For a Republic that seems to idolize Democracy our work places remain almost consistently autocratic. This top down structure over the years has made a few individuals and families "filthy" rich and politically powerful while most struggle to survive on what "trickles down" off their tables. Margaret Thatcher once told us that there is "no" alternative to capitalism:
I would like to challenge Maggie's presumptuous assumption and "submit for your approval" the Mondragon Cooperative.
"a federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain. Founded in the town of Mondragón in 1956, its origin is linked to the activity of a modest technical college and a small workshop producing paraffin heaters. Currently it is the seventh largest Spanish company in terms of turnover and the leading business group in the Basque Country. At the end of 2009 it was providing employment for 85,066 people working in 256 companies in four areas of activity: Finance, Industry, Retail and Knowledge. The MONDRAGON Co-operatives operate in accordance with a business model based on People and the Sovereignty of Labor, which has made it possible to develop highly participative companies rooted in solidarity, with a strong social dimension but without neglecting business excellence. The Co-operatives are owned by their worker-members and power is based on the principle of one person, one vote."
The questions that haunts me over the years is why didn't any of the major US Trade Unions (UAW, Teamsters, AFLCIO...) consider such a model as Mondragon as an alternative to endless "collective bargaining" with guys who owned the factories or places of business? With rumors of NAFTA and the WTO in the air, they should have seen this global FOXCON "Jedi mind trick" coming! One would think that the "billions" of dollars in union dues over the years could have started a cooperative or two? I hear some unions are looking at the Mondragon model, but imagine if this was done in parallel with collective bargaining 30 years ago consider where workers would be now.
Labor creates all wealth. This is a fact that even old Adam Smith could not over look. In the Mondragon group the highest payed member can not be paid more than 4.5 times what the lowest member is paid. From the out side the Mondragon group looks and acts like a 40 Billion dollar corporation; but internally, this vast group of interlocked Cooperatives is a model for economic Democracy. The Economist Richard Wolff explains in detail in his 3 part youtube lecture (below is the link to part one):
The primary function of any capitalist company/small business is to maximize profits be it to the share holder or the individual(s) who owns the enterprise. Workers to large corporations and small business are generally seen as a pool of cheap labor to be exploited at will. Labor creates all wealth. This is a fact that even old Adam Smith could not over look. . The only asset that an unskilled worker has to offer is his/her labor. Mondragon and other cooperative's core mission is to create "sustainable good paying jobs (with a full range of benefits) for it's members and grow until the place where we spend most of our waking adult life is own by the many and not the few.
Because the Mondragon model works within the capitalist system (market) while delivering the "socialist" goods to it's members it may allow a bridge between Liberals and Libertarians on economic issues.