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Forum Post: Converting America to Cooperatives

Posted 2 years ago on Feb. 9, 2012, 5:42 p.m. EST by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Below is my extremly high-level sketch off the top of my head for how we might actually change America.

PART ONE -- Small Businesses < 500 employees. Create and pass into national law an Economic Constitution (EC). A portion of the EC will contain a list of all the known business models such as Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, Corporation, Cooperative, etc. The advantages and disadvantages of each will be specified within the EC. Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, and LLC will be considered "startup" and/or limited impact businesses. Their contribution on a national scale is very important, but unlikely to cause considerable damage to the national economy as in "too big to fail" bailouts, etc. Continue to provide incentives for these small businesses as exists today. These business are assumed to be limited in size to less than 500 employees (an arbitrary number on my part -- this could be any number agreed on by the founders of the EC). Include incentives, but not requirements, for encouraging small businesses to adopt the Cooperative model at some point in their future by providing tax breaks and other rewards.

PART TWO -- Corporations and Cooperatives >500 employees. Impose a deadline that all existing Corporations in excess of 500 employees (arbitrary number on my part) be required to convert to the Coopertive model by 20 years (also arbitrary) from the date the EC is adopted. Any new Cooperatives shall be required to have at least one-third of their employees having had previous experience with the Co-op model for no less than 5 years or 1 year formal education regarding Cooperatives (NOTE: the size and year requirements just presented are completly arbitrary on my part and could/should be changed to more realistic/desirable requirements as TBD by the EC founders). This ensures that the new co-op has enough employees either with prior experience or formal education to ensure the venture has a good chance of succeeding.

The encouragement of small businesses converting to co-ops and the creation of new co-ops cannot be underestimated. This will provide the larger corporations of 500+ employees a means of observing practical examples of existing co-ops in action in order to educate them toward planning their transition strategy and to make gradual adjustments within their corporate culture. Provide early adopter corporations with tax incentives and other rewards and government assistance in the form of consultants and other experts (entire businesses may/will spring up within the 20 year timeframe designed to assist Corporate America with the challenges of the transition).

PART THREE -- Once the 20 year deadline is reached, and all corporations have converted to the cooperative model, abolish the corporate entity from being legally re-established. As in the current US Constitution, the EC will provide amendment possibilities following the same (or similar) requirements currently in existence for ratification by the states (the ratification requirements don't have to be exactly the same -- that can be determined by the founders of the EC).

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The above is just a quick sketch off the top of my head to provide a small glimpse of what might be possible and how it might play out. Undoubtedly there would be many more details and changes to the suggestions I have provided, but this provides some basic idea about how we would transition the country to a new way of doing things and put Corporatocracy on the scrapheap of history.

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UPDATE: The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives. For more information, please click the link below.

http://social.un.org/coopsyear/

23 Comments

23 Comments


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[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

If you give incentives (money) to cooperatives but not other companies does this not punish the others for failing to give into government coercion?

You will be taking money from the group that you don't like in the form of taxes and giving it to the group that you do like. Could be a petri dish for for growing corruption.

[-] 3 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Please remember that the OP was a quick sketch I threw together in less than 20-30 minutes of typing. I'm not saying that I got everything right in such a hasty presentation. The main focus is to try to provide some idea of how we could get out of the Corporatocracy we're in and implement a more fair system for everyone. I'm particularly thinking of the large publicly-traded Fortune 500 companies that wield enormous power and influence. That is actually the primary thrust of my thinking.

I'm confident that if people got together and starting giving an idea like mine a lot of thought and attention, and worked out all of the problems that might emerge once you get "down in the weeds" of the detail required to develop it, that something of substance would emerge.

My idea is just to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

[-] 1 points by Listof40 (233) 2 years ago

I am for cooperatives, this is a good start...

Companies should be for the benefit of the employees and the public they serve, so the profits will benefit the community directly, not to out excessively to executives, or just to shareholders...the employees are doing the actual work...

I'm not sure how a good idea like this could be submitted to the movement... I wonder if there is a way to submit things like this in, like as legislation to develop... what do you think about this?

[-] 3 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

I don't know enough about the movement (wish I did) to say how this would get developed. I do know that on-line petitions can be submitted to the US government such as here

http://www.petition2congress.com/

and here

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/22/petition-white-house-we-people

I find it more than a bit frustrating that there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get access to those in Occupy who might take suggestions like this and "run with it" as you have suggested. I also wish this site had a help menu and a way to easily talk to the system administrator. Maybe there is and I just don't know it.

[-] 1 points by freakyfriday (179) 2 years ago

Yes, an inconvenient aspect of a leaderless, anarchic movement.

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Double Yes!!!

[-] 1 points by Listof40 (233) 2 years ago

Yes, not sure how it could be submitted...but it is definitely a very good idea...

It seems like so many of these corporarions try to take advantage of employees, or then if they outsource, they often treat those employees even worse...geez...

It would be better if they were cooperatives...then they could protect the employees instead of just trying to squeeze them for profit or stress them out with bad policies...

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

I am not religious, but AMEN to that!!!

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 2 years ago

As a small business owner, why on Earth would I want to make my business a co-op?

Corporations, in and of themselves, are not bad. They allow me separate my personal life from my business.

Corporations should not have control over our government, this I agree with. I don't see any reason to get rid of them all together though.

[-] 2 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 2 years ago

In China, poor farmers formed cooperatives to invest jointly in projects to benefit all members of the co-op. This would be developing better quality seeds or agricultural tools and machines. It also could involve hiring a representative to expose the co-op's goods in new markets.

Perhaps your business could work with other business of the same type in this way.

[-] 2 points by Mooks (1985) 2 years ago

I am not anti-coop. I was in a bookstore one when I was in college.

But what you propose sounds more like a corporate merger than a co-op. With all these farmers working together to increase productivity, lower costs, and grab market share, why would they want to share their profits with their customers? Isn't that what a co-op really is?

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Don't mean to jump into your conversation with arturo, but in the co-op model I don't think there is a mandate to share profit with customers (at least that I am aware of, I could be wrong).

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 2 years ago

I don't think it is a mandate but if a co-op is not sharing the profits and it becomes very successful, then how is really any different than most corporations/businesses today?

And as you wrote in your other post, the term corporations is very vague. My business is incorporated but we only employ 12 people.

[-] 2 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

The co-op model is different in that all profits are shared equally with all the employees. Actually, some percentage of the profits, the amount of which all the employees agree upon, may go into those things that would benefit the co-op like R&D, internal infrastructure improvements, debt reduction, etc. Those individual decisions are made by the co-op collectively, and the profit margin is still largely controlled by market forces, supply and demand, etc. The big difference, obviously is that all of the employees get to share in the reward of their labor, instead of stranger shareholders and top-brass executives/board making all the decisions and rigging things where the front-line laborers get nothing but a paycheck, possible downsizing, wage stagnation, declining benefits, etc.

I know you get the gist of what I am talking about.

I had a feeling your small business was incorporated. I hope it is doing well for you in this down economy.

[-] 1 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 2 years ago

I suppose the idea is somewhat different than what we normally think of as a co-op here. I lived in China for a year and read about their version of co-ops in their English language newspaper.

Their idea is for small businesses to gain economy of scale by working together. They might pass off some savings to their customers if the are able to function more economically.

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 2 years ago

Oh, yeah I agree with economy of scale and all. There is a difference between passing on savings and sharing income with customers though.

[-] 1 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 2 years ago

Sure, there is a difference.

By the way, what kind of business do you have? I have an English language school in Buenos Aires, and have been thinking of developing a cooperative of the Chinese variety to develop better curriculum.

[-] 2 points by Mooks (1985) 2 years ago

A dental practice. There are some corporate type chain places that take advantage of economy of scale by having their own labs, supply rep, etc.. but what from I have seen they seem to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity.

I am in my state dental association and a couple other dental associations and we often take things like classes and seminars together but we all maintain separate businesses.

[-] 1 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 2 years ago

Perhaps it is that in developing countries, where there are more gains to be made, co-ops provide a better advantage.

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Under the proposal in the OP, if you have a small business, no one is making you convert to a co-op. I gather that your small business is incorporated. Under the proposal, as long as your business is <500 employees, you could stay that way and not be mandated to change. The thrust of the OP is directed at the large Fortune 500 type corporations and the enormous power and influence they have on our entire nation (and the world).

Obviously, in trying to reform (actually I advocate abolition, but that's just my personal opinion) such a massively large, complex, entrenched system as we have, you're not going to make everyone happy. I'm absolutely positive that the very top echelons such as the mega-wealthy 0.1% would be very unhappy to see an Economic Constitution such as I have advocated actually implemented. They don't want to see any changes to the status quo. The Occupy movement is all about addressing the huge inequities that have developed over the last 30 years, and I know I don't have to go into that as I'm sure you are already aware.

Your statement "Corporations, in and of themselves, are not bad." may be true up to a certain point. But when most people think of corporations, they don't think of them as relatively small legal entities. They perceive them as large publicly-traded monsters that wield enormous power and influence both here and around the world. And their influence has now gone global. Occupy is all about trying to change things so that the entire world is not wage-slaved and devoured by a flawed Corporatocratic machine that's primary purpose for being is to maximize profit, which, as you know, they are mandated to do by law. If the CEOs and Boards don't do this, they can be severely fined (or possibly worse). So we now have institutionalized greed on an unimaginably large and powerful scale.

Occupy is trying to do something about that.

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[-] 0 points by betuadollar (-313) 2 years ago

I wish I could be so young again...

[-] 2 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

??? What does age have to do with it? I am 56. There are a lot of problems out there and the world needs everyone it can get, young or old, to focus on them.

[-] 0 points by betuadollar (-313) 2 years ago

Yea, I have my concerns, too...

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