Q: Can Prout's economic system be termed a cooperative economy?
It is not precisely a cooperative economy, but it employs many cooperative principals. The premise upon which Prout is built is not the ideal of cooperative venture, but the ideal of economic independence, local control, and diversified economy. It is based on control by the local people, not cooperative ownership. So the ideal of Prout is to give maximum utilization of resources through an incentive system, with some safeguard against economic exploitation.
Now, it so happens that cooperative ownership is one of the best methods of insuring these objectives. So it is employed within the Proutist system. But it is only used in so far as it meets the above mentioned goals. It is not used for its own values, but as a means to achieve local control, economic independence and security against exploitive tendencies.
When a cooperative system is employed to facilitate the Prout objective, there are certain characteristics which should be present. The first characteristic is that the cooperative be composed of those people who are directly affected or influenced by the cooperative so that there is sympathy for the recipient of services as well as for the producer. Secondly, no cooperative should exist independent of regulation and basic guidelines provided by the state or the district. There must be a certain uniformity or code of ethics among the various cooperatives so that no part becomes overly independent from the whole or loses sight of the collective welfare. Third point: Each and every member of the cooperative must have a say in the operation. It cannot be operated by a few elite individuals at the cost of others. Collectively it is operated in a democratic fashion. So it is not autocratic, but democratic amongst the members. No one is privileged above another in a healthy cooperative. Though some may have a higher status or a greater earning capacity, still they hold no greater privilege in the decision making. It is a collective process, and the most humble and the most prestigious have equal footing in the vote on policies and decisions affecting the cooperative as a whole.
You know, many people think that in a cooperative every one is equal, everyone has the same status. But in fact, this is not the case in a Proutist society. A Proutist cooperative will allow for independent initiative and personal gain in accordance with the hard earned labors of the members. So if a person stands out for their hard work, their brilliance, their skillfulness, let them be recognized and rewarded for their efforts and abilities. It is not a society of drones in which all are hunchbacked and hopeless workers who cannot hope to show themselves as brilliant or accomplished. So in a Proutist cooperative each member may be equal in voting privilege, but in personal status they may vary a great deal, so that one, due to his efforts or brilliance, may have more status or more wealth - but not to the point of bleeding the wealth of others. Likewise, if a member has little initiative, they may find their status and wealth will decline. But basic necessities will be met for all by policies of the state and as directed by the local government.
So this system in no way resembles communism, nor does it suffer the pitfalls of capitalism. The objective is not cooperative economic development. It is local control, diversified economic growth. The cooperative is the methodology for achieving these objectives. In Prout there must be maximum utilization of the potentialities of each and every person. No one should feel their life is hopeless, that they cannot progress because they are oppressed by this or that group. Equal opportunity must be there for all so that anyone who truly desires may fight to better themselves.
You see, for a spiritual society to be built in which human beings have maximum potential and opportunity to realize their Dharma, it is necessary for the society to provide for the fundamental physical needs of its members, the psychic needs and the spiritual. There cannot be oppression in any sphere, otherwise the suppressed human needs will become converted to a destructive force and prama, or balance, will be lost in the collective life.
So there must be opportunity for physical well-being, for intellectual and psychological development, and for spiritual realization. In such a society many people will find the path to divinity without great effort, as the collective balance will have great influence on the minds of the members of the society creating in them a reciprocal state of mental balance and clear thinking. Those who are out of harmony with spiritual and cooperative principals will be few in number and unable to impact the collective. Instead, the collective will have a great impact on them.
So you see, once the society has become stabilized in a viable economic and political system which allows for the expression of basic human tendencies and the fulfillment of basic needs, then that society cannot help but develop balance, not only in the practical actions of the collective, but in the thinking of the individual members. Mental balance is a great asset, easily achieved by those coming of age in a healthy society, but very difficult to achieve for those who have been brought up under the influences of corruption. So Prout is not given to simply announce a superior economic and political approach. It is given to insure that in the near future society will once again have the tools that are required to build a collective life in which human beings may grow and flourish physically, mentally and spiritually.