There are over 300K businesses classes as SMBs in Switzerland, many of them family owned. For a country of 8 million people that means one SMB per 26 people. There are few "high street chains" aside from the supermarkets - unlike the UK for example where the high street of most towns and cities looks the same.
According to this article - https://www.thelocal.ch/20171114/report-swiss-are-richer-tha... - 63 percent of Swiss adults have financial assets above $100,000 which means, although there is a small percent of extremely wealthy people, there's a good distribution of wealth.
That in turn means if you want to start a business here, there are plenty of potential customers with disposable income they might be willing to risk on your product or service.
Does not sound very Swiss to me.
It seems to be working pretty well and the area seems to have little poverty or wealth - very equal. I believe they do run into the same issues other big co-ops (and any big orgs really) which is after 70 years, the culture (which is so key to good co-ops) didn't maintain, and people in effect took the easy way out which led to the bankruptcy of their biggest co-op: Fagor. Still though, apparently most of the laid-off employees found work in other Mondragon co-ops - pretty cool.
In this sense, the EU is more helpful to small companies than large ones. It effectively removes borders.
You are right about the first part of that sentence, but wrong about the second. In many contexts the EU makes the international market more accessible for small businesses - it greatly reduces overhead that large companies can afford and small companies cannot.
For example, having one central safety or health standard for all countries is a lot cheaper than qualifying for each country on an individual basis. That benefits every business involved, but for smaller ones this fixed overhead is a much more significant hurdle than for big ones.
The chance is that your point has nothing to do with the borders being open though.
But both forms of organsation can work together. If you look at the map of Namibia in this reference , you can see how conservancies offer a buffer zone to that country's national parks.
It is criticized and largely dismissed in the article and memory as feudal, but a Distributist interpretation of it might grasp its benefits with more nuance.
While I'm a big fan of Richard D Wolff's efforts, he fails to examine the governance models of co-ops. What works, what doesn't. Models of incorporation. Case studies.
Governance is key.
Some years ago, I joined a non-profit OSS team, part of the Kuali Consortium, with the primary intent to see how it worked first hand.
Sadly, it didn't.
Even more sadly, I still have little clue what could work, what to advocate.
I am inspired by Pieter Hintjens' Social Architecture as model for successful OSS:
But have yet to practice it myself.
Sorry, I always conflate ideas. My end goal is to figure out how to make useful, meaningful software while still paying my mortgage and feeding my family.
It's an interesting question whether this can be generalized, especially to industries with physical products. Can you have a group of several independent farmers work together on farming technology and avoid having to join a large corporate farming company? Can you have a collaboration between independent coffee shops so they get all the benefits of being Starbucks franchisees while remaining independent?
However, there has to be a shift in consumers' mindsets for distributism to be embraced. One of the great things that capitalism/economies of scale does is drive prices down. A $100 grocery bill at Walmart could be $120 or more at the local grocery store, and for a lot of people that $20 makes a real difference. People rail against big banks, but don't mind the cheaper mortgages. And so on.
Distributism has a lot of benefits, but in most of the cases that matter, price, selection, and oftentimes convenience are not benefits, and that's what we seem to optimize for. It requires a different set of priorities.
Sure, your weekly grocery bill may be $20 higher, but due to better wealth distribution, your salary might be $50/week higher. Most people just see "it costs more" without recognizing that they still benefit, if they could only make the deeper analysis.
Can we have sustained energy production or trans-Atlantic internet cables or satellites or Teslas with it?
> Distributism puts great emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity. This
> principle holds that no larger unit (whether social, economic, or political)
> should perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit.
If you were to analyse these companies, they are already in fact be broken up into hundreds or thousands of small teams. The difference is that these small teams are not separate businesses; they are often not held directly accountable for their work and they do not reap the rewards of their own work (incentive is missing) and so the company has to spend a huge amount of resources to implement checks and balances to make sure that everyone stays in line and this slows everything down to a crawl.
Most people who work for big companies are focused on office politics instead of value production.
People who work for corporations are subjected to coercion (and managed through fear) on a daily basis under the pretext that it's more efficient in terms of value production... But in reality, corporate coercion is only useful as a mechanism for capturing value, not to produce it. The real goal of corporate structures is to channel existing output value into a small number of shareholder hands but it causes a reduction in the total output value and greatly reduces workers' ability to capture the value that they produce.
For example, we could devolve wireless spectrum management to cities. But it would be jolly inconvenient if San Francisco and San Jose required mutually incompatible wifi hardware.
Where can I get this Snake thing (Google Maps aside)?
yep, I'll have that Snake game!
E.g. I did large roadtrips (e.g. Route 66 style) in 2000-2005 (before I got a GPS) and I do roadtrips now every year (well, never stopped). I far more prefer the experience before I could just take out my iPhone and check everything on the map.
It’s not impossible to imagine something like Tesla being organized as a loose set of specialized craftspeople, although I would agree that it would likely be less efficient.
Why not look for ways to decentralize power and also decentralize resources? For instance, removing or limiting various privileges of large corporations that individuals don't have.
Especially in the incarnations of distributism that have a large overlap with Georgism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism) you see this sort of thing manifest in e.g. the land tax (strengthens local governments who are the assessors of said tax -- and if land tax is your society's primary tax, then power naturally devolves from the center to the local).
What is the difference between dostributism and federalism?
It’s just the same as calling a school of economics Austrian, or a branch of psychology Freudian.
If you reran history ten thousand times and adjusted the positions of 10 thousand butterflies, the Mahknos of history will never prevail against the Lenins, the people will crown and laud their Caesars and Napoleons and Frederick William IVs, etc. That we will ever get a luxury space communism is a fantasy.
Co-op's and ESOPs are just one way, but it's about time that we start to experiment with new ownership and governance structures that don't just create more Facebook's and Amazon's.
Louis Kelso is the one who notoriously invented and popularized worker-ownership plans in the US, taking inspiration from the US Homestead Act with spreading capital ownership across society. During the cold war, he also used to characterize 'capital democratization' as a third way, separate from capitalism and communism, but mainly just because then neoclassical economists like Samuelson derided his ideas at the time.
An alternative point of view is that there are 2.3 billion customers out there for this type of product, and the financial systems and incentives present in our society resulted in Facebook owning all of those customers.
FB actually is exemplary of the flaws present in the first mode of thinking. I don't doubt there are many brilliant people working there, but their product is crappy and even user hostile on many levels. Biggest absolutely doesn't translate to best all the time.
More likely FB got to where it is because the rules of our society concentrate capital and control (which is exactly what we see going on when we look at data such as wealth disparity, shrinking # of new businesses etc. in the USA over time).
The alternative interpretation is that there are brilliant people working on it and their product is great, the user just isn't the customer. Brilliance doesn't imply ethical behavior ;)
Decentralized workplace democracy was the model in Yugoslavia under communism and in much of China during the Mao era. It was also briefly attempted in the early Soviet Union.
It's straightforward to apply distributism to an agrarian society where land is the main source of wealth: split up the farmland among a bunch of smallholding farmers.¹ But once a meaningful part of your economy is in capital-intensive industries, you have a decision to make: do you allow private individuals to accumulate capital or not? If you do, you soon have a capitalist society. If you do not, or you allow them to accumulate capital but not to benefit from it, you end up with a socialist society. The examples in the Wikipedia article confirm this impression.
Distributism looks to me like someone took the principle of subsidiarity and the role of the family, saw that they got more respect in the late middle ages, and pined for the economic system of that era. It would be interesting and productive to re-examine some of the underlying assumptions there.
¹ Whether land reform is just is a separate issue; at least it is possible.
I think it's worthwhile to think about systems that don't reduce to either capitalism or socialism.
(Though, in the spirit of reductionism, one can imagine capitalism as reducing to socialism in the long term: you can allow private individuals to accumulate capital, but ultimately it'll end up in the hands of a few individuals, who will be a de facto government.)
This is tremendously simplified, but I would say that if you allow people to accumulate productive resources and your economic policies prioritize market efficiency above all else, then you're likely to end up with laissez-faire capitalism.
However, if you have economic policies in place that prioritize widespread ownership (for instance, by incentivizing small-business ownership or cooperatives), that might lead to some short-term market inefficiencies but may promote beneficial long-term effects. For instance, it might help them compete against larger corporations whose only advantage is economies of scale, but which wipe out otherwise healthy small businesses and then enjoy near-monopoly status.
This is pretty wild, could someone please explain this argument for me?
Corporate capitalism is the same system under another name. Instead of governments controlling the capital in the name of the workers, employers own the capital in the name of the workers. Workers themselves in both systems do not often own their own means of production (although capitalism at least allows for this).
For example, a distributist model of furniture manufacture involves thousands of local woodworkers each making furniture, selling them, profiting in a small way -- at least enough to raise their family. A corporate capitalist model is one large company which owns all the tools and wood that the individual employee-workers utilize to make a good that is sold to profit the corporation. A communist model is the 'people' own the tools and the wood that some citizens make into furniture for the benefit of all the community. Because the worker gets everything they need anyway, their income isn't actually a function of their labor.
In both the case of corporate capitalism and communism, the worker does not own the means of production and the profit and value they create via the utilization of the tools and raw materials owned by some other more remote group is mostly alienated from their behavior. Only in the distributist model are people actually paid exactly for what value their labor provided.
In other words, monopolistic publicly owned corporations are basically communism, but with the board of directors (on behalf of the 'people' -- the shareholders, basically the public for large corporations) substituting for the communist government. All economic decisions are made centrally, and any competition between these large firms in an oligopoly is more akin to the competition between communist governments than the competition envisioned by capitalists
1. Under distributism, what happens to people who can’t produce valuable economic output - the old, disabled, infirm?
2. How does distributism deal with externalities, both positive and negative. What incentive is there for charity or creative work where results benefit the whole group, so nobody wants to pay?
1. Distributism is not opposed to tax. However, the tax ought to be collected by the smallest and most local authority who can competently handle the situation. Thus, a federal tax is likely overkill for disabled and elderly care, since these things can operate at a much lower level.
2. Again, distributism doesn't object to governmental intervention, as long as the intervention is at the right level. In fact, it's often in favor of intervention for things like this .
I’m genuinely intrigued by distributism, so please don’t think I’m making snarky comments.
Further, Richard D Wolff's makes the distinction between private capitalism (eg USA) and state capitalism (eg USSR) by who keeps the surplus (profit).
"Gig economy" companies like Uber keep the surplus. What's that called?
This greatly resembles Karl Marx's criticism of capitalism, which has failed to hold up to reality so far.
Frankly, this sounds a lot like repackaged socialism using labor unions and guilds rather than a central government. Might not be as bad a state socialism (i.e. they might actually be able to manage the businesses better), but I sincerely doubt it would solve any of the major problems we see today.
While you do have inequality in capitalist systems the "elites" tend to rotate, with empires falling apart and new ones taking their place. Wealthy families maintaining their wealth and power are the exception and not the norm.
Introducing guilds or more unions will likely make it much harder for competition and innovation to thrive, introducing a huge barrier of bureaucracy interested only in maintaining the status quo for their own benefit.
There are probably even better examples of lobbying than climate change as that has a ton of confounding factors that make it hard to deal with besides just oil companies. But I see no reason to assume distributism would make the issue better. Taxi drivers protesting against Uber comes to mind.
It's held up for most of history. The US can probably avoid full socialism for just under 400 years (hopefully), as the brief ~250 years so far, is not a proof in context. What any 2 people consider socialist may be very different.
Property is monopoly to assets given by the government.
Property implies you use the state (an external entity) to enforce your rights, providing checks on individual power, not that you enforce it yourself.
Do you understand the difference between state/corporate socialism, and regulations?
I think what is often missed about capitalism is that essentially it is based on individual freedom. The freedom to own property, to own capital, to deploy that capital as one sees fit, to take responsibility and the benefits from the outcome, to act individually if you wish or in concert in groups or organisations of any size.
In capitalist liberal democracies, if you want to create and run a workers cooperative, you certainly can and people have. You can run a family business, or a huge corporation. It doesn't really mandate a particular organisational structure, at least at that level. There are rules about how business entities are run to an extent, such as rules about boards of directors and financial reporting, but they don't actually stop you building an enterprise built on distributist or even Marxist principles.
The problem is these arbitrary systems of organisation, while they can be effective in some limited situations, just aren't flexible and efficient enough to be extensible to a whole economy. In mandating a particular organisational structure, and in distributism even a preferred scale, they also obstruct innovation. The old distributionist mantra 'three acres and a cow' sums this up nicely, it's an essentially static view of society. Again Marxism suffers from the same disease, never really developing good answers to how enterprises are founded, innovate, evolve and wind down in a natural way. Instead it has always had to resort to state executive fiat because there is no organic process for innovation and these life-cycle transformations in Marxism. In contrast under Capitalism, people and organisations simply do these things through the exercise of their individual freedom and discretion.
I would consider myself a capitalist, but you have to be pretty naive to think that corporations haven’t captured our governing class and rigged the system in their favor.
This Wikipedia article makes this point very early as a critique of capitalism, which is fair.
There are also plenty of examples of governments breaking up, trust-busting and punitively regulating big corporations so they clearly don't always get their own way.
In contrast I would argue that ossification and stagnation are inherent features of distributism and a lot of alternative economic systems that don't have good answers to the problem on innovation and economic dynamism.
"Lobbying America tells the story of the political mobilization of American business in the 1970s and 1980s. Benjamin Waterhouse traces the rise and ultimate fragmentation of a broad-based effort to unify the business community and promote a fiscally conservative, antiregulatory, and market-oriented policy agenda to Congress and the country at large. Arguing that business's political involvement was historically distinctive during this period, Waterhouse illustrates the changing power and goals of America's top corporate leaders.
Examining the rise of the Business Roundtable and the revitalization of older business associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Waterhouse takes readers inside the mind-set of the powerful CEOs who responded to the crises of inflation, recession, and declining industrial productivity by organizing an effective and disciplined lobbying force. By the mid-1970s, that coalition transformed the economic power of the capitalist class into a broad-reaching political movement with real policy consequences. Ironically, the cohesion that characterized organized business failed to survive the ascent of conservative politics during the 1980s, and many of the coalition's top goals on regulatory and fiscal policies remained unfulfilled. The industrial CEOs who fancied themselves the "voice of business" found themselves one voice among many vying for influence in an increasingly turbulent and unsettled economic landscape."