People Over Profit
A Proposal for How to Deal with the Economic Crisis
This is a summary (with a few additions) of an essay called “Demand, Don’t Succumb” by Michael Albert, creator of “the 3rd economic system” Participatory Economics, or Parecon, which rejects capitalism or markets as well as communism or central planning.
Albert has suggested some radical reforms for how to deal seriously with our current economic crisis/insecurity. We believe these reforms would go far to reduce our economic woes and improve our capitalist/corporate system, which we believe is the main reason for the crisis in the first place.
Homes for All
No one may be kicked out of his or her home – no home (less than $1 million) may be foreclosed upon and no one may be evicted from his or her house or apartment. We will simply pass a law stating that to do so is against the law. In the meantime, we can organize to prevent foreclosures on a case-by-case basis, as people have already been doing.
People cannot simply stop paying their mortgage payments, though, either. They’d have to be refinanced so people can afford to pay them.
We can collectively decide who will get what level of refinancing (for rent or mortgage payments, etc) by people who need help within a given legislative district getting together in an open forum, perhaps mediated by the local member(s) of Congress and even local high school civics teachers, and facilitated by everyone.
The lower the average income in a given area, the more rewrite they’re entitled to – a redistribution of wealth. Neighbors must cooperatively negotiate with each other the total percentage each will receive from the rewrite.
We can also make sure everyone has a home or decent shelter to reduce insecurity.
Businesses Can’t Close Due to Loss of Profits
Ownership is given less bargaining power – business owners with more than 20 employees or over $5 million in assets can’t stop operations due to a predicted loss of profit. We will simply pass a law stating that to do so is against the law.
If owners don’t want to take the losses in profits that may come with continuing production, then they can work like everyone else, and the firm’s deed is turned over to the workforce and surrounding community. They are not allowed to move the residence or sell the firm overseas.
Save Jobs, NOT Profits
To deal with decreased demand leading to decreased production leading to an increase in firings, we will simply pass a law stating that it is against the law to fire people until the crisis has passed.
Down Timing, NOT Down Sizing
To produce less output without firing people, employers can reduce everyone’s hours by about 10% so the output level can adjust to whatever society needs, and more people can be hired.
Additionally, so people don’t lose even more income from reduced working hours, employers would have to pay employees the same amount they were paid when they worked more hours. This is raising hourly wages.
We can simply pass a law to require that employers cut back everyone’s hours and pay people at higher rates – they cannot reduce the overall wage bill. Executives and stockholders can make less money if need be. If the only way to save a business is to cut into the workforce or cut into profits, we should cut into profits.
No one worries about losing his or her home or exploitative mortgages. No one is being fired, and people are being hired. People have more leisure time from reduced working hours and higher pay her hour. There are additional taxes levied from the currently unemployed and from higher pay for new or improved social programs. Workers and society generally can have more control over workplace decisions.
These radical reforms would bring us closer to a system that respects people’s lives and livelihoods over profits for the rich and institutions. This is the direction in which we need to be moving, because the market system is the problem.
Suggestions for Tactics
We can make this a national movement, where tons of groups sign on and promote this holistic, radical agenda in response to the economic crisis, and capitalism generally, as well as make sure these ideas can be locally controlled to reflect what makes sense in a give region. Our goal can be the passage and enforcement of laws that make this vision real.
WE NEED EVERYONE INVOLVED – WE NEED COALITION.
Here are some suggestions of what we can specifically do to make this happen:
1) Spread the word – online, face to face, in workplaces, classrooms, living rooms, town hall meetings, organization conventions and meetings, etc.
2) Pressure banks and businesses to apply these reforms
3) Pressure congress – nationally, more specifically – as well as the president to pass laws and executive orders that demand these reforms
4) Hold events for proposals, discussion, and planning
5) Talk to the media – especially alternative media, but also the corporate media
Is this realistic? Is it possible? We won’t know until we try – and try again and again and again. Our individual and collective assumptions that something won’t or can’t happen are the biggest factors keeping things from happening. Are these tactics complete, helpful or harmful? What else can we do to make this vision real, or what can we do instead? Please pass this movement on – tell people about it and make it happen – and help create what it will be with your own insights and ideas. We want a Participatory Society after all, don’t we?