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Forum Post: Theory: Community, not Communism

Posted 12 years ago on Oct. 5, 2011, 3:06 p.m. EST by meep (233)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Preface: I hold with those who believe that the purpose of this movement is primarily to limit as much as possible the power that corporations have over American politics and to build a spirit of communication, discussion, and openness to counter the rhetoric of hate. This post is not about that and is rather a reaction to discussions of socialism and the frustration with capitalism that undeniably exists within certain members of the community.

We don't need communism to have community. We don't need socialism to be social. Capitalism as we understand it does have a funny way of dividing us, of making us feel separate and alone, but I believe that is because it is capitalism as we understand it. We can choose to understand it differently. We don't need to government to manage of socialist transformation, nor do I understand why we would want to. If one of the foundations of marxist thought is the notion that capitalism creates a disconnect between labor and ownership of labor, then I fail to see how the government can fix that. I also fail to see how national unions can fix that. All they can do is create a counter weight to the power of the capitalists. If you examine the history of communism you will see that when the unions and government defeat the capitalists, they merely take their place, the disconnect still exists only now managed by the party or the union. If it is the spirit of Marxism that you love, then you can have it. You can have it without revolution, without government intervention, without national unions. Let me tell you how:

-Start a business where every employee is an equal owner of the business.

-Make a profit, grow, and hire more people. Don't sit on your profits, or take them home with you, but grow.

-When your business becomes too large, don't stop growing. Instead split, divide, reproduce.

-When you projects become too large for one employee owned corporation, partner with other corporations. Specialize and work together like cells in an increasingly complex organism.

If you follow this model then what you will achieve is evolution. There will be no need for revolution. As the wisdom and power of social living and social working grows it will inevitably replace those aspects of our current culture and economy that are inferior, and because it is not Amoebic it will be able to experiment, evolve, and assimilate the aspects of our current culture and economy that may still be superior. Capitalism is not the enemy of socialism. In truth there is a powerful harmony to be found when you understand how they can serve each other.



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[-] 2 points by atki4564 (1259) from Lake Placid, FL 12 years ago

Agreed, "start a business where every employee is an equal owner of the business". Consequently, consider our group's alternative online direct democracy of business at http://getsatisfaction.com/americanselect/topics/on_strategically_weighted_policies_organizational_operating_structures_tactical_investment_procedures-448eo and then direct questions or comments to our group's 19 members committed to that plan at: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/StrategicInternationalSystems/

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

1) I love it!

2) That pitch needs to seriously be simplified. You need a single well-constructed and inviting website to express this plan in as concise a way as possible. Doesn't have to be fancy (this site isn't). Facebook page? Twitter account?

3) You'll probably want to start small, one town or city, to prove it can be done

4) Buying out companies that are already profitable and converting them to employee ownership seems like the best tactic to me.

5) "Strategically Weighted Policies, Organizational Operating Structures, & Tactical Investment Procedures" Whaaaaaaat??? Need a simple and better name, like EmployeesOwn, ComeTogether, OurBank or something like that, though there's a good chance those are already taken :)

If you really want to make something like this successful you will probably also need to train and facilitate the transition from investor to employee owned. I have some thoughts on governance if you're interested.

[-] 1 points by atki4564 (1259) from Lake Placid, FL 12 years ago

Agreed. Speaking on behalf of our group we like all your ideas in this regard (others have similar suggestions), so we hope you'll join our group because without 65,000 Members we can't make the proposal a technical and mathematical reality, agreed?

As for "simplifying the pitch", I have been trying to simply that pitch for the past 27 years in doing that Business Analysis as a Marine, Certified Public Accountant, Computer Programmer, and Socioeconomic Analyst, so please forgive me if I am not talented enough to condense it any more simply, but I fully understand and agree with your point.

Yes, we only need to form 1 Home Town Bank of 65,000 to start and thus give people a solid working example of how to raise Main Street above Wall Street.

Yes, "buying out companies", at a decent price, is a necessary Tactical Investment Procedure in order to maintain socioeconomic stability during the transfer of power from Wall Street to Main Street.

Strategically Weighted Policies, Organizational Operating Structures, & Tactical Investment Procedures" Whaaaaaaat???

These are military terms born of military minds in the formation of the group's plan. It's just the way we think, but we could use good marketers like yourself to re-formulate it.

Yes, our training program begins by having all Members learn to be Outside Bank Directors according publications from the Federal Reserve Bank at: http://www.bankdirectorsdesktop.org/

Please join our group at http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/StrategicInternationalSystems/ and hit the facebook "like" button at http://getsatisfaction.com/americanselect/topics/on_strategically_weighted_policies_organizational_operating_structures_tactical_investment_procedures-448eo so your friends can consider our group's plan as well, for if we go viral on the net then we'll get the 65,000 Members needed to start our first bank quite quickly, agreed?

[-] 1 points by gawdoftruth (3698) from Santa Barbara, CA 12 years ago

great points.

[-] 1 points by gardenguy (27) 12 years ago

Democracy, not corporatocracy! Please consider instituting a purple finger vote within Occupy as a means of building a consensus and establishing a coherent voice?

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Unfortunately I work full time and can't make it to the rallies. Maybe I can find some time to stop by this weekend or next. What's a purple finger vote?

[-] 1 points by gardenguy (27) 12 years ago

A purple finger vote would be based upon the system developed in Iraq. Mobilize a survey in the General Assembly, print inexpensive ballots, ink the fingers of all who mobilize to participate to ensure no one citizen votes more than once...

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

Your idea is to "drop out" of the current industrial economy and start a new economy.

Sorry, but I think from a rational/technical perspective, we need the one we have got. Among other things, it produces the computers. It would probably be easier to reform our current economy, than to try to start a new economy.

Especially since the new economy would have to be based on having (approximately) zero land, zero resources, and zero finance capital. (Zero is roughly what 80% of the country has.)

However, you might be interested in the Mondragon cooperative model, in any case. http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-new-economy/mondragon-worker-cooperatives-decide-how-to-ride-out-a-downturn

You might also be interested in reading about the "Back to the Land" movement of the 70s which attempted to do the same thing. There are still communes founded along these lines; see http://ic.org and be sure to read about Twin Oaks, Dancing Rabbit, and Eastwind.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

My intention was not to suggest we drop-out of the current economy. The business model I'm proposing can exist within the current model, grow within that model, and then over time replace it as it proves to be more favorable to the participants. These employee owned businesses would still interact with investor owned businesses. They would still buy computers and other goods, though they might favor buying them from employee owned retailers once those exists. And I'm not a back to the land type of person, I'm a software engineer, although I think I would like to live in a techno-commune, that's not what I'm advocating cause it may not be for everyone, but as a personal choice it sounds interesting.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

Oh, I forgot to mention the factor-e farm and global village construction set.

Anyway, whether the "dropping out" process is gradual or sudden, the issue remains that if the new enterprises must remain competitive, then the system actually remains unchanged. Any business that is forced to compete with capitalist businesses cannot alter capitalist practices, it cannot de-escalate the competition (for example it cannot provide safer working conditions if these are more expensive). And it cannot constitute a democratic allocation of resources; it must allocate resources according to the outside market.

Capitalism is not something that anybody "opted in" to; instead, capitalist style businesses are the form that production is required to take in the context of the entire system, or else there is no access to resources.

To create the outcome you seem to desire, it would make much more sense simply to tax corporations in the form of forcing them to issue new stock to workers. I believe this form of tax has been put in place in some places already.

Of course it is not going to change the nature of alienation just to give stock options to workers...

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Precisely, and the ideal of what I am suggesting here is more than just stock options but equal ownership for all employees, which I posit can change the nature of alienation.

You say "it cannot provide safer working conditions if these are more expensive". That is only the case if the capitalist is not making a profit. If the capitalist is making a profit, then it means that an employee owned company could make the choice that instead of taking those profits that would have gone to the capitalist home with them they will use it to improve security. I would also suggest that an employee owned system may have more motivated employees and a strong sense of purpose, which also could make them quite competitive in a capitalistic market. I believe that there are examples of how employee owned companies can be competitive even in our current economy.

I guess my primary point is that I'm not opposed to competition. Competition is like fire, both useful and dangerous. We can maximize it's use by allowing the competition to exist between groups and we can minimize it's dangers by driving it out of individual interactions. My assuming ownership by the employees instead of ownership by the investor you create a sense of cooperation within that works in synergy with competitive impulses that are directed outward. You create a system of evolution that does not sacrifice human need for community or make the reality of the individual too stark.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

If the company has to raise funds by selling stock, it can't just decide not to issue profits -- it will lose financing. And it may not even be possible to maintain a profit (or even to break even) while providing safe and humane working conditions, if the competition does not have to. (Basically this is why USA cannot compete against China, Bangladesh, etc., in manufacturing.)

The competitive interests directed outward also remain a problem even if the workers receive the profits. As the most important example, the workers can exclude non-workers from working, and thus exclude a segment of society from ownership. Besides this, they can collectively require themselves to be subjected to the same conditions as other firms, including the condition of an alienating central authoritarian control, in order to assure financing, profitability, and survival.

The deep problem with competition in a capitalist context is that people have to compete against natural resources and against robots. I don't think there is any way to make this humane, especially as robots increase their capabilities continuously, while many resources become continuously more scarce. It also effectively _dis_incentivizes labor: the primary object of capitalist competition is actually freedom from the need to compete; i.e., one competes for the right to exit competition. Thus in very significant respects (especially as regards large oligopoly markets; e.g., telephone networks, airlines, television networks) capitalism is systematically anti-competitive.

It's also notable that the standards of competition are set by those with the most consumer buying power. Thus, an entire nation in Africa can have less control over what the world competes to accomplish than a few hundred white men.

There is also the fact that, for all its pretenses, at the top levels of management capitalism does not really incentivize productive behavior: the way to rise to the top of a corporate hierarchy is through social jockeying for the best positions, seeking credit for the work of entire teams when they succeed, avoiding blame when they fail, creating favor and trust with those in power, destroying the favor and trust of your competitors, etc. This is not a problem specific to capitalist enterprise, of course: the same could be said, in varying degrees, of military hierarchies, academia, or government bureaucracy. What distinguishes capitalism is only that its ideology of meritocracy claims it to be free of this phenomenon.

Sports, within teams, are a good example of truly fair meritocratic competition; as evidence of this, note that in professional sports, nepotism is absolutely unheard of -- except for coaches. This is certainly not true of business! (Nor hollywood, government, military, or academia.) Sports teams can effectively incentivize players by giving game time to the best performers, as measured by objective metrics. Businesses simply do not work like that, mainly because there are just way more competent people than there are positions, but also because there are few objective metrics (it is possible to ascertain whether profits increased, but not by whom), and interpersonal trust and social relations are more important than actual capabilities.


Anyway, for me personally, the search for ways of dropping out of the system, in one form of another, has been a large part of my life. My main point in responding to your thread here is to highlight that the difficulties of doing so are immense -- within the context of a system that forces all components into a particular form. This is something that the "back to the land" hippies discovered over and over again, in various experiments, and the main reason I think you should look into them. Not only is the nature of work a product of the system, but even the nature of the family. It is extremely difficult to break free of any kind of social chains, which are often invisible until one tries.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Such a company wouldn't have or sell stock. That would limit to some extend it's ability to raise starting capital, but it could issue bonds or take out loans, which do not grant the holder ownership rights or a share of profit.

Good point about workers excluding non-workers. Part of my theory relies on the idea of growing when there is money to grow with, but there is no guarantee that companies will actually do that. I don't think an epidemic of that is any more likely under an employee ownership model than an investor ownership model, probably less likely since workers get to decide how much they work and will probably choose more free time and more co-workers over wealth and a shortage of free time. Even if they wouldn't employee ownership is still an improvement for all the other reasons I discussed, but maybe the non-worker exclusion problem suggests that it's only a evolutionary step in the right direction and not the final answer...

The kind of capitalism I propose is a kind of democracy. Democratic nations, unlike imperial or feudal nations, don't often conquer their neighbors because then they would just have to share the decision making with them. A company wholly owned by it's employees would not have any incentive to consume competitors, because they'd have to either then include those competitors in their decision making or they'd have to do their work and their competitor's work with only their current staff, which would be a lot of work and they would probably vote to hire more people. The self-consuming nature of capitalism is lost when a company is wholly owned by its employees and only its employees.

I'm not concerned about robots, the employees own and operate the robots, they're just tools. When they are more than tools and we have to worry about robot rights, then I'll be more interested. The advancement of technology does mean that you can produce more with less effort, but that goes back to the point you made about workers excluding non-workers so it's not a problem unique to the advancement of technology.

You don't rise up in an employee owned company by having connections, you do it by being the one that the employees can best lead and represent them. That is if there even is a concept of moving up. Rather there would more be a concept of being the one that interacts with collaborating companies, which is not a management role but a representative role. There's no hierarchy, just groups of people working together for their mutual gain and possibly for the fulfillment of some mission statement, possibly coordinating with other groups when that suites their interests.

There is one problem with the employee owned model. I'm not sure there is enough expertise out there as to how individual working groups can collaborate to do the kinds of massive projects that major corporations do, like Microsoft Windows or building computer chips. However, I don't think that's hopeless, I just think there hasn't been enough effort and investment put into really trying to make employee ownership work for big enterprises.

[-] 1 points by LobbyDemocracy (615) 12 years ago

It is an interesting theory. There are also some companies that have been structured like this. I also think it is important to understand the difference between capitalism and the system that we have. The necessary conditions for capitalism to be met never are. Among them are the theory of infinite buyers and infinite sellers. Pretty hard to attain in a finite world. Capitalism has all sorts of natural market failures that we deal with all of the time. Outside forces need to step in and keep the market on pace and guide it towards a capitalist outcome. Our option is not to let the market run free or interfere. We interfere every hour of every day. We must decide what we want the nature of those interventions to be.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Indeed, and I think the need for those interventions are derived from the self-consuming nature of investor-centered capitalism. If you consider the investor to be just another worker and don't automatically assume that he owns or controls the company then the ability for the investor to consume enterprise is severely limited. The primary engine of capitalism's degradation is defused.

[-] 1 points by littleg (452) 12 years ago

People like you should be in Congress and Senate. Unfortunately, the masses can't connect with you. Good job !

[-] 1 points by mattjiggy (31) from Durham, NC 12 years ago

Meep, one of the better posts I've seen.

I think one of the stigmas behind the fiery emotion displayed all over this forum is the income gap between rich and poor in this country. I want to invite advocates of the social/communist model to answer the following:

Is the income gap in and of itself an evil?

To clarify the reason behind that question, consider this scenario:

The more radical of the posted demands are met, the debt record is eliminated, and all capital/wealth/property is redistributed so that every American of working age possesses the exact same level of material value.

I submit to you that a new income gap would appear before even one generation had come and gone. I submit that the wisest, most prudent, and most diligent workers in the population would increase their wealth, and the foolhardy, profligate, and lazy would squander theirs. The children and grandchildren of each group would rightly reap the rewards and consequences of their forebears, and the gap would continue to widen as those values are passed down through the generations.

Perhaps you believe that the "playing field" should be leveled as such in every single generation? If so, I heartily take exception. Why should it not fall to a man or woman to allow their children to enjoy the fruits of their success?

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

"Why should it not fall to a man or woman to allow their children to enjoy the fruits of their success?"

What if the fruits of success take the form of ownership of slaves?

I worked hard for my slaves, I don't want to lose them, that would be unfair.

Sure, it's racist that only blacks are slaves. I think that whites should also be subjected to slavery. Whites should have the right to sell themselves into slavery to pay off their debts or to help their families.

Sure, blacks didn't choose to sell themselves into slavery, but I didn't capture any slaves. I bought my slaves fair and square. What happened in the past happened in the past.


I certainly agree that in a market economy or a game of poker, all chips end up in one pile sooner or later. If you want the economy to work like a poker game, the question becomes: what are the stakes? If income inequality is OK, then why not other forms of inequality? Why not political rights? What's special about dollars?

What we have to realize is the dollars represent the right to control other people: economic power is a form of social power, and those without property are a class distinct from slaves, but a class below free men.

Really, we can eliminate the most abject forms of privilege within a society. Even if some people worked very hard to achieve a privileged position, we can eliminate that position.

When the slaves were released in Jamaica, the slave owners were compensated financially. (Not the slaves, of course.) I find this example extremely illuminating about the ethical processes behind social privilege and its loss.

[-] 1 points by mattjiggy (31) from Durham, NC 12 years ago

If a person will be prevented from enjoying the fruits of his/her own labor effort above and beyond the labor effort of his neighbor, what would you say is the motivation for work? Do you believe that human beings are basically good-natured, and that this nature would compel them to produce for the common good, to the maximum of his/her ability?

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

If you are trying to say that the threat of depriving people of access to property is an effective way to force them to work, then I agree.

If you are trying to say that private ownership of property is NOT a way of preventing people from enjoying the fruits of their own labor -- then I believe you are factually mistaken. The history of industrial capitalism and of agrarian capitalism show that the workers do not inherit the product of their labors.


I do not believe that humans are so "good-natured" that under no circumstances do they ever need to be forced to work. A society must compel its members to fulfill their obligations, at least some of the time. On a mundane level, everyone must be forced to clean up after themselves. On a more serious level, at times men must be forced to risk their lives to fight in defense of their society.

I do believe that in our society and at our level of technological advancement it is unnecessary to force people to work 40 hours per week, and I believe that the threats wielded against those who do not work are far harsher than actually ideal from the perspective of what kind of behavior is socially desirable. Forcing people to work that much leaves less time for leisure, which leads to a less cultured society, and destroys family and social bonds, besides increasing the conditions of stress and unhappiness.

I also do not believe that there is any reason for a class of persons who are deprived of the opportunity to work. There is certainly no moral justification for this state of affairs when combined with the situation that work is the only socially legitimate claim to essential resources. There is also in my view no practical need to sustain the threat of this condition against workers.

[-] 1 points by mattjiggy (31) from Durham, NC 12 years ago

"A society must compel its members to fulfill their obligations, at least some of the time."

The word 'compel' concerns and frightens me. It suggests Orwell's Animal Farm. I have seen -- as a parent, a high school teacher, and an employee -- that pursuit of reward is a far greater motivator than fear of punishment.

"Industrial capitalism" invokes the industrial revolution... an age before child labor restrictions, labor unions, minimum wage enforcement, workers' compensation, OSHA, etc. This era which produced Marx, Hegel, and their contemporaries, has, in my opinion, little resemblance to our current labor culture, aside from the general discontentment of laborers who will always want higher wages and fewer hours. All of human history supports that notion.

"Agrarian capitalism" invokes slavery... an immoral and unGodly institution, illegimately justified with scripture and economic expedience. The term "wage slave" is a hyper-emotional term used to describe what is, in reality, an hourly worker discontent with his/her rate of pay. The crucial difference is that no man or woman is bound by force to any employer or occupation. No man or woman is prevented from acquiring new skills to improve his/her value to the work force. No man or woman is forbidden from learning to read or write, or subjected to the sexual whims of their employer. Far from it, our nation pays handsomely to ensure that every child is provided an opportunity to receive a free and appropriate education, in a university preparatory track or in a vocational arena.

As for leisure and a 30-hour work week producing socially desirable behavior, I regrettably point to Greece and the other soon-to-be disasters of southern and western Europe. Public funds can only support that kind of collective for so long, before the top-heavy nature of the arrangement crushes those underneath it. Simple math tells us that there must be more dollars flowing in than are flowing out. It's an easy and erroneous solution to assume that the greatest producers of our society -- doctors, engineers, programmers, etc. -- will be happy to foot the bill in greater and greater numbers for those who consume much more than they produce. I can't speak for the rest of the country, but as a father of two with a household income of less than $50,000, I have zero income tax liability. I literally cannot pay less income tax than I am now. To oversimplify the situation, I am asking the wealthy to increase my and my wife's current salaries in return for no work whatsoever.

Ostensibly, nearly 10% of the country is being "deprived of the opportunity to work." I take issue with this phrasing. It assumes that every unemployed individual has exhausted every possible employment avenue and that no work exists for any of them. This is true for some and not for others. Some simply put in enough applications to satisfy the prerequisites for receipt of unemployment.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

You write, "The word 'compel' concerns and frightens me. It suggests Orwell's Animal Farm."

However, it's actually you in this thread who is advocating compulsion -- I am just calling it what it is -- and you are the one who is reluctant to call it what it is. That is Orwellian. The point of "newspeak" is that power attempts to change the perception of reality by changing how it's talked about -- but changing the words you use does not actually change the reality.

Your tangents about industrial and agrarian capitalism fail to address the point. The features of the economy which have been altered are not the ones responsible for the accumulation of the work product of the entire society into a few hands within that society -- on the basis, not of their productivity, but of their ownership and control of others' productivity. Moreover, those features that were altered, were altered through exactly the kind of collective action that you are concerned with refuting just one paragraph later.

It's definitely true that no kind of worker safety or high standard of living is sustainable within the context of a ruthless global economic competition. OSHA is just as unsustainable as Greece, and for exactly the same reasons, so long as Bangladesh does not even require factories to have fire exits.

But we do not have to surrender to the global market; instead, we can fight to change the global system. If we want OSHA in the USA, we need a system where there is fire safety in Bangladesh. This is not beyond the realm of possibility. Just as labor movements of the past fought to institute the 8 hour work-day on a national basis, so a global labor movement could institute it on a global basis; and similarly with other issues, where international competition is reversing the gains in labor and environmental protection which were made on a national basis in the pre-global economy.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

I agree with you that most of the things you mention are absurd, though you have struck one sticking point that has long existed in my thought. "Why should it not fall to a man or woman to allow their children to enjoy the fruits of their success?" On one hand the capitalist in me says that the principles of capitalism are that those who put forth the greatest effort and quality of work should receive the greatest reward, therefore it is absolutely absurd that any child should get an unfair start by way of their parent's wealth. On the other hand as a husband I would never want to see my future children suffer if I have the wealth to stop that suffering. But there we reach the crux of the issue, I would not want to see them suffer. Not having a bmw is not suffering. Being overlooked for a job that they are unqualified for is not suffering. Starving is suffering. Having no use or value is suffering. But what I would suggest is that employee ownership can make the most negative forms of nepotism harder, because it is harder to force on the group without their consent. Then as long as there is an equitable education system that ensures that all receive the best education they can achieve, then I really have no problem with a father or mother lavishing their children, if anything it puts them at a disadvantage by spoiling them. Of course in this formulation the quality and equitability of the education system is absolutely essential or the value of capitalism is lost.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

Why do you talk about BMWs and jobs?

Capitalism isn't about owning consumer goods. It's about owning the means of production.

If you think in terms of divying up consumer products, you'll never notice the war raging over control over entire production processes.

Whoever owns that BMW factory wants you to think inequality is about who gets what car...

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

That's why my original post was about employee owned companies, the idea being that employee owned companies is the only way to correct the disconnect of ownership of means of production. Was there a specific point you were responding to? I'm not sure I understand your critique.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

My point is that trying to portray economic inequality as differential access to consumer goods is actually a form of false consciousness -- in fact, it is specifically the form of false consciousness that is used by the USA Democratic Party to disguise the reality of economic social relations.

Apologies for the Marxist terminology here...

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

I'm not allergic to Marxism, though the terminology can sometimes be dense for an outsider :)

I see your point, and it makes sense. Did you get the sense that I was falling victim to that false consciousness or were you just elaborating?

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

You clearly have a higher level of consciousness than that, but you got sucked into the discourse of mattjiggy, who does not.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Ah, to that I would say if you are leading a man out of the woods you need to first go to him so that you can see where he is. Then you need to walk with him so that he understand where he is going. If you stand where you are and shout "you're looking at it the wrong way" then you won't be helping him very much. I try to engage people on their level and with their language and help them take small steps toward new ideas. But maybe I am too conservative with how big those steps are sometimes :)

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

The problem with that is, that ideological system is pretty much air-tight. There is very little room for criticism from within; the only ways out are either to start thinking in a different model, or to try to bring in facts, and test the ideology against reality. Of course actually initiating a transformation of thought in another person is often impossible anyway, and certainly not something for which I can claim to have a working formula.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

That's why I like the employee ownership model. I believe that it can compete, and if it is proven successful it provides a factual basis for arguing from within the capitalist framework, and furthermore participation in such framework could form an experiential foundation for thinking outside the capitalist framework. It may be a fair argument to say I have too much faith in the harmony that can be found between the ideologies, but I think it's worth a shot. It would be a step in the right direction anyway, and one that does clash too harshly with the capitalist mindset, or maybe it can at least pretend not to.

[-] 1 points by mattjiggy (31) from Durham, NC 12 years ago

A large scale model for what you describe already exists in Starbucks, a company that extends equity partnership to any employee with 6 months employment. On a related note, they also offer heath coverage to 20+hr/wk employees.

I am a HUGE fan of employee ownership. There is no more authentic or effective way to allow employees a sense of purpose and reward in their daily work... a deeper need even than the paycheck they earn.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

Talk about Orwellian, LOL!!

Anyway, see my reply to myself below. It's actually a reply to you.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

I can't reply to your post below, because there is no reply link. I guess there is a maximum depth?

In response to what you said below -- a corporation does not have a right to print shares freely. Besides specific regulations on stock dilution (with which I am not really familiar, but which surely exist), it can only legally dilute stock when this is (or at least can be made to look like it is...) in the interests of the existing share-holders. Ultimately it is the common stock share-holders who have legal control over the decision to issue new stock, and my understanding is that this kind of thing is often put to a shareholder vote in order to ensure the legitimacy of the dilution. (However I don't think that would be the case for employee stock options, being a standard form of compensation.)

Also, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_dilution , "Many venture capital contracts contain an anti-dilution provision in favor of the original investors, to protect their equity investments."

I do not see how your concept really would serve to redistribute anything. The shares have to represent real material (or currency/financial) value in order to sell, or to be worth borrowing. You skipped that part. If deposits to the bank provide this value, and they are being lent out for vaguely do-goody non-profit reasons, who's going to deposit?

None of this complicated scheming is really relevant to the core issue. All you need is a bank that lends out deposits according to a preferential standard other than pure profit. (This is totally legal if you simply put it in the corporate charter.) And the core issue is: how does that bank, which has (at least to some extent) spurned the concept of profit, acquire deposits? It won't be able to offer a competitive interest rate.

(In practice, I do not think it would even be able to offer a positive interest rate, or to acquire FDIC insurance.)

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Yeah, there does seem to be a max depth...

Alright, alright, not my best idea ever. I'll address a few of your points though. The American dollar isn't backed by anything and it's done fine for the last century. Also the tech bubble was all about companies having stock prices largely inconsistent with their real world value... such inconsistency would inevitably lead to a bust, so, yeah, there's that. I suppose the bank could sell shares to the companies it funds in exchange for bonds in those companies, thus maintaining the solvency of the bank and keep the real value of the bank high. Under that framework they could lend, in the form of selling shares, as much as they want as long as the value of the bonds they hold doesn't drop too low. The primary question then comes back to what we were discussing earlier, whether a cooperative business can compete in a capitalist environment with investor owned businesses. I'm still thinking about that and I'll address it in that thread of discussion.

Thank you for the fascinating conversation and for your knowledge and wisdom on the matter. I appreciate it greatly.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

Employee owned corporations can be competitive, but collectively, on the whole, the working class cannot use their labor power to buy a share of capital proportional to their numbers: they don't have enough total buying power. (Keep in mind that capital owners can also labor, and that their labor-power is multiplied through their ownership). So (besides the issues of what the outside system forces even an employee-owned corporation to become, which I discussed in my post below) the employee-owned corporation cannot really hope to displace inherited capital as the dominant form of the organization of production -- unless it does so through a tax on wealth.

[-] 1 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

I'm replying to myself since I can't reply to mattjiggy.

Of course, there are already wealth taxes. However, capital continues to accumulate into fewer hands. So obviously the wealth taxes currently in place are insufficient to democratize access to resources.

They are also not used to do anything like what meep was talking about.

[-] 1 points by mattjiggy (31) from Durham, NC 12 years ago

That tax, called the estate tax, already exists, and it is applied to any estate in excess of $5 million upon death of the individual. That exemption cap may not suit your fancy, being so high, but the principle of generational wealth redistribution is already in play.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Something I was thinking about and would love your thoughts (my financial law knowledge is shaky so please enlighten if you know more):

A corporation has the right to print shares freely. These share are, in a way, a form of currency. Suppose a bank were to be formed, 50% owned by a not-for-profit. The bank serves one purpose. It lends shares to employee owned businesses. Those employee owned businesses can then sell those shares for American currency or trade amongst themselves in shares, but they are required to pay back a certain number of shares each month. The bank being able to print shares freely will do so to ensure that it has enough shares to lend. Control is ensured by lending at low interest rates to the not-for-profit which will use that loan to buy shares in the bank when the price is down. I'm not sure how much of that idea is legal, but I suspect more of it than I would like. I'm also not entirely fond of the monolithic power such an entity might hold once it matures... but it seems like an interesting way to eat capitalism and poop cooperativism :)

In my head at least...

[-] 1 points by mattjiggy (31) from Durham, NC 12 years ago

I should mention that I do not believe it is the state's ultimate responsibility to educate children. I believe that falls to the parents, and any school, public or private, partners with them in that endeavor. This is born out by the fact that test scores show a disparity based on socioeconomic status in early childhood, meaning as early as 3-5 years old.

It sounds like you're interested in and passionate about the education gap. If so, please pick up a copy of Paul Tough's book about Geoffrey Canada and his work with the Harlem Children's Zone. Fantastic example of how communities can come together to shepherd their children instead of simply falling upon the woefully inadequate government/public school safety net.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

There is nothing better for a child than an engaged, active, and devoted community. Without that, you are right, the chances of that child receiving the nurturing and education they need are severely limited. I believe that government plays a role in that, though, by ensuring that the resources are there for the creation and maintenance of that community. Without that assistance, many of the poorest performing children will not have the resources to pay for full-time teachers or the materials essential for learning. We can definitely do better than we are though, and that doing better probably needs to come through the empowerment and engagement of communities.

[-] 1 points by turdfurguson (21) 12 years ago

I have a perfect example of why capitalism will always work and why communism and socialism will always fail. look at a satellite picture of the korean peninsula at nighttime. the northern half will always be pitch black( wonder why that could be) the southern half will always be lit(wonder why that would also be) communism/marxism/socialism are always miserable failures. and since this movement seems about greed and corruption,communist and socialist governments always seem to be SPLENDIDLY- greed and corrupt free.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Communism/socialism applied on a global level and to an extreme will always fail, you are correct. I am not proposing one side of a dichotomy. Nor am I proposing a political or governmental solution. Rather I am suggesting a way of life that individuals may choose that need not be in conflict with capitalism. How an individual chooses to structure the ownership of their business is their business, and a cooperative model does not negate the principles of supply and demand, nor does it subvert the free market. Love your capitalism, and I will not dissent! But would you restrict how people are permitted to express that freedom? Would you say that only investors can own companies, and not the employees? Please don't mistake me for Stalin, for I agree completely with your observation that his legacy has largely been failure. Please look again at what I am and what I am not suggesting and respond to me as the unique point of view that I am.

[-] 1 points by turdfurguson (21) 12 years ago

why would anyone who belives in capitalism/free-markets restrict another persons rights of dissent/expression? thats counter-intuitive to capitalism/free-markets. as to your point about ownership, if a business makes itself open to employee investment whats wrong with that? if they dont what is also wrong with that? after all isnt it the business owner who took the risk to open his business? and if so why does an employee have a right to his property? as to your point about stalin/communism you said LARGELY A FAILURE. i suggest a TOTAL FAILURE. i would be interested to see an example of success.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

A friend of mine once reminded me that Stalin took Russia from an agrarian feudal society through the industrial revolution and into the nuclear and space age in less than a generation. At the cost of millions of lives, no doubt. On a humanitarian level, absolutely unforgivable. In terms of sustainability, a total failure. But dang-it if those miserable a-holes didn't put a man in space before us! An experiment worth repeating? No way!

To respond to your other point from my best semblance of a Marxist perspective (and if you read other conversations it may be a poor one at that) the business owner risks capital when he invests, but capital is his labor. The laborer also invests his time, effort, future, and knowledge (his own form of capital) in the endeavor. Why is the contribution of the capitalist valued more than the laborer? I know I know, the laborer will be paid. Absolutely, and so will the capitalist. If you give a loan to a company, you take the risk that it will be lost but for your labor in managing your money and investing wisely you receive payment in the form of interest on your loan. It seems a little skewed to suggest that not only should you receive payment for your labor but that you should be given the privileged of directing the labor of others. And of course managers are needed, but they can be hired and fired just as any other laborer. The difference in my position from your conception of socialism is this: I am not over-reacting to the imbalance of power that exists between capitalist and laborer due to the disconnect between labor and ownership by throwing the capitalist out with the bath water. I would never suggest that. Rather I suggest that the capitalist is a valuable laborer just as any other laborer, possibly even more valuable which is why he draws the benefit of compound interest, but as a laborer I see no reason to treat him as somehow superior in all ways to the other laborers. We are all just doing our job! Put another way, maybe the lineman knows best how to run the line, and maybe the programmer knows best how to program, and maybe the carpenter knows best how to carpet (huh?), and maybe the capitalist knows best how to manage capital. Why should we assume that the skill of managing capital automatically gives the capitalist the knowledge or skill to manage everything else? Or that the skill of managing capital should earn him privileges that other laborers do not get? Does that make sense?

[-] 1 points by turdfurguson (21) 12 years ago

i agree with most of your second paragraph and have minor issues with the first. ill use your terms so that we have a common talking point. my issues are the relationship that you see with the laborer and capitalist.(i would use business owner) i agree that the laborer and capitalist should be equal but i agree for different reasons. i think they are equal because they are men and not because of status. as far as your point about managing capital, i will use business owner. if the business owner knows his business shouldnt it be in everyone's interest for him to manage it as best he sees fit? otherwise i would suggest you have a business mess.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

You have chosen to rephrase my term capitalist with the term business owner, which seems to suggest that philosophically you start with the assumption that those with money own. Why? Business owner is not a synonym for capitalist, rather I would use investor as the synonym for capitalist. My suggestion is that there is no reason to conflate the idea of investor with the idea of owner as a starting point for our thinking about capitalism. The investor is a laborer, whose tool is money and whose product is the facilitation of new businesses. Ideas, goods, and services are not the product of the investor, but merely the product of those that the investor facilitates. They are all workers and an absence of any of them would cause the whole system to fail. But where in that is there a defense for the assumption that the investor is also the owner?

[-] 1 points by GuestFromSpain (14) from Madrid, Comunidad de Madrid 12 years ago

It's not much use discussing about "-isms". I am not a communist, but I think it is fairly evident that if you want to divide people, the institution of property does a good job, and money is even more efficient. I believe that these are serious problems. I don't pretend to know their solution.

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

The most important discussion any of us can have is about Capital-ism. Most people don't understand what it is. And yet we live and breathe it every day.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

I agree that "-isms" can often be counter productive.

Perhaps property and money don't have to divide people if they find their proper place, which I suspect may not be between individuals, but between groups of people. People relating to each other are naturally cooperative, but groups of people relating to each other are naturally competitive. I think that is where you find the harmony between socialist and capitalist principles, through harnessing the power of those two forces effectively.

[-] 1 points by turdfurguson (21) 12 years ago

property and money is what makes one unique no? if you want property and money to be equal to all individuals then you remove uniqueness and are left with drones. this is the socialist/marxist/communist theory. and there can and never will be harmony between socialism and capitalism, because of the uniqueness-individual/drone problem.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

What I'm proposing here is not forced equality of money and property, but rather a restoration of balance by treating the capitalist (a laborer of capital) as an equal to the other laborers in an enterprise. I wouldn't throw out the capitalist, and I wouldn't even suggest that everyone should have equal pay. In my mind it's up to each company to determine for itself how pay is distributed, and it's perfectly reasonable that the group as a whole may decide that one service is more valuable than another, maybe because they think they will gain an advantage if they have the best person for that job, or for any other number of reasons. I don't think the individual/drone problem, as you describe it, is as intractable as you claim.

[-] 1 points by noahtron (48) from Montreal, QC 12 years ago

provocative! i love the business model.

[-] 1 points by phoenix60 (26) 12 years ago

Capitalism has only existed for several hundred years at the very most, communism for an even shorter time. Mankind has existed with many different types of economies for millennia, mostly of the collaborative kinds because the people in each social group needed each other for survival. Later, in more complex societies, various kinds of acquisitive and self-enriching behaviours became the norm, our present capitalist system a variation on a well known theme. Communism, curiously enough, started out on the same collaborative premises but morphed into the a different incarnation of dysfunctional self-serving system.

[-] 1 points by iseeamuse (155) 12 years ago

Great thoughts, meep. A clarification: the model you are describing is called a form of cooperative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative and is different from a corporation. Both are enterprise models.

[-] 0 points by agnosticnixie (17) from Laval, QC 12 years ago

It's also communist ;)

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

"Start a business where every employee is an equal owner of the business."

If every employee equally owns the means of production, then it's no longer Capitalism.

[-] 1 points by phoenix60 (26) 12 years ago

So what you're implying that capitalism can only thrive when working on a "me-first" basis? Sounds a bit like what we've got now.

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

Yes. But that's how it's designed. It's a system meant to benefit only a few. If you want a system that benefits many, you need to look for something other than Capitalism.

[-] 2 points by phoenix60 (26) 12 years ago

Somehow we need to move along from the concept that capitalism is the Holy Grail for all mankind. Different societies have different needs, communism has failed, socialism hasn't lived up its promises of social solidarity and capitalism has degraded itself into a money-grubbing free for all, a kind of Darwinian wretchedness which we humans can (and should) avoid if we deem ourselves at least mildly intelligent.

[-] 2 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

Capitalism hasn't degraded itself into a money-grubbing system. That's what it started out being. It hasn't changed at all. Most societies have the same needs. Capitalism doesn't meet them.

[-] 0 points by phoenix60 (26) 12 years ago

In a way capitalism has some redeeming qualities, like self-reliance, goal orientated activity and socially useful ways of managing time. It's only when childish forms of greed and acquisitive behaviour take over that capitalism becomes the nasty thing it is now. Actually, most social constructs usually follow the same pattern over time, the individual wins from the ideal, requiring modification or replacement.

[-] 2 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

I hardly think "goal orientated activity" is a feature particular to capitalist societies.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

I understand you, but I think that rhetoric alienates those too lazy, ignorant, or just misguided to actually listen to your point in it's entirety. Many people don't have a nuanced understanding of social or political theory, so you need to be able to frame your argument in terms that don't sound so threatening to their world view.

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

"Lazy, ignorant, and misguided" people need to buy groceries, too. You don't need a nuanced understanding of anything to recognize that rich people are buying yachts, while you don't have the money to see a dentist about your broken tooth.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

very true, but that can often leave them paralyzed if they only fear the alternatives, which may be the greatest obstacle to moving forward. The "right" has used the tool of fear very effectively, and we have to be aware of that or we will only be talking to ourselves.

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

An "alternative" to Capitalism would be any other system that transfers the wealth of the working classes to the ruling class. We don't need to replace it. We just need to get rid of it.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Is that an anarchist statement or are you just put-off by the word "alternative". Because if it's the latter, I'm not really sure I understand the rhetorical distinction. Can you elaborate?

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

An "alternative" to a system that transfers the wealth of the working classes to the ruling class would not be something people fear, as you claimed above.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

But you think that anything that fits your definition of "alternative" would be insufficient? Or are you suggesting that people will move past their fear when they realize the inherent instability (or perhaps you prefer injustice) of the system? If the latter, I don't share you optimism, fear is powerful and many people cannot look past the status quo because of it.

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

Do you know anyone who'd be "afraid" of making $25 an hour? Anyone who'd be afraid of national health care? Anyone who'd fear 8 weeks of vacation a year, a 4 day workweek? Do you know people who are terrified that rich people would suffer if working class people gained?

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Yes, millions of them, and they vote republican every two years to demonstrate their fear. How would you deal with them?

Please note that their fear comes not from having those things, but from the notion that such things would be unsustainable and lead to the ruination of all. Regardless that fear is real or do you deny that it exists?

[-] 1 points by sarahconnor (11) 12 years ago

So if politicians campaigned on a $1 hour minimum wage would these millions vote for them? Hardly. Working class people aren't as stupid as you think we are. We know that yachts for the rich and breadcrumbs for the rest is unsustainable and the ruination of us all.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

They would not vote for $1 minimum wage, but please get out there and look at conservative rhetoric and ideology, because they would, without skipping a beat, abolish the minimum wage entirely. And please do not confuse stupidity with fear. It does a disservice to the man who lives in fear and cannot see wisdom because of that fear.

Please keep in mind though that sometimes your political adversaries do have valid points to make. For example, I'm not sure minimum wage is the best way to solve income disparity. The CEO of McDonalds makes 17 million. The comany has 1.5 million people. Even if the CEO worked for free, each person would only get about $10 more a year, not even an hour. So how could McD afford to pay it's employees $25 an hour without laying off at least half of them. That's a valid point, and while income disparity is a serious and growing problem, I'm not sure throwing money at it is the best solution. We need systemic changes.

[-] 0 points by agnosticnixie (17) from Laval, QC 12 years ago

She's not only implying that, but a cooperative is something that was conceived by anarcho-communists as a demonstration of our economic principles.

Stop clinging to capitalism.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

I'm not opposing the use of capital as a tool, nor the principles of supply and demand, nor necessarily the notion of a capitalist. I would merely modify the notion of what a capitalist is by saying that they are one who makes their money through the distribution and application of capital, but not through ownership of the objects of capital investment. To my mind that does not necessarily remove it from the realm of capitalism, though others with more philosophical cache may disagree.

[-] 1 points by GammaPoint (400) from Oakland, CA 12 years ago

Nice post meep.

[-] 0 points by JohnB (138) 12 years ago

There is no conflict between radical democracy and radical free enterprise - the result of this combination is neither capitalism or communism, but a freer and fairer society.

[-] 0 points by agnosticnixie (17) from Laval, QC 12 years ago

The cooperatives you advocate were conceived by socialism. Are socialism. Your understanding of capitalism is woeful, your understanding of communism is about the same as trying to understand christianity while only looking at the crusades.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Was there a point in there that wasn't ad hominem? I do understand your frustration, as socialism and communism are often attacked and misunderstood. Please understand though, that taking that frustration out in the form of ad hominem attack is counter-productive. I would love to respond to and learn from your point, so please present it to me instead of depriving me of both your wisdom and your respect.

[-] 0 points by agnosticnixie (17) from Laval, QC 12 years ago

Let me make it simpler then: you're advocating for communism, the real shit, not Stalin's "dictatorship of the politburotariat", not Mao's "confucian capitalism with a red flag", real communism: stateless and with workers owning the means of production. The communism the students fought for in Tian an Men when they started singing the internationale, the communism the Kronstadt sailors fought for.

You are, however, clinging on the name capitalist: why, the system you describe is not capitalist. You're experiencing what Gramsci describes as hegemony. Capitalism has been turned into such a holy cow, such a sacred cultural icon that you're seemingly unable to conceive outside of it even when describing a system that would not be capitalist. It's deeply ingrained cultural capitalism that results in a situation where the word capitalism is made meaningless because people are afraid of abandoning the word despite rejecting its organization.

[-] 1 points by meep (233) 12 years ago

Thank you, that is much clearer.

To the point that what I am suggesting absolutely is not capitalism, I disagree to some extent. I don't think it fits the current conception of what capitalism is, yes, but I don't think the word "capitalism" is entirely inappropriate. I don't reject either the use of capital as a tool, the principles of competition, nor the principles of supply and demand, I'm just proposing that they should not dominate private lives by making it the exclusive domain of the capitalist over the worker. I would describe my suggestion as seeking a harmony between the core values of capitalism and socialism. Keep in mind that neither Marx nor Smith considered their ideas perfect at the time of their death. But this brings me to my second point.

I respect the rigor of your terminology, but I feel that holding too fast to that rigor can create an alienating effect. I'll say that I haven't given serious thought to how the legacy of the word capitalism can negatively influence cultural values. I suppose that can certainly be seen in far right reactions to health care debate etc. On the other hand I believe in the power of evolution, and I doubt that a clean cut can ever do much more than draw blood, for who has both the power and the wisdom to be a surgeon of societies? More than that though, I believe that there are aspects of capitalist thinking and principles that we shouldn't necessarily discard. The notion of demand is one of them, and the system of supply and demand seems natural if you remove capitalist control over that force. So I would disagree with you and say that I don't think we need to reject capitalism, I think we need to learn from and integrate (selectively, and sometimes extremely selectively) all points of view.

[-] 0 points by agnosticnixie (17) from Laval, QC 12 years ago

I can see the value of your point (and I had it in mind when I wrote the call for action early on) but at the same time I'm not sure it helps either - fascism is still fascism even when Lyndon Larouche calls it the American System for example.