Common Wealth and Collective Power
June 5, 2019 4:32 AM   Subscribe

Bernie Sanders' plan to empower workers could revolutionise Britain's economy (among others') - "Giving employees a stake in firms would reshape power: this could be the start of a transatlantic challenge to neoliberalism."
In place of an extractive and unequal economy, the fight is on for one that is democratic and sustainable by design, rooted in new models of ownership.

Although the details of Sanders’ plans are still to be decided, the outlines are clear. The policy would require businesses to transfer a percentage of their shares annually to a fund controlled by employees. The fund would then pay a regular dividend to workers while giving them a powerful voting bloc in corporate governance. Growing over time, the funds would be a new way of socialising the economy from the inside out.

Reshaping ownership would give people a stake and a say, helping democratise their workplace. Analysis for Common Wealth, a left-leaning thinktank – which I am director of – focused on designing ownership models for the democratic economy, showed that with a 10% stake in the largest US corporations, the average dividend payment per employee would be $2,725 (£2,160) per year. Of course, there are sharp differences in profitability between different companies and sectors. Getting the design of how the dividend is distributed will be crucial to ensuring the policy does not worsen inequality. And that also means ensuring that society as a whole – not just workers – gets a share of collectively produced profits. But done well, it can transform private, corporate wealth into common wealth.
also btw :P
  • Money is Law - "Traditionally, the state is defined by whatever party has a monopoly on violence, be it the military or the mafia or the mob. But an entity with a monopoly on money can achieve the same persuasive capacity... When you have the ability to loan out infinite amounts of money, you can enslave a population with no violence at all. See also: The entire banking industry."
  • National Facebookism - "We work so hard for attention. That can be the proof-of-work that generates GlobalCoin."
  • Inflation - "In Cuba, health care and education are Free, and toys and food are expensive... the Socialists are smartest of them all. Baumol was right[1] — Healthcare and education are overpriced because the opportunity cost of labor is high. Cuba gets it. By running an authoritarian commie state, they don’t waste human resources on politics and media and bankers and other parasites. That frees up a lot of manpower for people to become doctors."
  • Scalable Communism - "China's rolling out a nationwide social credit system that assigns scores based on things like littering and helping old people. A handy app helps citizens identify nearby deadbeats so they can be properly shunned. We may not have the cognitive capacity to remember a nationwide network of amici, but computers do!"
A 600-Page Textbook About Modern Monetary Theory Has Sold Out - "MMT argues that governments in control of their own currencies, like the U.S. and Japan, aren't constrained in the ways standard economics says they are. They may risk stoking inflation or running out of resources if they spend too much -- but they can't go broke."[2]
At Westminster College in Utah, John Watkins said he’s adding the new MMT textbook to his syllabus next semester. A professor who’s been teaching macroeconomics for three decades, he says the field could use more intellectual diversity.

“Most macro texts copy each other,’’ he said. “So many professors have been schooled in mainstream economics, so they likely will continue teaching ideas that have little or no relevance to the world.’’[3]

Mitchell, the textbook’s co-author, said there’s growing interest outside of academia too. Investors and politicians are reaching out.

He’s been invited to the U.K. Labour Party’s annual conference, and “I’m now giving workshops to the financial community,’’ he said. “They’ve suddenly realized this is something they need to understand.’’
After Neoliberalism - "By contrast, the third camp advocates what I call progressive capitalism, which prescribes a radically different economic agenda, based on four priorities. The first is to restore the balance between markets, the state, and civil society."
Slow economic growth, rising inequality, financial instability, and environmental degradation are problems born of the market, and thus cannot and will not be overcome by the market on its own. Governments have a duty to limit and shape markets through environmental, health, occupational-safety, and other types of regulation. It is also the government’s job to do what the market cannot or will not do, like actively investing in basic research, technology, education, and the health of its constituents.

The second priority is to recognize that the “wealth of nations” is the result of scientific inquiry – learning about the world around us – and social organization that allows large groups of people to work together for the common good.[4] Markets still have a crucial role to play in facilitating social cooperation, but they serve this purpose only if they are governed by the rule of law and subject to democratic checks. Otherwise, individuals can get rich by exploiting others, extracting wealth through rent-seeking rather than creating wealth through genuine ingenuity...

This brings us to the third priority: addressing the growing problem of concentrated market power. By exploiting information advantages, buying up potential competitors, and creating entry barriers, dominant firms are able to engage in large-scale rent-seeking to the detriment of everyone else. The rise in corporate market power, combined with the decline in workers’ bargaining power, goes a long way toward explaining why inequality is so high and growth so tepid...

The fourth key item on the progressive agenda is to sever the link between economic power and political influence. Economic power and political influence are mutually reinforcing and self-perpetuating, especially where, as in the US, wealthy individuals and corporations may spend without limit in elections. As the US moves ever closer to a fundamentally undemocratic system of “one dollar, one vote,” the system of checks and balances so necessary for democracy likely cannot hold: nothing will be able to constrain the power of the wealthy. This is not just a moral and political problem: economies with less inequality actually perform better.
Henry George: The economist to watch in the 21st Century - "I am sitting here diving into a brand new copy of a book – Progress and Poverty – that was written 140 years ago, in 1879. And it occurred to me I should write you about it because the ideas in this book are as relevant to the 21st century as any other school of economic thought. The author is Henry George, a political economist and journalist who was influential in the late 19th century. And although Georgism isn't getting a lot of buzz in the business press right now, this book I am about to re-read has sold millions of copies since it was written. And that's because its themes resonate."
It’s an economic school of thought that is very pro-capitalism in that it holds that individuals have every right to profit from the value of what they produce themselves. But the economic value derived from rents is not the property of individuals but belongs jointly to all members of a community.

Now, back when Henry George was alive, the term “rents” meant land and natural resources... In the 21st century, where the lion’s share of the income in advanced economies is derived in the services sector, it’s not just physical property that matters, but also intellectual property. In fact, IP is the crucial issue in the trade dispute between China and the United States. IP is the singular most important issue regarding drug costs, due to the “rents” drug companies derive from their patents. And IP is what makes the dominant technology companies in the US prodigious money-making machines.

Put simply, the Georgist Revival must think about the extraction of rents in a broader context than just from land. More and more, rents are now extracted from ideas... I want to talk, not just about rent-seeking, land value capture, and intellectual property, but also about monopolies, oligopolies and monopsony power. I am also interested in the concepts of rent extraction, profit and externalities because this is related to the climate change debate. And finally, given the collapse of the center of the political spectrum – and the increasing polarization of electorates around the world, I am interested in the income and wealth inequality aspects of Georgist ideas as well.
"To those who, seeing the vice and misery that spring from the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege, feel the possibility of a higher social state and would strive for its attainment." --San Francisco, March, 1879[5]
posted by kliuless (7 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
cheers but we've had the divi since 1844
posted by scruss at 4:50 AM on June 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

there's John Lewis as well. A bit odd using Britain as an example, but I'm off to read the rest of the links!
posted by cendawanita at 6:41 AM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Why is Sanders getting credit for an idea first proposed in the primary by Elizabeth Warren?

I mean, I know why.
posted by Automocar at 7:20 AM on June 5, 2019 [29 favorites]

It strikes me that even people willing/eager to explore alternatives to rule by capitalists find themselves reflexively using pro-capitalist language. Observe this bit from the start of the Edward Harrison piece (emphasis added):
Here’s how I would describe Georgism: It’s an economic school of thought that is very pro-capitalism in that it holds that individuals have every right to profit from the value of what they produce themselves. But the economic value derived from rents is not the property of individuals but belongs jointly to all members of a community.
The bolded section confused me a bit, since the thing that Harrison identifies as distinctly capitalist — the belief that individuals have every right to profit from what they produce themselves — is a deeply anti-capitalist position. The engine of capitalism, the thing that keeps workers working long hours and that lets capitalists amass absurd amounts of money and power, is specifically the capitalist strategy of systematically denying individuals the right to profit from what they produce themselves. If we could establish a system where individuals — all individuals — have the unalienable right to profit from what they produce themselves, that by itself would smash capitalism.

I am a big fan of Georgist taxation schemes, specifically for the reason that Harrison points out in that piece. As Harrison observes, we can extend the logic of the land value tax to cover a great swath of the modern economy. I'd add that by so doing we'd be taking a big step toward socializing the means of production and thereby expropriating the expropriators. I'm not so much nitpicking Harrison here as pointing out that thoughtful people come to the conclusion that socialist strategies are correct — real socialist strategies, strategies entailing seizing control of the means of production — even when they've got an ideological hangover that makes them think that capitalism is a system wherein individuals have every right to profit from the value of what they produce themselves.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:28 AM on June 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

Why is Sanders getting credit for an idea first proposed in the primary by Elizabeth Warren?

I mean, I know why.

Gillibrand, Warren, Sanders And Velazquez worked on Employee Stock Ownership bills introduced at various times in 2018 and before
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 AM on June 5, 2019 [22 favorites]

I thought that was odd, too, Reclusive. Georgism has typically been called, if not socialist, at least a progressive economic system (though Marx criticized it as a last ditch effort to save capitalism). It seems far more popular among left libertarians/anarchists than those on the right (ancaps hate this one weird tax!), and it's not hard to see why, given that real estate speculation has long been a favourite tool of the capitalist class.
posted by asnider at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ah. So this is why Sander's post for Pride was so incredibly tone deaf.

GLBTQ people face workplace discrimination! Pay your workers more!
posted by happyroach at 10:16 AM on June 5, 2019

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