A Market Without Capitalists
A market economy and capitalism are synonymous --- or at least joined at the hip. That's what most Americans grow up assuming. But it is not necessarily so. Capitalism -- control by those supplying the capital in order to return wealth to shareholders -- is only one way to drive a market.
Granted, it is hard to imagine another possibility for how an economy could work in the abstract. It helps to have a real-life example.
And now I do.
In May I spent five days in Emilia Romagna, a region of four million people in northern central Italy. There, over the last 150 years, a network of consumer, farmer and worker-driven cooperatives has come to generate 30 percent to 40 percent of the region's GDP. Two of every three people in Emilia Romagna are members of co-ops.
The region, whose hub city is Bologna, is home to 8,000 co-ops, producing everything from ceramics to fashion to specialty cheese. Their industriousness is woven into networks based on what cooperative leaders like to call "reciprocity." All co-ops return 3 percent of profits to a national fund for cooperative development, and the movement supports centers providing help in finance, marketing, research and technical expertise.
The presumption is that by aiding each other, all gain. And they have. Per person income is 50 percent higher in Emilia Romagna than the national average....
Another surprising feature of the culture is that, beginning in 1991, responsibility for social services in Emilia Romagna and other regions was transferred almost entirely to "social cooperatives."
I'm glad to find, by the way, that Lappe has a blog: Small Planet Institute: Thoughts.