What would an Alliance between Commoners and Neo-capitalists Look Like?

A contribution by Ryan Lanham:

Civil Society organizations like the Progressio Foundation seem to offer a path toward a world where markets can be used responsibly alongside social frameworks where the commons is strong and vibrant. It that a fantasy world where only silly idealists waste their time?

At the fringes of socialist and capitalist discourses any willingness to find centrist ground is notably absent. Tough minded socialists distrust corporate social responsibility (CSR), see profit motives corrupting nearly every venue of life and hold “capitalism” responsible for the great bulk of the world’s ills. Hardcore capitalists hate government, distrust civil society, use socialism as a bogeyman and are generally skeptical of any sort of global movements that might potentially limit the opportunity to own assets at will and under contract or otherwise profit and exploit relatively freely. If one listens to the fringes (and they are often the loudest members of a group) hope is small for functional coalitions.

Identity politics require that we prove our stripes through litmus tests. Corporate leaders are often reticent to show that they can live comfortably in a social democracy where the state and civil society are strong and taxes are moderate to high. Likewise, the activist left looks for every opportunity to find ammunition that shows profit corrupts absolutely—and universally. Whether or not these two sides are equal and opposite ills seems practically irrelevant. In fact, both sets of identity politics pull people away from potential harmonies. More importantly, hegemonic control by one group or the other seems unlikely and seems to be destructive in the few localities where it does occur.

But let’s say such a harmony could exist. That is, there could be a neo-capitalist link-up with those in favor of a broad set of commons. What would it look like?

It would probably be associational and action oriented. There would be an emphasis on personal responsibilities but there would be many safety nets and helping ladders. It might be placed based. It might focus on making a location or a state or small nation the shared venue for integrated strategies of caring and competitiveness in equal parts. Many would hold forward Denmark or Holland or perhaps Sweden or New Zealand as models. In the United States, people might focus on Vermont or Oregon or Greensboro, North Carolina with its Action Greensboro coalition that works to tighten the city’s competiveness in a socially sound manner.

Here’s a laundry list of what to expect from such a harmonic partnership:

· Business start-ups would be common and often focused on sustainable and green purposes

· Acquisition of support would often be found in pools, assistance programmes and through groups that position themselves as enablers and advocates rather than product suppliers and service industries

· The commons would hold strong social respect—people would note their commitment to shared resources, contribute willingly to furthering the commons and would identify with the commons in symbolic ways

· Civil society organization boards would be sound and pleasant blends of corporate and social types of persons; organizations like community foundations would thrive…and corporate boards would reflect community and social leaders who care about justice issues
· Volunteerism rates would be high
· There would be respect for property, but also a prominent norm of sharing and pooling—as with shared bicycle programmes, sound public transportation, etc.

· Willingness to support key local assets such as gathering places, schools, sports teams and natural resources would be equally carried by individuals and firms. Commitments to urban planning, the walker, low income people and mixed used zonings would be strong

· Pride and commitment to place would be high, but willingness to engage when trouble or crisis strikes other places would also be quickly organized. That is people would act locally, think globally

What other aspects of this sort of place are missing from this list?

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