As most of you know, I have a written a book titled Namaste: If Not Now, When? In a step by step, chapter by chapter basis, I provided a process for revolution beginning with transforming the self, extending the boundaries of the self outward to include others, and finally transforming the world.
What future will we create together? I want to encourage all of us to start dreaming about and imagining that future because we cannot create what we cannot first imagine.
One thing is certain. We cannot and should not return to the way things were before the economic crash. Our economy was based on middle class consumption, from purchasing houses to home entertainment centers and everything else offered for sale on credit. We gorged ourselves on stuff like pigs at a feed trough while almost everyone else in the world struggled to survive on less than a dollar a day.
The great reckoning is under way and far from over. I see an economic tsunami building that within the next 18 months will sweep away our financial system and dramatically increase financial, food, and health insecurity here and throughout the world.
In one of my later chapters, I introduced and briefly discussed microcredit and micropower concepts. Today, thanks to Liz Berry who got me thinking about it, I want to focus on cooperatives.
Wikipedia defines a cooperative as:
a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. A cooperative is defined by the International Cooperative Alliance’s Statement on the Cooperative Identity as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”. A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or by the people who work there. Various aspects regarding cooperative enterprise are the focus of study in the field of cooperative economics.
According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), “co-operatives provide over 100 million jobs around the world, 20% more than multinational enterprises”. For example, check out these statistics.
1. 45.3 million people in Asia are members of credit unions.
2. 4 out of 10 Canadians are members of at least one coop and coops employ 155,000 people. Coops are the largest employer in Quebec.
3. 23 million people in France are members of one or more co-operatives or approximately 38% of the population. 75% of all agricultural producers are members of at least one co-operative and 1 in every 3 persons is a member of co-operative bank. 21,000 coops employ more than 1 million people.
4. 1 out every 4 people in Germany belongs to a coop and 440,000 people are employed by coops.
5. In Japan 1 out of every 3 people belongs to a coop.
6. 40% of the adult population of New Zealand belong to coops and mutuals.
7. 239 million people belong to coops in India.
8. Almost 50% of the population of Norway belongs to at least 1 coop.
9. 50% of the population of Singapore belong to coops.
10. In the United States, more than 29,000 co-operatives operate in every sector of the economy and in every congressional district; Americans hold over 350 million co-operative memberships. 900 rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to 42 million people in 47 states. 30,000 coops employ more than 2 million people.
The ICA lists the following 7 principles for cooperatives:
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
There is no better time than now, before the economic tsunami crashes our financial shores and fractures our fragile economy, to think and act holistically, globally, and cooperatively.
If not now, when?
Cross posted at my website and the Smirking Chimp.
Author’s Note: I will be incorporating this essay as a chapter in Namaste: If Not Now, When?
Namaste: If Not Now, When? is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others for non-commercial purposes, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.
Previous chapters are posted here in my Diaries or at my website.
My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for 3 years.
Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.