CO-OP Action- Michigan Alliance of Cooperatives - November, 2011
The Occupy Wall Street protestors are right: our global corporate economy no longer serves our interests; the over-paid corporate executives have failed. We are plagued by persistent unemployment, by relentless inflation of the prices of staples, by lack of new investment in renewable energy, by transference of jobs overseas, by widening gaps between the super-rich incomes and incomes of the 99%, by unnecessary foreclosures of homes and by shifting of economic power from consumers into the hands of bankers.
We need to make some changes. Fortunately, we can build on the successful cooperative sectors of our economy, which are a superior form of business enterprise and have avoided the problems of the rest of the economy. We are seeing a massive shift of people from ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks to local, democratically controlled credit unions. Credit unions have not needed special favors or panicky subsidies, the way the big banks have. Credit unions are reliably local and community oriented, not pretentious empires of casino gambler ‘banksters.’
Food cooperatives are prospering and multiplying, and placing emphasis upon local growers and producers, unlike the Wal-Mart type of goliaths which under-pay their workers and buy as much as they can from overseas. These co-ops, too, are democratically controlled and local. They are experimenting with novel approaches to the distribution of their products, working with community supported agriculture and other approaches. They are a stark contrast to the rigid, hierarchy-bound procedures of the huge corporate food distributors who bring grapes in from Chile and apples from New Zealand.
Most dramatic are the housing cooperatives, where not a single homeowner has been taken on a boom-and-bust roller coaster ride by predatory banks offering ‘teaser’ initial mortgage rates or unwise second mortgages. No co-op homeowners have been foreclosed, but millions of fee simple homeowners have been evicted from their homes. The superiority of the co-op way is most clearly demonstrated by co-op housing, not only for its stability and affordability but also for the ability of housing co-ops to create and enhance community with additional member services, such as child care, buying clubs, car pools, etc.
It is significant that the big corporations act like communistic dictators, pushing their customers around willy nilly, but the co-ops function in a free competitive market fashion, fully responsive to the consumers’ needs.
Even in health care, cooperative health plans have served their members well, while millions who are subject to ordinary health insurance giants have become more and more dissatisfied.
We usually think of our cooperative businesses as small potatoes compared to the global giants dominating the world’s economy. But our strength is in our smaller, flexible character, based locally and more resilient. The global corporations are huge dinosaurs, with built-in arthritic stiffness, inflexible and incapable of responding to the unique needs of each community served.
We know what happened to the ancient dinosaurs thousands of years ago. And we know the smaller, adaptable mammals survived — and became us, among other species. Big corporations are already in trouble, demanding bigger and bigger subsidies from government, paid out of main street taxes.
The increasing resistance to heavy polluting, increasingly government supported fossil fuels is part of the decline of the dinosaurs. Government subsidies to oil, coal, corporate farms and other politically nurtured monsters will be stopped. The dinosaurs will die off. And local, democratically controlled co-ops and credit unions will play more important roles.
We have a special message for the corporate dinosaurs’ CEOs: you have failed. You show you can’t do the job. You’re fired. Step aside. Now it is the co-ops’ turn.
*If you wish to receive CO-OP Action directly from Joel, send your e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org