Leo Panitch and the limits of social democratic reforms

Interesting interview with Leo Panitch on the state of social democracy in Europe and the need to go beyond the old ways of thinking, unsing the greek party Syriza as an example.


The End of Vulgar Keynesianism?

For those who wonder if we need to go "beyond" Keynes, you cannot miss this. Listen to this podcast from the BBC. (Just scroll down to the edition of 25 Feb 2013). It targets mostly debates currently in the UK, but the lessons apply almost everywhere. Fascinating debate between many thinkers like Under and Hutton.


Alperovitz & Schweickart on Economic Democracy and the role of markets

Must see video for those who want to know more about these issues.


Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism

Have a look at this article in The Guardian, on the Mondragon model.

"The largest corporation in the Basque region, MC is also one of Spain's top ten biggest corporations (in terms of sales or employment). Far better than merely surviving since its founding in 1956, MC has grown dramatically. Along the way, it added a co-operative bank, Caja Laboral (holding almost $25bn in deposits in 2010). And MC has expanded internationally, now operating over 77 businesses outside Spain. MC has proven itself able to grow and prosper as an alternative to – and competitor of – capitalist organizations of enterprise."


The Rise of the New Economy Movement

Very interesting article on the website Common Dreams. "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."


Le développement local, de droite à gauche

Voici le texte d'un discours prononcé dans le cadre de l'ACFAS, alors que j'étais coordonnateur de la Table nationale des CDC. Un vieux texte intitulé Entre la complaisance et le radicalisme économique : Quelle perspective pour le développement local?.


Lakoff: Framing for Occupy Wall Street

I have to share this brilliant framing memo from Lakoff to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Would have been nice however if he went a little further an proposed the democratization of financial institutions. Something like : "Shouldn't we own these financial businesses instead of them owning us?"


Presentation on our book project

Excerpts, in English, from a presentation on our book project "Economic Democracy: Users' Guide". Vancouver, Canada, June 2011, during the federal NDP convention.

Présentation sur notre projet de livre

Extraits, en français, de notre présentation sur notre projet de livre "Une économie démocratique : Guide de l'utilisateur". Vancouver, Canada, juin 2011, pendant le Congrès fédéral du NPD.


Le capitalisme : en sortir, le dompter ou le dépasser ?

Voir cette réflexion dans le blogue de Jean-François Lisée. Pour l'instant, il ne va probablement pas assez loin en termes de solutions, mais il a certainement le doigt sur une grande part du problème.


The state of Social-democratic parties in Europe

Have Social-democratic parties in Europe lost their way? Have the ideals of gradual social progress, the bedrock of social-democracy in the 20th century been abandonned? Read: Social Democracy and Social Progress. Not sure there is an easy answer, but this article does ask some good questions.


Economic Democracy and Investment

Part 2.


Economic Democracy and the Crisis

Have a look at the first part of this speech I gave recently on some of the root causes of the financial and economic crisis.


La démocratie économique reposant sur des communautés décentralisées

Voir cet article de Takis Fotopoulos, Pour une démocratie économique, dans la Revue Agone. Même si le texte date de 1999, c'est un bon texte, même si la perspective est différente en plusieurs points de la mienne. C'est modèle assez proche de PARECON et qui ne laisse (à tort je crois) aucune place au marché ; c'est plutôt un modèle "fédératif" à partir des autonomies locales. Sans être complètement d'accord, quand même très bien au niveau conceptuel.


Is the US opening its eyes to social enterprise?

Pretty good article in The Economist. Is social enterprise and social innovation going to get the political recognition it deserves? My problem with this article, however, is how it simply defines social entrepreneurship as a "private" enterprise and even talks about it in terms of P3s. We need to insist on the difference between private profit-seeking businesses and "private" but public-interest organisations such as many in civil society and social economics.


Ronald Reagan on Economic Democracy: "A Path Befitting a Free People" Part I

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan sought to create universal capital ownership in the United States of America through the Capital Homestead Act. The Capital Homestead Act would reorganize the Federal Reserve so that each citizen of the United States would become a shareholder of the Federal Reserve. If implemented it would be the most sweeping democratization of access to the real credit and productive capacity of the United States of America. It would also be the the most audacious attempt yet made in North America to place the common credit of the people into direct popular control since the early days of the Social Credit government in Alberta. Were it to be implemented it may also inspire a new generation of enterprise models that will end the existence of Wall Street's privileged access to credit and the 'end of corporate welfare as we know it.'

Please forgive the typos and my non-conformance to the Chicago Manual! This sneak preview is a very rough draft, and part of my ongoing quest to rewrite the Regina Manifesto.


A spectre is haunting Wall Street...the spectre of economic democracy and a cooperative commonwealth.

The Spirit of America's revolutionary founders and of Adam Smith is brooding over America. We Americans, and indeed much of the world, are once again in a populist battle against capitalism and imperialism. It is a battle that we can and must win. Victory will free our enterprises, throw down the walls between businesses and their communities and open our economy to a future of personal peer-to-peer access to capital and credit without a spiraling burden of debt, inflation and deflation.

Adam Smith, the arch-critic of mercantilism never uses the world 'capitalism' to describe his body of economic thought and as advocates of free enterprise and open economies we are pleased with his moral sentiments and wish to enlarge upon them. Liberty is the foundation of prosperity. License objectifies everything and reduces all relationships that sustain a fruitful community to commodities to be sought and sold. Our freedoms are lost in the exchange.

Capital is good as any tool in the possession of a skilled worker is good. Capital's origins are thoroughly social and the fertile conditions for its use are the result of many centuries of scientific, technological and social development, a vast cultural inheritance belonging to us all and which the entrepreneur is uniquely placed as a steward. The wealth that results from the use of capital is good when it is a genuine reward for real work of brain and brawn; it is the corporatist enclosure of capital that must be uprooted by America's business community and by an assertive state that refuses to subordinate society's credit and labor power to corporatist hegemony.

The pathology of the corporatists' modern-day mercantilism is that it creates wealth for a few who have privileged front-of-the -line access to capital, credit and meaningful investment opportunities in their communities. The result is a widening gulf between the welfare of fleet-footed and highly liquid economic royalists and the captive subjects bound by the royalist's privileges. Capital cannot create wealth without labor, yet entrepreneurs and their employees are oppressed by a legal-political- corporatist complex that treats the marketplace like a monopoly board game and reduces every relationship required to create vibrant and whole communities into liquidity, commodities and all manner of fraudulent financial instruments.

A level playing field would end the corporatist migration of society's wealth and credit to corporate coffers on Wall Street and allow workers and their communities to gain control of ownership of the means of production financed by their own wealth and credit. Since this is a problem that orthodox academically-trained economists are rarely concerned with, one wonders what their chief icon, Adam Smith would have to say about workers being intimidated to silent acceptance of watching the corporatistic self-styled 'capitalist' oppress workers with the workers' own savings and deferred wages.
The present worldwide financial crisis is a demonstration of the self-destructive tendency on display in dozens of other financial crises when the art of capital allocation is transformed into the practice of financial sorcery wherein empty counterfeit wealth is created and real wealth, high wages, meaningful employment destroyed, and purchasing power evaporates. The current crisis of unsustainable debt that ignited asset-price bubbles has ignited populist ire all over the globe. The resulting changes will transform the world order and though it remains to be seen what the overall nature of the changes will be there are encouraging signs of progressive business-to-community and government initiatives taking place in every corner of the world, including North America.

What will a transformed America be like when the values of her founders are applied to economic organizations? A whole new world.

We welcome you to an America where access to capital on both a beneficial, capital ownership and usufruct basis is universal, where the means of production are falling steadily in price, and where the word 'job' may become an anachronism. In the midst of the chaos of our homegrown global financial crisis, and seemingly unnoticed by Washington D.C. and Wall Street alike, America's Main Street is wading right toward the middle of this new economic world. It is a world where tools once available for hundreds of thousands of dollars are now matched in capability by tools costing a few thousand dollars of capital expenditure.

Along with the collapsing cost of capital will be the corollary (and hopefully orderly) retirement of the monetary and creditary systems of the world as we presently know it. For example empowered producing firms and households will create credit instruments on their own globally networked peer-to-peer platforms. The result, according to Chris Cook is that commercial banks will be disintermediated third-party service providers and central banks will be replaced with networks of payment systems and market platforms that settle transactions on a peer-to-peer and conditional basis. These may take the form of root server dot market domains providing the infrastructure for transaction filespaces across market channels.

The nature of manufacturing has changed rapidly. There are a number of scenarios entertained about what shape manufacturing will take. We believe the era of mass production manufacturing is near its definitive end, and an era of DIY manufacturing is dawning. We believe our prototypes demonstrate the power and desirability of peer-to-peer individual and household access to manufacturing tools.

We are interested in a coherent architecture of financing peer-to-peer production and finance drawing upon these prototypes, including a system of finance that countervails the need to fully amortize fixed costs through mass production. We feel a countervailing economy with such a capability to do so free of debt will be at a business advantage in that marketing and production will be freed to respond to real consumer needs as their prime directive rather than be driven to pay for fast depreciating specialized machinery that must be kept running at capacity in order to amortize its cost, with additional costs generated in terms of inventory and a burden on the ecology.

In a world where the realities of peak oil and peak credit is converging we need a true consumer order driven system, lean production being a prime example, to minimize inventories, locate production facilities close to marketplaces and to scale capital expenditure to the flow of production. We are well into a 30 year trend of shifting from mass production with specialized machinery to small shop production using general purpose machinery. Even now the volume of goods manufactured in independent and highly networked job shops like those existing in Emilia-Romagna and shops in Shenzhen Province exceeds that produced using mass production technology.  

 We can't afford to wait for what is left of the mass production infrastructure to be fully paid for to begin the process of empowered civil marketplaces of America's free and open social economy taking the power of production into its own hands. We will describe our marketplace framework here at ECODEMA in another post. We will also describe an orderly "migration zone" for the refugees, namely workers, investors and their communities that will surely be fleeing the old industrial system for the new.  This new world is an increasingly peer-to-peer and 'massively parallel' world where the traditional walled distinctions between business principals, workers and investors no longer apply in the ways they once did.   In the peer-to-peer world the relevant decision makers will be entrepreneurs and households who are working for themselves in cooperative partnerships of various kinds. It will be a better world for investors as well, since assets can be placed in safe harbours and investors can take their slice of revenues before commercial banks and management do so.  

We believe that the era of purchasing power being attached almost wholly to employment contracts may also be coming to a merciful end, and that economic conditions much like that which existed at the time of the American Revolution are at our doors . For this reason we advocate a civil market economy in which labor is not subordinated to capital via the employment contract. We argue for economic democracy on Lockean grounds. The employment contract should be progressively eroded by the business community and finally abolished in favour of the implementation of democratic-republican principles advocated by America's revolutionaries and the framers of the US Constitution, extending the principles of democratic-republican governance to a free enterprise economy.

The application of democratic-republican ideals to the organization of our enterprises may be unfamiliar territory to most Americas, as well as to academics and business practitioners alike. Americans, whether identifying themselves as 'liberal' or 'conservative' draw varying lines of separation between our freedom to choose our public officials at the ballot box and to make our voices heard in council chambers and the degree of liberty we exercise in our daily lives at work.

The apologist for capitalism is particularly eager to defend a very sharp line between the two spheres of state and the economy even while suggesting that our governments ought to 'operate like a business' and otherwise suggesting that any alternative to capitalism is akin to capitalism's once erstwhile enemy, marxism. However many of the principles applied to governance of republics has been fruitfully applied within individual companies as well as within the context of interfirm collaboration, resulting in resilient business communities. The fruitful cross-fertilization of the principles of governance of political and economic affairs of a society suggests the desirability of a shared operating system.

Obviously a shared operating system for a republic and the economy that sustains it would be based on shared ethical principles, shared social principles and a shared worldview. This development of a common worldview interests us, and we believe its development will require a reframing of what a free enterprise economy is.

We define a free enterprise economy to be an economy where inalienable rights of human beings may be not be surrendered by any kind of pact that alienates those rights in the marketplace. Human rights such as freedom of association are not parked at the factory gate. A human being has the inalienable right to liberty and may not sell themselves into slavery. No firm may offer any lifetime, annual or hourly consideration whatsoever based on lifetime, annual or hourly slavery or "employment" and at the same time consider itself a free enterprise.

In "Marxism: The Ultimate Capitalist Tool" David P. Ellerman argues that the largely self-referential debate capitalists have about the merits of marxism and capitalism has been misframed in much the same manner as a hypothetical debate about the merits of the mutually anti-social aspects of public vs. private ownership of slaves might be framed (p. 1-3). Though actual marxism may be defeated and discredited by the victorious capitalist celebrant of private wage slavery, marxism continues to serve as capitalism's perfect strawman, representing all that is 'other' with reference to capitalism. According to Ellerman, an understanding of John Locke's labor theory of property, such as that held by Proudhon and a number of Ricardian socialists as by generations of North American populists, should give the advocate of capitalism pause to consider what the active embrace of Locke's theory might imply for the relationship between workers, firms and investors in a non-marxist construction of economic democracy in keeping with the founding ethics and values of these United States:

"In political terms, the precursors of the democratic economy would look back more to the guild socialists and libertarian left than to any version of Marxism. The relevant intellectual history is the historical democratic and anti-slavery movements" that "also uncovers the true intellectual precursors of the employment system who erected a theory of non-democratic government and of slavery based on explicit or implicit voluntary contracts." (p.2-3)

In contrast to this Hobbesian state of affairs where anti-social elements of humanity are quite content to let their willing subjects voluntarily surrender their birthright of liberty for the security extended by Mammon, we ask with Ellerman what might happen when the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment are applied to our economy. What might life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness look like in the farms, fields and factories of America? If one believes these ought to exist in an inalienable sense in America's workplaces then one must admit that capitalists have generally been misdirecting their questions.

And Marxists served capitalists well in developing the capitalist framing of economic questions. The Marxist and the Capitalist both agree that capitalism is based on private property rights. The Marxist and the Capitalist both agree that the employment self-sale-rent-a-slave-by-the-hour contract is voluntary. The Marxist and the Capitalist admit of no inalienable rights in the workplace and both belligerents generally ignore inalienable rights across the board on generally utilitarian grounds. Marxists and Capitalist are generally happy to admit a bit of sphere sovereignty in that democracy is operative in the public sphere operated by the State and capitalist firms are the private affair of investors who may use capital as the means to craft any contractual relationship they see fit to craft.

This shared Capitalist-Marxist framing is unnecessary since in a peer-to-peer world of enterprise collaboration capital, labour, and consumer end their estrangement. Access to capital goods will be universal and the American economy will return to the revolutionary ideas of Scottish enlightenment thinkers like Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson where workers and households employed themselves in production, largely for household use. Liberation from the necessity of making large capital expenditures is accelerating this process as we speak.

The necessity of employing a bureaucratic corporate management class and commercial banks as intermediaries between investors and those directly involved in the direct art and act of production is also fast coming to an end as well. Their valuable skill and knowledge sets will be made available to business and communities on a disintermediated , consultative and educational basis. Households and skilled labor talent in socially-organized communities will take advantage of the low cost of capital to supply their local marketplaces and neighborhoods with their goods and services. They will trade their locally-produced goods on their own regionally-scaled commercial exchange platforms, taking exchange credit for their production and in turn buying the necessary means of subsistence with those exchange credits, necessaries such as locally-grown produce, bread, cheese, butter, clothing, haircuts etc. As likely as not households and businesses alike will be able to pay their local and state taxes with their earned trade credits.


Capitalism and Marxism:Asking the Same Wrong Questions...

and bringing us the same wrong answers!


ECODEMA Welcomes you to a New America

ECODEMA welcomes you, the dear reader, to a New America.

OK, it's part of a draft of a draft of a paper being presented before economics educators in Las Vegas in April. I've been assigned the "theoretical and descriptive portion" of the paper. Luckily for me Kevin Carson (http://www.mutualist.blogspot.com) is making it easy for me to segway into a number of post-keynesian perspectives, and for that I thank him, even if he is perhaps not a post-keynesian. Yep, when it's all footnoted you'll be able to follow Kevin Carson's footprints to our New America.

The Prototypes discussion, being written by my business partner, involves Emilia-Romagna, Mondragon, the WIRBank Cooperative and a multi-bank depositors' program modeled somewhat on reframing the experience of the former Vermont National Bank's Socially Responsible Banking Fund. All the prototypes are wrapped-up in terms of Chris Cook's concept of Open Capital (http://www.opencapital.net).

I'm open for suggestions and comments on the further development of this paper. The extended entry contains the first few paragraphs as they stand now, sans footnotes at the moment. So it isn't so pretty right now.


Another one!

As you may know, Tom Vouloumanos and I are working on a book on economic democracy. Looks like this book by Allan Engler beat us to it. Haven't read it yet, but I'm sure it's generally on the same themes that we have been developing here. Anyone has comments on this work?


The New Regina Manifesto?:A Work in Progress

I'm at it again. Can't leave the CCF alone. I've been reworking the Regina Manifesto, reframing it in largely non-statist terms, as if guild socialists had written the Regina Manifesto rather than Fabians. It is also framed in term of an actual cooperative rather than as a political party per se. Historically cooperatives have played both roles concurrently. I invite others to join in the fun. What I've whipped up so far is in the extended entry.


Feasible Socialism? The works of Robin Archer

Please have a look here for Economic Democracy : The politics of Feasible Socialism by Robin Archer. I must admit I did not know his work. Looking through it, I would have three quick observations.

First, his general perspective is very good and interesting. Very much the same content and tone as the book I'm currently writing. I almost feel bad I haven’t read some of his stuff before.

Second, it must be underlined that a good part of this book is philosophical. It aims at establishing the philosophical grounds for economic democracy. Chapter 1, “Freedom and Authority” is remarkable in this regard. It builds bridges between political liberalism, communitarianism (without explicitly naming it) and socialism, founding his socialism on equal liberty and sociality.

Third, his approach is based on two pillars: 1) work-place democracy and 2) a corporatist (more “Scandinavian” model) of macro-economic policy, where unions negociate trade-offs with business and government.

This last point would be the basis for my one (big) criticism of Archer. His definition of economic democracy rests essentially on work-place democracy and the political power of unions. While this is fine, it forgets other important aspects of economic life: consumption, investment, environment, communications, etc.

Have a look at this review from Ron Baiman in New Ground.


An important reference on basic income research

If you're someone thinking about how we can reorganize our income-support systems, then I would highly recommend the website of Basic Income Studies.


THE TAKE - Occupy. Resist. Produce.

The Take is a Canadian documentary film released in 2004 by the wife and husband team of Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis. It tells the story of workers in Buenos Aires, Argentina who reclaim control of a closed Forja auto plant where they once worked and turn it into a worker cooperative, or as could be argued, a working model of anarcho-syndicalism.

This is a moving film that puts a human face on the struggle for alternatives to capitalism. It is inspiring to listen to the story of ordinary people faced with great obstacles working together in solidarity and providing a living example of Economic Democracy for the Americas.

This film can be viewed below:

You may order a copy of the film here

Also linked is a 2009 Democracy Now interview with Klein and Lewis called Fire the Boss about the film as well as recent devellopments with worker occupations in the US and Canada in light of the global economic crisis and updates on the Argentinian workers' recuperation and control movement.


Tribute to Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997)

Cornelius Castoriadis was an influential Greek philosopher and a founder of the French based radical libertarian socialist group Socialisme ou Barbarie in the post WWII period. Castoriadis' political origins were in Marxism but he later moved towards the Anarchist ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin via his readings of Rosa Luxembourg. His influence is still felt today, as many of his ideas have influenced modern democratic economic proposals such as Participatory Economics (Parecon) proposed by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel as well as a market-based economic democracy model proposed by David Schweickart (See also this debate posted on Ecodema between Albert and Schweickart) His ideas regarding autonomy and workers' self-management are being put into action in many of the breathtaking changes going on throughout Latin America in the last decade.

Cornelius Castoriadis was born in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey on March 11, 1922 and passed away in Paris, France on December 26, 1997.

ECODEMA is honoured to link one of his great contributions to democratizing the economy:


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