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In XE #53 we played a clip by Gar Alperovitz about the role of co-ops in a New Economy movement that’s seeking as alternative to industrial capitalism. Gar has found that at least as many as 130 million Americans are members of a some type of co-op. Co-ops are owned and managed by the people who use their services and so it makes sense that they would have an incentive to restore production and economic activity to local communities. Now, co-ops in the US are beginning to follow the model of Spain’s Mondragon in order to reverse years of outsourcing and degradation. In Cleveland, the Evergreen cooperatives are linking together to rebuild their local economies, Gar writes:
The Evergreen Cooperatives are linked through a nonprofit corporation, a revolving loan fund and the common goal of rebuilding the economically devastated Greater University Circle neighborhoods. A thoroughly green industrial-scale laundry, a solar installation company and a soon-to-be-opened large-scale commercial greenhouse (capable of producing about 5 million heads of lettuce a year) make up the first of a group of linked co-ops projected to expand in years to come. The effort is unique in that Evergreen is building on the purchasing power of the area’s large hospital, university and other anchor institutions, which buy some $3 billion of goods and services a year—virtually none of which, until recently, had come from local business.
In this talk, Ross Ashcroft of the Renegade Economist summarizes some of the important features of co-ops in solving the problems of corporate capitalism:
In the post-2008 world of labour, US corporations have transferred employments to contract work. As many as 70% of US jobs created since 2008 don’t require a university degree. Cooperatives have demonstrated potential to help produce meaningful jobs that support local communities but I wonder what would start expanding their presence? Imagine if TARP and the GM bailout had instead funneled their money into building locally owned co-op networks?
Spain’s Mondragon has been able to assist in keeping unemployment in the Basque region to less than half the national average of 25%. With those kind of numbers, it is no surprise that co-ops are beginning to gain a lot of momentum in the US. As Peter Victor told us in XE #53: in any society without economic growth, wealth distribution must become a core focus. Co-ops are one model for businesses that show a practical way towards a post-growth economy.
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