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Tara Lohan: There Is a Way! Beyond the Big, Bad Corporation

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As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In New Economic Visions, a special five-part AlterNet series edited by economics editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back.

In September 2011, two Appalachian women traveled to Delaware to deliver a petition to the state’s Attorney General Beau Biden. Betty Harrah and Lorelei Scarbro represented thousands who believed that the business charter for coal-mining company Massey Energy should be repealed. The company, mostly operating in Appalachia but incorporated in Delaware, has violated the Clean Water Act 60,000 times. An investigation commissioned by the governor of West Virginia found Massey could have prevented the explosion that claimed the lives of 29 miners, among them Harrah’s brother, at the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010.

Massey, they contended, was simply too dangerous to be in business. But their pleas fell on deaf ears. The company plugs along, despite its shoddy environmental and safety records, churning out profits for its parent company, Alpha Natural Resources.

To many, Massey is not simply one bad apple, but part of an economic system heavy with rotten fruit. Companies like Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, Countrywide, BP, and Walmart epitomize the relentless drive of corporations to maximize profit above everything else, including safety, fair working conditions, clean air and water, healthy communities, and common decency. In doing so, the very word “corporation” has become a dirty word.

Forget bad apples, perhaps we should just raze the entire orchard, right?

Our economy, like our environment, is in trouble. Limitless growth that drives the profit-hungry corporate model today is ecologically impossible. We simply cannot sustain business as usual and the cracks in our system are showing.

“You look at the Arab Spring … what looked like very stable regimes across the Arab world were suddenly shown to be completely vulnerable and brittle and I think that we may see the same kind of thing in our economy,” said Marjorie Kelly, a fellow at the Tellus Institute and author of the new book Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution. “What looks massive and permanent and invulnerable, may show itself quite suddenly to be brittle.”

Maybe this doesn’t sound heartening but it should. The corporate model we have today hasn’t always been around and it doesn’t need to remain the dominant way we do business. There is no reason we should be swabbing the decks of a sinking ship — alternatives already exist and they are flourishing.

“What’s underway is an ownership revolution. It’s about broadening economic power from the few to the many and about changing the mindset from social indifference to social benefit,” Kelly writes. “We’re schooled to fear this shift, to think there are only two choices for the design of an economy: capitalism and communism, private ownership and state ownership. But the alternatives being grown today defy those dusty 19th-century categories. They represent a new option of private ownership for the common good. This economic revolution is different from a political one. It’s not about tearing down but about building up. It’s about reconstructing the foundation of ownership on which the economy rests.”

Better Business

A common complaint in today’s world is one of disconnection. Our industrialized world has resulted in less contact with community — we don’t know our neighbors or who grows our food. In the same way that we’ve lost touch with a deeper sense of belonging and place, many of us have become disconnected from the soul of our work. The corporation-worker structure today is a master-servant relationship. We’re slaves to the company, working longer hours for less wages.

“Now mass layoffs to boost profits are the norm, while the expectation of a career with one company is long gone,” William Lazonick wrote. “This transformation happened because the U.S. business corporation has become in a (rather ugly) word ‘financialized.’ It means that executives began to base all their decisions on increasing corporate earnings for the sake of jacking up corporate stock prices. Other concerns — economic, social and political — took a backseat. From the 1980s, the talk in boardrooms and business schools changed. Instead of running corporations to create wealth for all, leaders should think only of ‘maximizing shareholder value.’”

Our economy is dominated by a monoculture business model, Kelly says, driven largely by publicly traded corporations that have built in pressure from Wall Street for maximum short-term earnings. But a healthy, living economy needs biodiversity. We can find this if we begin to look around — across the U.S. and the world — where there are businesses designed not for maximum profit, but with a mission-driven social and economic architecture. One of these models is the “social enterprise.”

The Social Enterprise Alliance defines these organizations as “businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas.” And one of the defining characteristics is that “The common good is its primary purpose, literally ‘baked into’ the organization’s DNA, and trumping all others.”

Here’s an example. Remember Working Assets? Starting out as a progressive-minded credit card company in the ’80s, it added phone service — first long-distance in the ’90s, then cellular in 2000 — and now it has created the subsidiary CREDO Mobile. The company operates as a for-profit business, which is privately owned, with most of the employees owning the stock, so it doesn’t have to bow to Wall Street pressures. They use their profits to help support causes they believe in — so far the amount of money donated is $70 million and counting.

Social enterprises can also be nonprofits, like Goodwill Industries, which last year turned donations from 79 million people into revenue that provided job training to 4.2 million people. And by reselling donated clothing, furniture and household goods, they divert an estimated 2 billion pounds from landfills every year.

The idea of social enterprises is catching on in the business world in the U.S. with the emergence of Benefit Corporations, also known as B Corps, which are designed, “to create a new sector of the economy which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” B Corps are all for-profit companies that have legal structures mandating that the company is designed to work not for maximum shareholder gain, but for the good of society and the environment.

Currently there are more than 500 companies that have become approved B Corps and legislation has been passed in seven states (Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, California, Hawaii and New York) making them official entities. Some are larger corporations, such as Method Products and Patagonia, but many are also smaller companies and business-to-business operations.

B Corps are similar in design to another kind of company called L3Cs. “The L3C is a hybrid between the nonprofit and for-profit models in that it is essentially a profit-generating entity with a socially beneficial mission,” writes Ashley Holmes for GreenBlue. “Like an LLC corporation, L3Cs have the same liability protection and are not tax-exempt; however L3Cs have access to forms of capital that traditional corporations don’t qualify for, all in order to further social and environmental goals. Americans for Community Development describe the L3C as a company that ‘combines the best features of a for-profit LLC with the socially beneficial aspects of a nonprofit… the for-profit with a nonprofit soul.’”

It’s About the Workers

B Corps and L3Cs create a legal foothold for a more sustainable kind of business. But other models get to the heart of the new economy as well and take up the important ideas of ownership and governance. Who gets to make decisions about how our companies are run and who gets to share in the wealth that’s created?

The U.S. helped create a system in post-war Germany for works councils, where workers are elected from companies to help manage how the business is run. “That means the councils help determine core issues, like when to open and close the store or office, who gets what shift, and who gets laid off or fired,” wrote Jeremy Gantz in a review of Thomas Geoghegan’s book Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life. Germany also has co-determined boards, which give workers a voice in governance — companies with more than 2,000 employees have half of their boards composed of workers.

Empowering employees has proved a successful business model elsewhere. The John Lewis Partnership has been around in the UK since 1920 and has grown to over 30 department stores and more than 200 supermarkets, with a revenue of $13.4 billion. The business is employee-owned — all workers get to share the profits and vote for the governing council and company’s board.

“This firm has a written constitution, printed up and publicly available, which states that the company’s purpose is to support ‘the happiness of all its members,’” wrote Kelly. “Now, let me pause and note: this is the only major corporation I’ve found that declares its purpose is to serve employee happiness. This is so, at JLP, not because it boosts returns for shareholders. At the John Lewis Partnership, employee happiness isn’t a path to some other goal. It is the goal.”

Employee-owned companies aren’t just a British anomaly. “In the United States, the National Center for Employee Ownership reports that there are 11,300 employee-owned firms, with some 14 million participants,” Kelly found. “And in Europe, large companies have nearly 10 million employee-owners. Employee ownership has been increasing in such countries as Spain, Poland, France, Denmark, and Sweden.”

Organizations can be run with employee owners or other kinds of members. The London Symphony is owned by the musicians who play in it. Barcelona FC soccer team and the Green Bay Packers football team are community-owned. Mutual insurance companies are owned by policy holders and credit unions are owned by depositors.

Employee-owned businesses and cooperatives have emerged in the green business world with great success, as well. Community-owned forests in Mexico support indigenous people, protect the environment and prevent illegal logging. In Denmark community-owned wind farms have jumpstarted wind energy, supplying 20 percent of country’s power. In Minnesota, Minwind is a farmer-owned wind development company that’s grown to 350 members.

A New Vision

There are different legal and social structures that can help to feed this growing new economy. In Quebec, a “solidarity” or “social economy” was created to help nonprofits and cooperatives, and it gets popular and government support. Spain is home to Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, which is a network of more than 100 cooperatives, employing 100,000 workers. This cooperative model helps support new business ventures. If a firm is struggling in its first few years, interest rates are lowered to help it instead of flagging the business as high risk and then jacking up interest rates like we do here, says Kelly.

Supporting these new ventures is important, but so is holding the companies accountable to their missions. For cooperatives and employee-owned companies, like the John Lewis Partnership, where members get a vote and can elect those who make governing decisions (or run for the positions themselves), there is more power to make sure the company is keeping its word. With privately held businesses, accountability can be much harder. The B Corp certification process is one way that helps get around the blind spots — certified B Corps have to prove themselves to a third-party organization — creating accountability and transparency.

So what can we do in the U.S. to spur the development of socially and ecologically conscious business? “I used to think we needed new federal legislation and corporate chartering and that we could drive change with state and federal law,” Marjorie Kelly said. “And I do think we do need an articulation of what a company ought to be in law.” But we have to go beyond that, she insists.

“A teacher at Schumacher College posed a question: What kind of economy is suited for living inside a living being?” Kelly said. “It’s not an endlessly expanding economy, it’s not an economy that’s designed to serve the few, at the expense of the many, it is an economy that is generative; that is life-serving in its purposes. How do we generate the conditions for life to continue and to thrive?”

The answer will likely be not one thing, but a compilation and diversity of different business models that are consistent with supporting workers, protecting the environment, and serving the broader social good.

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26 comments

  1. Greg Taylor

    As long as limited liability remains for these structures, we’ll continue to have the abuses of power that plague today’s corporations. Changing missions doesn’t get at the root of the problem.

    1. Andrew

      You should define the root of the problem. For me the root of the problem is the low quality governance of our institutions. Self centered, greedy elites are feathering their own nests at the expense of employees, customers and the community. The governing boards and owners of the institutions are all playing the same rotten game as the upper echelons of management. They all have the same vested interest in screwing everyone for more profit.

      Removing limited liability may be one part of the solution as it would hold owners accountable for company screw ups. Much more importantly we need to have employees, customers and community interests properly represented within the management structure of our institutions.

      If unbridled selfish greed is the problem… Tightly reined, Cooperative sharing is the solution.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        There are all kinds of roots. One of them is the myth of college education as a replacement for bootstrap experience. Companies used to be run by guys who had worked their way up from the mail room. Now they’re run by brainless college grads with no hard experience whatever.

        Since there will be no debt relief for college grads, raw economics may yet force a return to bootstrappers, at least as far as manufacturing goes.

        1. darms

          The MBA is a freakin’ disaster, one day maybe this nation will recognize all the damage it has done and all the incompetent managers/bosses who have been empowered by this vile thing. Just because you have an MBA in no way qualifies you as a boss.

      2. Greg Taylor

        Organizations controlled by people without liability for their actions are magnets for the sociopaths of society. Yves documented the changes in mission, risk taking, and leadership at investment banks after they converted from partnerships with full legal liability. These problems extend well beyond investment banking and for-profit corporations. Serious governance problems and abuses of power exist at a wide variety of organizations including labor unions, churches, stock exchanges, and regulators.

        Those in control of organizations should be responsible for their liabilities. It’s a necessary, but not sufficient restraint on power – the root of the most serious governance problems as I see them. Compare the records of owners/controllers of organizations saddled with full liability with those without such restraints. You’ll find that unbridled greed and other abuses of power increase as perceived liability decreases.

        I like the idea of designing organizations with new governance structures as described here. My first cut pass at evaluating them is to look at the checks on power/control. Cooperative shared governance doesn’t necessarily provide a balance of power that I’d like to see. Maybe they could be designed in but I haven’t thought about how it could be done.

        http://cje.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/5/837.full

    2. Gerard Pierce

      It’s not always bad management. The story of the Yellow Cab Company (Cooperative) of Denver is an example of how not to run a cooperative. This happened 25 to 30 years ago.

      The drivers had control of the company through a board of directors they elected. Rates were controlled by the Public Utilities Commission.

      The problem was that most of the employees were broke and struggling to put food on the table. At the same time, driving was not exactly a fun job.

      At the time, one of the directors told me that too high a percentage of the drivers were ex-cons and other marginal employees. They all had a vote and they voted for their own interests.

      Every time the company got a rate increase, the drivers wanted it in their own pockets. The directors were also drivers, and were sympathetic to their co-workers.

      Over the span of ten or so years, no money went to repairs. The job of parts manager was a plum job and it was believed that too many parts went out the back door.

      Anyone who complained was assigned the most un-drivable cabs and was otherwise ignored.

      A few drivers schemed to get an inside job that didn’t require driving, so they wound up with one guy paid to produce a company newsletter for a company that was going broke.

      A few others set up their own ‘package delivery’ services – off the books.

      When they finally went broke, the lawyers played rape and pillage with the carcass of the remaining company before it was sold to outside investors. There went the pension plan, such as it was.

      In this case, the only ones screwed were the drivers.

      Cooperatives are a great idea, but when everyone is starving, you can’t count on people to protect their own interests.

      It takes more than just democracy to make a cooperative work. As far as I know there is no rule book for what it does take.

      1. Alanna

        As someone who has served on the board of a co-op, I can assure you they are a viable alternative to corporations. But, just like corporations, they can be mismanaged.

        The article states that social enterprises “use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace”. What you describe with the Yellow Cab Co-operative was a failure either to understand or to follow business principles; can happen no matter who’s running the company. I think the important point is that the decision makers (drivers) suffered the consequences of their own bad decisions; they didn’t take home huge bonuses while others lost their homes and livelihoods.

      2. Dan Kervick

        It might sound trite, but to me you are describing a case where “the system worked” – in this case the cooperative system. Employee owned and operated companies that are poorly run should fail and go out of business. If people take on the obligations of self-government, they have to take it seriously, or they will fail.

    3. Tim

      Agreed. The article states the primary differentiators of these unique corporate entities is the unique mission statement (which sounds impossible to regulate) in exchange for special benefits, which to me just sounds like a prime opportunity for fraudsters.

      We want the path forward to to be disincetivizing fraud not encouraging it.

  2. financial matters

    Many good ideas here. Definitely on the right track. At the fringe too which is important…

    http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/bogusky-creative-ad-star-is-leaving-advertising/

    Rather, Mr. Bogusky said, “you start to search for the more genuine version of yourself” at a point in your life, “and I’m doing that.”Rather, Mr. Bogusky said, “you start to search for the more genuine version of yourself” at a point in your life, “and I’m doing that.”“Mostly, what I want to do is participate in this cultural revolution that’s happening,” he added, “happening mostly outside of advertising.”

    “The more interesting stuff is coming from the fringes,” Mr. Bogusky said, “and that’s where I want to be.””"

  3. Gabe Langton

    I strongly believe in consumer-owned cooperatives as an excellent business model. I have worked for years for a major consumer-owned retail cooperative, the largest in the US, and the customer loyalty, product quality, and employee satisfaction are all HUGE benefits of this model.

    The problem in many publicly traded companies is that the interests of shareholders can quite easily become directly opposed to the interests of the company’s consumers, let alone the general public.

    Not that this is always the case, but nobody in their right mind can claim that the publicly traded giant firms of today are equally beneficial to consumers vs investors. Weird, systemically dangerous emergent markets like high-frequency trading and complex derivatives are utterly disconnected from the public benefit.

    At best, these effects are claimed to promote overall welfare through increased consumer choice and resource-efficiency by the whole economy, but of course ecological and social consequences of limitless growth and/or high-risk meltdowns clearly dwarf the marginal benefits to consumers.

    By contrast, consumer-owned firms “suffer” slow growth, but in the context of long-term stability, substantial incentives to produce quality goods, and the shared interests between upper management and consumers all add up to a fantastic model.

    I often preach to customers about this stuff, and I’ve met several people from the UK who tell me that they have consumer-owned co-ops in pretty much every market (ours is practically unique in the US, and it’s a very specific, high-end, recreational sports goods retailer).

  4. diptherio

    Our proposal for a public bank here in Montana includes a loan facility for worker-owned cooperative businesses. There are at least two other efforts afoot nationwide to create a funding facility for co-ops. IMO, that’s the way forward. In the interim, putting workers and community members on corporate boards would be an excellent idea.

    1. F. Beard

      The way forward is to ban all credit-creation or at least remove all government subsidies for it. Otherwise, these fine cooperatives could easily become a part of the problem themselves by stealing purchasing power from their neighbors.

  5. Pelham

    The alternatives described here all sound fine. But let’s go back to the beginning of the article and those two Appalachian women.

    They were right to challenge that Delaware charter. But where does a Delaware corporate charter originate? Under what authority?

    Doesn’t that authority belong to the people of Delaware? In fact, the authority to grant any corporate charter ultimately rests with the people. We need to take that back and put it directly into our own hands.

    Granted, we can come up with all sorts of more benign models than that for the American corporation as it now exists. But that does little to rid ourselves of the horrid leviathans that now run our lives and our government. Our elected and thoroughly bought-out elites who tolerate and celebrate corporate America must be divested of their chartering powers now.

    Those Appalachian women set a fine example that we all need to take to heart.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Actually, if you read Nicholas Shaxson’s superb “Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World”, you begin to grasp how and why Delaware is a giant tax haven, which helps explain why Massey is incorporated there — as are Amazon, Microsoft, and a host of other global entities.

      The issues of corporate structures are intricately tied to issues of social responsibility, accountability, and environmental degradation — along with a host of other issues.

      You might find this link (as well as the links it contains) of particular interest: http://treasureislands.org/shadow-banking-as-ponzi-finance-new-paper/

      As for Delaware, its’ one node of a very sinister, global system of unaccountable, socially destabilizing tax havens. Which is precisely why Massey selected it as the location for its corporate charter.

  6. K Ackermann

    I was just pondering how I’d define socially beneficial, and I realized it can’t be done. Almost by definition, any company that turns a profit is socially beneficial. Are oil companies socially beneficial? Surely there a few banks that are socially beneficial.

    It would be nice to qualify the intent.

    Off the top of my head, here are a few qualities a company should exhibit as being socially useful…

    Actually… I can’t do that, either. Alright… here’s a few things that a socially maladjusted company does:

    Does everything to avoid owning up to a patch of scortched earth or mountain of dead bodies that it clearly caused.

    Counts labor as a liability and not an asset, and seeks out labor with the fewest rights.

    Only profits at someone else’s loss.

    Legally tricks people out of their money with fines and sneaky expenses.

    We can do without those companies.

    Generally, a company should make something using local labor, or provide an efficiency gain without pulling anything forward.

  7. jsmith

    Jesus Christ, the author sure spends a lot of words dancing around what she wants to say – and it seems she’s either a shill and/or too afraid to say it.

    Here it is paraphrased.

    Read Marx and get a clue.

    I mean, not a single mention of the M-word in a piece about worker’s rights and organizing economies so that they benefit workers?

    Not a single mention of socialism?!

    Color me skeptical but is this how the elite try and ameliorate the very real class struggle that is going on?

    By saying that new forms of corporations are the answer to the shite that has been rammed down our throats for the last five decades?

    We’ll talk about cooperatives and workers controlling the economy but don’t ever mention the M-word.

    Chickenshit postings like this are either 1) chicken shit or 2) propaganda to steal the thunder from people actually beginning to think outside the lines of capitalism in this country.

    I mean, Ms. Lohan seems to think that if we just modify capitalism it’s gonna just be peachy, huh?

    And what is she proposing to modify capitalism with?

    Why, watered-down versions of Marx, of course!

    Golly gee, why would we want to water it down, Tara?

    Are we not adult enough to talk about the M-word?

    Didn’t American people discuss the M-word in the past?

    Why place limits on our conversation, Ms. Lohan?

    If you think you have to sugarcoat Marx for us morons in America, then say you’re doing so, Ms. Lohan.

    If you want us to support your Marxish capitalistic ideas then at least reference the source from which the ideas you mention on worker-centric economies really sprand from.

    I would really like to believe that this woman wasn’t a shill trying to talk the masses down but I guess I’ll settle for young and uninformed.

    1. korual

      Yeah, OMG Tara found this wicked theory like totally is crazyweird batshit they called it socialism or something where you know, the workers totally control like the whole freaking company. Awwsome.

    2. James Cole

      So, jsmith, in your view if this post just mentioned “Marx” it would no longer be “chickenshit”? I don’t see how the merits of the ideas, such as they are, depend on a label, but here’s a suggestion–print out the post and with a nice sharp pencil write “Marxist socialism” in one of the spaces in the margin, that should make you feel better.

      But, to be honest, if you had actually read any actual Marx or familiarized yourself with his actual ideas, you would know that he did not espouse this type of reform at all, he advocated revolution. So maybe you should turn the pencil around, erase “Marxist” and put “Owenist” after Robert Owen, whose ideas these closely resemble, or perhaps “Fourierist” if your inclinations are more continental.

      That would be accurate and not at all incendiary, but then that wouldn’t suit your purposes, would it.

      1. jsmith

        Well, since I didn’t feel like writing a dissertation on Marx’s critique of the Gotha Program for all to enjoy here at NC then I guess it’s time for James Cole to start name-dropping and put us in a frenzied awe at his scholarly accomplishments.

        Owens – zing!

        Fourier – gotcha!

        Nice touch that “continental” line – I’m sure you and your friends in the TA lounge will have a good-natured chuckle when you whip out the printout.

        Ouch.

        Tell me, are you really a smug, self-satisfied, effete intellectual who likes to defend the capitalist system of worker exploitation or do you just play one here?

        As to Ms. Lohan’s post, my main beef with her is that with all her lofty talk of wanting to help workers and build a better society, she stays within the superstructure-demarcated lines for the debate, positing her corporate types and cooperatives as the most far-reaching ideas that she can apparently conceive of when there only happens to be more than a century of writing done by Marx which addresses her issue much more adequately and deeply.

        So, as Marx certainly would criticize the ideas of Mondragon etc, Ms. Lohan seems to want to borrow much of the wording/sentiment of Marx without following through with his advocacy for a whole new society -a feature of her little post which I find to be rather deliberate than a mere oversight.

        Further:

        Let’s see, what real chance do the reforms that Ms. Lohan advocates for have of being put into place on a large scale, a scale large enough to effect the vast majority of the planet’s workers?

        In our present world dominated by multi-national corporations?

        Let me answer for you, professor (sounds good, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, you’ll get there some day.):

        None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

        So, while a few mostly upper-middle class workers will be fortunate enough to work in one of these “solutions” the vast, vast majority of workers will be stuck in the same rut they are in today.

        That is why I bashed Ms. Lohan.

        With a crisis as large as the one we’re currently experiencing – a neofascist revolution if you will – I guess workers would just be stupid to contemplate a “counter-revolution”, huh?

        Ms. Lohan sees how terrible the problem is, seemingly understands the situation vis a vis Marx, yet tries to shoehorn his ideas – thus the word “Marxish”, with an “h” did you get that? – into ideas that only a capitalist could truly love as the profit-motive is basically retained.

        I mean, she quotes this Kelly person:

        “We’re schooled to fear this shift, to think there are only two choices for the design of an economy: capitalism and communism, private ownership and state ownership. But the alternatives being grown today defy those dusty 19th-century categories.”

        First of all, she uses the word “communism” instead of socialism – a mistake only a trained propagandist could make – since the two should be considered exactly the same and “communism” sure doesn’t evoke certain feelings, does it?

        And – just as in EVERY SINGLE MENTION of socialism in any venue (especially “progressive” ones) – it is deemed outdated and “dusty” without a single reason given why it should be so labeled.

        Socialism doesn’t work just because.

        Hmmm, that sure sounds like a POV that a capitalist could love, right?

        And you thought MY arguments were weak, Professor?

        Don’t be afraid, your nitpicking and name-dropping really doesn’t continue to help those at the top of the system.

        Y’know, the ones your bosses rely on for tenure?

        Again, I’m absolutely convinced that you will get there some day.

        1. Gabe Langton

          I like how your outraged response simultaneously tries to castigate the guy you’re responding to as a limp academic, castigate the author of the post as an anti-Marx propagandist, and castigate “avoidance of the m-word” as the primary problem in 2012 American political discourse.

          Did it occur to you that the right has successfully (wrongfully, but successfully) loaded that M-word with insurmountable connotations for the vast majority of the American public? Believe me, I understand how frustrating it is, but there’s a difference between “sugarcoating/propagandizing” and recognizing that stridently Marx-labeled proclamations would cause the vast majority of the American public to dismiss the content of posts on this blog.

          Once your nerd rage dissipates, imagine how much more constructively you could have used the time you spent heroically embodying the Hammer of the True Left. Maybe you could have engaged somebody who didn’t know anything about Marxism and educate them in a way that isn’t excessively polarizing and intense? Probably anything would have been better than this fuming, impotent assault on an army of strawmen.

          1. jsmith

            Or maybe I feel as if I’m fulfilling the needed role of the justifiably outraged leftist polemicist so that the “window” begins to move to the left and so that others begin to have to directly confront and question why it is they should feel afraid to even think about Marx in our society?

            So, let’s see: because the American society says that Marxism is at best “dusty” and at worst unmentionable, I guess I should self-censor my own thoughts and words and engage in a Lohan-esque polite exhibition in which I channel Marxist sentiment into more socially acceptable avenues?

            Ask yourself, is the barrier indeed “insurmountable”?

            I personally don’t think so as many, many people are finally beginning to realize that everything the MSM tells them is/has been a lie for at least the last 20 years.

            In addition, many people – like Ms. Lohan – are looking to alternate forms of economies of which – I truly believe – the effort alone should be applauded.

            Where the rage does indeed come from, is in the self-censoring itself and the calls by others for said self-censoring.

            Because the elite have setup a system in which we can’t discuss certain things, well gee, let’s not discuss certain things and let’s certainly not be angry about not being allowed to discuss certain things.

            Please tell me, when should I stop being angry that the elite have basically stolen our language and determined what can and what can’t be spoken about in the society I live in?

            Due to this recognition of our shared intellectual prison, when is exactly the moment when I should quit being angry about the fact that to communicate effectively in our society about terms that go to the very heart of our current socio-economic situtation, I have to choose my words carefully AND not use the best ammunition I’ve got namely the writings of Marx?

            As you say, it’s a freedom of speech/thought issue as well as a political/economic one.

            Yes, I understand that I come off as an a-hole at (all the?) times and that my writing style is unfortunately too snarky, but so is Phil Pinkington’s as he so passionately espouses his MMT theories.

            However, all of that shouldn’t belie the fact that I post here to object to what I see as a failure of (especially) American society to directly confront the parameters of thought we are demanded to comply with by the elite superstructure.

            When people meekly accept the dicta of the overlords as to what is acceptable and what is out of bounds all of us have already lost.

            I hope my posts at least spark debate and get people miffed because we should have all been able to calmly educate ourselves about Marx and other related ideas for the number of decades but as you point out that has been nearly impossible and no one has said boo.

            Everyone should be angry that our modern society isn’t knowledgeable about basic Marxist ideas and principles that at the very least are intrinsic to the situation our capitalist world finds itself in at the moment.

            It is my belief that since we have been consciously kept from this knowledge/discussion by the capitalist elite, we as citizens/workers have allowed many, many of the crimes/crises of the last 30-40 years to occur in the first place.

            Again, this is another source of what you would call the justifiable rage that fills my posts.

            Anyway, gotta run. Have a good one.

  8. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Shifts in corporate structures and forms of ownership appear to be emerging as a new issue, and this was a great intro.

  9. steelhead23

    Perhaps I didn’t read this post carefully enough, but I have no idea what happened after the two Appalachian women gave Beau Biden their petition. Did the State of Delaware revoke Massey’s charter? If not, why not?

    Also, if you really want to change the world, you should go after for-profit banking – not through regulation, but by completely revamping the system such that monetary, as well as fiscal policy is in public hands. Yes we can.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHgzOEuCsd8

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