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Re: [tlug] Introduction to (Tech) Worker Cooperatives, 09:00AM on Sunday, July 12th JST

Benjamin Kowarsch writes:

 > Most people equate capitalism with market economy.

You are correct, they are different, in that capitalist economies are
a subset of market economies.

 > And most of those who don't believe that capitalism is beneficial
 > to market economy.

Please don't talk about "what most people believe" in a conversation
among intelligent people with a modicum of understanding of how their
civil society works.

"Most people" dislike capitalism only in the sense that "capitalism"
is a bogeyman.  Most people who dislike capitalism are like the guy
who said "keep the government away from my Medicare" (== US
government-funded medical care).  They have no idea what capitalism
is, beyond the fact that they don't like whatever it may be that the
word represents.

 > Capitalism's only priority is the maximisation of capital and thus
 > profits.

Capitalism has no priorities.  People do.  Capitalism is merely a
legal structure that puts no limit on how much of the means of
production can be controlled by a single private person (real or
corporate), and usually[1] implements transfer of control of
productive resources using the market.  When that control has enormous
scope, that person has enormous power, and generally becomes corrupted
in proportion.  However, monarchy provides an ancient (and ongoing in
Russia and DPRK) counterexample to the claim that capitalism is
uniquely bad in this respect. ;-)

 > In the pursuit of this objective, capitalists will do anything they
 > feel they can get away with. Capitalism is opportunist.

So do socialists, in pursuit of their objectives.  You're just
describing people.

 > Not only will this never happen, it cannot ever happen because
 > under our legal system fiduciary duty to maximise shareholder value
 > has been enshrined in law and companies and their boards can be
 > sued if they ever divert from their fiduciary duty to put profit
 > maximisation above all else.

I'm surprised you are so ignorant on this point.  That may be true in
Germany or Switzerland, though I really really doubt it.  Sole
proprietorships, partnerships, and cooperatives (which are really just
a special form of partnership) can do what they want with their
resources, because they're just people, with contracts defining how
they share resources and for what purpose.  Corporations can be bound
by covenants to not exploit certain kinds of legal opportunities for
profit (non-profits, obviously, but a simple example among for-profit
companies is the so-called "ethical investment fund" which only
invests in female-owned or black-owned or "green" projects).
U.S. corporations that have gone bankrupt have ended up reorganizing
under trustees controlled by their labor unions (brave peeps, those!),
using that power to greatly improve the labor contract and working
conditions -- and then refloating the company as a conventional
investment vehicle after satisfying the bankruptcy court that they've
done what they promised to the entity's creditors.

It is true that most corporations are organized as investment
vehicles, the boards are elected on the promise that they will seek
maximum returns to the stockholders, and the management employed under
contract to do the same.  I wonder why that might be, and especially
why the unions mentioned above sold off their controlling interests.

 > And because they don't, these words continue to be used as
 > euphemisms for bolshevism, totalitarianism and evil.

Well, 70 years of Soviet control of the trademark "communism" has had
the same effect on that word that 100 years of progressive control of
the word "liberal" has had on it -- for probably a majority of people
they no longer mean what they did a century ago.  You can fight those
battles if you want, but it must get tiresome to always qualify
"communism" with "as Marx [never] defined it".[2]  Even "classical
liberalism" is kinda annoying, but of course "libertarianism" won't do
as a substitute.

 > If we want to overcome our unsustainable economic model and
 > transform it with a sustainable one, the first thing we have to do
 > is get our terminology right.

Or invent a new one.

 > By contrast, socialism involves the socialisation of means of
 > production BUT NOT consumption. Cooperatives are an implementation
 > of socialism.

I would be careful about that.  Cooperatives may be useful as a
structure within an implementation of socialism.  But they are
partnerships, rooted in freedom of association and presumably
protected by law as corporate persons.  The mere fact of organization
as a cooperative provides no protection for minorities within the
organization (except exit) nor for those outside the organization
unless the organization's "constitution" provides them or society at
large regulates them.  It's easily imaginable that a cooperative would
invent Facebook and tolerate hate speech, build members' homes
upstream from their factory and pollute the river, or grow tobacco,
lobby against regulation, and charge monopoly prices if they corner
the market.

[1]  So-called "primitive accumulation" is usually a form of theft,
although "intellectual property" *may* be ethically justified in terms
of "creator's rights" and/or economic efficiency in the face of market
failure caused by "natural monopoly".

[2]  Marx was mostly a whiner who wanted to complain about what he
thought was wrong with capitalism (much of which he got right, much of
which he didn't have the terminology to name, let alone think
rigorously about) and foment revolution against it, but never had a
consistent plan for achieving socialism, let alone communism, except
violent expropriation of property.

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