municipal elections or the business of governing at the municipal level? And how do we move the massive amount of architecture on the left that points in precisely the opposite direction? Certainly when you look at the ideological profile of most big-city Democratic mayors, you get the sense that a serious lack of vetting has been done.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 20

The direction you suggest is certainly a likely direction for many… HOWEVER there are counter currents and counter possibilities. The most important thing going on is that millions and millions of people have begun to experience real, direct, and personal economic and social pain for which there are no answers in the political sphere. Either innovation takes place, and hard work, locally, where they live and experience life OR THE PAIN CONTINUES…..
That is the big, big driver that is producing the new developments in my experience…
Another is the internet: People can learn easily and in detail about successful efforts, like the Cleveland coops for instance–and then try to do what has been done elsewhere in their own community..

Yes the media obfuscates and keeps ones eye on the wrong ball much of the time, but it is not the only game in town as the pain continues…

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 2:31 pm


I have not had the opportunity to read your book yet so please excuse me if you have this covered.

I once belonged to an Investment Club. There were 27 members in total. We did all the correct things by signing our legal Partnership Agreement and filing with the state. We were all EQUAL partners. Our entry fees were $1,000.00 each. We were able to immediately start business with our collective funds. Do you think a small co-op could do this in a similar way?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 22

The place to start in my view is the following: Call up three or four friends. Ask them to read my book or another one like it that describes what other people are doing. Or go to this website for lots of examples:


Then get together with your friends and discuss what you have learned–with a view to then asking what might make sense HERE in this community…

Once you have dug deeply enough I suspect you will find that you can do far more than you think, drawing on the experience of others and fine tuning it to your own specific community

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Your idea of knowing what will replace capitalism and building the blocks to replace it in advance of potential collapse of one kind of another of the present system has a strong resonance with me.

All throughout the Arab Spring in Egypt I was glued to Aljazeera. At the same time, I was horribly aware that nothing was in place to replace the dictatorship. It’s so cruel to fight so hard for freedom and not have a strategy in place that will win it.

Although I certainly have no love for the policies of the government of Israel, the formation of the state of Israel is instructive in this regard. The forces to create a state had a structure of government in place that were parallel to the powers in place: military, political, etc. When it was time for them to take over, their structure was already in place.

It seems to me this is what you are advocating – that we start building the blocks of democratizing wealth and work and community.

RevBev May 12th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 31

Thanks. Your book has incredible resources. Im wondering if there may be 2 or 3 books that you think are particularly good in describing/explaining what you suggest.

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Gar, Aaron Swartz wrote a blog post Fix the machine, not the person, about how a unionized General Motors plant in Fremont was a disaster — “a war” between union and management. In 1982 GM closed the plant, then Toyota wanted to reopen it as partner with GM. And they flew the workforce to Japan to teach them The Toyota Way, and it totally turned things around, using the very same people.

At Toyota, labor and management considered themselves on the same team; when workers got stuck, managers didn’t yell at them, but asked how they could help and solicited suggestions. It was a revelation. “You had union workers—grizzled old folks that had worked on the plant floor for 30 years, and they were hugging their Japanese counterparts, just absolutely in tears,” recalls their Toyota trainer. “And it might sound flowery to say 25 years later, but they had had such a powerful emotional experience of learning a new way of working, a way that people could actually work together collaboratively—as a team.”

Three months after they got back to the US and reopened the plant, everything had changed. Grievances and absenteeism fell away and workers started saying they actually enjoyed coming to work. The Fremont factory, once one of the worst in the US, had skyrocketed to become the best. The cars they made got near-perfect quality ratings. And the cost to make them had plummeted. It wasn’t the workers who were the problem; it was the system.1

I’m wondering if you read that blog post and if it meant anything particular to you? Was that for real?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 25

The book suggests that traditional liberalism is in dire straits. (I say this as a person who was trained in that tradition and was a Legislative Director in both the US House and Senate, working for liberal Members of Congress.)
(The main but not only reason it is in dire straits, I suggest in the book, is the decline of labor unions–the institutional muscle that gave it political power.)

But IN SIGNIFICANT PART BECAUSE this decline is leaving pain in its wake, millions of people are doing things in a new direction at the grass roots level–out of necessity!–and this offers hope, just possibly, of a new direction forward, one characterized by more democratic ownership forms, etc. as spelled out at length in the book.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 27

The new language emerging in many parts of the country speaks of a “New Economy” and the “New Economy Movement”— Another way people have been discussing all this is “Democratizing the Economy”– and still others talk of a “Community Sustaining Economy” different from both corporate capitalism and state socialism…
I think we will work our way to formulations that work for more and more people as time goes on…
For the moment “The New Economy Movement” is probably the best single descriptor of the movement described in the book…

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 32

Some of my friends, and great people we know of are doing exactly that.


greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 37

Thanks, I’ll check that website out.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I am sorry I have not read the book. But getting it into a short few sentences would help.

“Ownership forms” sounds awfully like “ownership society,” more privatization and more neoliberalism. :-) How is that different? A small co-op is as vulnerable to predatory practices of business as an individual. Personally I think we need to regain public land and public services.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Could you tease out a bit the linkages between employee-owned co-ops or ESOPs and a gradual move toward community-sustaining economic structures? I see this as possible, perhaps even probable, but not necessary. It’s entirely possible that, like unions, these alternative structures will work largely in their own interests, and those interests may occasionally not line up with the greater public good. Why do you believe that these wealth-democratizing structures hold an opportunity to create a more just society, rather than each individual structure just grabbing for whatever they can in a simulacrum of the lion’s share of late capitalism?

(I recognize that you have some examples of worker-owned co-ops creating sustainable agriculture, energy, etc. in the book. I just would like you to expand on the linkages here.)

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 28

Agree on two points: Our current liberal-left model is a centralizing model; and many Democratic mayors are hardly models I would urge.

The larger logic I think at work that moves–OVER TIME–in the direction of decentralization includes several elements:

[1] The creaky old Constitutional structure we all bow down to is, in fact, a hugely cumbersome and unweildly design: It is likely to continue to fail, forcing ever more concern in the lives of millions of people. Moreover, it gives huge power to small numbers, especially in the Senate where California with its large populations has the same number of votes as something like sixteen other small populations states taken together. We have lived with this 18th century contraption for a long time; it would not surprise me that the pain it is now causing will begin to raise profound questions over the coming era.
[2] The pain is felt most directly locally: so building from the bottom is all but inevitable.

[3] We rarely recognize how HUGE we are compared to other nations. (You can tuck Germany into Montana). Madison believed this would allow elites to control, and he was right. At some point the negatives of large scale, I believe, are going to become issues in the states that feel the pain. It would not suprise me if Texas on the one hand and California on the other begin demanding some new arrangement. (Texas, weirdly, already has…)

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 30


stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Not having read the book, apologies if the question is already answered.

But your approach seems to hearken W. E B. Du Bois’s reply to Booker T. Washington regarding Civil Rights; that a focus on bringing about small-scale local economic changes w/o regard for changes in the larger political arena is doomed to failure. As soon as the PTB recognize your gains as enough to constitute a threat, they will use their political clout to crush you and take from you everything you have gained.

Your approach seems to assume that the PTB actually respect things like private ownership (for everyone but them) the “free market” and rule of law and fair play. They don’t. Capitalist and free-market ideology is just a fig leaf to cover naked aggrandizement, and they are happy to violate their own “principles” when it serves their purpose.


Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 32

Yes, something like that. We need to learn as we build, and generate new ideas as we go from both experience and from learning from others. In the Afterward of the book (and in my previous book AMERICA BEYOND CAPITALISM) I suggest some preliminary directions to which the emerging developments point…

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to RevBev @ 33

Ah… Hard to choose…
A recent book by Marjorie Kelly on ownership (blocking the title at moment) is one. An old book by William Appleman Williams called THE GREAT EVASION is important. A still older one by Martin Buber titled PATHWAYS IN UTOPIA is still valuable.
And for more and more updated information on what is happening on the ground that you can build on see:

[put the Dash in, there is another org does different thing same name without dash]

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 2:53 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 41

Every year or so, somebody proposes dividing up California; it never comes to pass. But the scale of a 38 million-person nation-state definitely presents problems. Here in Los Angeles County, the districts for our 5-member Board of Supervisors are made up of 2 million constituents a piece, bigger than the populations of several states.

My favorite breakup model for California is the Chilean model – a little strip along the coast, with the rest of the (sparsely populated) state separated. Or there’s the 3- or 4- or even 10-state model.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I missed that blog post so can’t comment. HOWEVER very similar things have happened when people visit Mondragon, the very large, complex and extremely successful worker’s cooperative in the Basque country in Spain. (Very hot now and very inspiring among thousands in the “New Economy Movement”)

Phoenix Woman May 12th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to stewartm @ 43

But not all capitalists share the same objectives and they can and are played against each other.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to stewartm @ 43

Thanks you have so quickly put into words the concern I have been trying to express. :-)

The elephant in the room is a corrupt plundering moneyed business that controls the governing process. IMO that has to change as well.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I have to go. Thanks so much for your cordiality. I look forward to reading the book and will return later tonight to read the other comments.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 39

The book deals with democratization process underway at four levels:
[1] local: including coo-ops and worker owned firms and many other developments now underway
[2] municipal and state developments (some of which mentioned in my initial response to David)
[3] Special problems and opportunities developing at state and federal level with regard to two huge sectors: health and banking
[4] “crisis” possibilities–like the nationalization of GM, Chrysler and AIG (the largest insurance company in the world. ) Such nationalization DID take place in the latest crisis; in future crises at some point we may well see more, and kept public after the taxpayer bail out in some instances perhaps

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I work hard as a political and environmental activist – the current project being to keep our publicly owned utility governed by our City Council instead by an unelected appointed “independent” (read as business dominated) board. It’s a slog and taking a lot of my energy. I know holding this line is important and so I’ll continue until we’ve either killed the idea or we’ve got this board as benign and toothless as we can.

That being said, I really long to work on something that will feel like a more positive accomplishment rather than keeping the devil at bay.

bluedot12 May 12th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 9

In my little corner of the world there seem to be two trends. On the one hand there is new building. But on the other is severe decay . Where I live the decay seems to be winning. The city could be so much more livable. But it’s not going to happen. There is no one who much seems to care. Our mayor does, but no one else. So, of necessity, if it is ever to get better it is going to come locally. That suggests we should switch our attention much more to municipal and state politics. I bet we could make a big impact there, and influence our masters besides.

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 46

David, where do multinational companies fit in your scenario? Wondering how many little states could deal with super corporate tbtf tbtj personhoods, or with federal govt, any better than one California already does (or does not). Resource curse question? Fracking? Marijuana?

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Dr. Alperovitz,

When I read your book, what I found fascinating was that I didn’t disagree with what you explained, but rather what it meant.

You describe this localization as if it is a period of innovation and of “democratization,” and show great enthuasism in the “Pre-History” of the next American Revolution.

Yet processes such as you described HAVE happened in History before, when power became dramatically localized; the fall of the Zhou Dynasty, the collapse of the Roman Empire, and through the many points of Indian History.

And what has happened in History, is that when power becomes Localized, their relationships change dramatically because their “motivations” toward each other also changed as well since they become competing powers instead of cooperating powers. For instance, Chicago gets along with New York because they each send members in Washington. However, if Washington were to “Collapse,” then Chicago and New York wouldn’t meet with each other, and such would be natural enemies for the Great Lakes (and all of the “poor” communities would be swept up in the cross fire.)

So my question to you is, if you imagine these “Democratization” movements lead to localization at the expense of the “Central authority” what is to stop them from becoming Competing powers instead of collaborative powers as they are now?

Ohio Barbarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Gar, do you have any observations about the recent purchase of Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago by its workers? That is clearly a cooperative move. Thanks.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 40

Good question: There are several levels of response:
[1] AT THIS STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT,it is important to develop many, many models that teach concepts of democratic ownership in my view–and the IDEA that democratic ownership is possible.
[2] This does not mean that ESOPs are the best model. (They clearly are not.) But they are very widespread: 10,000 of them in everyday life. three million more worker owners than members of unions in the private sector. they show something different is possible.
[3] I devote a whole chapter and part of the Afterword to suggesting (as you do in your question) why–especially for larger rather than very small firms) a different structure is important–one that makes the community the center of ownership, with specific worker owned or managed firms subordinated to this… {check out Cleveland}

[4] In general an evolutionary path–in part guided by the kinds of tough questions you raise–is the way I think about it, and moving forward based on experience, step by step to evolve a better model as we go forward/…

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Well, it all seems like a fantasy scenario to me, and there are lots of forces pushing against any split. That’s especially true at this point, with state finances stabilizing. Honestly, if we’re going to see any kind of breakup it would probably come from the anti-tax right, seeking to build some libertarian paradise. I say good luck with that.

But the representation points that Gar makes are spot-on. I’d rather deal with them by simply abolishing the Senate.

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:04 pm

And although a “Roman style” Dark ages can happen, in most Dark Ages throughout history, technology still marches on, but more importantly philosophy is the struggle of the times (as you suggest), until the point of which there is either a dominant ideology (Confucian, Christianity, Islam, the Incan Empire) or an ideology fails to develop, and localization continues unabated, (the Indian Subcontinent, Native North America.)

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

oops, I responded @ 58.

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

David, I can see why you may think that, but unless the planet Earth agrees to stop Climate Change (Which again, would require a major authority), the process of localization will continue, and the slow march of opposition would continue.

Remember, I’m not talking about (the Libertarians seceding. I’m talking about AREAS seceding peace-meal at a time, because of lack of Authority.)

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to stewartm @ 43

Two replies:

Actually, if you look at the argument that WEB Dubois made in 1934, it was very much in the direction of building democratic ownership from the bottom up.. [Check out the debate he had with NAACP at that time.]

I am a historian: The PTB always oppose changes that weaken them. History suggests hundreds indeed thousands of cases where they lose.

I am no utopian. As I write in the penultimate chapter of the book, it is possible that there is no hope for any kind of progressive politics. Or even that a corporate state or fascism could occur. It is also possible [look to Latin America where many dictators no longer hold power] that this is not the end of history.

If you accept your view, then there is no reason ever to attempt change. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is an all to easy “Out” for people who don’t want to try.

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I love the quote you have in the book from a poster during the 1968 Paris uprisings:

“Question: How do you conjugate the word ‘participate’?
Answer: I participate, you participate, we participate. They decide!

As an aside, I was living in Paris during the 1968 uprisings, but completely unaware of them. I was walking down a long, narrow cobblestone street with my husband trying to figure out what I was seeing coming toward us from the end of the block. Someone pulled us into a small bookstore. As they passed, I was visually introduced to black clad, helmeted and shielded riot police. A horrifying sight.

stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 48

But not all capitalists share the same objectives and they can and are played against each other.

Yes, several examples come to mind.

For instance, while conservatives tell us that they’re pro-free market and pro-private enterprise, they’re all to happy to crush these very things when it suits a larger agenda or is a threat to their power. Just like they’re happy to throw their supposed allegiance to states rights and local governance out the window when it runs counter to what they want. Their only consistent true principle is to maintain and extend the power of the oligarchs.

Examples I can think of right off the bat involve instances of the Drug War, Ed Meese’s War on Pornography, and now the War against Abortion Providers. Ed Meese tried to shut down pornography using the “local standards” interpretation (take a porn case to the most conservative Bible-Belt jurisdiction one can find) but his war failed with the internet and with Big companies like Time-Warner finding porn profitable. Recently, Republican legislatures are passing laws to make it essentially impossible for any abortion clinic to operate within their state.

And this is just social issue stuff. What if a worker-owned business really started to make inroads into the oligarch’s profits? Wouldn’t you think that they’d move to put it under impossible constraints in order to shut it down and go out of business?


Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 46

I had in mind research by the Harvard [conservative] economists led by Alesina [spelling] that demonstrates over time that very large scale systems commonly break up in history. So not so much California dividing (though maybe so?); but the Continental scale US decentralizing to regions (one of which might be a state like California). The driving force in these studies is that the Center never deals adequately with the periphery..

We find it hard to imagine such change, but it would be surprising if -IN THE FACE OF ONGOING SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC FAILURE–much larger scale changes than many now imagine might occur. Check out Alesina et al.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:11 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 52

I’m afraid it’s going to be “Both/And” rather than “Either/Or” for folks like us. Great that you are fighting the good fight!

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 53


dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:13 pm
In response to stewartm @ 64

Actually, if an alternate economic system were to develop it would have

-A strong leadership
-A strong ideology
-A high level of consolidation among outside interest groups (IE: all the small and large businesses that work with it)
-Substantial resources (assuming that it is dealing with the parties it effects, and not a superior foreign state)
-A high level of appeal
-And many more things.

Because in order for an economic system to “take off” it must by definition have ALL of those things BEFORE it even begins. Starting an economic system is hard, but STOPPING an economic system is almost impossible (they can’t even stop Heroin, and that shit KILLS you.)

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 68

Remember, the Civil War was a war between Capitalism (A superior productive system) and Feudalism (A inferior and even WORSE productive system.) And even then, the South put up a damn good fight.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 55

Let me be clear (or read the Afterword or my previous book America Beyond Capitalism): I do NOT believe the system can operate simply on the basis of total decentralization. Not at all. I agree with the thrust of your question (at least at one level.) On the other hand, a system that is not anchored in democratic EXPERIENCE–which of necessity is local, ie where people live–can never be democratic in any thorough-going sense. So we need democratic local expereince as the precondition of a democratic larger system. (That said, the scale of the US presents unusual problems, since it is so huge.Regional decentralization may well be important, but such decentralization would not be the same as “everything goes to local decision making.”) Take a look at the Afterword and the previous book for a longer discussion..

stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 62

If you accept your view, then there is no reason ever to attempt change. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is an all to easy “Out” for people who don’t want to try.

No, that’s not true at all. For one thing, you have to do something, even if it’s not likely to succeed.

But my view is indeed bleaker. It’s that change only occurs when the elites become so threatened and so frightened for either the loss of their wealth and/or their very lives that they’re willing to make concessions. Or, at least some of the elite are willing to break ranks and make concessions. I submit to you that’s really what happened in the 1930s and what allowed change.

And, to some extent, the Cold War and a hypothetical ideological enemy forced them to continue those concessions. That is, until the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism, and the supposed triumph of capitalism, they lost that fear. They believed that “We can now get away with ANYTHING!” (rubbing hands together). That’s precisely how they have behaved since.


David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 65

We’re certainly in the midst of a great test case for this in Southern Europe. I’m struck by the persistent chatter of concern over the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece, as if Syriza doesn’t exist and their model for, among other things, more democratized ownership, has no constituency, even though they are far more popular than Golden Dawn!

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to stewartm @ 64

I understand what you are saying there about the corporate culture. However, you have to remember that culture is leaving the US to concentrate on the new Asian Markets. What we do to replace our local economies, is currently of no concern to them. They have their eyes clouded with $’s looking at the expansion from China eastward.

In fact, their greatest customer base is there with newly employed people.

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

STOPPING an economic system is almost impossible (they can’t even stop Heroin, and that shit KILLS you.)

I’ll guess that our economic system kills a lot more people than heroin does. Think wars for oil all over the globe. Wait, that’s not really a guess.

On Edit: That’s a reply to Dignitarian@68

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
In response to Ohio Barbarian @ 56

Yes! Great move forward, under very difficult circumstances. See my webpage for longer comment:


Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:19 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 58

Interesting to me is that the subject is on the table in some places, including abolishing the Senate question…

We are not likely to get to this level of questions for some time (if ever); but they are genuine questions and if conditions really continue to worsen, Washington [which is hardly "loved" even now!!!] may well become a focal point of serious challenge. A serious debate of this kind was well underway during the 1930s [on both left and right] but was cut off by World War II. The TVA regional effort was one result; another seven regional efforts were planned at onepoint..

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 59

Interesting line of thought…

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 63

I love that quote too….

Paris ’68 came closer to making some real change (though not ‘revolution’ I suspect) than most people realize..

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 70

Got it. You don’t need to tell me twice the difference between Democratization and Decentralization, although that concept can be very hard to explain to most people.

In my opinion, I see this game as a race against time rather then a gradual evolution. As resources begin to diminish, it’s going to a bitch to find that necessary equilibrium that can bring about those “Golden Ages of Peace” you often reminisice about in history.

Enjoyed your book, by the way, and I strongly recommend people read “Ill fares the Land” by Tony Judt to get an idea of how we have fallen and where we need to be (even if, as you pointed out, we cannot take the same road…)

RevBev May 12th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 76

The TVA mention reminds me of the several times the book mentions Katrina as the negative example. When will we ever learn? Katrina was such
broad and serious evidence.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to stewartm @ 71

Sorry, perhaps I misunderstood…

Ah, but history is not over…

We shall see..

A few years ago everything you would have said would have applied throughout Latin Amrica… but times they seem to be a-changing… [or at least moving in a new direction....]

stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 65

I had in mind research by the Harvard [conservative] economists led by Alesina [spelling] that demonstrates over time that very large scale systems commonly break up in history.

I would buy that, but not because of bigness. It’s just that historically, large-scale systems have always been autocratically ruled, and devolve into plunder economies (either based on plundering their neighbors, like Rome, or plundering their own populations, or plundering their ecological infrastructure). Because they are governed by autocratic elites who are shielded by wealth and status from the consequences of the unsustainability of their system, the system is allowed to continue with no essential reforms until the point of no return.

On that happy note, I’ll leave it to anyone to draw modern inferences.


David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to RevBev @ 80

And of course, the proposed FY14 Presidential budget seeks to do away with the TVA. An old Goldwater position!

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 72

Yes, will be interesting to see how this sorts out over time…. But also not totally instructive for our own case..

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 79

Thanks for the comment..

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to RevBev @ 80


RevBev May 12th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 83

Makes me weep. Goldwater must be very proud.

Ohio Barbarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

It seems to me that the emerging cooperative model is turning into a longterm trend, as I’m sure the author agrees. Still, when it grows enough to actually challenge the profit-making ability of our vested corporate interests, there’s going to be a strong reaction by our corporate elites, if the current system survives that long, which it may not.

It could easily destroy itself by then, but what if it doesn’t? What if laws banning worker-owned cooperatives are passed?

I admit this is sheer speculation on my part, but I’d be interested to know what others, especially Gar and David, have to say on that subject.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

There are points in the book where you predict a kind of End of Growth, a sustained stagnation of the economy and wages, and then there’s this other point in the book where you decry the growth imperative, and the need for developing economic institutions that are not required to grow. I actually agree with both points, but I can see where somebody might get confused. Can we disassociate “growth” in the raw terms of GDP and growth in terms of the kinds of personal improvements to people’s lives that can come about if we stop demanding 3% year-on-year advances in value?

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 3:32 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 60

Yes, I saw. I’ve been thinking.

I’d rather deal with them by simply abolishing the Senate.

What about re-empowering juries? That’d close the loop between the low people and the untouchable law right away. You wouldn’t have to get massive numbers of people or political parties to change the law, you’d just have any 12 people at any time constantly checking and balancing the law as applied, in each case, judging the law as well as the facts of the crime, if crime it be, with the jury nullifying if they felt injustice was being done. I think that’s what was supposed to be the plan to begin with. First Supreme Court sat with a jury, and first Chief Justice deferred to the jury for court decision. Constitution hasn’t been rewritten, but as it is now, nobody checks and balances the court but the court, the president but the president, etc., and there’s the system problem I think. Goes round doesn’t come round, and the DOJ is doing everything it can to keep decisions away from juries, and if it goes to a jury, to keep the juries as uninformed as possible. Do as we tell you. It’d make Thomas Jefferson and John Adams puke. “Truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth” used to mean something big.

My understanding (not a lawyer, not a historian) is that our judicial heritage goes back to the Magna Carta – British colonists carried British law to America. Juries were how you dealt with unjust kings. And there was a second Magna Carta, the Charter of the Forest (Noam Chomsky), to protect the commons from the king. The government we’ve devolved now is as crazy and unjust as any king, and the commons, if you judge by Tim De Christopher’s case, are defenseless.

I’m stuck on the Aaron Swartz lesson, fix the system, not the person. I wonder where we’d be if juries hadn’t gotten broken back… in the 1800s? I don’t think we’d have corporate personhood for long.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

By the way:

I gave a book talk at Rainbow Books in Madison Wisconsin recently–and “BOOK TV” was there, and ran the talk today. It is available on their website for anyone interested. (Someone at Book TV must have been on the ball: Rainbow is a truly co-op owned book store.)

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Wow, Gar Alperowitz and DDay in one place at the same time! What a treat!

I seems to me that Gar seems sanguine about cooperatives and worker-based/directed movements, ditto Rick Wolff with his worker self-directed enterprises. I am far from convinced. I am afraid that workers can be as easily suborned as representative govt (eg, who decides who can vote, and who you can vote for? let alone who counts the votes.) Put another way, you ever been on a PTA committee? Or dealt with office politics? To be successful, they will have to be very, very carefully designed, and very, very carefully monitored. I find it disturbing that a very common question to Rick Wolff is, “What is workers don’t *want* to participate in workplace governance? I just want to do my job and go home.” Doesn’t look like a ripe situation to me.

Another example: Toronto Time Bank, started in 2012, members 1 (the founder). I have tried to join, my app has been waiting approval for a week, I have phoned the Toronto founder/coordinator, he doesn’t know why I am not OK’d and I have not found any way to reach the main outfit. If I were paranoid,I would wonder why this works so poorly.

I don’t see an end to abuses, just an opportunity for different ones. How can grass-roots, good-faith types guard against co-option and capture by corporate, bad-faith types? Another example: OWS and other Occupies had homeless, druggies and etc dumped on them as drains. Classic military strategy is not to kill but create wounded, both for the demoralizing effect and the drain on resources. These guys are really, really good at it, have an excellent organization, access to decades of history (revolving door CIA, State Dept, military, etc.) are very disciplined, outstandingly connected, and extremely well funded.

How do us local types, who may work together on specific issues but who are not really all that unanimous (which in general I consider a feature, but still) , how do we identify and ward off threats? Not to mention, working on a shoestring — not an accident!

My gamer friend opines, “If it’s a game, and there are rules, someone will cheat.” How to forstall that? Not the BLS, for sure, or the SEC or the DOJ. We don’t actually have a rule of law in the US (well, unless you are Bradley Manning).

As a martial artist, I recognize that the first step in self-defense is to realize you are being attacked. I don’t see this realization in Canada or the US. Punishing Iranians, Afghanis, Iraqis who are basically minbding their own business apparently creates terrorists. North Americans seem to be immune to this effect. Too ‘patriotic’? too brainwashed? Too much work?

Meanwhile, reading as fast as I can so I can ask not-too-stupid questions. And am a slow typer, you probably already answered this… sorry.

bluedot12 May 12th, 2013 at 3:33 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 84

Perhaps. But I understand there is now 60% youth unemployment in Greece and unemployment of 30% in Spain. So what has to happen to trigger change?

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

You mention the Black Star Co-Op pub and microbrewery owned by thousands of beer drinkers. I just happened to be there this week and sat with 5 very proud owners. Delicious food, interesting beers and a clean relaxed atmosphere with a pleasant patio. No, I’m not an owner yet.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Ohio Barbarian @ 88

In 2011, North Carolina passed a bill, at the behest of the telecoms, banning municipal broadband of the kind Chattanooga has. Georgia is now trying to do the same thing.


There are lots of rearguard actions that will have to be fought along the way. See the section in the book on “checkerboard strategies.”

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 89

Now that is a worthy goal. Great comment, David!

Can we disassociate “growth” in the raw terms of GDP and growth in terms of the kinds of personal improvements to people’s lives that can come about if we stop demanding 3% year-on-year advances in value?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to Ohio Barbarian @ 88

Maybe so, maybe not. It is likely that some will TRY to suppress such a movement if it gains momentum. But it is NOT certain that all power resides with elties. If that were so, nothing would ever change. (For one thing we might still be part of the British Empire.) It really is a misreading of history to think that because top groups have power, and because they oppose challenges, that they must inevitably win.

For a few modern American references, look at the Civil Rights, Feminist, and Gay Rights movements for a start..

And the fall of the Roman, British, French Empires… and of Apartheid in South Africa… and of the Soviet Union… etc etc etc.

I am not arguing positive change is inevitable. Nothing is inevitable, either positive or negative–and especially judgments that because power exists in one form, that it must always win.

stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 68

Because in order for an economic system to “take off” it must by definition have ALL of those things BEFORE it even begins. Starting an economic system is hard, but STOPPING an economic system is almost impossible (they can’t even stop Heroin, and that shit KILLS you.)

As a ‘cultural materialist’, I’m in sympathy with you.

But really, I go further. I believe we do have an economic system in our DNA, and it’s the small-scale socialism that hunter-gatherers practiced, and their political system, where personal autonomy is maximized, coercion is minimized, and interdependence rather than “independence” is stressed. Find a way to recreate that in a state-level system and you’ll have unbeatable appeal; it would appeal to everyone but the sociopath.

Even then, it will be a struggle, because all state-level political systems and economies evolved to gratify those very sociopaths.


dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:38 pm
In response to Ohio Barbarian @ 88

If they passed laws banning it, then not only would the new system be so utterly strong that it must require coercive force to destroy, it would become even MORE predominant as the State would have to invest more and more resources to destroy it, until the State would wither away trying to stop it.

If they passed laws banning Worker Co-Ops, our victory by definition would be inevitable…


You may see this as a sign of Strength, but this is in fact the greatest sign of weakness.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:44 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 89

Good question! And good observation…

I think the current system is likely to grow some and stagnate a lot, with lots of economic and social pain one of its main products..

We have been taught to think that “growth” (of material outputs) is the same as everyone getting a better life–which it definitely is not.

For instance, the economy grew for much of the last thirty years, but for the average worker not much changed (the top 1% increases ITS share from 10% to 20-22%, while most others stagnated.)

So there is a strong case for a better distribution. (Here’s a nice little fact: If today’s economic output–GDP for the moment, even now as we stagnate–were divided equally every family of four would get just under $200,000. We don’t have an “economic” problem, we have a political problem in how to manage the richest economy in the history of the world.)

But there is a deeper issue about growth David Dayen is pointing to–that is growth in the use of nonrenewable resources. This cannot go on forever. Period. The issue this raises for the long haul is the following: Major corporations MUST grow (or they will be killed by Wall Street.) So there is powerful contradiction between what they must do, and the ecological limits we face. If there is ever to be an answer it will have to go beyond “regulation” to the deeper dynamic: turing them into public utilities or nonprofit structures of some kind are probably the only way to avoid the Wall Street dynamic. [See Part VI of the book]

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to David Dayen @ 99

Best speech ever. Or one of them.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Ah made it back. Of course an economic system can be changed or replaced. That’s how we got this current system which is operationally fascist. Klein in Shock Doctrine describes (and I watched it) in detail how this radical libertarianism, neoliberalism or neoconservatism was designed and the detailed plans for implementation developed. She focuses on shock but I personally see that can just be taking the opportunity when it arises.

I respectfully see addressing the national politics as doing something. And I am not intending to suggest that we shouldn’t experiment with your wonderful ideas. In fact I live in a small parochial rural community that does do some of those things.

I am all for lots of experimentation as to ownership models but it is critical that we strengthen our central government not only to provide rules enforcement but the uniformity of services and opportunities.

I respectfully suggest your model of small states collaborating just isn’t feasible in this otherwise connected world.

Yes we can experiment at state and city county levels. And I repeat your ideas are truly wonderful. But likely be successful in only a few in that the GOP is more strongly entrenched and radical in the majority state governments than even in Washington. Imagine some of these worker co-ops in Wisconsin, Florida, Kansas the entire deep south and most of the west to the coastal states.

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:48 pm
In response to stewartm @ 98

Honestly, Worker Co-Ops have only ONE weakness. If you removed that Weakness, people would read books about you into the end of mankind.

There have been two primary economic systems that we know of as being “relevant” to our time. Capitalism and Socialism (although I prefer the term, “Planned economy” because that is FAR more accurate to what it does then what Marx envisioned).

When someone wants to build a Factory, it requires resources of thousands of people to get that factory constructed. You have to establish the infrastructure, the machines, the building materials, the specialization of labor, etc. etc. etc.

The problem is, is that that amount of labor who would actually “work” at the factory is insufficient to the amount of people needed to get the Factory “started.”

Furthermore, in times of expansion, the small pool of labor (which may be in the hundreds) would need the help of tens of thousands of people just to expand further then what was already available.

This thing I’m talking about, is known as “Capital,” and there are two ways we know of on how to raise Capital.

The first way is that if the factories were to offer profits to people, then people would invest in the factory to gain enough currency for themselves. This is known as Capitalism, and it contains its problems.

The second way is that everyone is taxed a portion of their income so that a decision making body can gather enough resources to “build” the factory necessary so that they can distribute its products to the people. (Keep in mind that, before the 80′s, the Soviet economy grew faster then the modern “Russian” economy, and that the Planned model is the model currently practicied in China). This has it’s own set of problems.

The mythical “third” way, has yet to be invented. Workers cannot afford to build the factories they need to use, because the Capital requirements require people well beyond what is necessary for their Labor. So therefore, Workers must sacrifice their “earnings” to fund expansion, which is almost assuredly never enough, and more importantly cannot allow other people outside the Co-Op to bear the burden.

If Worker Co-Ops could raise Capital, then they would conquer the entire world. Until someone figures out a way, your more likely to succeed simply by reforming Capitalism and Socialism then you are to stick to a “half-done” economic system.

PeasantParty May 12th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Excellent point!

I am notorious for pointing out that us tax payers have paid for those bad mortgages about 48 times already. If Bernanke really wanted to help the economy, he would send out that $85 billion a month to citizens. We could lift the economy in a matter of weeks.

That is just not their plan and they really don’t want the economy to grow.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Excellent. Yes, the resource ratchet has been a problem for growth. This is why we’re getting a lot of happy talk about new “endless” supplies of oil and natural gas in the Dakotas.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:49 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 92

Lots to chew on in this question. As indicated above in one reply, WHAT THEN MUST WE DO? does NOT advocate only worker-owned co-ops (though it certainly supports them where appropriate.) I won’t go through the whole argument again.For the moment, however, for the skeptical (like HotFlash) check out the growing literature on the Mondragon experiment. (For those who know little about this, it is a large 85,000 complex cooperative business model in the Basque region of Spain. Very efficient. High Tech. Lots of participation. Lots of impressive studies. Also very egalitarian: top to bottom wages in most of it are in ratio 6-1. In a few, gets as high as 8-9/-1.. Tells us alot about what can be done, very high tech, very cooperative, provides some answers to your questions… (Cleveland co-ops mentioned above and described in the book in part based on some of its features.)

greenwarrior May 12th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

If today’s economic output–GDP for the moment, even now as we stagnate–were divided equally every family of four would get just under $200,000.

I was really stunned when I read that in the book. Who couldn’t live comfortably on that amount of money?

BevW May 12th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Gar, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book.

David, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Gar’s website and book

David’s website and Twitter

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 93

I have no idea what it will actually take. Who would have thought a few Black teenagers sitting down at lunch counters would be the spark that kick off major, major changes in the Civil Rights era. When there is lots of dry tinder around, almost anything can do it. This is definitely NOT to say major change is inevitable. But it is NOT to say, also, that there is some guarantee that nothing will ever change. We shall see… (Check out penultimate chapter of the book for a more complex analysis.)

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

But $200,000 is – what?

Here’s a tree:


Actually, it’s a redwood tree that dwarfs a troop of Boy Scouts.

The description says: “A typical redwood giant in the Redwood Empire. The ‘Boy Scout Tree’ near Crescent City contains over 147,000 feet of lumber and is 31 feet in diameter at the base.”

What’s it worth?

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 94

Yes, great place! I was invited to lecture U Texas and also Coop groups in Austin–and really enjoyed the place as well!

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 93

Three things.

Leaders, Ideas, and Opportunities.

It is the BEST of mankind which makes ALL of mankind.

RevBev May 12th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thank you both for coming in today. It is a fascinating book and rich discussion. Many thanks.

Gar Alperovitz May 12th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 109

Many thanks to everyone at Firedloglake, to Bev in particular, and to David for his thorough and astute comments–and especially to those who submitted such good questions!
All best

bluedot12 May 12th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 104

For the federal government there is no absolute need to tax for everything.

David Dayen May 12th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thanks to Gar for a really stimulating discussion, and to all our participants. Was great being back at the ‘Lake today.

As the great BevW mentioned, you can find links to anything and everything I write (though it’s a bit more few and far between these days at this Tumblr page. Or on Twitter.


bluedot12 May 12th, 2013 at 3:57 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 113

A simple one is to exit the eurozone.

hpschd May 12th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Thanks to all.

I’ve put in a request for the book at the Toronto Library system.
Hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll be the first to get it.

Thanks to Gar Alperovitz for the incredible work and dedication.

UCT1 May 12th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Like the easy solutions to global warming, about 40 years too late.

CTuttle May 12th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Mahalo, Bev, DDay, and Gar for an excellent Book Salon…!

thatvisionthing May 12th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Appendix: What Robert F. Kennedy said:

Robert Kennedy addresses an election rally in 1968.
University of Kansas, March 18, 1968

Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all.

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world.

Phoenix Woman May 12th, 2013 at 4:01 pm
In response to stewartm @ 82

Your comments concerning large scale systems flow into the reasons Gar favors smaller rather than larger nation states.

And yes, so much of the reflexive pessimism out there seems to be a justification for inactivity.

bluedot12 May 12th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Real resources are a problem. World population will increase from 7 billion today to 9 b in 2050. So the automobile and oil have a problem to solve.

stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 4:02 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 97

It really is a misreading of history to think that because top groups have power, and because they oppose challenges, that they must inevitably win.

The broad historical criteria seems to be, that the power of elites to oppose unwanted change depends on how much power they can wield. The amount of power they can wield in turn depends on their economic circumstances, and if they’re losing that (since they are the ones most shielded from want) things have to become pretty damn bleak for everyone not so fortunate (again, think, the Depression). Nobody said that this kind of change was going to be fun; it’s not.

look at the Civil Rights, Feminist, and Gay Rights movements for a start.

I don’t think these have anything much to do with establishing a more economically democratic society and thus are of limited relevance. The Civil Rights movement’s success was helped mightily (I believe) by the Federal government spurned by the needs imposed by the Cold War–it was an embarrassment to our claim to the new Third World countries that we were better friends to them than the Soviets, who could correctly point out that our conversations with our new Third-World friends couldn’t take place at a lunch counter in Alabama.

As for the feminist and gay rights movements, these were not a challenge to the fundamental economic system, but a result of them. They arose from the West moving from a agrarian to an industrial then post-industrial society. In these women were fully the equal of men in performing most work, while children became economic liabilities rather than assets. In turn, this resulted reverting more towards its biological origin of something for pleasure and bonding rather than procreation per se. Ergo, contraception, the pill, pornography, and non-procreative forms of sexual expression previously tabooed in a culture seeking to maximize children become allowable.

I will admit, though, that if you can manage things to evolve the way that allowed the gay rights movement to have so much success (where the only way to stop it would be to make major changes in the trajectory of the whole infrastructure of the culture, something even the elites don’t really know how to do)–well, that would be ideal. To make democratization of workplace they can’t stop because they don’t want to stop it or can’t really figure out even how to begin to stop it because it involves trends in the infrastructure so fundamental you can’t easily alter them.


bluedot12 May 12th, 2013 at 4:06 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 113

Just imagine what we might do with just the leader part of that? What could we do if we used OUR money for the public purpose? Instead we tremble in fear of the federal deficit and debt. How utterly stupid.

Elliott May 12th, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Thank you guys so much – best of luck on your book rounds

(and yay! Bev)

stewartm May 12th, 2013 at 4:16 pm
In response to dignitarian @ 104

If Worker Co-Ops could raise Capital, then they would conquer the entire world.

Hmm, Maybe I’m being dense, but couldn’t they sell bonds to raise capital?

Unlike stock, bonds don’t give the holder direct control. The bond holder does not control the co-op, cannot buy or sell or divide it, cannot take it over and oust its leadership. The most the bondholder can do to express dissatisfaction is to sell his bonds.

And as some have noted, that’s also true with the vast majority of (small) stockholders. Only the Bain Capitals benefit from being able to take over and buy/divide/sell companies, the small stockholder is in essence like a bondholder. An economy without stockholders would greatly reduce the impact of Big Capital to screw with things. And maybe, thus reduce its scope and power.


HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I know about the Cleveland Evergreen coops and about Mondragon. I have even read Mondragon’s Fagor div’s application for an EFQM award – over a hundred pages, all of the fascinating. One of my favs was the part where they basically cut out middle management, for the reason that they added no value to the product that the final customer would pay for (based on studies by Toyota, who Mondragon very much admires). Why, yes, I am an accountant, why do you ask?

Both Mondragon and the Cleveland Evergreen Coops started in very tight-knit communities which were oppressed from outside, which engendered feelings of unity and solidarity. I despair of the bulk of North Americans ever uniting on anything except USA-USA, manufactured objects that have to be pried from cold dead hands and (regionally) sports teams. Perhaps the fact that I am from Michigan (now in Canada) clouds my vision, but that’s what I see there. Canada is a little different, they will take a lot longer to realize they are being attacked, no idea if they will be any better at figuring out by whom.

My thought is that local community is the way that we will learn to govern ourselves in small units, and that we can build up local governance so we don’t degenrate into warlord governance. FWIW, I am working with my neighbours to achieve that (I keep my worries under my hat so as not to alarm them). But how do we protect ourselves from big guys who can command the government? hire Academi?

This G20 confrontation that happened about 5 blocks from my house. Ladies and gentlemen, the revolution will not be an intellectual exercise.

Ohio Barbarian May 12th, 2013 at 4:41 pm
In response to Gar Alperovitz @ 97

I think you misunderstand me. I DON’T think our current power structure can possibly survive. I completely disagree with your contention that change is not inevitable, and, that in some respects anyway, it won’t be positive. It IS inevitable; it always is. Only the timing and the method can be tampered with. History bears this out time and time again.

All power NEVER resides with the elites. Without the obedience of their subjects, they are helpless. Charles I of England, Louis XVI of France, Nicholas II of Russia, and the Shah of Iran can all testify to the accuracy of that statement.

“You can never step in the same river twice.”

I am as knowledgeable about all of the civil rights movements you cite, and the fate of all of the empires you cite, as you are. Probably more so in the case of the Roman Empire, probably less on gay rights. It doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion.

I think you are right in saying that if an attempt to outlaw workers’ cooperatives is made, then the Oligarchy has already lost.

“First they ignore you. Then they mock you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”
–Mohandas Gandhi

I am curious as to what METHOD you think We The People should use if workers’ cooperatives are legally banned, that’s all.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I am disturbed by this apparent acceptance of breaking up the nation into small locally operated cooperatives townships. There is no better way to virtually completely disempower the people to have any control or impact on all but the small parochial needs for living. Can you imagine a community sustained on its local river and community garden providing more than 19th century country doc medical care? Or having any capacity to protect the quality of the water in the river from upstream septic tanks? Can you imagine how much power small state would have over the next door state that is putting climate poisons into the atmosphere? We simply must have a national government to provide not only uniformity of laws but a system of shared resources. And even if it just a loose arrangement with some services at a federal level don’t you believe for a New York minute the moneyed national power brokers care for small town Alabama’s needs.

I live in a state with over 100 tiny counties and one big city. Of course it is Republican dominated and big into nullification and states rights etc. I know what it is to have one unapologetic broadband service part of the time that won’t upgrade because there is no competition and most of the regulations are local and 10% sales taxes and bad roads and miles to medical care. It looks like paradise but it is not.

We have a system of government that encourages private predatory looting. It is not just “capitalism.” (And there are many ways structure government possible it is not just a choice between communism and capitalism.

I resent the implication that recognizing this brings enfeebling apathy. It can and must be changed. I resent the implication that examining the limitations of small enterprises and poltical units is negativism.

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 5:10 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 131

Talking Stick,

MI is also has many small counties, one big city and is repub dominated (perhaps you are from there?). THIS IS NO ACCIDENT. As far as I can tell, the only winners in MI are ALEC and Budweiser.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 5:14 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 129

Ladies and gentlemen, the revolution will not be an intellectual exercise.

Yes and one begun from decay and corruption will not be bloodless. However we better be ready to govern ourselves but we also need some executives with executive smarts…. Of course I do not think it is hopeless to erode and replace the oligarchy we have now relatively bloodlessly but there must be a cohesive plan for governing and its implementation. That was the source of the success of what we have now and on a positive note, the plan and also the 1776 Revolution. They had a plan.

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

It’s over? Jeez, after the bell rang John Dean took the leftover questions and answered them

Had hoped for similar from Prof Alperovitz.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 5:18 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 132

Yes the states are really the labs for just how extreme they can get. Unopposed they will eventually fall from eating themselves but not before eating us. We have to be planning for ways to grasp the opportunity to put them down politically when it comes and know what to do.

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 5:22 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 133

I think one of the diffs betw the Am Rev and now (whatever name this might have in history) is that the British estab did not expect the Am Rev. Whereas, nowadays, it is quite the other way around.

OTOH, I am enheartened by the failure of the Greatest Nation On Earth and the MF, Supreme, Kickass, Paramount Military Power in the Whole Damn Known Universe’s utter failure to conquer Afghanistan.

Ohio Barbarian May 12th, 2013 at 5:25 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 131

If you think that capitalism can be successfully reformed and regulated for the long term, then I disagree with you.

Capitalism has only one goal–the accumulation of more capital, aka profit, the sooner the better. That’s it. It’s quite simple. And it’s absolutely relentless in pursuit of this goal.

It cannot be controlled or regulated forever. As someone said, to try to do so is like riding a tiger. You can’t do it forever.

I view capitalism more like a rabid dog. You shoot rabid dogs. Capitalism must be destroyed and replaced by something else. That doesn’t mean Communism a la’ Stalin. It doesn’t necessarily even mean socialism. Maybe we can come up with something better than any of the systems I have mentioned.

But capitalism must go before it destroys the biosphere itself. It’s insane.

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Sorta OT, I have been trying to friend a couple of you so I can get easier access to your comments (TS and OB, for instance) but I am not getting any options to do so. Perhaps it is for the better, I don’t FB b/c I don’t want to puy=ut my own nii8ck in a noose. but I would really like to be able to get connected with you guys. But I understand that it might not be good.

OTOH, I just might be doing it wrong. Any help?

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Did I say I want to regulate capitalism? Hell no. I want to get rid of it or make it so small you can drown it in a bathtub. But you have to have something ready to replace it with. And I would like to see some plans to revolution, hopefully bloodless.

I think there is a spectrum of alternatives. It is not just Friedman Capitalism or Stalinist Communism.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 5:41 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 138

I don’t do the FaceBook part of here except the occasional diary. Email me at TalkingStick….at….windstream…..net and I will send you my real name and how to hook up with the account I use. (You know how to convert what I put up to a regular email address I am sure.)

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Special note to my Mr or Ms FBI person who reads blogs and anyone else……Re my #137 post, I mean to say I hope the inevitable revolution will be well planned and political and bloodless. I oppose violence in any cause.

Ohio Barbarian May 12th, 2013 at 6:13 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 139

No, you DON’T have to have something ready to replace it with. Besides, there’s always chaos. Something will spring up out of that to establish some order. It always does.

Saying you must have something to replace capitalism with just provides an excuse for lesser of two evils, or fear of the unknown, thinking that will let it keep going for awhile longer. Personally, I think democratic socialism and cooperatives have potential, but that’s just me.

You are right. There IS a spectrum of alternatives. I wouldn’t count on a revolution being bloodless, though. They seldom are. A Reign of Terror is probably unavoidable. A message that there’s no going back is essential. I hope I’m wrong about the reign of terror thing.

I misunderstood you about regulating or reforming capitalism, though. Sorry.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 6:19 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 138

I just sent you a friend request as TalkingStick on the FDL facebook. If you go to “my account” by hitting it on the top bar and hit my profile from the menu that comes down. You should be taken to a page with a section lower right called toolbox and there is a menu to find people. It will take you to the member directory put the user name you are seeking in the search box and when it comes up there is a button to request friend. Good luck.

Lorraine Watkins May 12th, 2013 at 6:23 pm

We basically agree. I am totally disillusioned with free market capitalism and do believe the very structure is always corrupting if not evil.

I like social democracy best also. I do think or rather HOPE the chaos and bloodletting can at least be minimized if there is a plan and a movement to get into place asap.

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 6:27 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 140

Done. If you can still edit perhaps to delete, or ask mod.

HotFlash May 12th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

My dear Ohio B,

I don’t think we need to have a total economic system all ready to replace capitalism, or even a complete political system. But we have to have *something* or They will fill that vacuum and We will not like it, guaranteed.

I think if we can forge local alliances we will at least have some hope in hell to work together to manage food, clothing, shelter, which, I submit, none of us can manage very well individually. My guess is that many will not survive, but throw enough mud yada. I have more serious concerns about defense, They got all the firepower, satellites, drones and Kevlar. However, as I say, I am enheartened by the successful resistance to invasion by technologically inferior but very determined societies. I can be very determined.

I also think that establishing local governing units (streets, neighbourhoods), and they can start with community gardens and other innocuous things, and alliances thereof would be real democratic governance rising up beneath the top=down model, and could produce a case of “what if they declared martial law and nobody saluted”. Or at least we would have friends to remember our names and put us on tye plaque should we eventually win.

But what to do about the opportunists, warlords, and the Bad Guys? Stamping my feet and whistling (about all I am capable of) will not Them. So there better be lots of Us, trying lots of ways, and hopefully, some of Us will survive to carry on.

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 8:06 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 146

I tell myself two things as a Millennial.

1) Although the “Direction” is atrocious, we have about two generations (40 years) to save the “West.” Honestly, the HARD part of dealing with Climate Change is establishing the leadership. Once the leadership is established, getting the Science community to reverse and adapt to Climate change is a non-effort. (Those geeks are only more socially competent then occupy)

2) Now is the time to assume leadership. Political communication, political philosophy, and even political participation have atrophied to the point where a couple hundred half-competent activist could conquer the contienent with little to stop them.

I am in the Democratic Party, I’ve talked to Democrats; to call it a PR firm would be wrong, for a PR firm would have to be competent.

Back in the early 20th Century, you would see highly trained revolutionaries skilled in organizing conservatives to leftism and then enforcing that order on society. Today, I don’t think a leftist can even get HIMSELF to organize.

It’s really weird if you think about it. It’s almost like if the entire population shrunk a foot. Who was once 6’6 is now 5’6 and those who were but average are now midgets. The problem is not getting people together, the problem is getting YOURSELF together.

But to answer your question, it will probably be a guy (with very good odds it will be me) who will teach his knowledge to eight other people, and those eight will teach a few dozen, and that few dozen will conquer the country.

Learning things like
-Recognizing Archetypes (Read Haidt)
-Recognizing Narrative structure (Read Lakoff)
-Constructing Revolutionaries(Read Lenin)
-Dividing Capital (Copy what Chavez did, cause he wasn’t the kind of guy to intellectualize that activity)
-Constructing Identities (Read Marcia, but also Christian missology)
-Magic Bullet Theory
-Opinion leader movement (Read Jennifer Granholm, or better yet, earn some money and HIRE her while she’s still alive.)
-Developing Communication Stamina…and then Communication Skills. (Number one reason why Activist fail… they don’t have the stamina to deal with the adversity.)
-Breaking down the Confidence of others. (A very important skill, but not a very nice one.)

It’s all these skills that were obvious before 68, but have now become completely forgotten except for a few.

But to answer your question, Hotflash, the more important thing is to have an ORGANIZATION ready to fulfill the void, rather then an idea, because organizations can make responses, even if they are poor, where as ideas are just inert.

dignitarian May 12th, 2013 at 8:27 pm
In response to stewartm @ 128

Clearly you recognize the nature of the beast, unlike a lot of leftist that I encounter who prefer fantasization rather then practicality.

However, the situation is very…delicate… because Labor can only offer Labor, and financing Labor is EXACTLY how indentured servitude started (I’ll pay for your farm if you work on my farm for five years… what’s that, you have a unexpected life crisis and you must return to England? Tough shit, work for me, pay me back, or go to jail.)

You see, handing out Bonds requires that Workers have Assets to serve as Collateral, because if doesn’t have Collateral, then it cannot compete with those who do. Since a person can only offer his Labor, his “Collateral” becomes himself, and so the person knows that he can get the money back whether it is through his enterprise or enslaving him for another enterprise.

And even more unfortunate, even if ALL the workers issued Bonds, it wouldn’t do much to penetrate many, if any, markets.

Now it is true, the workers could use the company’s assets as Collateral… but then take a step back, and then realize how do they get those Assets to begin with without Capital?

I should be frank at this point. I am a Capitalist because I am businessman and own an LLC. But I should also be Frank, I am a Socialist because I believe in providing for those who do as they are asked. Honestly, I understand both systems to make a new system.

This new system, wouldn’t be “better” then Captialism or Socialism, but would be more “appropriate” especially for the service industry.

Basically, I am very close to constructing this arrangement.

-I can promise you that you can elect your bosses

-I can promise you enough assets from the community to build your store

-I can promise you that you can keep your profits that you make.

-I can promise you that your customers will get both your services AND be reimbursed with your profits.

-I will promise an equal relationship between Capital and Labor.

-I will loan money to you at no interest when you buy your first house, buy your first car, buy your second care, and send your kid to college.

But here is the “Trade-off” of this functional Worker Co-Op

-I will never, ever, ever, pay you a wage. (I will give you the grocery store, fill it with food, and then organize the community to buy your service. But that is all I will do. You will either make a profit, or you will starve.)

-You must take all your earnings, and invest in my Credit Union (You make a $100,000 a year as a service worker and want to pull it out of the Credit Union for this sweet deal that a broker promises? Tough shit.)

-You will never be independent, or “one your own” no matter how much you fantasize that you can go out to the wilderness, for you are not a business, you cannot survive on your own, and being independent you will become a business and issue shares for Equity once your run out of Assets as Collateral.

Like I said, I’ve gotten it pretty down, with a balance sheet in order.

But I’m a nobody. I don’t have a PHD. I don’t have a Graduate Degree. I don’t even have a Bachelor Degree. Academia is too preoccupied with Anarchism to consider a working system, and even then, I couldn’t get my foot in the door.

And so I will have to build it myself, and learn from it.

Phoenix Woman May 12th, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Reigns of Terror lead to Thermidors, which often undo most if not all the gains made.

But even the “failure” of the English Civil War — which resulted in a police state run by Oliver Cromwell, followed by a Restoration that stopped both the good and the bad of Cromwell’s movement — led to the ideas of the Levellers (who were so pro-egalitarianist that Cromwell started persecuting these people, his own allies, as soon as he felt safe enough to do so) being circulated among European intellectuals, and being absorbed a century later by the persons who would go on to write the Constitution of the United States of America.

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