Gar Alperovitz

New Economics and Distribution of Wealth

Richard Wolff, the author of Capitalism at Work: A Cure for Capitalismis a popular economist right now. He recently presented in a video, linked here, posted on the Democracy at Work website where he emphasizes that people are looking for an alternative to capitalism. Then he presents a solution: democratically run work places. 

The video is 2 hours and 19 minutes long. At the 1 hour, 35 minute mark, he discusses co-ops and shared profits. One interesting approach he mentions is giving consumers an option to buy co-op produced consumer goods with explicit labeling.

Political backing is an important asset for a successful co-operative movement, and Wolff points to Italy where the government will give unemployed people the option of opening a co-op with a cash incentive. Instead of unemployment payments, a lump sum is given to those that are willing to gather a group of people and start a co-op.

The distribution of capital is an approach endorsed by Wolff. But, as I mentioned in my last post, this is the thinking of other economic thinkers, too.

Wolff sounds like Gar Alperovitz (Books: What Then Must We Do? and America Beyond Capitalism) who stresses the impending necessity for systemic change to capitalism. Dating back to September 2012, the video linked here, is one of many where Alperovitz points out the requirements for an alternative. He says: “It begins with the question: who owns the capital?” Worker ownership and the experiments are important. He starts talking about this at about 17:42.

But what is important to remember, as Alperovitz points out in a recent Real News interview in January, is that co-ops are practical idealistically. That is, they are politically practical. This quote is from the January 27th interview, linked here

“[The] Interesting other thing about [co-ops] which is very important, particularly for liberals and the left to think about: if you’re doing this kind of work and it’s practical and it really is serious, not rhetoric and slogans, you find people who think of themselves as moderates and conservatives — small business people — who say: that’s a good thing to do at the local level. These [co-op worker/owners] are not the national ideologues. And you find…people working hard, they’re trying to better the neighborhood, trying to better themselves, they’re doing productive work. That’s a good idea. And we’re surprised at how you break through ideologies if it’s practical.”

Co-ops and Political Change

Co-ops could and should affect political policy. This is the thinking that I’ve read from several perspectives recently. And in a recent Co-operative News article linked here, the word manifesto is used to promote change.

Anthony Murray, a co-op focused journalist who also works with the International Co-operative Association (ICA), wrote the Co-operative News article which focuses on a recent meeting (in Britain of course) to address co-operatives being part of a social movement.

What happened at the meeting suggests that co-ops are part of a large social movement. The meeting was led by the the Social Economy Alliance. Six papers are outlined in the article that aim to modify government policy. Each paper offers co-ops as part of a solution. Central to what the government must do is address social concerns — a strong theme throughout, rooted in socially-based business models. Here’s a quote from proposal 4 called The Bare Necessities: Making Markets Work: “Social, co-operative, mutual and community owned enterprises are the key to the solution, sidestepping the struggle between statist intervention and private profiteering through real people power. This is good old-fashioned entrepreneurship grounded in a genuine connection and commitment to the community.”

In the US, others are discussing a larger change, too. Two notable experts come to mind: Gar Alperovitz and Marjorie Kelly. Alperovitz is author of America Beyond Capitalism. He suggests some kind of systemic  alternative is needed to the system of capitalism. Kelly is author of Owning Our Future who has a great term for a new kind of economy called a generative economy, as opposed to standard capitalist markets that are extractive.

The group in the UK is trying to tackle these issues, and its efforts pose something very significant by appealing to government. Richard Wolff, an American economist, says there is an inevitable political presence co-ops will have as they start to scale up. More about him in my next post.

Co-ops linked with policy and government present a real solution for society. Time will tell what kind of broader acceptance, and challenge to them, will take place.

Co-ops and Saving the World


I’m Chuck and I wanted to give some background for the development of this blog. Ten years ago, I began to wonder about growth — the accumulation of resources — and whether this can be a solution for everyone. Or does it unnecessarily create winners and losers? This idea led me to the book Beyond Growth by Herman Daly. He explained that measuring economic growth needs to be connected to the actual natural resources available, and not on metrics that exclude them, like GDP. My Amazon review of the book “Growth Isn’t Everything” praises Daly’s ideas on resource analysis. Growth, and the challenges of it, ties into the social challenges of equality, and ultimately environmental problems.

As social and environmental problems have increased, I’ve continued to read other authors that have thought about solutions including E. F. Schumacher, Thomas Frank, Noam Chomsky, Gar Alperovitz, Jean Jaques Rousseau, William Greider, and others. To me, social and environmental problems can be traced to a source: control of wealth. This is the conclusion the Occupy movement put in the public conscience with an emphasis on the 1% that has consolidated wealth.

The basic assessment that there are finite resources on the planet that Daly emphasizes, and a consolidation of resources resulting in social and environmental strife, shows me that some kind of sharing needs to take place.

This is where co-ops come in. There are many resources on the web that explain what a co-op is better than I can. See the International Co-operative Association (ICA) website for a great definition of what a co-op is linked here.

Co-ops are a solution. They are practical and implemented worldwide to the tune of generating $2.5 trillion in income. What is done with that income, and whether even measuring income is the best metric, are questions to be considered.

I started this blog to track ideas related to co-ops. The next post will discuss how the ICA measures the biggest co-ops in the world.

Thanks for reading,