As he also said, the steps in the process of change will be difficult if we really want to "transform the largest and most powerful political economic system in the history of the world". To me, though, the most striking comment he made, and certainly the one of singular relevance in the context of taking action, was that "if you want to play this game, in this process of change, the chips are decades of your life".
I recently reached out to Professor Alperovitz and asked what progress he felt had been made in the four years since the Nader conference. He sent along two links relating to his work on alternative models in The New Economy that I hope you will find interesting and inspiring:
An important take-away from these pieces is that alternative economic models that focus on local outcomes and benefits can provide a wonderful springboard for the evolution of emerging business entities at the national level. Professor Alperovitz is cautiously optimistic: "And indeed, there's an explosion throughout the Middle East; something was stirring below the ground, something that is likely to take decades to develop from its first explosion. You can find similar patterns throughout history. The feminist movement was unpredicted. The environmental movement was unpredicted. The explosion of the civil rights movement was generally thought likely, but it was unpredicted when it happened...explosive change is as common as grass...that doesn't mean it always happens, but I see developments that are very encouraging at the grassroots level...many of the elements for building a movement are there...one is great pain; two is a reassessment of the failure of traditional strategies; three is experimentation with new models; and four is younger people being totally turned off by the process."
Action At Several Levels. Of course, the realist in me understands that multi-national corporations will remain hardwired to their core function and legal obligation, the maximizing of shareholder wealth. And they will continue to use the same tactics, ignore the same harmful externalities, cultivate the same calibre of venal politician and lobbyist that has brought us to this perilous moment in our history. I remain convinced that, concurrent with any effort to build The New Economy, we must initiate actions that would clearly subordinate the power of the multi-national corporations and minimize the worst inclinations of the current corporate culture.
A world in which corporate power is subordinated to the public good would be an epic undertaking. It would require, for example, nothing less than a radical change in the way corporations are chartered. It would also require that their status as persons be revoked, removing them from any form of political activity and influence (and, as Thom Hartmann has shown, status as persons for corporations is a fabrication). It would generate almost unfathomable legal and financial upheaval. It would require coordination with like-minded single-issue groups, leveraging and reinforcing their collective and specialized expertise across international boundaries. It would eliminate the financial leverage that big business now holds over policy makers.
Most will dismiss the idea as lunacy, arguing that change of this magnitude is impossible. I would concede that, at best, such a result is unlikely. But perhaps we wouldn't need a complete victory to achieve the necessary change -- or a decided trend to change -- though it would be helpful if we could articulate the desired outcome, the endgame (and here much remains to be done). And I would argue that we guarantee the status quo by failing to act at all. The potential force of populist numbers has yet to be adequately tapped and, as Alperovitz noted, tipping points are not generally well forecast. To cite the most recent proof-point, no one could have imagined -- even as recently as this morning -- that the world's most powerful media giant, Rupert Murdock, would close his News of the World tabloid over the public outrage in Britain surrounding phone hacking charges.