Voting to preserve morally stale, unproductive and oligarchy self-serving economic inequalities will only reinforce the trickle-down public versus trickle-down private sector thematic impedance mismatch. This, in turn, will exacerbate opportunistic tendencies within those who jump to capitalize on so-called electoral mandates to entertain even more disingenuous comparisons between inherent incongruities. Economic statistics prove in jobs lost and created both domestically and overseas during any possible recent timeframe that predatory capitalism’s track record in picking and sticking winners and losers holds a candle to no one among the bottom rungs of America’s social misery index.
Neither the ideological left nor right deserves a free pass in this colluding march towards debilitating structural unemployment. In “Liberalism’s Glass Jaw” (New York Times), conservative columnist Ross Douthat correctly dissects the inherent fallacies of a “Divine Left” where “enlightened do-goodism of the party’s upper middle class supporters and the economic interests of its remaining blue-collar constituents” coalesces into retread liberalism that blurs “into a kind of corporatism, in which big government intertwines with big business rather than restraining it.” America’s paycheck-to-paycheck workers get foreclosed upon and cast aside by “too big to fail” odds against them in this “heads I win, tails you lose,” “big is best,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce campaign funding and bundling casino shuffle where the house always scores big, especially at auction.
Corporatism, how incestuously self-interested and self-perpetuating big government and big business intertwine to defend outsourcing and off-shoring as marketplace virtues that transcend nationhood full employment values, combines the worst of all worlds for local living economies dedicated to organically expanding job creation growth benefitting local stakeholders as shareholders. But without losing a quarterly return beat, America can place investment bets on behalf of tomorrow’s generations that also empower today’s existing and emerging working classes trying to survive global marketplace ricochets in the here and now. For those Aristotelians who believe that life influences art, there are several relatively new, cutting edge worker ownership films depicting successful local living economy practitioners right on America’s doorsteps. What three of these documentaries have in common is showing how a real-time picture is still worth a thousand words, that seeing is believing, that a strong participatory ethos leads to empowerment, and that individual ownership equals community fulfillment.
The earliest piece, PBS’ November 2010 “Fixing the Future,” is transcribed through the eyes of host David Brancaccio visiting communities across America that deploy innovative approaches to create new economy jobs and rebuild local prosperity. The brand new “Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work” documentary showcases workers exercising a more productive sovereignty in worker-owned and cooperative businesses in the United States based on the acclaimed Mondragon, Spain model. The also newly-released, “We the Owners,” by the metrics-conscious Foundation for Enterprise Development, portrays three American companies practicing open book management, distributed employee ownership and high-involvement cultures. Viewed together, these new economy murals represent an emerging “made in America” self-reliant upgrade to virtuous capitalist practices that are purposeful, profitable and patriotic.
From Bellingham, Washington to Cleveland, Ohio to New York City’s Bronx borough, eclectic hybrid worker ownership models like post-immigrant communities engender new solutions sets where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, where instead of self-deporting – both customers and worker-owners self-fulfill based on a quest for individual and community freedom and a return to place-based sovereignty. Enlarging collaboration while augmenting individual responsibility allows these companies and their host communities to be both privileged and empowered to own the benchmarks and reflect the values that are core to our “far west” intrinsic American existence.
In tomorrow’s “One Worker, One Vote,” “remade in America” economic model, the key to improving shared growth and prosperity is how we organize to provide benefits for nontraditional and disenfranchised groupings based on technology breakthroughs and new social movements and convictions that challenge us to go beyond current comfort levels. The central tenet of the multi-employer benefits world revolves around access to pooled trusts through collectively bargained benefits. When workers as owners are connected to this process, economies of scale drive down costs, increase efficiencies and upgrade fulfillment. Collective bargaining is synonymous with the right to free assembly and free speech and in its clearest commercial form represents a pure market force that keeps both employers and managers thinking about how well they can treat the workers they work with instead of the reverse, while workers feel more like “change agent” owners instead of denigrated time-clock punchers.
It appears that we already have the models, examples, metrics and tools in hand to transform America’s practices of capitalism from predatory to participative, from exploitation to empowerment, from trickle-down to gusher-up. These include hybrid adaptations of ESOPs, cooperatives, employee ownership participation strategies, the Beyster-employee-owned-SAIC, Mondragon and Evergreen concrete examples, and most recently the union-coop model that connects a collective bargaining agreement to individual worker equal share ownership. The reality is we have just touched the surface in connecting these new American empowerment formulas dotting the landscape of a country attempting to self-heal. The task before us is to make sure such new hopeful voices are heard as their impact increases.
This assignment becomes even more important in the context of the upcoming November 6th elections which may boil down to a referendum on the Middle Ages versus the Renaissance redux, a return to austerity versus experiments with stimulus. Who wins will depend on whether those who are self-guaranteed to have more than they need can convince their own economic class plus enough of those who don’t to vote for diets versus vitamins. Throughout the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) international matrix, most Millennial and Net Generation workers under thirty are severely under and unemployed with all pretenses to an ownership economy reduced to a “shared access” economy by necessity more than technology or personal choice. Professional indebtedness and working class abandonment compelling emigration to find employment elsewhere bumps up hard against the selective denial of generational worldly fulfillment by resolving long-term deficits instead of subsidizing short-term job creation.
This year’s American electorate is asking for a contemporary transformative renaissance marked by humanism as wellbeing, socially rewarding innovation on behalf of citizens as well as corporations with the two separate but never equal. The country is crying out for bipartisan exploration to a higher moral economic order reflecting a return to institutional promises kept and civic compacts honored, and most of all the liberating quality of equal opportunity. Which candidate will paint or etch the defining visual, that viscerally and culturally acceptable motif or symbol to inspire people regardless of age, geography and circumstance to reach out, seize and embrace their unrestrained destinies and unchain themselves from conventionally structured dogmas proven unable to transcend archaic limitations that no longer make sense? Which would-be new New Deal, Great Society, Big Society, Job Creators Anonymous leader will demonstrate how to reengineer failed zero-sum market models that breed economic class divisions, and invigorate impoverished political platitudes which segment and pigeonhole but then fail to unite into a new shared prosperity paradigm based on genuine workplace democracy and equal ownership for all who seek it?
This article first appeared on Michael Peck’s original One Worker One Vote blog which has been moved and archived here.