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community building | economic justice

Co-ops are now employing more people than corporations

As I have been covering in my shows and articles over the past few months, the economic and societal changes that are taking place all over the globe are much less of a collapse, as is often described, and more of a transition. It is true that an old way of life and all of its trappings are disintegrating into obsolescence, but this is only the beginning of the story.

There have been a few who have pointed this out, but until now our assertions have been based purely on speculation from researching history and wishful thinking. Not to discount the importance of historical knowledge, but it was difficult to find signs that could be pointed out to show where exactly this transition may be leading.

However, in the past year, and especially in recent months, information has been emerging that is at least starting to show what the path looks like. As I have expressed in many previous articles on Spain's time banks and decentralized currencies in Greece, in some of the areas that are getting hit the hardest, there has been a natural ability for people to devise ways to replace the collapsing system with a more user friendly alternative.
reposted from activist news:


All over the world people are facing challenges, and it is these unfortunate challenges which ultimately become learning experiences and opportunities to solve problems more efficiently. Luckily, it does seem that people really do have the emotional maturity and genuine knowledge to use the best of our technology and resources in order to overcome these obstacles.

The path that I alluded to before, the path out of this economic mess that has been created by governments and central bankers lies in the informal economy and the mutual aid groups that people are developing to distribute labor.

These groups were one of the most popular ways that people ensured the welfare of their families and neighbors before the government created programs to make everyone depend on them for help. Years later we can see the results of this approach, as these programs are in total disarray because their purpose was never actually to help people, and those involved have no real incentive to make these programs productive because they aren't even a part of the community that depends on them.

This is what makes mutual aid groups different; first off these are all programs which are joined by choice and funded voluntarily, and also they allow people to directly interact with whoever they are helping and with whoever is helping them. These programs are highly efficient and realistic even in today's world.

Many of the speakers at the world famous TED Talks have caught on to this trend and have began discussing these issues. In fact there is even a whole series of TED Talks that are now dealing with the informal economy.

Meanwhile, mutual aid groups, also known as co-ops now employ more people worldwide than corporations. This is partly because many of the jobs at the corporations have either dried up or are too low paying, and partly because the co-ops are more practical in these difficult times. The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) estimates that the top 300 co-ops in the world account for over $1 trillion in economic activity annually, and there are now actually over 800 million people being employed by co-ops, and that's just on the record.

Business and labor Co-ops don't just benefit the people who work and invest in them, but also greatly benefit the communities that they are established in by offering quality goods or services at fair prices. In addition to the competing currencies that Greece has been experimenting with during their Euro financial crisis, people have also been developing natural food co-ops which allow customers to overstep the middleman and buy directly from the suppliers. This leaves both the farmer and average person with more extra cash, and this actually even results in a higher quality of food, because with the extra money most farmers have been investing in organic crops, as opposed to GMO's.

As the paradigm that we have been trapped under for generations begins to fall we will be left with two choices; to work together and create a new paradigm based on peace and voluntary interactions or to listen to the politicians who got us into this mess and follow them off into oblivion. If the events playing out before us in the informal economies of the world are any indication of the future, there is surely much hope left for humanity.

Dumb question? 14.Sep.2012 05:20

Mike Novack

Just WHAT are you counting as a "co-op"?

The reason I ask this is because although now retired I used to work for one of the world's largest "financials" and this insurance company was TECHNICALLY a "co-op" in the sense that because organized as a mutual, the owners are the policy holders (no shareholders). That does not mean that this company in any way functions differently (with regard to its employees) than a "stock company" would nor that "insiders" didn't run the show. Just that the profits go as refunds to the policy holders in the form of refunds of premium or additions to their insurance.

Yes, when this company was organized in the mid 19th Century this was ONE of the visions for socialism, co-ops owned by their customers. But very few (if any) of the top executives of the company now see their role as any different than were it a stock coproration.