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tv   Principles of a Pluralist Commonwealth  CSPAN  July 29, 2017 9:31am-10:43am EDT

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instagram, at book underscore tv or post it to our facebook page, booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. [inaudible conversations] >> good evening, everyone! if you'll all take your seats, we'll get this show on the road. my name is robert, i am the cofounder of the institute for america's future and currently senior adviser to people's action which is a national organization with 30 grassroots affiliates in 20 states. and it's my pleasure tonight to be here to introduce to you many
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of you who know him, gar alperovitz can, our speaker for this evening. first, let me pay tribute to andy and busboys and poets for this -- [applause] andy is a friend, an activist and remarkable entrepreneur. he's built these vibrant centers of good food and good drink anded good discussion, and we get to enjoy it here tonight. gar alperovitz, if you don't know him, is a national treasure. he is a path-breaking historian, a political economist, a strategist, an author and an organizer. he's worked in both houses of congress. he's created centers of political economy. he's written path-breaking books in the history and in economics. he is an extraordinary resource.
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most recently, mideast the can founder of the -- most recently, he's the can founder of the democracy collaborative and the co-chair of the next system project which is seeking real world paths to creating a world that could be more just, more democratic and sustainable. tonight he's going to talk about his new book, "the principles of a pluralist commonwealth." copies of that are available near the front if you haven't gotten one. i recommend it to all of you. i just want to the say a word to to put this in a little bit of context. which is, you know, in washington these days people are 24/7, mostly fixated on the antics of president chaos. [laughter] and he struck agained today, wreaking havocking by withdrawing from the paris accord. and that will generate, sensibly
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enough, massive opposition and resistance. and he has built and deserves a unified, fierce resistance across the country. but there's a danger to that, two dangers to it really. one is in the fixation on trump's antics and his grotesquelies, we can easily forget the fundamental failure of the political establishment of both parties over the last decades. so we had a recovery of eight years under george bush in which the country grew more equal, the poor grew more improve riched -- impoverished, and the environment was more destroyed. we then had a recovery of great recession and a recovery under barack obama, and the country grew more unequal, poverty became even greater in our cities, and the ecological destruction outstripped any of our expectations or fears.
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we are fighting in wars without end and without a strategy for victory, and we have a political establishment of both parties that has failed us. and the problem with resistance is that the default position on resistance is defense of the status quo. right? we resist trump because of the horrors he's inflicting on us, and we defend, the instinct is to defend the status quo, but that clearly is not enough. we desperately need both unity and resistance but also a massive debate of, a profound debate about a different course. and that is what gar's work is really about. he gets beyond the sort of hothouse politics of our day, and he asks profound questions. and in doing that, he has discovered that millions of americans in thousands of projects may well be giving
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birth to a new system, to a new course for the country that we could give, help give shape to and help in a sense expose. he is unique, i think, in challenging us to think deeper and to dream bigger and to act more boldly. and, obviously, nothing could be more important than that these days. so it's my pleasure to introduce gar alperovitz. [applause] >> thank you, bob. and thank you all for coming out this evening. really appreciate it. i want to say thank you also to kaley and will who are here and john who helped with this book. thank you -- [applause]
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there is a, as bob says, i at one point ran house and senate staffs. been there, done that. i've been a hard-nosed pol, and i've been an organizer. but something is different about this book which i want to suggest to you. and i want to to realize you the opening preface, a quote my friend mark raskin brought to washington many, many times. here she is. it would be of some relevance to notice that the appeal the to thought -- appeal to thought arose in thed, in-between period which sometimes inserts itself into historical time. it's a time when not only the later historians, but the actors and witnesses, the living themselves become aware of an interval of time which is altogether determined by things that are no longer and by things that are not yet.
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in history these intervals have shown more than once that they may contain the moment of truth. now, what is she talking about? she's talking about the appeal to thought in politics. hot simply the a-- not simply the appeal to power, not simply the appeal to interest groups, but when do ideas matter. as bob mentioned, i'm a historian and an economist and a writer, and i don't think ideas matter at all much of the time. except sometimes. except sometimes. ask that's what hanna is talking about, and that's what i want to propose to you, that it is not only the building of political power that is necessary to stop this trajectory that we're involved in, but that at some point a reconstitution of the ideas system we're working with is necessary.
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that you cannot move beyond it with new energies unless we understand the direction is different. so i want to say a little bit about that and what that might mean. but in one sense, it's pretty obvious that traditional models of corporate capitalism and state socialism -- state socialism, long dead -- but the default position was corporate capitalism, our capitalism balanced by a reforming politics. and as bob said, the default position is where we are or where we were. that reforming politics also, in all of the advanced capitalist countries, had a systemic design. the design was called social democracy in europe, it was called progressive or liberalism in the united states. and what it was was the notion that a politics of movement-building, so long as it also had the power base of
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organized labor unions and institutional power base, might -- to use john kenneth galbraith's phrase -- countervail against the power of the corporations and achieve some kind of a balance. that's the theory of the 20th century, the politics of the progressive movements. note carefully it was a design. based on ideas and a power base, essentially, called labor unions. that system is over. we are living in a period -- the united states never had a strong design. we were at 32 or 34% of the labor force at its peak as the institutional power base. the swedes were at 86%, the organized labor. but the countervailing power was always weak. be labor is now down to 11% of the labor force organized, 6% in the private sector, and the conservative politics of the corporations and the right-wing
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movements are going after it. i'm from wisconsin, they've destroyed the unions in wisconsin, and they are ripping that whole system apart. so you are left facing an institutional -- in institutional design terms the giant corporation and its power base. that is new in the modern era. you have to go back to the late 1890s to see it. and at that time, there was another power base. not only the buildup of unions, but really angry farmers working off the farm system. so that poses a question as the decay continues and as income distribution gets worse, as the capacity to deal with environmental strategies gets worse, as the capacity toss deal not only with trump, but almost any conservative politician gets worse and where limitations of the design become obvious. so you're right up against the question, we are right up against the question, and it isn't always that ideas are central.
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if you don't like corporate capitalism and you don't like state socialism, what is it you want? and why would it be better, and how could it be developed, and what is the way forward that actually produceds a political -- produces a political-economic design that is powerful, that has moral content, that is able to build institutional power as well as a vision of the future? how does that happen? and what does it look like if it doesn't look like the traditions of the 20th century, state socialism or corporate capitalism or the intermediate liberalism kind of balancing sort of the corporations as the trends get worse? so that's the problem this book addresses. and it's the problem hanna puts on the table, that until we sort out a direction, we are always going to be limited in what we can do. a vision that that has moral content as well as political-economic power.
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at a time that the old models are dying. that's our problem. all of us. in my view. and at another level, you can begin to ask what is a system in political-economic terms. and almost always the answer comes back, if you look closely, that it is related to who controls wealth. that is, in the medieval time it was the lords and the churches and the king who contained the wealth, and they called it name of the game in politics. in the 19th century, there was a period when agriculture was so popular and the country was 85% farmers that there was a different kind of base partly in balancing the rest of the system. the corporations arose, and for a while -- as i said -- were balanced partly. very weakly by labor unions. and that's gone. state socialism took another model. so, ultimately, the question we're asking is what does, what do we do, how can you even begin
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to think about a model that is democratic but also has muscle, that has power, that has institutional capacities? so one of the things this book attempts to do is, first, look at what's developing out of the pain and failure of the current system. and then to put together the pieces that we see evolving with a theory that suggests and has suggested to you that we can then struggle with of how the next system might be built. let that one sink in. the question is how to build the next system, not how to elect the next guy. now, you've got to elect the next guy too, but the real question if what i've said has any meaning at all is what is the nature, how do we begin to sketch it out, how do we begin to develop a theory, how do we debate that theory. this is like the time of the federalist papers of the committees of correspondence at
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the beginning of our country. how do we work it out so that we have a clear direction, we have thought seriously about, experimented with and begin to project something that brings us all together in a new direction. that sounds i utopian. utopian. and it is in the classical sense a vision of the future. it is very much like what madison was doing at the time they were writing the federalist papers. they were thinking about the design. what would work, what wouldn't work, how do we build forward. so that i want to drop in your laps. that is what used to be called a heavy trip in the 1960s, but it is the nature of the problem, i suggest to you. we cannot move much further. we can resist, we can build opposition where we can, but the deep trends that are getting worse in income distribution, environment, climate, poverty, they continue until we build a different institutional power base. one of the things that's exciting about this period, and
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bob alluded to it -- and it is very rarely covered by the national press and almost never by the local press -- is that there is a developing process around the country in which who gets to own wealth, what institutions are designed to hold wealth is beginning to show a particular direction that is not very well understood, but is very exciting in some areas. so, for instance, there are 130 million people who are involved in one or another form of cooperative. that is a different way of owning wealth than either the giant corporation or the lords and the kings of the landownership. it is a democratic form of ownership. there are another 10 million or 15 million people this employee stock ownership plans, a different way of democratic ownership of business. neither corporate nor state socialist. there are 140 land trusts we've identified around the country.
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what is that? that's a geographic area, draw a circle around a neighborhood or a city, who owns the land could be democratically owned either by the neighborhood or the city in order to control land values and inflation and prices that drive people off the houses and gentrification. another form of decentralized ownership of land. 25% of american electricity is generated and managed by utilities that are either cooperatives -- another form -- or public utilities, city-owned developments. if you begin looking around, you see elements of a system that is socialist in that it democratically owns wealth, has an institutional power base, is growing and might -- and i use the word carefully -- might suggest one element of a possible direction. a direction that begins at that level. there are even more sophisticated things happening
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in many parts of the country, and i want to just fill you in on this briefly, but you can go to our web site at, we'll give you lots and lots on this. there are other levels of this. ..
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philadelphia is on the verge of setting up and santa fe, denver considering it, los angeles open, many cities and washington dc, why do the bankers control the capital? why can they not fill their own banking system? it is spreading very rapidly now that it is getting off the ground. public or democratically controlled, decentralized rather than state owned, populist vision of who are the banks, and it is practical going along with 3 million people involved in credit unions or $1 trillion in capital already there. democratic ownership of capital. those are not contenders. we are in the prehistory, not the history of the next great movement. either develop mental processes out of experimentation and working companies around the country, many of them out of
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esop movement. norman carolyn is here who helped put that together. there were 13 million last i looked members, some are democratic, most are not at this stage but they demonstrate another institution needed for capitalism, nor state socialism but democratizes ownership and some are becoming democratic in their control structure, 13 million people, there are many worker costs being set up. a co-op is a one person one vote ownership structure. the press covers almost none of this at this time. you have to go to the website, www. community.wealth, this covers can develop mental process just under the radar. there is no local press that cares about this or has staffing to do it but in some areas it is breaking through. there are sophisticated models popping up out of this process at the grassroots level that are beginning to get attention.
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one of the most interesting is one that our own group is associated with, the evergreen cooperatives. here is an advanced to the next stage from cooperatives in an area of 40,000 with average annual income of 20,000. unemployment of 20% almost entirely black neighborhoods in cleveland in the midst of which are the cleveland clinic, one of the most powerful hospitals in the world, university hospital, what is set up is communitywide structure, not a freestanding work around company to which our attached cooperatives as part of a complex to build the community as well as the aquatic ownership that is advanced in the model and each kickback something to set up more co-ops to build a
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larger complex. this is not small co-ops, one of the largest and most advanced in the urban areas, there is a terrific urban greenhouse there, 3 million heads of letter the year, a solar installation structure and building one or two a year, they hope to add businesses that are worker owned, part of the complex, think about design, that is a design aimed at building community and worker ownership, not simple he freestanding worker ownership but collective and cumbrian division. what makes it doubly interesting is in the middle of this area these large hospitals and universities are, there is huge purchasing power largely financed by us, the taxpayer, medicare, medicaid programs, hospital programs in general in the middle of this complex.
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if you look at the sum total they buy a lot. they could buy from these institutions, they could stabilize the community, use their procurement power to stabilize the system and that is happening in cleveland as the model is developed, using the next level. those of you are economists, if you stand back and think about that little design, systems are about ideas of design, that is a community building, wealth democratizing, decentralized combination of community and worker ownership supported by public procurement through a planning system using public money. that is a planning system. a beginning shape of a planning system. if you were to do that nationally the next time general motors goes down and chrysler
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they might be taken over publicly, they were nationalized. that may happen again. they might be converted to build mass transit. that mass transit might be targeted to companies to build community the safeway clevelanders and you see the outlines in a sketch in a model that is neither state socialist nor corporate capitalist but begins with a vision of community democratizing as far as you can from the ground up, building capacity at the national level to purchase and stabilize the system in a form of economic planning. think about those things, those are ideas in the fragmentary development of process as the pain of the system grows and there are no other solutions. this is not happening just because people think it is a great thing to take 10 to 15 years to build these things.
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it is happening because the logic of the environment is such that either you innovate or you go down and that is the situation in many parts of the country so there is an enormous amount of innovation happening. 10 years ago you could see fragments of it. i dealt with steelworkers in youngstown, ohio, trying to do this when the big steel mill went down and they got the carter administration to support them and they were cut off in the past by big corporations and there were not many people who knew how to do this, you want to do this in your community there is an enormous amount of talent and knowledge available to do it. that is a historic achievement because you could build with that achievement so that is happening at a different level of sophistication even though the press doesn't cover it. you are beginning to see and i could give you many more models on the ground including 25% of electricity is in the public
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sector, public utilities or cooperatives already and many pieces of the puzzle are building at the local level, largely out of pain and largely out of failure so that gives you one thought about possibility, one of the possibilities in practice may be continued pain levels growing, lack of solutions from washington, from washington more pain, the necessity to develop models that are homegrown and have the quality of democratizing ownership and building up the slow infrastructure of something whose time might come. that is where we aren't a big part of what is happening. it is important to say, i mentioned it earlier, the processes at the national level are also open to change. in the banking crisis, we did
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nationalize general motors, chrysler, the biggest insurance aig in the world and it had we wanted to do it, the nationalization of several other banks. we are not at the end of the crisis at the national level. if you begin to see the model i am sketching to you and i speak as a historian, someone interested in politics, there are elements and fragments of what look like the possibility of a next system that doesn't look like corporate capitalism and doesn't look like state socialism and is radically decentralized and begins in community decentralization, but a visualization of what might be commanding because it has so much buildup in the ground up. i use the word might carefully. it might dk. we shall see. we are seeing beginning activity
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to put this into politics, politicians are beginning to run on this or think it is important to be the mayor who does this. rochester, minnesota, for instance, looking at the cleveland model, a wonderful wonderful mayor whose name is lovely warren. i love that name, has picked up this model and is doing a cleveland style model in that city in arlington and alexandria. there is another attempt to do something similar to this enrichment, another attempt to do something similar to this. also in atlanta. there is one level, something bubbling up because other solutions are not available and the ideas, the ideas of a possible decentralized democratic economy are becoming something on the ground level and have not broken into public national press except very occasional stories. if you go to california, boulder, colorado, you will see
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an activist group working for 10 years on climate change attacking the local privately unusually for the use of fuels that are poisoning the environment, has taken over that utility. through a political fight. what hesitant you made it into a city-owned utility where you can control the output of utility. that is another model that is building. i won't go on endlessly about this but just below the surface we are seeing enormous experimentation of the kind i am talking about plus occasional crisis developments. one final bit. if you look at the federalist papers and madison, madison is an interesting guy, many lessons for us. madison, like karl marx, was very clear about how politics worked. very explicit about it in all of his writings. those who have wealth control politics period. the task of those with wealth is
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to keep the others divided so they don't take your wealth away. marks never said it as clearly as madison did. furthermore, the way to really control the system is as federalist papers 9 or 10, one of them, what you do is spread the country out. there is a fight, democracy can only happen in small countries, they decided if we spread people out it is very explicit you can divide and conquer people spread out throughout the country. a continent has that advantage and that is the name of the game. what is being picked up in different parts of the country, all of this i say as a historian, the possible prehistory of the next movement, is the development of a reaction to that. first place we saw it was in a reactionary form, the texas governor said we are going to secede. he was kidding maybe, but he was saying we don't like this
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system. texas is going to be very interesting as hispanics get the vote over the next 25 years. texas won't be a right wing stay forever. california, there is a state movement after the last election for exit of some kind, decentralization. in doing that there is a they facto organization of regional air policies, energy policy, agricultural policies, there is a regionalization going on underneath the surface that looks very interesting in terms of the model. if you think about systemic change and i am giving examples, what i emerging at this is it is time to think through what mike makes sense if state socialism don't do it and if some of these suggest possibilities, the people in this room and elsewhere will feel suggestive of newer possibilities, we are at the verge of beginning to
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have an idea of what the next system could look like maybe. what it looks like is radical decentralization and democratization of wealth. probably a lot of small entrepreneurs, public ownership or public worker community ownership at the larger level, probably regionalization. folks remember how big the country is, you can drop germany into montana and have a lot of room left over. i used to say to my students those little european countries are easy to manage because they are small but the idea of a continental system where people are spread out is beginning, use the reaction in new england and california, texas in particular, where there is the beginning of a reshaping. i am no utopian. i'm interested in what might be built and what might be building in the way the women's movement, civil rights movement and the conservative movement, which was very self-conscious about this
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for 30 years before they got anywhere, what we might build out of the lost opportunities of social democracy or liberalism but also out of the new experimentation so that is the introduction to this talk. [laughter] >> the rest of it is here. this is free on the web for anyone who wants to, it is important for organizers and activists who are beginning to read and think about the future. go to our website and you will find it under principles, www. next to the system/principals. the book attempts to ask deeper questions than the fragmentary bits and pieces i'm suggesting to you. how would you organize a community based structure and what do we know about that and who is writing about it? what do we know about decentralization? what do we know about climate
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control that build on these models? there is an enormous amount being written in different areas so the book attempts to take these pieces and sketches i have given you in a short time about what the next system might look like and a next system that is plural in its design might involve. let me say a word about that. the title of the book is "principles of a pluralist commonwealth" and the title of the model is a pluralist commonwealth, terrible title but it is meant to designate the notion that commonwealth, democratically owned companies or land trusts or utilities come in national, regional structures, like the tennessee valley authority which was a publicly controlled structure in the 1930s, that plural form rather than state socialism or corporate capitalism of common wealth holding is popular to
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american circumstances and american culture and american populism in the sense of roll up your sleeves and do it. that is a possibility and it examines how it might actually work if you put together in greater detail than i can do here what it would take and what we have learned and what we haven't learned, part of this is going on, and political groups across the country, and addressing this at all levels to put together a politics that is real politics, at the same time a community building activity might be built. i was in arlington a month ago where just that possibility is beginning to emerge, might we do a land trust here and build a politics for the different content and do both at once, walk on 2 legs, the idea. that is the notion of the pluralist commonwealth.
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one or two other concepts in a different sense, in the 20th century just past, the economy produced a seven fold increase in per capita income. think about that. start with $1000, you have $7000 at the end of the century doing the same amount of work or 100,000700,000, the power of the old technologies, seven fold. if you die the income up in the united states you all know it is $240,000 for every family of four, you all get your share, that is what this rich economy does. that number will be almost $2 million if the week technologies of the 20th century continue. of the advanced computer-driven technologies, we may go further than that which means at the
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same time the system ideas are failing the bounty of the country is growing technologically. so that a woman born now at the end of the century will have just for starters seven times as much, $1 million or 20 hour week and half $1 million or a 10 hour week and $40 million. those are the numbers where looking at as we move through the new century. the question becomes how do we build a democratic way to manage that wealth and ownership. the problem is not simply poverty and environment and difficulties but how do we build a culture and a system that can actually appropriate this wealth, a forward-looking question as well. i want to suggest to you that possibility, the content of this gives lots of references to the kinds of things i'm talking about as well as people writing about individual parts of this in different ways and different
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parts of the country. that is another piece of the puzzle that may be useful and important to you. i want to give you a different way of thinking of system change. i'm a historian, political economist and i have been involved in very hard politics and real world politics so i am not a utopian in that sense but system change is a constant in history, it happens all the time. people who think it doesn't happen are the utopians. the question is whether or not you can build to and through the difficulty and take responsibility for what might become a systemic change. we may face hard times in this country. what mister trump is offering may produce violence and a great deal of difficulty. the guiding light is not only what is it we want, but i am talking to the person in your chair.
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what do we want politically? how do we get beyond rhetoric, how do we move to the next stage, how do we get serious and how do we move to and through difficult times? chile is a wonderful model, they moved to and through the difficult times of repression and dictatorship. i hope we don't face dictatorship but we may face a great deal of repression and it doesn't need to stop there. some of you know a way of thinking of system change and what might really be done are the people working on civil rights in mississippi in the 1930s, that is when the real work was done. laying the groundwork which became possible in the 1960s for the movement that comes later and came later. i think we are on the verge of that in a different possibility, that the entire system is opening up deeper and deeper questions that i have never seen in my life and most of us are
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beginning to think of in political terms, but the next advance is in system terms and how to move that forward in a thoughtful, intelligent and rigorously defined and thought about way. thank you very much. [applause] >> now comes the question of challenge. let's go. >> i want to say for john due to, john, our communication director, helped enormously with this as well.
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[inaudible conversations] >> how is that? is that better? looks like we have a question back here. >> my old friend norman. >> you did a great job. the founders didn't give the vote to those without property as you recall. it took some time before others, then males were able to get the vote. there was something else. whatever you are talking about i have to agree with the need for a new vision. many of the things you said i agree with but money is very very important. where you got the money for
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cleveland for example, it was foundations, nonprofit groups with a lot of money and then sometimes there are some rich guys who are going to give you some money. then it is the government and you have to bend a little to conform to what the bureaucrats, as you understand. i am wondering what your definition is of money and as you know, workers have bought out companies on bank credit, they pay no corporate taxes and pay nothing out of their savings or anything out of their earnings so there are companies owned by the workers. i'm not satisfied with anything to tell you the truth because there is more than can be done but i want to ask the question
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because i think ownership not only can be for workers but why not for every citizen as a citizen because universal declaration of human rights says every person should be able to become an owner and no country does that yet. i wonder how that is reflected in how the money system you are thinking of runs money and how can that be brought about? what they are saying about co-op banks, that is part of it. >> norman and i have been discussing this for 40 years. norman worked closely with a man who helped open this dimension of worker ownership. very important defense which i can't give you a full answer in this discussion because those following the modern monetary philly diminished. the creation of money, you know money is created out of nothing.
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that is what the banks do and they lend it out and build more and more so there is a revolution in monetary theory which is part and parcel of this so the definition of money is very illusory and can't go into it without a long discussion but i want to credit people who gave us a model of worker ownership, not often very democratic, voted by the number of stocks you have at the bank that controls the stock but the idea of ownership has changed. that was a major change forward and i credit that work, thank you for the question. >> thanks for mentioning the public bank. i want to share exciting information with people. i have been keeping it quiet but i think i have courage to say it now.
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we have major funding through fiscal year 2018 budget for feasibility study for the public bank. $200,000 in the budget. not just small business loans for affordable housing and loans for environmental sustainability and just got that language in. this is a room full of activists and people who understand a lot of what is wrong with the system, to take this and move it to how do we begin to use it to fund cooperatives, land trusts, to begin to change the economy right here in dc. let's not talk abstractly, let's talk right here about what we are going to do over the next few years to be prepared that when the feasibility study is done and begin to get the money
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going into the public bank, how are we going to use it for system transformation right here in dc? i hope everyone will help with it. [applause] >> just to say one thing, the process we were talking about with the creation of the tax arrangements was done with that addition. in many cities, what is happening below the radar, the movement is building up, not covered by the press and there will be interesting fights, what is going on in many parts of the country. >> thank you for a great talk and great work. would you say a few words how you view the system change at a global level? >> interesting question, perfect
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design and models. the way to subject -- -- the name of the game a stress woman culture into a culture of democracy. that is a piece of the puzzle. for my sins i worked at a high level in the state department as well as the house and senate and my recollection of those days goes something like this, very exaggerated form of recollection, helping someone in africa or a new project in africa or south america that would be funded with american dollars. the aig programs are ready to go but by the time it hit the ground the corporations had turned it into something else because that is where the power was and that was their intent. let's not make it about good or bad or evil. the institution of power of the
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large corporation had interests and found ways to manifest it. partly i view the work on rebuilding an american commonwealth, different community, as necessary settings the terms of reference of who we are in our foreign policy. let me say that again. i have written about it, the bombing of hiroshima am a very important -- very unpleasant story and how to run the global economy and prevent wars. hiroshima was unnecessary, virtually every major general and admiral went public after the war saying it was totally unnecessary and outrageous including eisenhower. the issue that has driven a lot of questions, i don't think we will relate differently to other parts of the world until we are different. that is a very hard line, we
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should try but until we change our institution, politics and culture we will be eaten by large corporate interests. those thinking seriously about global issues this is part of the game. >> thank you so much. this was not quite related but the framing is about the next system but i heard you speak about regionalization, any smaller system, is there an overarching system, i love the name of the group doing community line thrust work in arlington. >> i have used the word too diverse, the name of the game in society structured as natural, and most are, a couple aren't,
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the question is how those systems are managed and what is the economic structure and politics and polity of that system. that is what i am talking about, large systems like capitalism or socialism or pluralist commonwealth system always made of smaller bits and pieces. one of the interesting bits and pieces, here is an interesting fact, i am for small businesses, there are 6 million of them in the country, two, 100s of 1% are giant corporations, you can be for the innovative guy trying to do something in communities and change the name of the game in washington, the power structure, in this model the theory is unless you can build a different culture at the local level,
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unless we can change who we are at the local level it cannot change ultimately. you can't do that. that is very challenging. the name of the game is ten years of your life times 3x4. not just weeks, not just can't do things in the here and now but the longer-term trend is that level of demand trends and i have been talking about by the way, i have been talking about systemic designs. all of this is about existential choice, not systemic design. it comes down to what the person in your chair wants to do and that is at the heart of this. what motivates people to take on real responsibility for the system? it is very principle.
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i would urge you to think about isn't that interesting? and i up to that, changing the system? a lot of folks have asked that question and done it, no big deal. yes? >> thank you very much. i admire you, i think you are so brilliant and you explain so well. >> my friend talking. >> i follow gar alperovitz everywhere. i already asked you this question. i think it was done in a different way, coming from latin america, 27 years ago, no strikes in this country, where are the workers? they are all dead. coming from america where they
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are in power, the trade unions, i wonder who is going to do this change, workers are empowered to move to a different system. trade unions, i was told, are dead. we are determined the workers need to be empowered in order to have the experience they can change the system so i want you to explain to me again, maybe i already asked you something about this. >> i don't have an answer to your question. a particular historical model
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with different variants, trade union is one variant, they are more mobilized in your own country in the 19th century, outside union structures, and different forms of activism including workers at different levels, with citizen groups of a different kind, the same as we are talking about is a program with a new mayor. and what happens in mississippi, the worst part of racism occurred. jackson is a place to watch. i don't think it will be trade unions. it will be militant people but i don't think the structure will be the basis of it or part of it, what is left of the structure.
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>> thank you for the talk and providing so many resources for people interested in these issues. i am wondering if you were advising folks who want to work on these things on the ground within the political structure, what kind of ideas that rhetoric do you think are the most powerful tools for someone running for local office? >> i should ask robert borosage to talk about that. we had some conversations with different political groups. i don't think we know the answer. that is an exciting experiment. people are going to test it out but we find these things to be very popular. they start in local communities, they are popular and meaningful. i don't think there is a specific answer to your question. there's a lot of testing to do but give it a shot. >> thank you for the wonderful
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talk. i really enjoyed it. if you look at the long -- you typically see new economic models coevolved with new cultural forms and i am wondering what role do you think different types of cultural production, novels, art, clay and helping to foster and develop this new economic model you are articulating and do you see it happening, and if so, where? >> it is a wonderful question. i have not seen it in an organized way but every meeting in local communities, some artist has done something creative around what was going on. not only visualized but it plays in songs and demonstrations of different kinds. it is part of a movement. a movement that doesn't paint is not a movement. are you an artist?
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>> no, cultural studies professor. >> get your students into the grassroots. you may see more than i will. >> you talked a little how nationalization of major industry is possible, the nationalized aig, that only happened after massive economic shocks that created the circumstances under which these things that are pretty radical could actually happen, people were shocked out of their ways of thinking and wanting to take actions, all of us. i read the shock doctrine pretty recently. radical conservative economic
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actors have taken advantage of political disasters, created them. disaster and free-market reforms go hand-in-hand because they take advantage of circumstances where people are unable to politically protest. i'm wondering given the circumstances under which we did manage to nationalize corporations should we speak organizers to take advantage of earth shattering crises to push through reforms like making the world a better place because we certainly know that is happening in the other direction. >> any serious social movements including revolutionary movements or non-revolutionary movements, they involve all kinds of mixes for cultural
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processes and takeovers of different times. we are not given the costs, let me say it given the human costs of what is happening, the poverty and degradation, people are strung out on heroin, the loss of belief, there are large stakes involved. some involve evolutionary cultural change, revolutions, whether you call it a revolution or evolutionary trance formation, they are never pure and simple, mistakes are so high, best we can, but expect some problems. that is inevitable. >> i wonder if i could extend this to the other things you have been writing about particularly with respect to
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climate change and the urgency of climate change. you have written a piece in the nation and other places that we don't have time and their needs to be a major transformation at the top level of our political economy which includes, you mentioned i believe buying up fossil fuel corporations to keep it in the ground, transforming the banking system, transforming our transportation system and others. i wonder first how we sequence, your talk today about building slowly, clearly there is greater urgency threatening life itself. second, how the politics of that at the national level can be reconciled with a need to region allies. >> there are is a lot in those
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two questions. any transformation is a messy business. there will be a lot of levels of activity, some culturally slow, some straight political, some very active, violence and struggle, all sorts of things are already happening that are not sensible clear things, that is not the way it works, just to say that. the development of a systemic culture that is radically decentralized which is another word to the only way to democracy, that becomes a driving vision building up what the catholic church says only to the next level if necessary, is i think a valuable guideline for where we are to go. there are crises, climate change is one of them. what the questioner is asking i should mention very briefly, a piece we did in the nation, we did a piece at a big conference
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on climate change, how many know what quantitative easing is? how many know what monetary theory is? great. let me give you an explanation. one thing that is urgent that could be done, the federal reserve board creates money out of nothing every day. by computer. otherwise, the economy could never expand. if there was a little pot of money that was fixed, that is it. you have to wrap your head around the fact that that is happening. the word quantitative easing speaks to a $3 trillion effort in the last couple years, flooding the banks with enough capital. european banks are doing it, japanese banks, we halted the for a while, japanese banks do it all the time. that is the way the monetary system works. if you let that sink in and there is a whole development,
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happening worldwide, facing up to implications of that in modern times. i had a wonderful and in wisconsin who is a baker, and she had a wonderful comment, she said i was there during the depression, there wasn't much money around and then they had this big more and there was a lot of money all of a sudden. yes. when they want to do it you can in fact as milton friedman pointed out create the money you usually do and use it for these purposes. one of which we have proposed begin thinking about now to buy up these big oil companies to get them out of the way politically. that could be done. we know that is not going to happen with the current regime but we put it out now so people can stew on it for the next few years and see whether the climate change activists pick it up and go for it. that is another way to think about an answer to your question but i should stop there unless
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you want to sharpen something. >> you need for power -- and also rigged. >> the model is both ends. you have to develop a power base on the bottom inevitably or you don't have any power. there may be moments to move at the national level because an opportunity arises. there is nothing fixed to simplify or oversimplify, the guiding principle from my perspective would be you don't have democracy unless you build it community by community, you don't have it until you have citizens without starting at the bottom. >> we have time for two more questions, steve and back there. >> i think i want to ask a lot
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of questions, i will ask this one. 130 million co-op members, 10 to 13, it is quite conceivable, and to constituencies. when there was a white house meeting with co-ops. the obama administration, and a member of the credit union and jack lou, treasury secretary, raised his hand. there is lack of understanding and how do you think about this question, the old marxist phrase, a class for itself. when do co-op members started identifying as co-op members and therefore that helps with
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different politics. >> he knows more about this than anyone in the room including me. one of the questions, the issue is not simply structure, if you don't have a structure that is structurally compatible with democratic control you really have a problem and most economic structures are not compatible with democratic control, they are controlled by the number of stocks pension funds have. changing ownership is not sufficient condition to transform the country into a democratic culture that was genuinely democratic. that is the name of the game, to do that is a whole different level. i'm trying to suggest to you to open up there is an opening for that, structurally open and many are culturally open and the work
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you did in buffalo where there is an active culture building up a different basis that could be transformative in different economic institutions, it is obviously a mistake, it is also clear that structures permit certain possibilities in certain cases and other cases like democratic structures in the economic realm. this gentleman had his head up. >> haven't talked about a lot of wealth, they hold onto it.
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and .2 is if you think about state socialism, corporate capitalism, and one thing they have in common is preserve waste system so there is a dynamic where some getting wealthier than others led to what we have today. if you want to change the dynamic, how do we get away with the idea that people are entitled, if you do more skill stuff, you get more and less you get less, there is that build in any quality developing which get some people very wealthy. >> in the real world of politics, the answer to the first question is it all depends. a major takeover through political processes or buyouts
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or friendly buyouts in revolutionary situations, there are takeovers. on the large end are many realms of doing that. ronald reagan nationalize the bank in chicago when it was in trouble. there are different possibilities at that level. the wage structure question, another piece of this is basic income. the debate about basic income. there ought to be guaranteed income for everyone, no matter what, as part of the product of society. it is another way of thinking. let me mention this but a piece of the puzzle progressives haven't thought about in this particular frame. one places i honor genuine conservatives, let me use the word genuine. there are a lot of phony conservatives. people haven't thought about it. the serious argument for conservative economics is if you have small independent farmers and small independent businesses
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they provide a basis scattered throughout the country for people where they can stand on their own feet and be free and have a basis for liberty. that was a serious argument and i honor that argument. the left has not had a theory of liberty. that is one of the big failings. the basic income argument which is guaranteed income, or guaranteed job, is the equivalent of a small farmer standing free on his own land. if you think of it in ordinary terms, people who are academics as i once was but no longer, have tenure. what does that mean? you can do what you want and say what you want and they don't fire you. that is a guaranteed job and is the basis of liberty. we will see some of that in the next round of possible reforms, or basic income, that is to say distribute in some of the income directly to people as a matter of course. these are in the mix. it is an interesting moment in all these realms, there is
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enormous debate about basic income and theories of liberty. we have to leave it there, thank you very much. [applause] >> thanks, thank you all for coming. if you want to hear the rest of the talk you can buy the book on the back table or you can get it free online at www. have a good night. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> this weekend on booktv on our afterwards program connecticut representative talks about her congressional work on social programs, her book is the least among us, waging a battle for the vulnerable. doctor kurt newman of children's national medical center recalls his career as a pediatric surgeon and offers his thoughts on the current state of health care. founder of prospect magazine david goodhart talked about the values divide in england that led to brexit and look at digital data and how it is used in government, employment, law enforcement, marketing and more. those are just a few of the programs airing this weekend on booktv. for complete television schedule visit booktv recently visited capitol


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