gar alperovitz

gar bw

intro’d to Gar via Nikhil’s post on fb:

Just finished reading What Then Must We Do? Extremely important read on democratizing the ownership of wealth.
“To the extent that systems revolve in significant part around who owns productive wealth, a system based on the institution of workers owning factories and other businesses is more likely to represent the interests of the workers than the interests of the tiny group of four hundred or so who now own so much of the wealth in the United States.”
What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution * Gar Alperovitz
The new book by political economist and historian Gar Alperovitz (2013)
interview with Laura Flanders:

Published on Oct 6, 2014

Author and broadcaster Laura Flanders tackles the tough issues on this refreshingly invigorating news/talk show. In this week’s program Flanders talks with Gar Alperovitz, professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and author of numerous books, the most recent of which is “What then must we do – straight talk about the next American revolution”, on the movement for a new economy. With the recurring crises, the notion that we need a different economic system is beginning to gain support outside the traditional left. Alperovitz discusses the current fight-back and preliminary moves toward a democratization of the ownership of capital.

projects are important.. and … projectism is a dead end
400 people have more wealth than the 180 million bottom people
we say it’s a systems problem.. but it’s an existential problem… looking in the mirror ness
anyone serious about a systems problem.. you’re not in this unless you care about decades..
reclaiming our humanity – is part of this work..
we don’t have an economic problem.. we have enough.. it’s a political/power problem.. in this system
we have to think about structure and power – but always realtionship


find/follow Gar:

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Gar Alperovitz (born May 5, 1936) is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, College Park Department of Government and Politics. He is a former Fellow of King’s College,Cambridge; a founding Fellow of Harvard’s Institute of Politics; a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. Alperovitz also served as a Legislative Director in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and as a Special Assistant in the Department of State. Alperovitz is a founding principal of the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland, and a member of the board of directors for the New Economics Institute.

Gar’s site:

gar alperovitz site


what them must we do

book links to amazon

bottom line: the first essential condition in which the most important trend-shifting programs of this era were enacted was a massive and highly unusual economic boom that both created something approaching full employment and was accompanied, not incidentally, by a flow of significant fiscal revenues.

among the big programs enacted were a large housing program and social security expansion under truman, the interstate highway system under eisenhower, and above all medicare and medicaid, the war on poverty, and education programs under johnson. the minimum wage was increased repeatedly. in addition civil rights legislation moved onto center stage. that milestone followed a different dynamic, but also in part depended for its timing on the fact that black americans had fought in the ar and also that wartime industry had disrupted the south, sending a huge migration north.

so, again, a very, very unusual context. if the new deal was in large part made possible by a massive global depression (and luck that a republican was in office at the moment of political danger), the postwar achievements were in significant part made possible by the ongoing impact of a massive (and highly unusual, global-scale) war and its extraordinary aftermath.

this is the simple fact that a capacity to alter big trends in virtually all advance nations has almost always depended in significant part on the strength not simply of politics in general, and not only of movements in general, but also on the existence of powerful institutions – above all, labor unions.

… to put it simply: on the basis of the evidence (so far) it appears unlikely that strategies hoping simply to revive politics in the traditional ways – even intensified by movement building and especially given the decline of labor – are going to get us very far in addressing some for the profoundly depressing system=produced trends we are racing.

the trends are like to continue – give or take a minor uptick gain – unless we come up with something different.

i should probably read this. and maybe i will. but my first impulse is – it needs to be more different than what we think is different. ie: if we’re figuring out how to redefine money, politics, labor, education, health, … without completely questioning/changing/deleting their current functionality.. it’s going to sound like ie: pbl currently does to desperate ed reformers..

modeling another way.. has got to be literally – another way.

yes, lots of folks are doing very creative things; lots of wonderful organizing, great local projects, and important experiments with self-organizing and open-source theory are under way. some are testing out civil disobedience. exciting green projects, in particular, are exploding around the country. all part and parcel of getting serious about real movement building. all important, all part of where we need to go.

but if the box we are in is truly systemic, will this, in fact, get us where we nee to go? what do we really need to do to change the larges, most powerful system in the world? how, really, do we proceed?

margaret thatcher, the famous conservative british prime minister, coined the term tina to popularize her belief that “there is no alternative” to one or another variety of corporate capitalism (especially one with a very thin veneer of public programs).

truth be told, most americans in their heart of hearts almost certainly think she was right and cannot really imagine any genuine alternative.

(or they have simply given up on “systems.” there are some pretty serious anarchists out there these days.)

they can’t imagine it..? or the very system has them so busy/shamed/mad/blind that they don’t have time to ponder it..

but of course, if we face a systemic crisis – if the system is the problem (and if the old balancing mechanisms are rapidly disappearing) – then either an alternative to corporate capitalism (to say nothing of state socialism, or whatever name we give the other old system) must be found, or we are obviously in deep trouble.

accordingly, and simply to begin to dig just a bit more seriously into the problem, here’s a brief review of some of the major historical systems and how they have been structured.

for the most part political-economic systems are largely defined by the way property is owned and controlled (particularly productive economic property). it tends to produce political as well as economic power.

and here is where i wonder if we’re thinking different enough (again – haven’t read the book enough to say – just speaking off the top):

are there any ways to begin to conceive of a different system that might truly democratize the ownership of wealth in some way that points in the direction of a democratic system in general?

is it different if it is still based on ownership?..

ie: his father’s class with the locomotive & plans to rebuild it from the ground up with just a bolt. – well what if rebuilding the locomotive isn’t what we need. what if redesigning ownership isn’t what we need. if it was.. wouldn’t his example of the steelworkers in 1977 ohio (5000 lost jobs) and other such stories – have changed our trajectory by now.. for the better.. not the worse..?

we’re lacking the trust to go all out Iwan Baan. deluded by the subatomic control.. that perpetuates our illness.

some things to think about as we go forward. (shortened by me)

1. don’t look for short-term quickie answers.

2. not obvious that longer developmental path is inevitably blocked

3. ohio has for more than 3o yrs been experiencing what the nation is just now experiencing.. (what? isn’t that a perception?)

4. and critically: note carefully that we are talking here about developing institutions, not just trying to change policy. and the institution we are talking about are directly concerned with the critical system question of who owns (and how to democratize) productive wealth.

yeah. in my mind – that last one esp – reaffirming – not different enough. we need to question ownership/wealth/what we mean by democracy. no? i’m hope i’m wet.. and he digs into this.

talks about how many different kinds of co-ops are already in place.. then says..

by far the largest number of co-ops are credit unions – essentially democratized, one-person, one-vote banks. more than ninety-five million americans are involved; total assets are approximately $1 trillion activist have also begun to get interested in this particular cooperative form: “move your money” efforts shifted hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars away from wall street and large banks and into credit unions and smaller banks in 2011 and 2012.”

iterations of this seen in many places.. ie: ed reform. to me – bandaid.. spinning wheels cycle ness. because – not deep enough.

credit unions also lie at the heart of a new and potentially explosive movement to break down the traditional barriers to funding nontraditional business models. as one-person, one-vote institutions, credit unions are obviously subject to the will of the members.

well and good – unless credit is the problem. no?

there are also thousands of “social enterprises” that use democratized ownership to make money and use both the money and the enterprise itself to achieve a broader social purpose.

oh my.

one of the most impressive is pioneer human services (phs) in seattle, washington, an organization that provides employment, job training, counseling, education, and housing to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. phs was established some fifty years ago as a nonprofit corporation dependent upon donations and grants. its $67 million annual budget is now in significant part funded by revenues from businesses it created as part of its overall strategy.

much to say about that – but will just hone in on this.. rescuing some addict via education and/or job training is a band aid. because it makes us feel better now. but it often actually is a band aid that cuts – deeper – than the original problem – because of that blindness. abusing humans via proclamation of this fake validity of the human spirit. ie: ged validates you. job validates you. .. no?

this makes me think just now of malala’s npp.. it’s encouraging our focus on something that sounds good – but could potentially be the very poison she – (and most likely all the rest of us) – are seeking to avoid/abolish..

karl mannheim – what he called “utopia,” … represented a set of ideas posing a fundamental challenge to the dominant ideas. in mannheim’s world utopia was not, as we often think of it, a state that can never be reached; it was the emerging new direction.

in the afterword:

in my judgment an emphasis on communitywide structures of ownership is likely to be of increasing analytic importance as time goes on and more experience with various worker ownership and related experiments develops. as is evident throughout this volume, i believe both that such efforts are extremely important and also that (especially in the case of larger economic efforts) there are important reasons to explore joint worker-community structural designs. among the problems that arise, especially in connection with larger enterprise, are the following: 1: diff between interests of workers… which can lead to externalizing pollution and other costs to the detriment of the the community; 2: pressure for larger firms operating in a market to develop expansive growth paths… irrespective of longer-term national and global constraints; 3: problems of inequality.. amongst firms/industries….

it may also be instructive to note that in one of the major modern efforts at significant-scale worker ownership … (youngstown, ohio, 1977)… this broader concept was also strongly supported. [..] this was the ownership model the workers themselves chose.

again – reminds me of plb in ed reform. a choosing from a choice list.. [aka: spinach or rock ness.] ..rather than imagining another way, an authentically open field for utopia.. or better yet – instigating utopia everyday.


tweeted by Gar.. i see Ash-Lee Woodard Hendersonsh – imagining Skip and Tolu

Really interesting conversations around cooperatives taking place in Jackson, MS:


launched mar 31 2015:

the next system project

The Next System Project calls for national discussion on systemic crisis and alternatives

New multi-year initiative will bring leading activists, scholars, and policy advocates together to think big about pressing concerns around economic inequality, ecological threats, and political dysfunction

March 31st, Washington, D.C. — Co-chaired by political economist and historianGar Alperovitz and leading environmental activist and former presidential adviserJames Gustave Speth, The Next System Project, launching today, is a major new program of The Democracy Collaborative, a national leader in the development of innovative strategies to rebuild community and democratize ownership of the economy.


may 2015:

Alperovitz has since developed an alternative political-economic model, called the “Pluralist Commonwealth” — different (plural) institutions of democratized (common) wealth — that seeks, rather than growth and expansion, to preserve individual liberty and to sustain communities and the environment. So far, the most successful implementation of the model is the Mondragon Corporation-inspired Evergreen Cooperatives, a network of worker-owned and community-controlled coops that have brought economic development to Cleveland’s impoverished inner city by tapping into the purchasing power of local “anchor institutions,” like hospitals and universities.

video of evergreen coop:

what if jobs and education (as we do/define them now – all focused on money) are perpetuating the problem

ie: 2 min – worker owned companies… great de centralization/ownership ness.. but to what end.. jobs/ed heading toward money.. when perhaps  money isn’t our solution to poverty.

if systemic change is required, which I think it is, then what is the nature of the system that we would actually want to live in that is different from the old state socialist model or the corporate capitalist model. Because if we had that clear vision, it might also inform our strategy for how to get there.

vision versions – ni ness – simultaneously

We hope to have a wide range of discourse — conferences, study groups, academic work on pieces of the puzzle that nobody has done yet. This is time to really open the door intellectually and with experiments on the ground that open up new political-economic directions that we can learn something from.

rather than debate.. revolution of everyday life ness.. just do/be/live it.. no?

never convince just do it graeber

How is liberty threatened today?

One aspect is time spent at work. Time could become freedom to do whatever you want to do.

luxury of something else ness

Liberty is also connected with stability and security. If we had a guaranteed job system, or if you had a job as long as you were willing to work, no matter what you did or said politically, it gives you enormous degrees of freedom that you don’t have now.

or if this systemic change made money irrelevant.. so jobs irrelevant.. so security/stability irrelevant.. no?

Thirdly, governments with scale happen to be imperial — like the one that rules this continent. Bringing government close to home — cities, states, regions — is another way to get at liberty denied by big government.


It’s important that the project begins to give people, beyond just activists on the left, the sense that we can talk about this. We’re not going to move the ball unless we get a much broader group of people talking about this. I always think about whether I could explain it to the people who I grew up with. You ought to be able to explain it to citizens. Tolstoy put it this way: If you can’t explain it to your fellow peasant, that’s your problem, not his.

true – on keeping it simple… 99 and 1 ness. but words too (perhaps) become irrelevant.. if we – live as if we are already free.. rather than discuss it.. no?

A planning system needs to begin to coordinate that.

How can we do this?

Partly we need to build up local experience through participatory budgeting and planning. That is a whole area for activists to work on.

unless we take serious the question – what would we do if money were no object..

Another model is a city-ownership model. For instance, in Boulder, Colorado, they have municipalized a private electricity utility. So that’s a different strategy that emphasizes a community model at the city level. Now, you can put both together — I believe in a pluralist system that will include several different models.

A third model is neighborhoods. It’s particularly important for the United States, where neighborhoods are often organized around race. The work we’ve done in Cleveland is a combination of neighborhood ownership and worker ownership.

neighbor\hood ness

organized around race..?

i don’t think any of us realize our capabilities.. if we could just set ourselves free.. first.

science of people ness


@GarAlperovitz: People aren’t talking about changing the system. We need to lay the groundwork to do just that. #WhatsNext @TheNextSystem

Original Tweet:


.@GarAlperovitz recently sat down and discussed transforming the current system w/us:

Original Tweet:

We are at a moment in history where we are facing what can only be called systemic difficulties. Ultimately that means we are going to have to develop a way to transform the system. That’s the challenge. It’s important to clarify that neither of the old models—traditional corporate capitalism in America and state socialism––neither of those models are going to give us the right answer. So we are going to have to build and create pragmatically from the bottom up and build a new direction if we want to deal with real democracy, poverty, ecological sustainability, global warming, race issues, income distribution, and wealth distribution.


The first is we’re planning a series of meetings and conferences starting in 2016 to bring together people who understand this. We want to start a very explicit debate around the question: what would the next system look like?


They aren’t just focused on the projects, but on the infrastructure that needs to be built to scale up and generalize those projects


on democratic socialism – and bernie – oct 2015

3 min – who got to own wealth/factory/banks – true socialism would have a public ownership – Gar

4 min – communist vision people grew up with – no longer stigma – most prefer word – socialism – extraordinary sense of un fair ness..  so bernie’s a strong re distributive message

6 min – on next system.. and where we go when old don’t work

9 min – something brewing at local level.. that might build a base from income programs you’re talking about – but i think we’re a long time away from that..

11 min – i’m a very strong backer of labor – but i don’t see organizing (happening/possibility?)


nov 2015

Using the “C-Word”: Will the New Economy Be Capitalism, or Something Else?

building up new economy along w/new institutions from the bottom up – gar

seldom do you hear the word capitalsim.. but rather the word.. system – sohnie black

i prefer to call.. free enterprise system. i would identify flaws in system and (re adjust) it .. regenerative capitalism. an evolutionary challenge rather than burn it down and start over system. – john fullerton

perhaps too slow.. for the dance to ever dance..

ie: need for global do-over.. now that we have tech to facilitate that..

capitalism getting lost in mainstream econ.. my main goal.. to develop insight by marx and update it.. we need competition (?) – Julie Matthaei

if competition/growth/centralized control have been central to capitalism.. if we do away with them… what then? – Keith Harrington

starting point.. capitalism depends on expansion… problem.. if whole system built on more ness or next guy will take mine.. whole system has to expand/exploit people/products/resources.. in order to not be out of business. so i think we’re talking about systems that are not coops. next system has to deal with feminism/race. today in u.s. if you had equality of income.. econ is so wealthy already.. already generates 200000 dollars for every family of four. the problem is how to get cultural develop.. ie: peace. we’re beginning to open up the possibility of an evolutionary reconstruction. but we have to work at it.. not magic. very rarely do ideas along matter.. but sometimes they do.. that’s why i believe debates like this.. thinking through the organization of it.. – gar

perhaps – a means to leapfrog to global do over

living systems framework.. have a fractal pattern. as i think about that as a model for global econ.. how would that work. let’s talk about banking for a second… – john fullerton

banking? assumed. given.

are we sure? we can spend all this time/energy imagining.. w/o given man-made structure..  perhaps we need to spend time/energy imagining beyond these assumptions/givens…

irrelvant quote vinay

stopped listening after 50 min –

back in – sometime after that.. Keith asking .. can you assure people that there will be property ownership et al..


john – on measuring the non-measurable.. is the firm the right measure.. no.. community level is.. an econ doesn’t operate absent its culture/bio-region..


Excellent read: Guy Alperovitz on what 21st century socialism might look like

Original Tweet:

feb 2016

even the economist and self-proclaimed socialist E.F. Schumacher, author of the classic Small Is Beautiful, judged that “the idea of private ownership becomes an absurdity” on a larger scale. Americans witnessed this during the most recent financial crisis, when the federal government de facto nationalized several banks, two auto companies, and the insurance ­giant AIG.


None of this is to suggest that large-scale political change is imminent or inevitable. Social, economic, and environmental conditions—to say nothing of assaults on traditional liberties—are likely to get worse before they get better. For precisely this reason, the systematic development of a practical alternative to the status quo is critically important.

The change we need will not come from the top….. …The overarching goal must be to develop a set of ideas that challenge the dominant ideologies and move the country in a fundamentally new direction.

……Such a system might perhaps be called a “pluralist commonwealth” to reflect its diverse forms of common ownership. … we must start offering the answers.



global system change..

shorta nother way

[beyond america.. no?]

money less

money ness


sept 2016 – Gar on pluralistic commonwealth:

fundamentally.. it means changing who owns the country

pluralist commonwealth – diff forms of common wealth.. ie: coops.. address community needs instead of max/ing profits..

participatory budgeting/planning.. guide transport/tech/et al

non-profit credit unions.. community develop finance institutions, city/state private banks.. alt’s to wall street

why not disengage from money all together..? if talking common wealth..?


steps to staring this.. posted by Gar on yes!

Many experiences since—especially working in the U.S. House, Senate, and at upper levels of the State Department trying to resist the war in Vietnam; and thereafter with activists in the antiwar and civil rights movements—taught me something important: It wasn’t enough to stand in opposition to the injustices America inflicted on the world and its own people. It was equally important for these movements to operate with an idea of what they want instead.

Could we imagine a system that undercuts the logic responsible for so much suffering at home and abroad?

a nother way.. ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data

1. Public banking: Take it to the cities – ….instead of the city’s $200 million in cash deposits sitting in large, nonlocal financial institutions, a municipal public bank could leverage those deposits to reduce borrowing costs for the city—saving millions of dollars of taxpayer money every year that would otherwise go toward costly bond offerings.

again – why not disengage from money all together.. thinking.. rather than focus on saving money.. we focus on saving human energy… greater than any amount of money

…Why make a bond trader rich when you could build better schools and lower taxes instead?

what if all of that is irrelevant..? no schools.. no taxes..

2. Worker ownership: Build the ecosystem for economic democracy – ….If we organize to take advantage of this historical moment, we can convert many of these to worker-owned businesses instead.

or.. to commons..

3. Procurement politics: “Buy local” at a bigger scale – …As we work to shift the dollars spent by public and nonprofit institutions into patterns that support and stabilize thriving local economies, it’s important to remember that we must defend our right to do so politically.

imagine if we realized the time trap money ness brings.. all the rules/laws/measuring.. that we could bypass.. use that energy instead to coordinate people… rather than measures vales..

4. Participatory governance: Organize for renewed democracy – ,,,We all know that American democracy is severely broken—but just “getting the money out” of our political system is insufficient.

perhaps it’s not insufficient.. if we truly get it all.. out..

imagine all the time/energy saved if we didn’t have to vote on where to spend money

participatory budgeting at once normalizes the demand for direct community control over the allocation of resources and provides a site in which the muscles of community self-government can be strengthened and scaled up. In short, it is an organizing process as much as it is budgeting process. And it’s only through such organizing and development that we can build toward higher-order processes of truly participatory planning.

imagine it only as an org process.. imagine time saved.. not having to lobby for ie: grants, et al..

5. Energy democracy: Plan it by region – …Ultimately, we need to be scaling up beyond the city level to the regional level if we really want to plan effectively for a new energy system.

what we need is a mech to help us zoom & io dance.. where money, et al, is not the os..

6. Stop imperialism, tame growth – ….



On @theLFshow, @GarAlperovitz talks about his vision for the next system:…

free book:

talking go deep – but still talking ownership and banks and finance..

changing who owns ..

gotta go deeper..