How to Democratize the Economy by Gar Alperovitz

Realizing that new models are needed, Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speth launched the Next Systems Project with a report, “The New System Project: New Political-Economic Possibilities for the 21st Century” and a video. The report provides models of local and regional control of economies to remedy the lack of “viable alternatives” although thousands of grassroots little-known programs are underway. They believe that “If we get serious about really tackling the system question about building a new system of political economy, there are grounds for optimism that deep and far-reaching change is possible.” The report points to books and institutes working on alternative systems, listed in the endnote. The New System Project develops models of what a city, state, region and nation can do to develop a new economy and government and publicize them.
Programs that are already in place in the US and can be duplicated include: public banking as in North Dakota; funding for worker co-ops by cities like Madison, Wisconsin, and crowdfunding groups like Wellspring collaborative in Springfield, Massachusetts and CERO cooperative in Boston; nonprofit institutions combine purchasing power, i.e., Evergreen Cooperatives; participatory budgeting—Boston put $1 million of public money under the control of residents ages 12 to 25; and municipalizing utility companies as in Boulder, Colorado, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
In What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution (2013), Alperovitz advocated “building up from the bottom up, over time, is actually how you transform systems.” He gives examples of the fall of apartheid in South Africa, after the fall of communist USSR, and the feminist revolution, as well as the earlier French and American Revolutions. He credits Occupy Wall Street for inciting activism for economic issues and the rule of the 1%. Since the root problem is inequality caused by the global economic system, he makes specific economic suggestions for financial change on the local level where we have power in the “Pluralist Commonwealth.”
Some actions individuals can take (more examples are listed in the article cited in the endnote. )
*Put your money in a local credit union and encourage your city to do the same. Encourage worker owner co-ops like WinCo Stores (the most common form is the Employee Stock Ownership Plan) to get certified as progressive B (for beneficial) Corporations, certified by the B Lab, a nonprofit in Pennsylvania.
*Encourage employers to provide work-sharing rather than lay off workers and provide more leisure time for employees.
*Lobby for participatory budgeting in local governments (first used in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989). Software is available to access budget data.
*Lobby for local anchor institutions like hospitals, universities, religious organizations, and pension investment funds to divest from polluting corporations and invest in credit unions using the Cleveland model of the Evergreen Cooperatives, inspired by the Spanish Mondragon Corporation.
*Organize Community Development Corporations and land trusts that create affordable housing.
*Develop municipal public utilities like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and electricity co-ops to produce renewable energy.
Alperovitz’s website provides tools for activists to build the Pluralist Commonwealth based on localized cooperative ownership. Really Free Culture is a collection of essays describing “anarchist communities, radical movements and public practices” that can be downloaded online. These progressive alternatives from the bottom up create new constituencies and thus a new form of power. Alperovitz concluded that people will realize their pain will continue unless a new paradigm and new system is developed. An online network called Shareable features how to implement the “sharing transformation.”
The Tellus Institute and the New Economy Coalition in the US, the Institute for Policy Studies at York University in Canada, the New Economics Foundation in the Untied Kingdom and the city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Gar Alperovitz, “6 Ways We’re already Leading an Economic Revolution,” Common Dreams, September 7, 2016.
Gar Alperovitz and Keane Bhatt, “What Then Can I do? Ten Ways to Democratize the Economy,” September 2013.
Dean Paton, “Poverty is Not Inevitable,” Yes! Magazine, August 21, 2014.
Gar Alperovitz. What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013.
Haiy Le, “Millennials Eye Firms that have Altruistic Purposes,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 2015.
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