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A Positive Vision

The Road to Resilience

Trying to get more involved in government policy decisions is a tough and thankless task when the emphasis seems to be on choosing the least worst power broker to run the nation who has the least objectionable plan (if any) to get us out of any number of messes that our established corporate power brokers have gotten us into.  Better that we start to focus on a positive vision of the future we want and the ways that we can make it happen.

I was inspired to look into this by two things.  First was a recent second viewing of Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next, a tour of mostly European countries that have implemented unbelievably practical and sane social policies based on the importance of treating all their citizens with dignity and respect.  Moore masterfully allows ordinary citizens to talk about the pleasant life they lead and take for granted, and then shows their profound disbelief when Moore explains how it isn’t that way in the United States.  Of course, one could accuse Moore of doing a little cherry picking.  Life can’t be that good for everybody in these countries, but you would have to have a serious case of denial not to take his point.

The second item was an article recently published in YES! Magazine by Gar Alperivitz titled “Six Ways We Are Already Leading An Economic Revolution.”  You can read the entire article at, and I suggest you do, but I will hit some high points here just to get your juices flowing.

lperivitz posits the question, “Can we imagine a system that undercuts the logic responsible for so much suffering at home and abroad?”  In answer, he sketched the idea of a “‘pluralist commonwealth’—an economic and political system different from both corporate capitalism and state socialism grounded in democratic ownership, decentralization, and community.”   He went on to list six ways that we are already working toward such a system.  

First, Public banking assures that the public’s assets are used for the public good and makes available low cost loans to a much greater segment of the community.  Vashon now has two credit unions that do just that.  There is also talk of creating a state bank, such as the one that has been operating in North Dakota for nearly a hundred years.  State or municipal banks can leverage local cash deposits to lower the cost of borrowing, thereby saving millions of dollars that might otherwise go toward costly bond offerings.  Why enrich a bond trader when we can finance our own projects?  Another idea in the works:  allow the US Post Office to operate as a public bank, thereby ensuring the solvency of the post office while eliminating the need for predatory pay day loan operations.

Secondly,  promote worker ownership of businesses and create the ecosystem of economic democracy.  Alperovitz says, “Studies show that worker-owned companies don’t just democratize wealth, they can also operate more efficiently and are more likely to stay in business than ‘normal’ firms.”  There are currently about 10 million workers who own a share of the company they work for, but the number of workers that own enough to have a voice in decision-making is far fewer.  This is because the business ecosystem, i.e., the banks, the schools, and the government programs and subsidies tend to favor private centralized ownership. 

Worker/cooperative advocates are building a parallel ecosystem across the country.  The Vashon Clinic is a recent lesson in the vagaries of public versus private ownership.  Neighborcare may not be worker owned or public, but it is non-profit which implies that it prioritizes provision of service over profit.

The third idea is not new to us here:  buy local.  Encouraging the buying of local products and services, especially by institutions, solidifies demand and encourages further investment, keeps profits in the community, and creates lots of good local jobs.  Alperovitz says that a student-led study at the University of Michigan found that just a 5 percent shift in procurement to local suppliers would increase local economic activity by more than $13 million and create more than 450 jobs. The effort by VIGA to get our schools to buy local produce is right on the money.  Local economics is the way that nature works and is the main ingredient of real resilience.

I will cover the last three items in the next column.  Suffice it to say that we don’t have to petition the powers that be for favors.  We can empower ourselves and make them largely irrelevant while creating a far more stable and equitable world, not to mention more friendly, loving, joyful, and fun as well.