A Bank for the Common Good

More and more people are seeking out an avenue to act and force change, to be heard and acknowledged. This capitalist system is indeed rotting from the inside out, but what it calls spoiled, we call ripe for change. Aristotle got it right to say that man is a political animal. People are feeling the unnaturalness of prolonged political isolation; we are cynical in sizing up politicians, caustic in describing our "democratic" process, yet ignorant in the reasons behind our feelings. We attribute them to man’s nature, to inevitability, because when something is inevitable it can be coped with, processed, and stored away as having been solved.

When a system is as it is for as long as one can remember, what reason does one have to think it is not inevitable. When we see a range of mountains, or a vast sea, do we not in some part of our minds believe it to go on and on, repeating itself infinitely? Not until we hold the image back do we fully understand that it does not. People must be broadly educated, tying together biology, ecology, sociology, history, political science, and pscyhology to understand the depth and width of the problems we are facing. Richard Manning expertly combines multiple fields in a brilliant Harper’s article, "The Oil We Eat". So what are we doing to educate people about these things? What are we doing to build lasting institutions that will create and maintain economic democracy?

I’ve looked around a bit, and see these great projects promoting and participating in economic democracy. Momentum is undoubtedly building – that is, if I know about it, then it isn’t some obscure, flimsy idea. All around there are bits and pieces sprouting up, people wondering, questioning, and even more frightening for the elite class, people are having ideas. This website is a marvelous example of this, the groups in Austin, Chicago, and elsewhere, the growing popularity of our progressive icons, the cynicism and unease, the outcry for change we’ve seen (and disingenuously seized upon) in this election; all this points to a populace ready to act. What we need, is a place we can point to and say, "Start here." We need an action we can lay out and say, "Start with this." When we can do that, the movement will have arrived. We are in a bit of an abstract place right now, kind of fragmented, kind of unsure.

I believe we have a concrete, solid, achievable plan of attack in the common good bank. This is a project in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts engaging in an experimental economy and is scheduled to open in 2009; and because of the town’s small size it is an ideal place to get started and prove it works. With proof comes following. The assistance foundation, the Society to Benefit Everyon (S2BE), began by convincing local businesses to give rebates to members, who would then use the money for some social good. The system proved cumbersome, so they decided to  reorganize as a real life bank. This bank is dedicated to the principles of economic democracy. It redistributes its profits back to the community; it features an innovative mix of voting for true and  meaningful democracy; it loans to small businesses and encourages worker-owned cooperative structuring; it is introducing a local currency to protect from economic collapse, and stimulate local spending. This bank is the seed for a new world.

Imagine having a bank like this in your neighborhood. How much easier would it be to get that social enterprise you’ve had in mind off the ground? How many more people would be involved with activist work? How much longer could the current rancid and exploitative economic form possibly survive with such a viable and more logical option just next door? With this bank people have a direct avenue to effect change; they can choose to support a democratic financial structure simply by opening a checking account. The plans have already been created, now it is up to us to make sure they get out and spread like a cancer-curing virus, ridding ourselves of the filth this capitalism has left for us, and replacing it with an honorable economic system that is fit for man, and all his innovative and imaginative nature.

All change begins with a vision. Look at the common good bank in detail, think about it, digest it, and wonder what if…  

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