The viral growth of the Occupy Movement, and the public support of it, is testament to the tremendous dissatisfaction with the inequities and abuses of global capitalism. Meta-corporations and large financial institutions have corrupted democracy in the United States and many other countries. In response, there is a wide spectrum of progressive forces struggling to rescue our political democracy; however, reform is not enough.
The New Economic Vision
The Economic Democracy Conference is not a stand-alone event, but is embedded in a long-term effort to project economic democracy as the common demand of a mass movement to replace corporate plutocracy. Economic democracy provides the new economic vision and practice required by populist elements who now understand that an alternative economic paradigm is required.
Ten Key Points about Economic Democracy
The Meaning of Economic Democracy
The purpose of political democracy is to provide for political empowerment to all citizens; the purpose of economic democracy is to provide economic empowerment to all citizens and all local communities, and to prevent the concentration of economic power that subverts mass political and economic empowerment.
A Just Political Democracy ...
A just political democracy is not possible without economic democracy. Mega-corporations, large financial institutions and corporate-owned media have corrupted democracy in the United States and many other countries. Because big money controls the political process so tightly, reform is not enough. Instead, we need “economic democracy” that economically empowers people and communities. This has the potential to unite people around a common cause that replaces the tyranny of corporate power.
Guaranteeing the Minimum Requirements
The right to life – guaranteeing the minimum requirements (food, clothing, housing, education and medical care) to everyone – is fundamental. Human beings require these in order to realize their individual potentialities, to develop culturally, to achieve inner fulfillment. Without these, the “pursuit of happiness” remains beyond the reach of the poor. To free all from the desperation of poverty should be the primary function and duty of any economy.
The Right to Meaningful Employment
The right to meaningful employment with a “living wage” is also a fundamental human right. People should pay for the minimum requirements they need with the income they earn from honest work. A just minimum wage must be set high enough so that people can purchase the necessities. It is the responsibility of all levels of government to pursue policies that achieve and maintain full employment, utilizing each worker’s skills and capabilities.
Growing Local Economies
We must prevent the outside control of local economies and the drainage of capital. Corporate big box stores and restaurant chains send profits that are earned in the community to outside shareholders. Corporate banks use local deposits to speculate in the global stock market casino. Outside landlords take rent money away, too. To grow local incomes, raw materials, agricultural produce and other assets of each region should be processed and refined close to their origin. In this way, improvements in technology and manufacturing benefit the local inhabitants of every region.
A Basic Right of Workers
It is a basic right of workers to own and manage their enterprises, making the economic decisions which directly affect their lives. Whether as small-scale private enterprises or cooperatives or even public-managed utilities, local people and communities need to determine their future. Local economies with sustainable agriculture that grows healthy food, renewable “green” industries, credit unions that offer loans to local people are all elements of a vibrant community.
Cooperatives are the businesses of the future, based on the principle of one member, one vote. Since decision-making is decentralized, citizens become empowered to choose how their local economy should be run. Producer and consumer cooperatives should run most industry, trade, agriculture and banking. Successful cooperatives grow from the energy and commitment of local people. The foundation of the cooperative system lies in “coordinated cooperation,” in which free human beings with equal rights and mutual respect work together to fulfill a common need, for their mutual benefit.
Measuring the Standard of Living
Purchasing capacity, the ability of people to pay for basic goods and services, is the most direct and accurate way to measure their standard of living and the true state of the economy. People need to feel that their lives are improving, which they feel as purchasing power increases. Purchasing power is the precursor to quality of life improvement, and its prime indicator. Prevailing consumerism manipulates people through advertising, creating artificial needs, to buy on credit and to ignore the environmental impact of their purchases.
Economic democracy is essential to overcome discrimination and marginalization. Poverty and unemployment feeds racism, sexism, and anger toward immigrants. Women, people of color, the young and the old tend to suffer lower wages and more joblessness in the economic downturn. Economic independence is crucial so that everyone may reach their full potentials as human beings...
An Equitable, Sustainable Economy
Meeting people’s genuine needs and quality of life, not profit, should be the purpose of the economy. Economic Democracy offers a clear, compelling vision of an equitable, sustainable economy that brings a high quality of life for everyone – a dynamic economy of the people, by the people and for the people. By rejecting profit-making as the goal of the economy, it redesigns the economy so that it meets the actual needs of the people.