Bert Bacharach sang about how what the world needs now is love, sweet love -- but what the world really needs now is Cooperatism, a new economic system I designed for my doctoral dissertation at Columbia Pacific University (still, there is nothing wrong with love, either.) This article is in response to Rob Kall´s request for progressive economic proposals, so here goes:
George Bernard Shaw once said that the difference between capitalism and communism is that in capitalism man exploits man, whereas in communism it´s the other way around. And that is essentially true. The reason for the expoloitation is that our present economic systems leave vital interest groups out of the economic equation, so that only a narrow spectrum of those groups are represented in decision making.
Cooperatism, however, would include all interest groups in economic decision making. Business firms would be governed by not only their stockholders, as at present, but by all stakeholders: consumers, workers, and the general public would be represented along with the firm´s presumptive owners, the stockholders. Major decisions would require the consent of all of these groups.
While it might seem obvious that all those who are affected by economic decisions deserve a voice in them, that has not been the case in the past nor in the present. Many of the recent problems with the economy stem from abuses which Cooperatism would have prevented. The wanton greed of all too many major business firms has led to a host of unwise decisions whose chickens are now coming home to roost. All of us are suffering as a result, and some of the suffering rises to the level of economic disaster for innocent victims of that greed and those unwise decisions.
What Cooperatism introduces, in the economic arena, is the same concept of checks and balances which has preserved our American democracy, as well as others around the world. The interests and goals of consumers, workers, stockholders, and the general public are not synonynmous. The resulting healthy debate among those four interest groups would provide and produce much sounder decision making by business firms than at present, when self-perpetuating boards of hand-picked directors are usually in bed with the company management.
Admittedly, it will not be easy to transition from present economic systems to Cooperatism, but pioneering firms have already taken steps in that direction. Concern for the environment, for example, has led to broader business considerations and sounder decisions by some firms. Concern for the workers led, first, to the labor union movement, and even to voluntary improvements in wages, benefits, and worker rights. Concern for the general public has led to various health and safety regulations and controls over corporate behavior to secure the public interest. Concern for consumers has led to a host of consumer protection statutes and regulations. So, there has been a beginning.
What is vital now is the integration of all of these trends into the overall system of Cooperatism. The present major economic downturn provides a strong incentive for that integration and implementation. It is high time to move towards the first fully-respresentative economic system in history.