If the economy is working well for you, congratulations! You’re among the lucky few who are served by capitalism. But if things go the way they have been for the last several decades — with poor people staying poor and a lot of others getting poorer — capitalism as we know it won’t last. Thankfully, we have options. Revolution is one of them. But probably not the kind most people think of.
Gar Alperovitz: The person who created Davos, the gathering of the most powerful corporate capitalists structures in the entire world, this year opened the conference saying he thought capitalism may well be over. Same message as Occupy.
You get a sense of what a systemic crisis is when the long, long trends simply do not change in response to politics, or reform, or action. So, for instance, the top 1% of the income distribution, the top 1% of the population, has increased its share of income over the last 30 years steadily, steadily from 10% to 12, up to 22%. The long, deep, profound trends tell you something deeper is at work.
The top 400 people now own more wealth than the bottom 185 million taken together. That is the concentration of wealth power at the center of the system in which you and I live. Let me tell you what's happening in the City of Cleveland, Ohio. It was 900,000, it is now 400,000. The companies came in, got their credits and tax credits, and then they left. Cleveland was devastated.
But, in one of the worst neighborhoods in Cleveland, a black community, roughly 40,000 people, average income $18,500.00, poor community, unemployment rate 40%. In that community, today, you will find a sophisticated group of worker owned co-ops drawing on this history and drawing on some of the people. There is a very large scale, industrial scale, new laundry owned by the workers. The greenest laundry in that part of Ohio uses about a third of the water and a third of the heat.
There's another company that is a solar installation company, worker owned, about to put in more solar installation that already exists in the entire State of Ohio. Shortly this spring and this summer they will open a 3.25 acre greenhouse, hydroponic greenhouse, worker owned, capable of producing 3 million heads of lettuce a year and other greens as well and they're in line to put together one or two or three companies a year building out from this.
I think we're going to see a lot more of this and I think we're going to see a lot of it building out of the problems that aren't being solved around the country and around the United States in ways that deal with the pain and the difficulty. And they come down to the principle, in one form or another, of radically decentralized community-based, building from the bottom up, democratizing the ownership.
If we are serious, and actually want to talk about systemic change in real terms rather than rhetoric and actually draw on the traditions of this company and our own imaginations, just possibly we can establish the foundations of the next system that takes us beyond traditional corporate capitalism, traditional state socialism and that builds a new vision that ain't like any of the other ones, but is really a democratic society.