The New "New Economy" Article

Gar Alperovitz has an article in The Nation that claims to have found the seeds of a sustainable and egalitarian "new economy" in grassroots projects scattered around the country. It isn't a particularly persuasive piece -- I kept waiting for him to make a strong case that the efforts he's discussing are growing, as opposed to making the case that they're there. (I say this as someone who's been reading articles like this for at least two decades now.) The links between the trends aren't clear either. Anecdotes aside, are there substantial reasons to believe that employee-owned enterprises are more likely to adopt green business practices? Or are these basically separate issues that get lumped together here because worker ownership and ecological consciousness are both a part of Alperovitz's social vision?

All that said, the article is notable for at least one reason: Virtually every development it praises comes from the marketplace and civil society, not the state. The exceptions that occasionally appear don't involve big national plans; they're more along the lines of a public university or city government giving assistance to some co-ops. This isn't unusual for Alperovitz, who has always been a decentralist, but it's a marked contrast with some of the other material The Nation publishes.

Bonus link: "A Statistical Profile of Employee Ownership." Not exactly the same stuff that Alperovitz is writing about, but it overlaps, and the numbers are interesting.

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  • Fluffy||

    Anecdotes aside, are there substantial reasons to believe that employee-owned enterprises are more likely to adopt green business practices?

    Nope. It's just pure Rousseauian fantasy. The People are Good, you see. Therefore if only the People could control their Fate, They would naturally choose to do Good. Whatever Good the author wants.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    if it were good business, they would have already adopted the "green" practices

  • proegg antichicken||

    basically separate issues that get lumped together here because worker ownership and ecological consciousness are both a part of Alperovitz's social vision

    Nail on head.

    There's no reason to adopt green practices unless it affects your bottom line. For the small co-op type business it may simply just be a marketing technique to draw customers away from the big players.

  • ||

    Anecdotes aside, are there substantial reasons to believe that employee-owned enterprises are more likely to adopt green business practices?

    Unless such businesses are apathetic about profits and prone to making investments with terrible returns, I would say no.

    Sure, sure, there are some "green" things that make good business sense. The catch is, of course, that anything that increases efficiency, etc., that actually makes business sense is not, for some reason, regarded as "green", but merely as good business. Why the keepers of the green flame think good business =/= green is something of a mystery to me.

  • Paul||

    Why the keepers of the green flame think good business =/= green is something of a mystery to me.

    I think the idea is that business have all of these efficiencies under their noses they could make, but they just don't. It's the green industry's job to open business' eyes to the solution.

  • Neu Mejican||

    If all business owner's have perfect knowledge, then the "they would already being doing it" critique would be valid.

    In fact, most people don't know the inexpensive and simple things they could do to increase energy efficiency. So education is the primary tool for the environmental movement on this front.

  • sevo||

    Neu Mejican|5.31.11 @ 3:35PM|#
    "If all business owner's have perfect knowledge, then the "they would already being doing it" critique would be valid.
    In fact, most people don't know the inexpensive and simple things they could do to increase energy efficiency. So education is the primary tool for the environmental movement on this front."

    Since "perfect knowledge" is dispensed by twits like NM, rather than found from the discipline of profitability.
    Go away.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Why the keepers of the green flame think good business =/= green is something of a mystery to me.

    They are not equal. There is significant overlap, however. Not sure who the keepers of the greenflame are, but many environmental groups actively work to inform business of the overlap. Think the Rock Mountain Institute that has worked with little companies like Walmart to "green" their practices by increasing material and energy efficiency in the distribution network.

  • ||

    I got no beef with education and all that.

    But that doesn't explain the vast swathes of "green" supported by subsidy and rent-seeking.

  • sevo||

    "Think the Rock Mountain Institute that has worked with little companies like Walmart to "green" their practices by increasing material and energy efficiency in the distribution network."

    Sniff, sniff! Nope, doesn't smell right.
    Do you mean Rock Mountain Institute has convinced Walmart that raising costs and prices a bit while getting to claim *GREEN!* is a good marketing technique?
    Or is it closer to Jesse Jackson's protection racket?
    Smells like it could be either one.

  • ||

    I see in the bonus link that employee ESOPs and 401K plans have over 1T in assets...I suspect people in DC and various state capitols may have noticed this too. So one might expect that "redeploying" those employee funds--under the guise of centrally managed Green programs--would be something that employees across the land will wholeheartedly support...right?

  • Paul||

    Virtually every development it praises comes from the marketplace and civil society, not the state. The exceptions that occasionally appear don't involve big national plans; they're more along the lines of a public university or city government giving assistance to some co-ops.

    In other news, Oxfam, clearly in need of donations has declared that food prices will go up 200%, global climate change being responsible for 50% of that rise.

    The soluution, they say, is totally within our grasp:

    Nationalise the commodities markets, and totally revamp the global food system (a system I didn't know existed). Essentially, centralize everything.

  • proegg antichicken||

    the NPR told me that today so I yelled "you fools it will never work!" at the radio. However the NPR never makes me yell as much as Democracy NOW!

  • Paul||

    However the NPR never makes me yell as much as Democracy NOW!

    Back off Democracy NOW!. Amy Goodman's the voice of the disenfranchised.

  • Jim||

    She's not nearly attractive enough to be the voice of the disenfranchised.

  • ||

    Gah I also shook my angry fist at the NPR this morning when I heard that as well. I didn't even know that the effects of climate change were so well understand that we now know how it affects agricultural yields.

    On top of that, one of their proposals for a more secure food supply is to increase reliance on biofuels. That elicited a "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!" response.

  • Paul||

    On top of that, one of their proposals for a more secure food supply is to increase reliance on biofuels

    Wasn't that the kicker? Food prices doubling as supply tanks! Answer: Divert more corn into fuel!

  • Ukrainian Soviet||

    I like this OXFAM of yours. Tell me comrade, do they have newsletter?

  • ||

    The soluution, they say, is totally within our grasp:

    I don't think a solution is what they're grasping, here.

  • ||

    In other news, Oxfam, clearly in need of donations has declared that food prices will go up 200%, global climate change being responsible for 50% of that rise.

    "Ignore all those failed past predictions. We'll be right one day. You'll see!"

    The report, Growing a Better Future, trails a campaign for reform that Oxfam is launching in 45 countries, supported by former Brazilian president Lula Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and actress Scarlett Johansson.

    First Sean Penn, now this? Stay classy, Scarlett.

  • ||

    Apparently God deals out boobs or brains but not both. My god she is a tiresome fucking leftists.

  • Brett L||

    We really need a Glorious Revolution or a Great Leap Forward. I'll bet Oxfam has a five-year plan for this.

  • proegg antichicken||

    Glorious Great Leap Forward!

  • ||

    grassroots projects scattered around the country.

    I just zoomed over the top of this, but that sounds more like the "old" economy, to me. The one without an Industrial Policy.

  • sevo||

    From the article:
    "B Corp registration (the “B” stands for “benefit”) allows a company to subordinate profits to social and environmental goals. Without this legal authorization, a CEO could in theory be sued by stockholders if profit-making is not his sole objective."

    And *with* the B registration, that company is going to whistle Dixie to get many stockholders.
    That's not a company, that's a charity.

  • Brett L||

    Wait. The anti-biz guys have finally discovered that for-profit corporate entities have one ethical responsibility -- to return the maximum amount of profit legally obtainable to the shareholders? This is big news.

  • New York Post Headline||

    "Weiner Goes to Great Lengths."

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/n.....3uQwO1yD6I

  • ||

    While I'm glad I studied German in college, one negative side effect is that I can only laugh at Wiener jokes; similar jokes about the name Weiner only cause me to shake my head disapprovingly.

  • ||

    I have seen efficiency improvements (that were really just natural responses to more/better technology), be "green"ified in obvious PR campaigns.

    In my line of work, we are moving to more and more electronic workpapers and client deliverables. It's a no-brainer in terms of flexibility with a mobile workforce and for about a hundred other reasons that have jack and shit to do with saving some fucking paper. But it gets rolled out as Being Green. I doubt that has as much value in the marketplace as people seem to think, but it's all a circle jerk anyways. You have to pretend to care about Being Green because your big clients have to be seen caring about Being Green. Who's this performance really for?

  • ||

    It can't be "green" unless there's suffering and sacrificing involved.

  • T||

    You have to pretend to care about Being Green because your big clients have to be seen caring about Being Green. Who's this performance really for?

    Idiots?

  • ||

    Yup. The same idiots that buy that overpriced Seventh Generation crap the Nation article kept referencing. How are they still in business when they're twice the price of other brands, and their cleaning products don't actually clean anything? One of my favorite grocery store rants is audibly asking why anyone would be stupid enough to put "green" posturing over price and quality.

  • Brett L||

    But those other brands use chemicals.

  • Otto||

    Every time I hear this non-humorously, I wish I had a "Ban Dihydrogen Oxide" petition.

  • Paul||

    Your ignorance is stunning.

    Dihydrogen Oxide is a major component in acid rain. It's also responsible for nearly all of the soil erosion in this country.

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    I've heard it causes rust, too. Major contributor to the infrastructure crisis in this country.

  • Brett L||

    It's in every drinking water supply in the country!

  • MJ||

    Dihydrogen is an acid, and a base, at the same time! The stuff is freaking insidious!

  • ||

    But those other brands use chemicals.

    Even worse, those chemicals have atoms that contain nuclear particles.

  • AntiNuclear||

    NO NUKES! NO NUCLEI!

  • Zeb||

    Does it really not work? Based on your description, I tend to doubt you have tried the Seventh Generation cleaning products.

  • ||

    Somehow their version of Fantastik/Formula 409 cleaning spray ended up in the household (maybe it was on sale, or maybe a failure of planning necessitated that cleaning products be bought at Whole Foods) and it totally failed to get, for example, bacon grease off the stovetop. I think it ended up being thrown out, it was that unusable.

  • Otto||

    It doesn't clean eco-unfriendly materials like pork fat. Duh.

  • Zeb||

    Fair enough. I don't think I have used any Seventh Generation products, but I have used some "greener" cleaning products with good results. A lot of enzyme based cleaners work very well on a lot of difficult messes. And there are reasons to use such products besides the vague and poorly defined "greenness". A lot of cleaning products are nasty and toxic and if safer substitutes are available, I would pay a bit more in some cases (assuming they actually work).

  • ||

    That's because you only went through the 1st 6 generations of bacon grease and gave up too soon.

  • ||

    My wife once bought this phosphate free dishwasher soap. That shit destroyed our dishes. Left a horrible white toxic film over everything. I was like stop buying this shit now. It was so bad that at first we thought the dishwasher was broke.

    I am told the brain dead lefties in Seattle have banned phosphates in ditergents. What a barbaric place it must be.

  • ||

    Is that what that is? Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure it was around the time that the monster pack of dishwasher detergent from Costco ran out that we started noticing that white film on the glasses. How annoying.

  • ||

    That is what that is. Go to Oregon and buy yourself some real soap and it will go away.

  • Zeb||

    Without phosphates, the detergent can't dissolve the mineral film you get from hard water. But all you need to do is to is spend several thousand dollars on a water softener and you'll be all set. What's the problem? (that's sarcasm, in case you can't tell)

  • KWebb||

    Head over to the paint section in your local hardware store and pick up a box of trisodium phosphate. Add a tablespoon to dish detergent or half a cup to laundry detergent. Yell "fuck you, EPA!" and enjoy clean dishes and clothes.

  • Paul||

    I am told the brain dead lefties in Seattle have banned phosphates in ditergents. What a barbaric place it must be.

    Bad News, John, more and more localities (Seattle at the top of the list) are banning phosphates. As a result, all of the manufacturers have now dropped phosphates nationwide, because it's too expensive to carry multiple formulations for every state.

    I'm not rinsing dishes more than ever before, plus it dents to leave a dusty white residue on my dishes.

  • Paul||

    I'm not rinsing dishes more than ever before, plus it dents to leave a dusty white residue on my dishes.

    The lack of phosphates has caused my brain to go all wiggy, too. Misspellings, typos and dyslexia are side effects of phosphate-free detergents.

  • ||

    because using more water is soooo good for the environment.

  • nicole||

    This just totally ruined my afternoon, and I am feeling tempted to call up Cascade and yell about their sniveling bullshit about how they're "meet[ing] the individual cleaning needs of each of our consumers" and "deliver[ing] great cleaning results without phosphates," except to those of us with hard water, to whom they offer their "sincere apologies."

    But I thank you, KWebb, for a way out of this mess.

  • ||

    Welcome to the New Maryland Order, John.

    "Green," effective and labor-saving are not synonymous.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Anecdotes aside, are there substantial reasons to believe that employee-owned enterprises are more likely to adopt green business practices?

    Yes. Traditional corporations are required to maximize profits. If they don't, shareholders can sue for misuse of funds. An employee-owned enterprise, if not a traditional corporation, is allowed to forgo profit maximization for other goals. Now, if the employee-owners don't have green values, we wouldn't expect to see greener business practices. But even if shareholders have green values, the traditional corporation can't address them except as PR. The incentives for greening among employee-owned businesses are better, and I would expect greener practices, as a result.

  • ||

    I've been repeatedly reminded by my lefty friends that "maximizing profits" only can mean paying the employees slave wages and making Indian chiefs cry.

  • Zeb||

    Don't forget sending our jobs to Asia and destroying the previously pristine and perfectly balanced way of life of Indian villagers.

  • Brett L||

    I was watching something last week while in Europe about "sweat shops". One of the exploited sweat-shop workers had a pair of earbuds in and was obviously listening to some sort of media device. Its not exactly putting 12 year old girls to work in the rug factory because their tiny fingers make smaller knots.

  • ||

    especially when the indian chief is an italian guy named Espera Oscar de Corti

  • ||

    That's only because of the well-known Italian raping parties that dotted the American west.

  • ||

  • ||

    Traditional corporations are required to maximize profits.

    Like General Motors, right?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • ||

    Some corporations maximize profits by making a good product. GM took an alternative route of maximizing profits by maximizing government corruption. It is just an alternative business model.

  • ||

    Don't forget, boys and girls, corporations are evil.

  • Gus||

    Yup. Evil.

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