The Earth Party
Blueprint for a Mature Civilization
Step 1B: Economic Democracy
"We need a new economic system!"
You've surely heard this by now. Hopefully, you recognize it as the truth.
But what system, specifically?
Rarely do you hear this prescription accompanied by an actual plan - a new system to switch to.
Well, thankfully, there's an answer, and it's quite simple really. We will be switching to a system of Economic Democracy.
It will start small, at the local level, and then work its way up through larger levels of organization. We'll begin in the Villages, and then progress through the natural social units (i.e. Township, City, Region, and Planet), along with the other 3 threads (Natural Law, Benign Transit, and Self-Sufficiency).
See the Blueprint Summary / Intro page for a full outline.
Anyway, what is Economic Democracy?
To answer that, let's ask:
What is democracy?
"Democracy is when everybody makes decisions, together, by vote."
Correct. And what is democracy's opposite?
"I guess that would be dictatorship. Or monarchy. Or feudalism."
Yes, all three of those essentially describe the same thing. They all involve one person making decisions that affect many, and without the input of the many. The many have no say, and just have to accept what the one powerful person decides, or else.
Our current economic system is monarchical. Vast amounts of resources are controlled by one person, and he or she gets to decide what to do with them, with no input from anybody else.
Just the same as it used to be with political power.
But eventually, we changed the political system, to become democratic. Now, we will apply the same change to economics.
"Hmm... I'm not sure what you mean when you say our current economic system is "monarchical." Where are the kings and queens? Are you saying rich people are monarchs, just because they have a lot of money?"
Let's explain it with a direct comparison.
Our current system is more like feudalism.
In feudalism, power is arranged in a hierarchy of dictatorships.
At the top is the king (monarch), who dictates to all the dukes within his kingdom.
Each duke dictates to all the counts (continental Europe) or earls (Britain) within his dukedom.
Each count or earl dictates to all the viscounts within his county or earldom.
Each viscount dictates to all the barons within his viscountcy.
And each baron dictates to all the common folk within his barony.
And this is the same system that most of us are still living under. We don't use it in our politics - but we sure use it in our economics!
Think about the way a corporation is structured.
At the top, you have the owner, who rules the corporation like a king. If it's a publicly traded company, the king will have a sort of "royal council" of shareholders... called a "board" - but it's a very small clique that holds the significant voting power. When 0.01% of the population is voting on the decisions, that's not a democracy.
Underneath the king (the owner or board), you have the dukes - the officers of the company - who have to obey all decisions handed down to them, or else be fired.
Underneath the officers, you have regional directors.
Under them, you have plant managers.
Under them, you have shift bosses.
And under the them, you have... you. The worker.
All decisions are handed from the top down, and each lower level has absolutely no say whatsoever in any of them. You have absolutely no say.
Your baron (err... "boss") can fire you at any time, for any reason. And if he fires you, you lose your healthcare (since most healthcare in the USA is tied to your employer, and when you lose employment, you lose the ability to go to a doctor). You lose your livelihood. Maybe even your house. One guy has the ability to decide whether you can put food on your table. And it's a guy you didn't elect. You have no power whatsoever.
Is this a good system? Do you like this?
This is Economic Feudalism. This is exactly what the peasants faced in medieval times.
Your job is where you spend roughly 1/3 of your life. 1/2 of your waking life.
If you don't have democracy at work, then you don't really have democracy, do you?
What good is it to elect politicians, if the place that actually matters - your workplace - is as dictatorial as Tsarist Russia or Bourbon France?
When democracy started to bloom in the West, starting with America in 1776, the feudal system was abolished, and power was decentralized - spread out from this system of dictatorial ones to democratic manys.
But these new democratic systems had a crucial flaw. They only decentralized political power - but not economic power.
They allowed feudalism to remain in the economic sphere. Businesses, companies, corporations - most economic activity - remained in a feudalistic, hierarchical, dictatorial arrangement.
We traded away one big king in royal robes for a class of little kings in suits.
And as a result of allowing feudalism to remain entrenched in economics - and failing to introduce democracy into our economy...
...we are now seeing our political democracy erode severely as well, as that economic feudalism uses its power to creep back into our political sphere.
The American Revolution was incomplete, and the forces of feudalism are consolidating their political power once again.
The only way to make democracy real and permanent, is to finish the revolution that the Founding Fathers started, by embracing Economic Democracy as well as the political kind.
Economic democracy is just like political democracy except, in addition to voting on political positions, we also vote on what to do economically, with our resources. The question of what to do with the land's resources is decided by everybody, for the good of everybody.
"Hmm... sounds good. How would this actually work?"
of Economic Democracy
1. All corporations, all factories, all agricultural land, and all major machines involved in economic production, are the collective property of all the workers who work there.
2. All decisions about the operations of the company, including:
-Whom to hire
-What positions to hire them for
-Number of hours
-Who to fire
-Amount of production
-Price to sell the products
-How much raw materials to buy
-Facilities, location, upkeep
-How to distribute the profits
...and so forth...
...will all be made democratically, by vote.
3. Shares of ownership and voting power are based on the amount of time that you've been there.
The equation is V = 1 + Y, with V being votes, and Y being the number of years you've worked at the company.
So if you've worked at a company for 15 years, you get 16 votes. 37 years? 38 votes. Less than 1 year? 1 vote.
of Economic Democracy
1. No more asshole bosses! If a boss sucks, the workers can fire him. Or cut his pay. Or force him to follow rules of respect. In Economic Democracy, the boss works for the workers - not the other way around!
Wouldn't that be great it your livelihood was not resting in the hands of one single guy who might be a total prick if not a complete psychopath?
Wouldn't you rather have that power spread out among all of your coworkers, most of whom probably *like* you, and are more willing to listen to Reason because they're not drunk on power?
Wouldn't you rather have a Council of your peers making decisions, so that, in a case where the manager / project-coordinator believes you should be fired, you get to defend yourself, and put the decision to a vote, rather than just the singular whim of a single power-hungry prick?
Wouldn't you feel more secure that way?
2. No more egregious executive salaries. If an executive is getting paid too much, the workers can simply vote on a new, more reasonable, salary for him.
3. No more worrying about pay, or benefits, and no need for strikes! Simply vote to fix whatever the problem is.
4. No more unchecked psychopathic behavior for corporations. If a corporation is:
-Moving factories overseas and laying off workers
-Starting wars to sell bombs
-Lying about climate change
-Lying about health risks of their products
-Abusing people or animals
-Using child labor
-Investing in evil projects
-Criminalizing protests against their abuses
...and so forth...
...there is an extremely powerful safety valve to stop these crimes: the workers. You can simply vote to stop these things!
Imagine if a company like Exxon was owned collectively by all of its workers. Not "shareholders" - workers. And the workers, collectively, make all the big decisions.
If we decentralize power like that, the workers at these companies would probably want to curb the excesses of the company. And they would be more reasonable and rational in dealing with transitioning of fossil fuels, and giving the Exxon company something different to do that's more sustainable and healthy for the planet.
If decisions were democratic, then the workers would most surely want to do this, because they need a better future for their kids.
CEO's have bunkers underground. And if the world becomes uninhabitable, they will just hide out in their bunkers, and eat canned food, and plug themselves into VR headsets and bliss out while everyone else starves on a burned-out planet. That's what they plan to do if this planet ceases to be inhabitable. And that's why they don't give a shit about the ecological crisis.
But the workers don't have bunkers. The workers have nowhere to flee to. The workers need this planet, and they need it healthy, and they would make better decisions.
Drug companies would no longer poison people with addictive opioids, because the workers all have at least one friend or family member who died from, or is struggling with, such an addiction. They see the effects in their personal lives. And they would be a lot less willing to keep perpetrating these abuses on the public.
No matter what the industry is, when workers are making decisions, the decisions will be much more benign.
How to Make This Happen
Step by Step
Economic Democracy begins in the Village. This is important, because the experience from the smaller levels is essential for the larger levels.
Too many historical attempts to create Economic Democracy weren't successful, in large part because they tried to establish it at too large of a scale, too quickly. They didn't start in the Village, and so they didn't learn anything before progressing to larger scales.
So it has to start in the Village. And here's a window into how it will look:
1. All land within the boundaries of the Village is village land, managed democratically by the village. If there is a large "landowner" (i.e. a baron), that land is no longer "his" - it's everyone's. And the decisions about what to do with it - i.e. whether to use it for agriculture, for residences, or to let it re-wild - are made by vote.
Votes will take place on the Village Green - the center of the Village. (In a typical suburb, this would be in the "backyards" where all the houses meet. See the Village page for more details on how villages are formed).
2. The Village will vote on how to make the best use of the land, for the purpose of establishing Benign Transit and for attaining local Self-Sufficiency (the two sections of the Blueprint after this one).
These two steps come after Economic Democracy, because Economic Democracy is necessary for having a decision-making system to implement them. They cannot be attained while cliques of wealthy sociopaths are making all the decisions about the land and resources. Democracy is a prerequisite.
3. After Economic Democracy has been established in the Village (and in a large proportion of the Villages within the Township), then you're ready to progress to the next level - Economic Democracy in the Township.
In the Township, it's basically the same process. And you'll apply the wisdom you gleaned from the process of democratizing the Village economy, to the process of democratizing the Township economy.
4. After achieving it in the Township, you'll progress to the City level. Then Region, and then Planet.
This will of course have to be parallel to the establishment of Self-Governance (i.e. the central thread of the first phase of the Blueprint, as explained on the Summary page) at each of these levels.
"Can you explain more about how to decide economic activates democratically within the Village? Who's going to pay for all of the activities the Village will need, in order to become Self-Sufficient? Who's going to pull up the extraneous pavement? Who's going to acquire the seeds to plant food? Who's going to plant it and tend it, and harvest it? How is it stored? Distributed? Etc.?"
So far, there is no money required. It costs nothing to talk to your neighbors. It costs nothing to hold a Village Assembly in the space where your backyards meet. It costs nothing to elect a Village Council and start making plans for your land.
The only thing that would cost money, in the plan so far, is planting gardens, as you would need to buy seeds. But all the seeds you'd need would cost just a handful of pocket-change.
And since food self-sufficiency is one of the primary purposes of the Village unit, the cost would be shared by everyone. One of the first topics of discussion in the Village Council would be what kinds of food to plant, where to plant it, the cost of buying the seeds (which would be pooled by everyone), and who is going to do the planting, maintaining, and harvesting.
"Where will the seeds come from?"
For the first few years - the time of transitioning between the old economy and the new, healthy one - seeds will be purchased the "normal" way - from the local garden store, or from online ordering, or whatever way you prefer.
After the first year or two, you'll be able to save seeds from your harvest, and use them for the following year's planting- just like it was done since the dawn of agriculture, thousands of years ago.
"How do you decide who does it? How do you divvy up the labor? And how do you pay the laborers?"
The labor system in a Village economy is supremely simple, and requires no use of money. It goes like this:
1. Village Assembly speaker: "We need someone to plant the potatoes."
2. Village resident Billy: "I'll do it!"
3. Speaker: "Does anyone have a problem with Billy doing the potato-planting?"
4. Assembly: silence.
5. Speaker: "OK, Billy is sustained as potato-planter. Congratulations Billy!"
"But who will pay him?"
There is no need for pay, because it's an economy of voluntaryism.
"But those types of economies have been tried already, and failed. Communism was supposed to be like this, and it was a total failure."
The sharing economy failed under communism because it was applied to too large of a scale. The communists tried to blow it up to the scale of entire cities and countries. It doesn't work at those levels because there's no interpersonal trust at those levels.
In order to work, everyone needs to know each other on a personal level, so they can know who's working, how hard they're working, and so forth. This is possible at the Village level. In fact, this is the way it was done for 200,000 years, since the dawn of humanity.
In fact, this idea was applied successfully by early colonial communities in America. The Quakers, Amish, early Mormons, and other experimental, "utopian" movements lived this way, and they succeeded. It's part of the American heritage.
"Wait a minute. You want ME to work, without getting paid? You want me to plant potatoes - or whatever - for free? I won't be compensated for my labor?"
You're compensated every day, 3 times a day. Every time you eat a meal, you're eating the food harvested by everyone else.
Plus, you won't have to cook if you don't want to, as cooking will be one of the jobs allocated by the Village - so that's another hour of your day freed, if you like.
Plus, the food will be grown with love, as it will be planted, tended, and harvested by the same people who eat it (as opposed to the current system in which everything is just a number, faceless and anonymous). You can tell when you're eating food made with love - it tastes 10 times better!
Plus, this system eliminates wastefulness, as there are no industrial steps in between harvesting and eating. No trucking, no grocery bins where everything gets rotten as it waits to be purchased, and no temptation to buy a bunch of produce and then let it rot in your fridge, since the food can literally be left on the living plant until it's ready to be prepared and eaten.
You feel like having some grapes now. So you walk down the lane, to that grave vine growing on the fence between the Johnsons' house and the Williams' house. You pick some grapes and eat them.
No need for a car.
No need for gasoline.
No need to sift through a bunch of half-rotted grapes in a grocery bin.
No wasting grapes when they rot after no one bought them in time.
No worrying about what kinds of chemicals are in the food, because you know everything that goes into it.
And no need for money.
"I live in a city or suburb. We don't have ROOM to grow food."
Yes you do. There's plenty of soil that's not being used for anything.
There's soil on the edges of houses.
There's soil between the sidewalk and the street.
There's soil on the edges of pathways between buildings.
There are wasteful areas of concrete and asphalt that can be turned back into soil.
There are also ways of growing food indoors, and vertically, using hydroponics. This will be highly useful in cities. You can install hydroponic units on the sides of buildings, which are currently absorbing sunlight for no purpose. Having plants on the sides will have the added benefit of reducing air-conditioning costs in summer, and providing valuable insulation in winter.
And there are lawns.
"You want me to convert my precious lawn into a garden? No way! The backyard lawn is the symbol of affluence and freedom! I like my lawn!"
If you're like most people who have a lawn, you barely use it. It's one of the most wasteful aspects of modern life. We cannot afford to keep doing this - it is ecological suicide. That land needs to be either given back to Nature, for the re-emergence of a healthy ecosystem, or it needs to be utilized for food - one or the other.
Do you really want to keep mowing it anyway? How much money and sweat are you pouring into mowing the damn thing? Why are you doing this? Why?
"Because it's fun to walk on grass. Kids like to play on it. It would be a dull life without a lawn."
Then designate one area to be the Village lawn. Everyone can share it. Not only is this less wasteful, but it's healthier, as there will be actual social contact between kids, and between families - instead of the isolated, lonely units we have now, in which everyone just sits there by themselves, eventually leading to depression, alienation, pharmaceuticals, and mass-shootings.
Instead of walking for 1 minute to get to a lawn, you have to walk for 2 minutes. Is that so terrible?
What tiny amount of convenience you give up, you gain back in True Independence - the ability to have all of your food within walking distance, and to sustain yourself without getting on your knees and begging for a "job" from some guy in a suit - without begging corporations for permission to live.
Isn't that worth it?
"But won't I have to do a similar kind of 'begging' to my Village? I'll still be dependent on SOMEONE."
But you'll know those people. And that makes all the difference.
Like it or not, we do live in an interdependent world - an ecosystem of a society. Absolute independence is impossible - you'll always need something from somebody.
But wouldn't you rather it be someone you know? Someone you're familiar with, who knows you and cares about you? Someone who would become intimately aware of your suffering, if you were to suffer, because you live right next to them? Someone who can't insulate themselves from your grievances, who can't hide in some gated community, who can't hide behind anonymity?
"What if I just don't like the people in my Village? What if they're a**holes?"
Then move to another Village. Move across the street. Move several streets over.
Universal, public, free-of-charge transportation is a major aspect of the economic plan. If some place is connected to the transportation grid, you can just get on, and go. Your ability to be mobile will be exponentially expanded. If you don't like one place, you can easily explore others - much more easily than you can currently.
You can explore other Villages in your Township, other Townships in your City, other Cities in your Region, and other Regions on your Planet. There's gotta be SOME place where you'll fit in - where you're wanted.
"Who will build, maintain, run, and pay for that free transportation grid?"
Click the "transportation" link above.
"Will I be able to explore other countries this way?"
Absolutely. See our page on Borders, Immigrants, and World Travel.
"What about the tools we need for growing the food? The spades, the shovels, the hoes, the plows? What happens when they break and need replacing? Who builds them? Where do they come from?