The Government Will Not Save Us

Regardless of the outcome of the Iowa Caucus tonight, our salvation as a community (however you define it) and as a species will not come from politicians. It will will only come from our collective efforts to build a better world.

Government as it has been formed, does not exist to solve problems. It exists to control and maintain order. Claus Offe, in his collection Disorganized Capitalism, argues that the role of capital and government tend to feed off of each other. Specifically, the capitalist simply asks government to get out of the way, to do less while other groups (labor, communities) seek to have government intervene. This creates a form of social entropy that requires constant work to maintain.

Of course, sometimes the needle moves as it did during the abolition movement, the populist and progressive movements, and most recently the New Deal. Each of these efforts though further prove the point, that without constant effort, the government will default to doing less.

If we want a better world, it is imperative that we make that world. There is an incredible opportunity now to change our economy from a mercantilist/capitalist model to a more cooperative model. Project Equity estimates that only 20% of existing small businesses. According to JPChase:

“Over 99 percent of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses. The vast majority (88 percent) of employer firms have fewer than 20 employees, and nearly 40 percent of all enterprises have under $100k in revenue. 20 percent of small businesses are employer businesses and 80 percent are nonemployer businesses.”

Rather than trying to “get to scale”, we have an opportunity right now to help many of these businesses remain in their communities providing jobs as either worker cooperatives or community (multi-stakeholder) cooperatives. In 9 short years, every one born during the Baby Boom will be 65 or older and the majority will be over 70. Rather than watch the further consolidation of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, we can change communities, create cooperative corporations, and build an economy based on meeting needs, not maximizing profits.

What this could mean is that the majority of the corporations would no longer be asking government to do nothing. A cooperative economy might be asking the government to be a partner in building a better world. Gary Hart, a former Senator from Colorado, wrote his PhD thesis on the Jeffersonian view of what the US could have been. Jefferson, during the drafting of the US Constitution, was Ambassador to France and not part of the deliberations. Hart’s book, Restoration of the Republic: The Jefferson Ideal in 21st Century America, Jefferson envisioned a world that looks a lot like Robert Owen’s communities. Small, (5,000 people or less) but connected in networks and federations to meet the needs of the community. The common defense would not be through a police force or army, but more like a volunteer fire department (that are so common in rural Washington).

A cooperative economy might even make government somewhat obsolete. I have always been amazed at the similarity between Mondragon’s organizational chart and that of the IWW’s vision from 100 plus years ago. A government that is an outgrowth of the cooperatives that we engage to meet our needs would not need to be interventionist. It would be a true partner with the communities that feed into it.

Tonight, the 2020 campaign for president begins in earnest. Regardless of who wins tonight, the nomination, or the presidency, we can only make the world a better place and safe it from ourselves by working cooperatively to create an economy based on meeting the needs of the planet and its residents. The ability to be Masters of Our Destiny lies within us.

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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