Mike Morin : Rearranging our economic system(s)


Richard Moore


Rearranging our economic system(s) 

By Mike Morin 

In light of the coming shortages in oil (See peakoil.net )
and the destruction of our natural environment,
ecosystems, and habitats that are caused by the current
paradigm of corporate conglomerate capitalism (See
davidkorten.org ), we are facing the dire need to
restructure our socio-economic systems into a strategy for
global relocalization (See postcarbon.org ) of our
production and distribution systems.

So much has been written about our environmental
predicament and strategies to avoid environmental and
economic collapse that I can only present a cursory
overview of the situation. I offer my apologies to all
those who have done and/or are doing great work whom I
have not included. In my adult lifetime (approximately
thirty years), many people have been working to develop
paradigms for community re-development and ecological
evolution. A pioneering work was, of course, Small is
Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Other initiatives sprung up
such as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance , RAIN, and
Eco-City Berkeley among others. The interest, formation,
and participation in eco-villages and intentional
communities has been growing. New urbanism has become a
popular mantra among architects and planners.

Still, there is a missing piece to all this. If we are to
reorganize our socio-economic systems to live in
ecological, lower energy, more self-reliant and
self-sufficient local and (bio)regional communities (i.e.,
global relocalization), we need a mechanism to change the
way that resources are allocated to and within our

According to Lewis Mumford, the word "eutopian" means good
place and outopian means no place. Long ago, eutopian
socialists such as Fourier, Owen, and St. Simon, among
others, formulated and wrote about cooperative community
development structures. Such was the beginning of the
notion of socialism in western culture. Many intentional
communities developed as the result of their efforts. More
enduring was the creation of cooperative or mutual
business organizations. These are economic democracies
where direction of the organization is set up in a one
person, one vote scheme. Probably the most successful
effort in recent years has been the worker cooperatives of
the Mondragon Society in the Basque region of Spain. Since
its humble beginnings in 1956, this society of workers'
cooperatives has grown to a conglomerate cooperative
corporation employing and owned by more than 30,000

Based on the study of the early cooperative
communitarians, the anthropological study of indigenous
and historical cultures, comparative economic systems, the
Mondragon system and other modern cooperatives, and the
assessment of our current situation, I have devised
somewhat of a new paradigm for the funding of cooperative
community development organizations.

At the core of the concept is the Neighborhood Improvement
Fund. I can visualize neighbors forming eco-villages and
coming together in larger neighborhood cooperatives. The
neighborhood cooperatives would then form a union on the
regional level and various regional organizations (Unions
of Neighborhood Improvement Funds or UNIF) would form an
alliance with the other regions in the world. The
organization(s) would be based on the following

    cooperation (economic democracy) 
    community stewardship 
    peace and tranquility 
    production and access to essential goods and services 
    primacy of the pedestrian/walkability/new urbanism 
    economy and humanity of scale 
    risk diversification 
    life long education 

Most discussion and work in the area of community
development finance relates to lending and
micro-enterprises. The trouble with such strategies is
that small businesses have a very high failure rate
because they cannot compete with capitalist conglomerates.
They are at an acute disadvantage with respect to economy
of scale and risk diversification (i.e. conglomerates who
are making good profits in one division can afford to
forego profits in another endeavor in order to survive a
period of intense competition). The problem with the
emphasis on lending is that highly leveraging a business
is usually a bad strategy since lenders have the first
claim on revenues/profits.

What I propose is the formation of equity unions that give
community members and workers the opportunity to invest in
the ownership of the production and distribution of
essential goods and services, and amalgamated/conglomerate
cooperatives that would help make the local cooperatives
competitive. My proposal is as follows:

As Einstein said, Imagination is more important than
knowledge. I would like to think that the following plan
has solid grounding in both. It is based on eutopian
socialist models and represents a most ethical approach to
economic restructuring. The prospects of radically
rearranging how resources are allocated to and within
communities may be slim, yet may be the best hope for the
human and non-human communities.

Here it is:

Start in our (and all) neighborhoods, a Neighborhood
Improvement Fund.

Each adult resident in the neighborhood would voluntarily
invest in a mutual fund to be held in local credit unions.
The purpose of the fund would be to create access to
necessities (food, housing, household goods, clothing,
hardware, building supplies, office products, appropriate
transportation and energy and conservation, health items
and services, education services, etc.) at the local level
(i.e., within walking distance of all residents). The
mutual fund would make investments only in community- and
worker-owned (hybrid) cooperatives. All decision making
would be democratic with a one-person, one-vote system,
democratically elected Board, and a referendum system.

There would be an association or union of NIFs and we
would encourage more wealthy neighborhoods to donate to
poorer neighborhoods (perhaps through a 501(c)(3)
vehicle). Through the Union of NIFs (UNIF), the NIFs would
cooperate to achieve the benefits of economy of scale and
bulk purchasing. Involvement in many business segments
would create the competitive advantage of risk

Let's UNIFy!!! 


Mike Morin 

Mike Morin is a Eutopian Business writer and resident of
Eugene, Oregon who has studied the unusual combination of
Environmental Studies, Planning and Business. He describes
his work as an effort to "Trying to Make it Real Compared
to What John Lennon imagined".

He is currently working to develop a regional cooperative
community development organization, MUNSCCDO , in the
Eugene/ Springfield Oregon metro area. Mike also hosts a
Yahoo Groups discussion list about fostering, faciltating,
and developing such cooperatives.

(541) 683-2107 


This article was previously published at culturechange.org
and survivingpeakoil.com .

CitNet News Summer 2005, #32

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