The Worker Ownership Mandate

The US is in big trouble. Not just because of the recent financial debacle, but because we have promoted a plutocracy to replace our democracy. The rich have never been richer since the 1920s, and inequality has never been higher. With each increase of wealth at the top, there is a corresponding loss of basic democracy.

If we are to restore equality, which is nearly equivalent to restoring democracy, the government must do something new. The government must find ways to promote equality, to end the ability of the mega-rich to make rules that enrich themselves. Another is to foster new businesses that are owned by their workers. Worker-owned businesses are by definition bastions of equality, and your standard capitalist corporation is the virtual opposite.

To restore democracy and equality,
the government could foster new worker-owned
businesses at no cost to the taxpayer.

The Bay Area is swarming with financial speculators willing to put up millions to get an IT company under way, in hopes for quick profit with the Next Big Thing. When they are successful, a new corporation is born, maybe making some people rich, but carrying all the baggage of capitalism with it. For the most part, this does nothing for democracy or equality.

But suppose there were a way for the government to get the same company cranked up, with not only the present small flock of sleep-deprived code-writing entrepreneurs, but all future workers as owners as well? And at no cost to taxpayers. Government should not be in the business of business, but fostering businesses is a legitimate goal.

Worker-owned companies
avoid the worst traits of capitalism.
Profit goes to all of the worker-owners,
not some distant millionaire.

As I have frequently mentioned here, worker ownership does away with most of the inherent dangers of capitalism. Specifically, the worker-owners are the ones who get whatever profit there is, not some distant millionaire. They also usually earn better wages. This creates equality and provides strong motives for outstanding work. And the company’s success improves tax revenue.

I propose a federal plan that would provide capital from taxes to get worker-owned companies started, perhaps in the form of a supplementary loan in addition to the worker-owners’ initial investment. The entire amount of government seed money would be paid back from company profit, thus would cost the taxpayer nothing in the long run.

A federal plan to seed worker-owned companies
could function at no cost to taxpayers.

Many new businesses fail without ever becoming self-sustaining. Our government program must therefore be particularly stringent about vetting a potential new company, and giving expert advice to nurture it along. The company has going for it that worker-owners are universally highly motivated for success, because not only are wages in such companies generally higher than in capitalist companies, but the long-term wellbeing of worker-owners themselves can be assured by good profits.

Worker ownership is best built without government help, but it’s difficult to find the right mix of conditions, and there are cases that the end product becomes yet another capitalist corporation, with all its faults. Government assistance with starting up would improve equality and, eventually, tax revenue. The program could easily be constructed to repay a loan from profits, with some extra to cover the cost of failures. Every new worker-owned company makes the country stronger.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If you want to start one now rather than waiting for the Govmt. you only need to look up: makethebesttempeh.org for a great opportunity in the natural food area. We hope someone will follow this up before it gets discovered by a Venture Capitalist.

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  2. We don’t need the government, u have a lot of good ideas, but u are somewhat missing on the how we build this new age. All we need a do a kickstart, we ask for 10 million, take 1 and build a site that will be the bank.(site) and the other 9 we use to buy or create the worker ownership, since we have no owner for these companies, the profit goes back to the bank to give out more loans.

    Let me know if you want to talk about this, I have some really cool ideas on how to make this work.

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    • Public Banks as discussed by Ellen Brown in the book salon Sunday on FDL could also help support worker owned start ups.
      Also the Gvmt. could be helpful if they instituted an option like they have in Italy where an unemployed person (together with nine others) can get a lump sum payment equivalent to three years compensation and together they can start a coop.

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