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Author Topic: Small Government, Free Market, Anti-Capitalist
Kent
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I've recently been intrigued by the find of a blog called The Front Porch Republic. One of the authors there, John Médaille, is focused on distributism as a way of repairing the split between work and capital. It is an appeal to a different role of government than we have seen in the past to preserve the free market system. He argues that both capitalism and socialism increase the scope of government and that another way is possible.
From The Economics of Distributism Part 1: Does Capitalism Work?
quote:
This leads us to an unavoidable conclusion: capitalism and the free market are incompatible. History shows, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the growth of capitalism and the growth in government go hand-in-hand. Big capitalism and big government are not, as in the popular imagination and the economic treatises, things opposed; rather, the one grows on the back of the other, and the more you get of one, the more you will need of the other.
Who Owns the Jobs?
quote:
The argument that “something is not possible” is finally refuted by pointing out that the supposedly impossible already exists. Economic theory is interesting, no doubt, but every social theory must be tested by practice. The proper question that must be put to any theorist–the capitalist, the libertarian, the communist, the distributist, or whatever–is, “Where can I see a functioning example of your system?” Sound theory is not enough, since without actual practice there cannot be a proper judgment. In response to this question, the capitalist can point to the existing system. However, that system turns out to be not “capitalism” at all, but corporatism or mercantilism, that peculiar combination of private interest and government power sustained by vast bureaucracies—public and private—and by huge and expensive government interventions. The libertarian can point to nothing, while the communist can point to something but would rather not. That leaves the distributist.
Then he gives an example of a functioning distributist endeavor that has been quite successful:
quote:
It is the sense of ownership alone that can build an enduring distributist culture, and this sense that makes Mondragón the more interesting example. Founded in 1953 by students of a rather remarkable parish priest, Don José Maria Arizmendiarrieta, it has grown from a simple paraffin stove factory into a giant corporate conglomerate with several hundred worker-owned firms involved in the manufacturing of the most sophisticated products, banking, retailing, research, education, construction, business services, and insurance. Today, the Corporation has €33 billion in assets, does €16 in sales, employs 104,000 workers, 81% of whom are worker-owners to whom they distribute 52% of the profits. But Mondragón is more than a mere “corporate success story.” It is a business model that is completely counter to the modern corporation.

In the first place, Mondragón is ruled by the principle of subsidiarity; that is to say, the higher level exists to serve the lower levels. Indeed, the individual cooperatives have the right to leave the corporation; participation is voluntary. This makes it impossible for a centralized authority to “lord it over” the member cooperatives. The corporation itself is ruled not by outside investors (there are none) but by the workers themselves. You might call this an inverted model of corporate organization. The firm is built from the ground up rather than the top down.

But that is only part of the story, because Mondragón is more than just a business enterprise; it is a social one. It is of course a profit-making enterprise, but profit is not an end in itself, it is merely a means to a much broader set of ends. In addition to its normal business enterprises, Mondragón runs an education system, a university, social safety networks, retirement systems, research and training institutes—things normally provided by governments through taxes—and provides all on its own resources, without the help of government. The guiding principle is solidarity, people caring for each other with the help formal structures and institutions.

Between these two principles, subsidiarity and solidarity, Mondragón takes the principles of Catholic social doctrine and turns them into a living reality. And a successful one at that. The fear of implementing a “morality-based” system is that it might compromise the necessary business goals. But the opposite seems to be the case; the cooperative model doesn’t merely work, it works to produce a strong and growing network of firms that are fully profitable and competitive in local and world markets. Moreover, it lessens the need for big government by providing social services from its own resources. But more than these successes, what Mondragón really builds up is community, that sense of mutual caring and obligation that must be the real point of any sane economic system.

I would think this is a type of system that both liberals and conservatives could get behind.
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Colin JM0397
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Probably to the average joe, but not to the politicians. They would fight, and fight hard - up to and including the use of police and military force, to squash something like this if it really took hold in, for example, the US.

Lots of people who fancy themselves movers and shakers - ie the think they are "powerful" - have a vested interest in maintaining our corptocracy status quo, and they will fight to maintain it... Ego's a bitch like that.

The system exists to feed itself, not to provide or care for the common wo/man.

Sounds great to me (rightish-leaning libertarian if I have to subscribe to a label).

This is the sort of thing that would have to work from grassroots, and grow long enough to basically say to the government "we don't need you, nor do we want you".

let them whither on the vine, so to speak.

Need to look into it more. I am curious how they work law enforcement internally. Obviously, if we're talking a physical location set up, then they pay for police themselves. But I'm also thinking along the lines of white collar crimes, and how power-hungry assholes would try to gravitate to a place of power in such an organization. What safety protocol is in place to protect against said power-hungry assholes?

Granted the reversal of the corporate pyramid does protect against this somewhat... But if we ever managed to implement something like this on a larger scale, then we would also need to think about how we are going to block those 5%'ers (as in 95% of people are cool, and it's the 5% assholes who ruin it for the rest of us).

Nearly anyone in Federal government is a 5%'er, for example.

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Kent
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Colin, this only works if there is no compulsion and is grassroots. Companies within Mandragon are free to dissociate themselves from the enterprise as they wish. Free markets require changing loyalties and free exchange of resources and ideas. The problem with capitalism is that it has separated capital and labor and produces less as a result with more waste and greed. Labor unions aren't needed when labor is also a part of the capital and vice-versa.

The federal government will always be needed (military, anti-trust laws, etc.). I believe the best thing the government can do is incentivize these types of entities with lower tax rates and create an atmosphere for openness and write laws that eliminate monopolistic endeavors and phase out some patent laws that offer monopolies. Little else is needed by the government to usher in a new way of doing business.

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Kent
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I swear, if you guys ignore this thread, I'm taking my ball home and crying myself to sleep tonight. You big government socialists, you incoherent capitalists; I'm calling you out!
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KnightEnder
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You suck! And your ideas are wrong and stupid?


Feel better, Kent?

KE

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KnightEnder
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You really do have to come up with more compelling thread titles. Or at least more informative about what the thrad is about.

My first thread here, the longest I've ever thought of if Misc. doesn't count, was something like "How Christianity is Destroying America!" [Smile]
It was way Chritian/Mormon/Conservative/Republican back then; it went over great.

KE

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JoshCrow
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I dunno, it sounds like some kinda weird corporatopia. I'm happy that people can come and go from it, at least, but leery of the close ties to Catholicism. I'm not clear on how leadership decisions get made, how things like trade and defense are handled... it sounds very quaint and 19th century, but is it really viable for a nation?
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JoshCrow
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Let me ask some better questions now that I've re-read it... for example, this sounds like a kind of modified communism, with two distinctions:
1) You can leave it, and 2) the people collectively "own" things rather than "the state".

But of course, if a nation were distributivist, "leaving it" would involve literally leaving the borders of its territory, so people may not have any *practical* options if they disagree with policy, other than to hope to rally a majority of some kind. Such a society is really still exposed to the tyranny of the majority.

Without some "central authority", are decisions made by... polling 100,000 people? Or just some kind of elected representatives?

What happens to an individual who does not conform to whatever social order has been established?

Assuming a nation adopted this form, what would be done with people who don't subscribe to the whole "solidarity" thing? Not that they're nice people for it, but do they wind up in some kind of jail for not being part of the program?

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Kent
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Josh, you don't seem to understand. This is a way of organizing business that can work within the current laws we have. Wouldn't you rather work at a business where you were also an owner? This can be done NOW in the United States as it currently is constituted (as long as the government doesn't try to harm these types of entities). This is not a socialist top-down thing.
The Economics of Distributism V: The Practice of Distributism
quote:
Mondragón has a unique form of industrial organization. Each worker is a member of two organizations, the General Assembly and the Social Council. The first is the supreme governing body of the corporation, while the second functions in a manner analogous to a labor union. The General Assembly represents the workers as owners, while the Social Council represents the owners as workers. Voting in the General Assembly is on the basis of “one worker, one vote,” and since the corporation operates entirely form internal funds, there are no outside shareholders to outvote the workers in their own cooperatives. Moreover, it is impossible for the managers to form a separate class which lords it over both shareholders and workers and appropriates to itself the rewards that belong to both; the salaries of the highest-paid employee is limited to 8 times that of the lowest paid.

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JoshCrow
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Kent - my apologies, you did introduce the thread as a discussion of forms of government, leading me to think you were proposing distributivism as a kind of national government. So this is basically a populist corporation of sorts.

I do like the limits on the division of salaries within the corporation.

I'm trying to pick the idea apart, but really I'm not coming up with too many objections. Good stuff.

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yossarian22c
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quote:
Originally posted by Kent:
I swear, if you guys ignore this thread, I'm taking my ball home and crying myself to sleep tonight. You big government socialists, you incoherent capitalists; I'm calling you out!

I read, I liked but I have no hope of serious reform to the current corporate structure. Too many powerful people have too much invested in the current system.
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Ben
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Interesting stuff. I think most of us just need some time to digest this, find out a bit more and maybe a span of time uninterrupted by more local politics such as the health care debate, for example. Currently, a lot of us are potentially impacted by that whichever way it turns out, or are otherwise distracted by the necessities of life or vacation, etc. Meanwhile, the external links in the wiki article seem to give some good basic info on the structure, economics, etc.

Maybe if you gave some pointers on comparsions between that and our current government setup? What is different about new workers being required to pay $5k over the first two years as opposed to union fees or taxes? Does the decision to keep each cooperative under 400-500 members on the "village scale" fit closer to Jefferson's idea of a nation of educated farmers?

And is there any history or record of other similar organizations that have been established or attempted? If so, or even if not, how do you see competition or cooperation occuring between separate organizations that might come into contact with each other?

Kent, if this topic drops down, please bring it back when things are more quiet! I'm definitely interested in this though I don't have much posting time to keep it going myself. I may provide more comparsions, thoughts, or even answers to my questions given time and reminders later.

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Kent
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Ben,

I appreciate your interest in this topic. The idea that there can be a third way which has roots in free market trade and a small government (because people are better able to take care of themselves) is truly one of the most important issues we should be discussing. I fear that the current economic system increasingly depends on government bailouts forever and at some point we won't be able to afford it. The rich are getting richer and they are the ones that are being bailed out first. I am still beginning my study of this topic, but fortunately the last 60 years of history provide us many examples where implementing this philosophy has worked.

The current state of Taiwan is a distributist creation. From The Economics of Distributism V: The Practice of Distributism
quote:
Taiwan and the “Land to the Tiller” Program. In 1949, the Chinese Nationalists were defeated by the Communists and fled to the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan. The Taiwan that greeted the refugees was a feudal backwater. Mostly it was a nation of small sharecroppers paying rents of 50-70% of the crop. Most of the land was owned by members of just 20 families. Further, since the returns on land were so high that there was little interest in investing in industry. In addition, Taiwan had to absorb 2 million refugees from the mainland and bear the costs of defense. It was expected that Taiwan would soon fall to the mainland communists, as the Kuomintang had never proved very effective in controlling China. It was necessary to act quickly to reform Taiwan; it was the very failure to enact reforms which had made the Kuomintang unpopular in China and led to the victory of the Communists. They could not make the same mistake twice.

Effective control of the non-Communist East was in the hands of General Douglas MacArthur, who happened to be a distributist. He worked out a plan of reform for Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Here we deal just with the reforms in Taiwan. The basis of the plan is that the farmers who actually worked the land would come into possession. The landowners were forced to sell the land to their tenants at a price equal to 2.5 times the average crop. The farmers paid for the land over 10 years. Under this “land to the tiller” program, 432,000 families came into possession of their own land. Where previously they had been paying 50% forever, now they would pay 25% for 10 years.

The results were dramatic. Since farmers got the full rewards of their labor, they were more willing to invest more money and give more labor. Farm production increased as farmers used more fertilizer, went to multiple cropping with as many as four crops/year and diversified production to higher value but more labor intensive crops. Production increased at an annual rate of 5.6% from 1953 thru 1970. The farmers suddenly had something they never had before: relatively large amounts of disposable income. Now they needed some place to spend it. Providing products to buy would require an expansion of industry on the island, if the country was not to be dependent on imports.

Most of the payments to the landowners was not in the form of cash, but in bonds. These bonds were negotiable industrial bonds which the former landlords could invest in any light industry they chose. Indeed, there was nothing else they could do with the bonds; it was a case of “invest or die.” The strategy was twofold: get capital, in the form of land, into the hands of farmers; get capital, in the form of industrial investment, in the hands of entrepreneurs. Note that the strategy provided both goods to buy and purchasers to buy them; it was a binary strategy, giving equal weight to production and consumption. A tremendous number of capitalists were created overnight; the former landowners, who previously had no interest in manufacturing, were converted into instant urban capitalists and had to find places to invest the proceeds from the lands sales; the landless peasants became proprietors. By this method, the government provided support to Taiwan’s fledgling industrial base. But the fact that the actual companies to invest in were picked by the former landowners meant better investment decisions than if the government had tried to pick the winners itself. Industrial production expanded, giving the newly empowered peasants some place to spend the money buying locally produced goods.

We can see the Taiwanese experiment for the conjuring trick it was: the government sold land it didn’t own, bought with money it didn’t have and financed industries that didn’t exist; the government managed to both expand the consumer market and to provide the industrial production necessary to serve that market and serve it from local resources. There was no inflation because the money supply expanded at the same rate as production by a sort of automatic method. Redistribution allowed for expansion of the consumer base which allowed for expansion of the industrial base. It is not often in business and economics that one gets to see solutions which are elegant and beautiful, but certainly the land to the tiller program qualifies.

The results have been impressive, both in economic and social terms. Starting with crude products made in small workshops, Taiwan followed the industrial value-added food chain right shipbuilding, electronics, and every sort of industry. Taiwan has managed 50 years of high growth rates, increased equality, and low tax rates (comparatively). Unemployment was low to non-existent through most of Taiwan’s post war history. Before 2000, it rarely exceeded 3% and usually was less than 2%. Since 2000, the rate has risen as high as the low 5’s before dropping back to the 4% range as Taiwan struggles to adjust to outsourcing to mainland China. By human measures, Taiwan’s growth was also a great success. For example, the literacy rate increased from 45% in 1946 to 93% in 1989; life expectancy went from 59 years in 1952 to 74 years in 1989 while the per capita caloric intake went from 2,078 calories to 3,070 in the same period. Living space per person went 4.6 square meters to 23.8. Further, Taiwan and the other “Asian Tigers” were able to achieve these successes despite having population densities among the highest in the world, a fact which contradicts the prevailing dogma that population density is an impediment to growth.



[ August 13, 2009, 11:47 PM: Message edited by: Kent ]

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hobsen
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Clearly no one can argue with what works. A few years ago I read a book analyzing the economic success of a number of the cooperative societies which have been attempted in the United States and elsewhere. In general, because the founders tended to be dedicated and skilled people who worked hard, most of them succeeded.

Things like monastic societies and the Shakers thrived because they admitted only educated adults, and forbade marriage and children. So long as the members did not start thinking they could divide everything up equally and end as rich men in the larger world such groups continued very nicely. But most people want families.

On the other hand, in a cooperative comprised of married couples, what happens when Ben has twelve children and Christopher has one child? If people get paid equally, some of Ben's children starve. If proportionally to family size, Christopher realizes he is working just as hard and getting less. And what happens when Ben's children unite to decide how the cooperative is to be run, and favor their dumb family members over Christopher's smarter child? The problems for successful cooperatives tend to occur after thirty or forty years, when the next generation produces cliques, parasites and unskilled managers. Educating members creates problems also, as some children need to become veterinarians or the like to meet the needs of the cooperative, which can be extremely expensive. But such educated and skilled members then become the ones who can benefit themselves the most by leaving. Most cooperatives for this reason rely on getting skilled new members from the larger society, rather than producing the sort of experts needed themselves.

The fact is the world has many cooperative groups of one sort or another, and anyone interested can look around and find some. Now and then they create opposition if they try to take over the local government, but usually they succeed, and no one cares. What dooms them in the long run, however, is that hard working and smart members can choose to escape to a life of luxury in the larger world - and that appeals to most people more than continuing to work hard for everyone else. Certainly some idealists feel otherwise, but their children do not necessarily acquire or inherit such attitudes. In fact, children usually start off by deciding their parents were wrong - whatever the parents did - so the children of people devoted to the common good may turn out unusually selfish. And even when a child agrees with his parents' values, he may end up married to someone who totally rejects them, so he has to sacrifice either his marriage or his ideals.

Anyway the LDS Church has a strong cooperative tradition, so it has spawned splinter groups all over the United States which are cooperative in one way or another. Without having studied these much, I am aware some are still thriving and have made a nice life for their members. Others have turned into nightmares like the FLDS. And groups from different traditions may have no religious purpose, or are even hostile to religion, like many inspired by radical socialism or Communism. But the idea that government opposition destroys such groups is paranoia, although they may get a few police visits or be penetrated by police informers. But if there are no secrets to find out, other than that a cooperative is succeeding and causing no trouble to anyone else, such police soon go away. In fact the success of groups like Jim Jones' People's Temple, some Scientology offshoots, and Aum Shinrikyo should remind us that governments generally fail to suppress even groups which not only oppress their own members but plot to kill outsiders as well.

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Kent
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Hobsen,

I'm not really for communal living (as nice as that can be). I think every man must own his own property in order to be successful and you shouldn't have to really worry about how many kids the neighbor has because it wouldn't be coming out of your pocket anyway. The main difference I'm seeing with Mondragon is that it operates competitively on a large scale in the real world. It is the way they structure their corporation that has the most appeal to me in an era where company loyalty has evaporated. It appears much more sophisticated and allows for self interest while avoiding the excesses of speculation.

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LoverOfJoy
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First off, Kent, thanks for sharing. It looks like a very interesting and in-depth article on a great topic. I haven't had a chance to read it all yet but I'm a bit confused by what I have read. It seems that what he's suggesting is that capitalism lends itself toward bigger government. We've seen how corporations have gotten their hands in the cookie jar. They also do pretty much as little as possible for the individuals within the corporation that the government has to step in more often. Distributism, on the other hand, tends to make big government less and less necessary, because their company takes better care of them as they expand and grow and possibly take on some of the things government might step into (such as education).

As I understand how you and the author are explaining distributism, it can be in the form of a normal corporation as long as all the workers own a share of it and have a say in decision-making. When there are downtimes for the company, the employees can vote whether to downsize or cut back on their benefits or take a pay cut (in the case of Mondragon, they chose the pay cut) as opposed to some executive making that decision for them.

If I'm understanding all this right, it sounds like a LOT of small businesses start off this way. A guy has an idea for a business, shares it with his brother and a few friends and they start a company where all have a say in how it's handled and share in the profits. As they grow, they may offer the first few key people a stake in the company but eventually they end up hiring some janitor or delivery boy who gets a simple hourly wage and that's it.

What incentive do they have to make sure each worker, no matter how lowly, has a vote on how the company is run and how the profits are doled out? I got the impression from reading that even Mondragon drew the line somewhere and they outsource some of the smaller work elsewhere. Am I right? Do the janitors and other part time workers have an equal say in how the business is run or do they have some sort of proportional vote that is relative to the hours they put in or the responsibility for the success of the company they contribute?

I'm not quite sure how this business plan might expand (beyond government encouragement through tax breaks and the like). It seems human nature would tend toward forcing the part-timers/small contributers to have less or no say in the running of the company as it starts to grow. Once a critical mass is reached, I can imagine people might not worry quite so much about those sorts of things, but when the profits are slim in the early years of a company there's a much stronger temptation for the starters of the company to be much less generous to those who contribute less or seem less invested in the company.

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Kent
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LoverOfJoy,

Excellent questions. I have only been reading about Mondragon for a week or two. They do outsource a bit and I'm not sure what level of employee status entitles one to a vote and profit distribution. At least within Mandragon, Spain though, almost everyone is an owner that is an employee. At the end of the day, the biggest difference I see is that there is no place for investors. They only accept bank type loans.From the site: Just Peace
quote:
To Americans, this sounds like an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, but the Mondragon model is not only about distribution of the profits, it is also about the control of the business. Management is elected by the workers, not hired by the money men, and the managers are part of the cooperative process in the enterprise. Each enterprise has a social committee that considers issues of health, safety, environment, and the social responsibilities of the enterprise. Capital is borrowed, stock is not sold for financing. All new employees become worker owners.

A new cooperative begins with a group of friends. Experience in starting 120 businesses over a 40 year period has taught the Mondragon cooperators that the pre-existing bonds of friendship are a good basis for building a productive working relationship. The Mondragon association provides business and marketing research and assistance; their bank provides capital. The workers themselves must invest some of their own money, either as an upfront contribution or as deductions from wages paid over a 2 year period (about $5,000). Their bank sticks with the new co-op until they can go it alone; if the business gets into trouble, interest on their loans is waived, payments may be suspended, and parts of the loans may be forgiven. The group may be assisted into another line of business or work. As a result, since 1956, they have had only one total failure of a cooperative.

Ten percent of corporate profits are donated to charity, 40% are retained by the cooperative to be used to benefit the "common good" of the cooperative (research, development, job creation, etc.), and the balance of the profits goes into capital accounts for the worker owners. These funds may be borrowed against at the cooperative's bank at very low interest rates, and are important parts of the social security arrangements.


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Kent
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LoJ,

Here is an article written 12 years ago on the crisis that Mandragon went through as it had to hire non-members in order to compete with the Multi-nationals. It is most interesting to me because the ideal of the owner/worker was indeed threatened and many members of the organization worried that they would not be able to open up ownership in Thailand and elsewhere they were outsourcing. Fortunately for the model, very recently they have taken the time to introduce the principles and are converting employees into members.

From Mondragon's web site in response to the question, "How many employees are co-operative members and how many are not, and in which areas do non-members mainly work?"
quote:
By the end of 2008, the average number of employees at MONDRAGON was 92,773. 39.7% of these employees work in the Basque Country, 44.2% in other parts of Spain and 16.1% work abroad.

As a result of the rapid growth you have experienced over the last few years, with the number of employees going from 25,322 in 1992 to 92,773 in 2008, only somewhat less than a third of the Corporation’s workers are cooperative members at present. The non-members mainly work in the distribution sector outside the Basque Country and at the industrial plants that are also based outside the Basque Country, either in other parts of Spain or abroad.

This percentage of worker-members will have substantially increased in three years’ time, when Eroski has completed its cooperativisation process for all its non-member employees, who work mainly outside the Basque Country and Navarra. When this process is complete, the percentage of cooperative members in the Corporation as a whole could be over 75%.

Along these lines, Eroski already has a highly successful precedent. This involves a project introduced in 1998 whereby the firm Sociedad Gespa offered its non-member employees the possibility of sharing in the capital and management of their work centre. This is a formula for participation that has been taken up by the majority of non-member workers in the Eroski Group who have been offered this opportunity.


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Kent
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More from the FAQ's:"How is Mondragón responding to globalisation and how are its foreign factories organised?"
quote:
As mentioned earlier, one of the main assets of the MONDRAGON Cooperative Movement is its ability to adjust to change at any given moment in time. Faced with the phenomenon of globalisation, early in the 1990s Mondragón decided to step up its international presence, favouring not only the export business but also the deployment of production facilities abroad.

The results speak for themselves: we have gone from 25% of international sales achieved in the industrial area at the start of the 1990s to 58.2% in 2008, and we have 73 production plants in 16 different countries (see MONDRAGON worldwide), which brought in 23% of our total industrial production and 13,759 jobs (34% of the industrial area staff) in 2008. If we add to this figure the staff of our corporate and sales offices and the employees of Eroski’s shopping centres in the south of France, our international staff reached a total of 14,938 employees in 2008, which is 16.1% of the Corporation’s staff as a whole.

All our companies abroad are organised as Limited Companies. There are several reasons for this: most of the countries do not have the appropriate legislation of a cooperative nature that we have here; in many cases we incorporate these companies as a joint-venture with other partners and, thirdly, and this is perhaps the main reason, the setting-up of cooperatives requires cooperative members who are used to working within a cooperative culture, and this is a process that takes time.

At our Congress held in May 2003, the decision was taken to drive the creation of formulas that allow for the participation in ownership and management by employed workers that pursue their activities in our non-cooperative companies.


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Kent
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By the way, does anybody here have any experience with cooperatives?
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TommySama
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What kind of cooperative?
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Athelstan
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Just a jumble of thoughts to see how I personally feel about Distributism. It might be rubbish but then this is the Internet.

I’ll start with that I personally don’t agree with Distributism. Keep religion out of the workplace is my motto because I bet some church is getting its tithe. Does Mondragon’s ten percent charity donation go to the RC Church? We had a Distributist Party (I’ll resist the obvious) in the Thirties in the UK, probably ended up as the Christian Socialists. This makes me think of Tony Blair, he forgot to mention he was a Christian Socialist, and all those pre-election hopes down the drain. The example given, Mondragon, is a Worker Co-Operative in the Basque Region of Spain. That, for obvious reasons, must give it a head start in any social orientated business. Very few Basques are terrorists but most are Nationalists. Mondragon is Basque orientated; its extension into the South of France is in Basque Territory. I personally don’t agree with Co-Operatives without Free Trade Unions. I sorry that’s just the way it is. Whatever happened to all those early Communes in Israel? Franco approved of Mondragon because it controls its workforce by making them inward looking and not interested in outside events. Eta doesn’t like Mondragon for the same reasons. Are the workers of Mondragon, with their capital input buying a job instead of owning a share of the company?

Now the 19th century Mutualism of Robert Owen had no need for religion but did include healthcare, equality for women and Free Trade Unions. His social experiment eventually failed because it needed Robert Owen to head it and no one lives forever, some Governments do. I agree with the nationalisation of essential industries but just because you’re a Socialist doesn’t curtail you’re right to the pursuit of happiness.

Recent changes to the Mondragon set-up have seen Managers salaries rise to fifteen times workers wages. They say this is to attract better managers. More money has been put into reserves to enable the purchase of other countries industries. Less now goes into workers accounts and some workers feel they are becoming impotent in the organisation. In the case of the FagorBrandt, Brandt has retained its old French management structure with no attempt to change to a Worker Co-operative. In the Polish example of FagorMastercook the Polish workers tried to strike because of low wages so MCC brought in strikebreakers and sacked Trade Union Activists. Its workers in South America complain of low wages. Mondragon has not made any attempt to export its Worker Co-operative model abroad and the reasons it gives for not doing so seem false. The UK has had Worker Co-operatives but Fagor UK is not one of them.

My own view would be, as has been said before, that Worker Co-Operatives work on a local level but have to change as they get bigger. The change in set-up does seem to be on MCC’s industrial side. Perhaps Worker Co-operatives have to be agrarian based. I do like the original concept though, without the religion.

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Ben
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Athelstan, can you clarify what you mean as to what Free Trade Unions are? a link or something? Thanks.
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Athelstan
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Ben

Maybe you’re more familiar with the term Independent Trade Union which by my definition would be a Trade Union that is not controlled in any way by an Employer, Political Party or any other outside group. Being a bit old I tend to use archaic words.

In case you’re interested I do not agree with the Communist International of 1920 when it stated.

quote:
Within these organizations it is necessary to organize Communist cells the aim of which is to win the trade unions, etc. for the cause of Communism by incessant and persistent work.
And I don’t agree with Marx when he said of British Trade Unions in 1865

quote:
They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.
I was a Shop Steward of a Trade Union and you could definitely call me a Moderate.
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