Gar Alperovitz doesn’t see a “collapse;” rather stagnation and decay, and meanwhile, decentralized and networked innovation is building a new infrastructure that is beyond capitalism or socialism and democratizes ownership

This address, in Seattle, October 3, followed immediately upon the first presidential debate. He devotes his first remarks to his reaction to that debate: “They are working in such a constrained space . . . it just corners us.” Thanks to Claudia for the pointer to this talk.

From the first few minutes:

“We do not have an economic problem. We have a political problem managing the richest system in the history of the world.”

“This is the wealthiest economy in the history of the world. It currently produces $192,000 for every family of four.”

“Why we are in a very unusual systemic crisis, and then what we co about it.”

“There are positive things that are exploding, perforce of necessity, moving us forward in this time of crisis. . .

“400 people have more wealth now than the bottom 180 million Americans taken together. This is a medieval structure.

“The loss of liberty is a trend. And who’s losing their liberty? The U.S. started 30 years ago, 50 per 100,000 in jail, now up to 743, going up. We have eight times the numbers per capita of any country including Russia.

Why the system is unbalancing further and further, it’s the decline of labor (of unions), which has pulled the whole system in a certain direction. It’s lost its old way of managing the economy. A systemic crisis is one which doesn’t get solved by politics as usual.

We may get decay and stagnation and stalemates politically, but we’re not likely to get a collapse. It isn’t a period of reform, where the trends are moved forward in the old way. It’s important to grasp the nature of how odd the crisis is. Because it has certain properties.

The crisis is forcing people to do new things, because they have to. It’s forcing people to innovate.

All systems run on the basis of property, who owns the wealth.

We need some way to democratize who owns the wealth. Either there’s a way to do it democratically, in a decentralized way, or we end of with statism, the state owning the capital.

You don’t like the system? Then what do we want? How do we begin decentralizing the ownership of wealth? Either we have a way to look at it and the way forward onto a path, or we aren’t talking about anything real. looks at what’s going on around the country in terms of decentralizing the wealth.

For example, in the U.S.:

• 130 million people now involved in some sort of one person/one vote co-ops. Many of those are credit unions.

• 11 million people are involved in 10,000 worker-owned companies. (Steel-workers and other unions are working hard to establish worker-owned companies)

• 5000 neighborhood-owned corporations. Some are large.

• steel-workers and other unions are working hard to establish worker-owned companies

Social enterprises are popping up everywhere in which profits are used for social good.

There’s a trend line of development and increasing sophistication. And a path that is beginning to build towards innovation and power. We are building into the pre-history of the next great American revolution. Just like in the decades before the New Deal. What we are doing, is developing experimentally the potential for the great transformation that could come if we are serious.

In Cleveland Ohio, for example, they are just about to build the largest greenhouse in the United States: worker-owned. Likewise, a solar company, worker owned. A large green laundry, worker-owned. They’ve taking the idea of worker-ownership to a different level. And the worker-owned coops are linked together through a community vision. That is an interesting development, building a new type of infrastructure. Plus, the hospitals and universities of this area have purchasing power of 2 billion per year, none of it locally sourced — until now.

At the level of the sociology of knowledge, the legitimacy of the existing system is eroding. This is the time that we can begin to make a difference. And what’s happening on the ground, particularly among young people, is developing, not just with projects, but with a new system of ideas, a new vision being put into the ground of what we want: community, sustainability, democratization.

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