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Op-Ed: Cooperatives Over Corporations

Posted by on Feb. 24, 2012 at 5:41 PM
  • 10 Replies

 Thoughts?

Cooperatives Over Corporations

by: Jim Hightower, Truthout | Op-Ed

We're being told by today's High Priests of Conventional Wisdom that everyone and everything in our economic cosmos necessarily revolves around one dazzling star: the corporation.

This heavenly institution, the HPCW explain, has such financial and political mass that it is the optimal force for organizing and directing our society's economic affairs, including the terms of employment and production. While other forces are in play (workers, consumers, the environment, communities and so forth), they are subordinate to the superior gravitational pull of the corporate order. Profits, executive equanimity and a healthy Wall Street pulse rate are naturally the economy's foremost concerns.

How nice. For the wealthy few. Not nice for the rest of us, though. We're presently seeing the effect of this enthronement of self-serving corporate elites. Millions of Americans are out of work, underemployed and tumbling from the middle class down toward poverty. Yet excessively paid and pampered CEOs (recently rebranded as "job creators" by fawning GOP politicians) are idly sitting on some $2 trillion in cash, refusing to put that enormous pile of money to work on job creation.

The Powers That Be keep us tethered to this unjust system of plutocratic rule only by constantly ballyhooing it as a divine perpetual wealth machine that showers manna on America. Any tampering with the hierarchical control of the finely tuned machinery of trickle-down corporate capitalism, they warn, will cause a collapse and crush American prosperity.

Ha! Prosperity for whom? The corporate order itself has come crashing down on the prosperity of America's workaday majority -- and the people are no longer fooled about the system's "divinity." From the Wisconsin rebellion to the outing of the Koch brothers' efforts to impose their plutocratic regime on us, from the Occupy movement to the spreading grassroots campaign to get corporate cash out of our elections, we commoners have finally peeked behind the curtain to see the fraud being perpetrated by the wizards of wealth inequality.

Yet, tightly clutching their wealth, the wizards retort that the only alternative is the hellish horror of government control, screeching "socialist" at all critics to scare off any real change.

But wait. The choices for our country's rising forces of economic and political democracy are not limited to corporate or government control. There's another, much better way of organizing America's economic strength: The Cooperative Way.

Cooperatives can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American people.

While socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an -ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.

While it's rarely mentioned by the conventional media, completely missing in the political discourse, not considered by economic planners and chambers of commerce and not known by most of the public, there are 30,000 cooperatives in America (with 73,000 places of business). A 2009 survey by the University of Wisconsin's Center for Cooperatives (http://www.uwcc.wisc.edu/) found that these energetic enterprises have 130 million members, registering $653 billion in sales and employing more than 2 million people.

There are several types of co-ops, including those owned by workers (there are 11,000 of these, with 13 million worker-owners). Also, there are cooperatives owned by consumers, producers, local businesses, artists and communities, as well as hybrids of those categories. They function in every sector of our economy -- manufacturing, health care, transportation, banking, farming and food, media, massage, child care, funeral services, interpreting and translating services, advertising, home building, high tech, engineering, energy ... and even a strip club in San Francisco.

Co-op businesses do everything that a corporation can do, but with a democratic structure, an equitable sharing of income and a commitment to the common good of the community and future generations.

You might be surprised to learn that such national brand names as ACE Hardware, Best Western Hotels, Organic Valley, REI and True Value Hardware are organized as co-ops, rather than as corporations. The strength of the movement, however, is in the limitless number of local cooperatives flowering all across the country. From Union Cab of Madison to KOOP Radio in Austin, from Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland to Circle Pines Center in Michigan, citizen co-ops are highly prized for their unique personalities, human scale, democratic values and community focus.

Cooperatives are a big, structural reform that ordinary Americans can implement right where they live, giving small groups a pragmatic and effective way to push back against the arrogance and avarice of the centralized, hierarchical corporate model. Not only do co-ops work economically, they also make people important again, offering real democratic participation and putting some "unity" back in "community."

by on Feb. 24, 2012 at 5:41 PM
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Replies (1-10):
bluerooffarm
by Silver Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 5:52 PM

 I buy from coops when I can.  I like the democratic structure instead of the CEO (kingdom).  But I don't want this legislated, so what are your thoughts?

Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 6:02 PM

 I don't think anyone is suggesting that co-ops be legislated.

I think it's an exciting model, but it takes a committed community behind it to make it work.

We have a little co-op in our town that is slowly, but surely getting established. It's a different business model that a lot of people, programmed to believe the hierarchical corporate model is the only model, have a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

Did you read the part about the companies that use the cooperative model? I knew about REI, but was really surprised at some of the others.

I liked what Hightower said here:

Cooperatives can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American people.

While socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an -ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.

Quoting bluerooffarm:

 I buy from coops when I can.  I like the democratic structure instead of the CEO (kingdom).  But I don't want this legislated, so what are your thoughts?

 

bluerooffarm
by Silver Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 6:09 PM

 We buy our half and Half and cream cheese from organic valley and I new about ACE (we have one close ) and True Value (dear friends own one) and I had heard that BW was one.

We have a few local ones... a group of farmer's markets in our area co-operated so they had more pull to lobby for selling baked goods and raw milk.

And there's a local group of beekeepers here too.

It's very exciting!  When we get our bees we may join that one and if the group gets the right to sell raw milk we may be able to sell our goat cheese thru their market.  Which is way cool!  Since we can only sell soap thru it now and we've never made soap (so I'm still a bit worried about how it'll turn out)

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 I don't think anyone is suggesting that co-ops be legislated.

I think it's an exciting model, but it takes a committed community behind it to make it work.

We have a little co-op in our town that is slowly, but surely getting established. It's a different business model that a lot of people, programmed to believe the hierarchical corporate model is the only model, have a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

Did you read the part about the companies that use the cooperative model? I knew about REI, but was really surprised at some of the others.

I liked what Hightower said here:

Cooperatives can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American people.

While socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an -ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.

Quoting bluerooffarm:

 I buy from coops when I can.  I like the democratic structure instead of the CEO (kingdom).  But I don't want this legislated, so what are your thoughts?

 

 

I'm a homeschooling, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, recycling, composting, homesteading, Jesus following, goat milking, home canning, dh loving, Libertarian Momma of three well adjusted little boys!

Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 6:25 PM

 That is so exciting!! I hope all goes well for you.

You're doing bee keeping? We live in town so we can't do it, but I wish we could.

How strict are your state's food safety regulations (which favors agribusiness to the point of criminality, imo)? Is that a big  part of gaining those rights?

Quoting bluerooffarm:

 We buy our half and Half and cream cheese from organic valley and I new about ACE (we have one close ) and True Value (dear friends own one) and I had heard that BW was one.

We have a few local ones... a group of farmer's markets in our area co-operated so they had more pull to lobby for selling baked goods and raw milk.

And there's a local group of beekeepers here too.

It's very exciting!  When we get our bees we may join that one and if the group gets the right to sell raw milk we may be able to sell our goat cheese thru their market.  Which is way cool!  Since we can only sell soap thru it now and we've never made soap (so I'm still a bit worried about how it'll turn out)

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 I don't think anyone is suggesting that co-ops be legislated.

I think it's an exciting model, but it takes a committed community behind it to make it work.

We have a little co-op in our town that is slowly, but surely getting established. It's a different business model that a lot of people, programmed to believe the hierarchical corporate model is the only model, have a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

Did you read the part about the companies that use the cooperative model? I knew about REI, but was really surprised at some of the others.

I liked what Hightower said here:

Cooperatives can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American people.

While socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an -ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.

Quoting bluerooffarm:

 I buy from coops when I can.  I like the democratic structure instead of the CEO (kingdom).  But I don't want this legislated, so what are your thoughts?

 

 

 

bluerooffarm
by Silver Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 6:56 PM

 In some ways they are strict and in others, not so much.  You can get a permit to sell raw milk, but if you sell home grown eggs you need to use brand new boxes to put them in Which becomes rather costly when most of us just want to recycle our friends' boxes or have reusable boxes.  I had friends that would bring back their boxes to get new eggs, but I found out I could be slapped for that if anyone from the state found out... so there ya go.

One of the nice things about living in the middle of nowhere is that we can have chickens, goats, ducks.  And soon bees and rabbits.

But the bees have to be registered and we can only have one hive or we have to register as a company.  It's a pain in the bum!

So yes if we have as much say as some of the corporations by co-operating, then we may be able to get some of the ludicrous rules eliminated.

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 That is so exciting!! I hope all goes well for you.

You're doing bee keeping? We live in town so we can't do it, but I wish we could.

How strict are your state's food safety regulations (which favors agribusiness to the point of criminality, imo)? Is that a big  part of gaining those rights?

Quoting bluerooffarm:

 We buy our half and Half and cream cheese from organic valley and I new about ACE (we have one close ) and True Value (dear friends own one) and I had heard that BW was one.

We have a few local ones... a group of farmer's markets in our area co-operated so they had more pull to lobby for selling baked goods and raw milk.

And there's a local group of beekeepers here too.

It's very exciting!  When we get our bees we may join that one and if the group gets the right to sell raw milk we may be able to sell our goat cheese thru their market.  Which is way cool!  Since we can only sell soap thru it now and we've never made soap (so I'm still a bit worried about how it'll turn out)

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 I don't think anyone is suggesting that co-ops be legislated.

I think it's an exciting model, but it takes a committed community behind it to make it work.

We have a little co-op in our town that is slowly, but surely getting established. It's a different business model that a lot of people, programmed to believe the hierarchical corporate model is the only model, have a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

Did you read the part about the companies that use the cooperative model? I knew about REI, but was really surprised at some of the others.

I liked what Hightower said here:

Cooperatives can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American people.

While socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an -ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.

Quoting bluerooffarm:

 I buy from coops when I can.  I like the democratic structure instead of the CEO (kingdom).  But I don't want this legislated, so what are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

I'm a homeschooling, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, recycling, composting, homesteading, Jesus following, goat milking, home canning, dh loving, Libertarian Momma of three well adjusted little boys!

29again
by Gold Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM
1 mom liked this

The company that provides electricity in the rural areas around where I live is run as a co-op.  It's been that way since before I was a child!  But, living in town, I can't use their services  =(        I really like the way co-ops work, and I wish more companies worked that way.

Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Feb. 24, 2012 at 7:37 PM

 The coop model seems like it would encourage a better work ethic and motivate its workforce.

Anyone know if there's been a study in this area?

TruthSeeker.
by CM Junkie on Feb. 24, 2012 at 7:51 PM
I have a few friends that are in a home schooling co-op. Its pretty neat. The children go to different houses for different studies. They also have someone that does music and art.
rachelrothchild
by on Feb. 24, 2012 at 9:18 PM

There are tons of co-ops here.  We belong to one.

I wish they sold raw milk.  We'd have to go to Amish country for that.

grlygrlz2
by on Feb. 24, 2012 at 9:54 PM

Co-ops are great.  They are every part of a free market as any other business. Too bad government agencies in states/cities across the nation want to regulate them.

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