Monthly Archives: May 2012

Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream

with Thomas M. Hanna

This article originally appeared in the June 11th, 2012 edition of The Nation.

It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda. It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. We contend that it is possible not only to talk about this once forbidden subject but to begin to build a serious politics that can do what needs to be done in key sectors.

Proposals for public ownership will of course be attacked as “socialism,” but conservatives call any progressive program—to say nothing of the modest economic policies of the Obama administration—“socialist.” However, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated “free” enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.

Public ownership in certain sectors of the economy is the only way to solve some of America’s most pressing problems. Take the financial arena, where the current recession was hatched. Today, five giant banks control more than one-third of all deposits. Wall Street claims this makes it more efficient; but even if the Big Five banks were efficient (which is open to question—how “efficient” are institutions that didn’t know they were carrying a huge backlog of underwater loans?), they were all deeply involved in creating the meltdown that cost taxpayers billions in bailouts, and the overall economy trillions. Numerous economists, left and right, believe that these unbridled operations will inevitably lead to another crisis. JPMorgan Chase’s recent speculative loss of at least $2 billion should be fair warning.

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The Rise of the New Economy Movement

Activists, theorists, organizations and ordinary citizens are rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up.

 As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In ‘New Economic Visions’, a special five-part AlterNet series edited by Economics Editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back. 

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness. The “New Economy Movement” is a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up.

The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for the “99 percent” in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now—and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge.

Thousands of real world projects — from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives and state-owned banks — are underway across the country. Many are self-consciously understood as attempts to develop working prototypes in state and local “laboratories of democracy” that may be applied at regional and national scale when the right political moment occurs.

The movement includes young and old, “Occupy” people, student activists, and what one older participant describes as thousands of “people in their 60s from the ’60s” rolling up their sleeves to apply some of the lessons of an earlier movement.

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Interview with David Barsamian of Alternative Radio

Thanks to Alternative Radio

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Podcast: Speaking on Inequality at the Unitarian Congregation in Annapolis

Earlier this year, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, MD hosted a community forum on inequality in the United States, and its impact on the economy and on democracy. Gar Alperovitz keynoted the event, and hosted a diverse question-and-answer portion (which begins at the 50:20 mark).

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Podcast: The Emerging New Economy

On May 7, the Baltimore Higher Education Alliance for Real Democracy and Red Emma’s  brought Gar Alperovitz to Baltimore’s 2640 Space  to discuss “the emerging new economy.”  Joining Gar were Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin, who discussed the path-breaking legislation he co-sponsored making Maryland the first state in the country to legally recognize benefit corporations or “B-corps”, and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Daphne Wysham, who highlighted another Maryland initiative, the Genuine Progress Indicator, a new metric that presents a comprehensive alternative to one-dimensional economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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More video after the break…
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