How the unemployed ‘disappear’ and why it matters

Posted on 21 March 2016 | No responses

by Rose-Marie Stambe, The University of Queensland and David Fryer, The University of Queensland

With monthly unemployment figures due out this week, the usual attention will be paid to fluctuations up and down. In last year’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook Treasurer Joe Hockey predicted that unemployment could reach 6.5%, which is 0.25% higher than was predicted in the federal budget.

How the unemployment figure is actually calculated became a hot media topic when the Australian Bureau of Statistics was forced to substantially revise its seasonally adjusted labour force figures for July and August. The ABS cited difficulty with seasonally adjusting the unemployment figure, which meant only the raw figure was used. These difficulties were attributed to a variety of factors and are now considered to be resolved.

However these conversations gloss over how the official figure of unemployment underestimates the “real” figure of unemployment. For those of us who are interested in how unemployment contributes to the way we experience ourselves in the world, who is excluded from these figures is just as important as who is included.

The discouraged

So who is missing from this key data set that we have been hearing a lot about recently? To answer this we need to look at definition of “unemployment” more closely.

The International Labour Organisation states a person is unemployed if they have worked less than one hour, have been actively looking for work during the reference week, and could start a job in the week following. Recently, the ABS updated the Labour Force Survey to align “active steps” of job seeking with the ILO definition. Now a person is considered to be actively looking for work if they, at bare minimum, call an employer to ask about a job position as opposed to reading through a job notice board or applying for Centrelink payments.

Here we can see that a person who has given up on the job search, or feels so disheartened by the process that they looked at jobs on a notice board but did not make contact with any employer, are not considered to be unemployed and therefore are missing from unemployment figures.

Economists refer to this cohort of unemployed as the “discouraged”. We consider this term to be a euphemism because when we turn to psychological and sociological studies that examine the experience of unemployment we find paper after paper that discusses the detrimental psychological impact that unemployment has on a person. Such research documents this distress in terms of anxiety, stress, depression, suicide and lower self-esteem – that is, many people can be said to be excluded from the unemployed count because of the psychological impact of unemployment upon them.

The ‘active subject’

What do we do about unemployment, then, if it is so devastating to people’s well-being? “Activation” is one solution favoured by current government figures for the “problem of unemployment” in Australia and has been for some time now.

Activation is not just about active job seeking or actively improving one’s skill base (increasing skills via training etc), it is also about actively working on oneself to improve one’s “job readiness” in terms of self-esteem, resilience and motivation. From this perspective any programs to improve psychological factors like “self-esteem” are to be encouraged.

The problem of the unemployed is (not) the unemployed

The problem with these programs of reformation is that they only contribute to constructing the problem of unemployment as the problem of the unemployed individual themselves, running the risk of becoming a form of victim-blaming which pathologises the unemployed and makes political discussions around the structure of employment, unemployment and the labour market even less likely.

In discussions about unemployment and welfare programs it is rarely mentioned that mass unemployment is required by our socio-political regime, a contemporary form of neoliberal capitalism. The Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment is a term used by economists and politicians to refer to the level of unemployment, between 4% and 6%, considered necessary to prevent inflation taking off.

We need to also consider that there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. Figures in August 2014, for example, showed there were approximately 147,200 job vacancies though unemployment totalled 735,500 people. Clearly unemployment can not be “solved” by unemployed people taking non-existent jobs and it is unreasonable to blame unemployed individuals for unemployment when there is no paid work.

If our politico-economic system needs unemployment, the active labour market vitriol poured upon the unemployed is unjust as well as ineffective.

The Conversation

Rose-Marie Stambe, Provisional PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland and David Fryer, Honorary Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Who Counts

Posted on 16 March 2016 | No responses

The below is an ad and it ends quite cheesily, but it does make a point (in order to sell Mother’s Day cards). We worry too much about what is the most important job. We justify high wages by assuming something is an important job.

We try to get women and poor people into STEM, because those are seen as offering high wages for important jobs. Traditionally law, business, and medical degrees were seen as THE most important jobs.

When you are genuinely suited for and have an aptitude in other job fields, the judgements range from you are letting the team down by taking a “lesser” job, that you are lazy for taking a “lesser” job (without any understanding of how much work that job really does take), to the ultimate judgement that perhaps there is something wrong with you as a human being.

What if all the sanitation workers all around the world went on strike? What if every farmer everywhere stopped growing crops, tending fields, and managing livestock? What if every woman everywhere stopped giving birth and stopped caring for children? You might find these jobs are pretty damn important. So, why aren’t any of these people fairly paid to insure their security?

And trust me. The word “unemployed” is a fiction. People who are without paid employment work damn hard to survive. They often have to hit more than one food bank a day. They have to find time to hop from one public service group or charity to another in order to get all the medical, shelter, transportation, etc help that they need. They are then required by the government to go to numerous job interviews a week whether or not they are relevant to their skills, taking away time for efforts to achieve immediate survival and take care of the kids. This is done while the government is handing out less than living welfare in return.

You may not understand why a job is important. It may not have much meaning to you. That doesn’t mean it’s not invaluable in some way. Just because you don’t grasp a job’s significance doesn’t mean you treat the people performing that job with anything less then complete respect. Start trying to see beyond all the flattering mirrors with which you have encircled yourself and start recognising the existence and value of other human beings. This is critical to our mutual survival.

In peace and kindness,


Feminism has failed and needs a radical rethink

Posted on 10 March 2016 | No responses

Eva Cox, University of Technology Sydney

There was a 1970s badge that declared:

Women who want equality with men lack ambition.

This statement neatly sums up the broad intentions of second-wave feminists to create radical shifts of gender power. On International Women’s Day 2016, looking back, I suggest we failed to pursue that agenda and settled for much less. We achieved formal legal equality over the subsequent decade, but moving past that into wider social equity changes seems definitely to have stalled.

What went wrong?

We knew then that legal equality was only the starting point. We understood that real gender equity would require radical changes to macho cultural power structures. So we planned and discussed the ways we could revalue what matters and eliminate gender-biased, macho-designed cultural dominance.

Despite fixing most of the legal barriers, the cultural changes failed to follow. There were other changes happening. By the 1980s the arrival of neoliberalism as the dominant political paradigm slowed most social progress, as market models took over. These changed the political focus from progressive social change to market choices and individualised material success.

This approach also emphasised machismo and reinforced gender inequities, because market competition rewards materialist views of what matters. The more collectivist social roles that are part of our social infrastructure – and often heavily feminised – are devalued and considered private concerns.

Our early support for increasing the proportion of women in positions of power was not driven by wanting more women sharing male privilege, but a belief that feminists could infiltrate and make the social and cultural changes we wanted. Now, the increasing numbers of women allowed to join men in positions of power and influence are mostly prepared to support the status quo, not to seriously increase gender equity.

So 41 years after International Women’s Year, Australian women are still the very much the second sex, insofar as we are permitted limited share of power and resources in the public sphere, but on macho market terms.

What is the second sex? It was neatly defined in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex analysis of how gender roles were socially designed:

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.


She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.

Still the second sex

In Australia, women are still clearly the “other”. Our once radical social movement has been diverted into good works such as women’s refuges, counting female victims of violence and calling out sexism. While all these are necessary, there is little focus on offering serious alternatives.

Too many women’s groups are plaintively asking for better access to the options open to men, on men’s terms. The current groups seem to have lost the necessary optimism to identify and lead serious changes to the nasty, inequitable and fading market model which not only excludes the social but is showing serious flaws.

The damage to social well-being that results from the reliance on unfettered markets is much wider than just the continued poor status of women. There are clear indications of social distress in many developed countries whose austerity cuts have created serious inequality.

A review of current public policy priorities at the local level shows few social goals and policies that indicate any serious efforts to make Australia fairer and create better social well-being. The long-term over-emphasis on GDP and financial growth is exacerbating inequalities, with changes focused mainly on punishing the unemployed.

The market model stresses paid work only, completely ignoring feminised unpaid, underpaid, often uncounted roles and tasks, most notably the raising of children. These are not included in GDP, but are essential to good social functioning.

This shift is clearly illustrated by proposed changes to the funding of children’s services, whose role will move from complementing community/family to servicing GDP growth. In the process, “progress for women” has been reduced to increasing their participation in paid work.

This pattern appears in parenting payments and other areas where unpaid contributions are ignored. Similar issues arise in Closing the Gap failures, which emphasise white male models and ignore the value of good social relationships that were once also more important in Western societies.

Time for a radical rethink

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, voters increasingly distrust the major parties, whose economic emphasis turns them off. Rather than leave solutions to the current holders of power, or some populist alternatives, we need feminist-led setting of social equity goals.

Can some good feminist ideas reignite the light on the hill to find ways out of current political dilemmas? Let’s commemorate International Women’s Day this year by offering some bold initiatives that show our concerns are universal, albeit from feminist standpoint. Here are some starting points:

  • devise and discuss good social policy goals, which prioritise gender and other equity outcomes, and make them central to the coming election;

  • revalue the rewarding the skills and time put into care, relationships, feelings and other social needs that require attention and commitment;

  • broaden the agenda and revise our assumptions about what matters to make sure that gender biases are removed from roles such as caring;

  • ensure that men recognise their need to be liberated from the limited assumptions about masculinity that also limit their choices and lives;

  • abolish the term “women’s issues”: these are social issues that affect everyone, and the label stereotypes women as the second sex who have special interests; and

  • acknowledge that women cannot “have it all” because men can’t either, but ensure that both can take on fairly shared responsibilities for essential paid and unpaid roles.

These are starting points for addressing deficits in mainstream politics and putting social well-being high on political agendas. We require feminist perspectives to set social goals that are sustainable, and create social resilience.

These necessary strengths are undermined by the macho tendencies in current political directions. We need to recognise the importance of social connections, cultural needs and care of others that economics doesn’t cover; to balance material and social stability.

And, as de Beauvoir said, women need to decline to be the “other”, to refuse to be a party to the deal. This would mean for women to renounce all the advantages conferred upon them by their alliance with the superior caste. That’s feminism.

The Conversation

Eva Cox, Professorial Fellow, Jumbunna IHL, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Do We Really Want To Be The Evil Overlords?

Posted on 26 February 2016 | No responses

Rio Tinto’s chief office building towers over St Michael’s Cathedral on Collins Street, Melbourne.

The people who worship at St Michael’s do not live in fear that one day Rio Tinto may take their sacred land in order to enrich company stockholders. They do not worry that their lovely cathedral will be knocked down for mining. However, we would all do well to think about what that would feel like.

Such a grab when done without consultation or permission would represent the destruction of a people’s culture and history. St Michael’s is a place where people for generations have been married, had children baptised, and grieved when family and friends have died. This space is a special container for love, family, community, and humanity. For any number of people its senseless obliteration would feel like the violation of a family member.

This is what the original peoples of Australia feel when they are displaced for “the greater good” of white Australia. This is also what the original peoples of North America feel when our Australian company invades their land, destroying sacred space and the environment, in order to mine the copper discovered there.

Right now in Oak Flat Arizona, Rio Tinto is planning on obliterating sacred Apache land. As part of Resolution Copper Mining they will hollow out a vast chamber in Oak Flat park area that, when it caves in, will leave a two-mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep pit.

People are concerned about water contamination from acid mine drainage. Exposure to chronic high levels of copper will increase risk factors for lung cancer and coronary heart disease in their community. These are in addition to losing a place of great meaning to them: a place where they would sing songs, dance, and initiate their young people.

How did Rio Tinto get this land? It wasn’t through purchase, it wasn’t through consultation with those people who have used that land for hundreds of years. It was handed to them by the US federal government when it was put onto a “must pass” military spending bill as a rider. Not even the general US public had a say in this.

Does Australia really want to continue a tradition of destroying lands and peoples for the temporary profit of our wealthiest? When did we decide it was okay to continue colonialist policies of smash and grab? The mining companies are walking all over everyone’s posterity both environmental and cultural. This has to stop, and it is up to us to do it.

This weekend the Apache are holding a massive sit-in at Oak Flat celebrating one year of their protest occupation. Today I stood in protest outside the Melbourne Rio Tinto offices. Perhaps others would like to support the effort. Australia doesn’t have to be the bad guys, we don’t have to act like evil overlords.

In peace and friendship,


Katherine in front of Rio Tinto offices, Melbourne

Katherine in front of Rio Tinto offices, Melbourne

Fork the Economy
by Douglas Rushkoff

Posted on 22 February 2016 | No responses


I’ve given up on fixing the economy. The economy is not broken. It’s simply unjust. There’s a difference.

We have to stop looking at our economy as a broken system, but one that is working absolutely true to its original design. It’s time to be progressive — and this means initiating systemic changes.

For example, Bernie Sanders’ well-meaning calls to rein in the banking industry by restoring the Federal Reserve’s function as a “regulatory agency” reveals the Left’s inability to grasp the true causes for today’s financial woes. We are not witnessing capitalism gone wrong — an otherwise egalitarian currency system has not been corrupted by greedy bankers — but, rather, capitalism doing exactly what it was programmed to do from the beginning. To fix it, we would have to dig down to its most fundamental code, and rewrite it to serve people instead of power.

First off, the role of the Federal Reserve was never to serve as an “agency.” It’s not like the Environmental Protection Agency, which is charged with regulating corporate destruction of the natural world — however woefully it may be carrying out that purpose. Rather, the Fed is a private corporation — a banker’s bank owned by the banks — created to guarantee the value of currency. It was built to serve the dollar and maintain its value by fighting inflation. When the Fed is feeling magnanimous, it can also lend extra money into existence, in the hope that it will be invested in enterprises that employee people.

The actions of the Fed, however, are limited by the way our money, central currency, was designed to work. It was developed back before the Industrial Age, as a waning European aristocracy sought to stem the rise of the merchant middle class. Small merchants were getting rich for the first time since feudalism began, thanks to the spread of the peer-to-peer marketplace and its ingenious new currency system of grain receipts and market money.

At the beginning of the market day, a baker could put receipts for bread into circulation by purchasing his weekly supplies. Those receipts could be spent on other items until a receipt holder actually needed bread, and cashed it in. Other moneys were based on stored grain or hay. They were created not for savings or accumulation, but to promote transactions.

One by one, European monarchs outlawed these local currencies and implemented central currencies that could only be lent into existence, at interest. If a business wanted to use money, it would have to borrow it from the central bank, at interest. This new system helped the rich maintain their exclusivity over wealth. They could get richer simply by being rich.

The monetary system was designed not to help people create and exchange value, but rather to extract value from anyone hoping to transact. It was not designed to promote circulation, but to serve as a drag on circulation.

Making matters worse, central currency requires an economy to grow — and to do so faster and faster. If, for every $100,000 lent into circulation, $200,000 has to eventually be paid back, then where does the other $100,000 come from? Someone has to borrow or earn it.

Now this scheme works fine as long as the economy is growing — as the colonial powers were through their conquest of the world, and even America managed to do through corporate expansion in the decades following WWII. But our ability to grow has reached its limits. There are no more regions to conquer or developing nations to exploit. Efforts to escape into outer space notwithstanding, our planet has been stretched beyond its carrying capacity for additional extraction and growth.

We are moving toward an economic plateau; but, while a steady state economy of slow or no growth is good for people and planet, it is utterly incompatible with the money system on which our economy is still based.

Making matters worse, in the digital age, we have accelerated our stock markets with high frequency trading and our business landscape with steroidal startups and ruthless platform monopolies from Amazon to Uber. These companies are valued less for their ability to turn a profit than to get acquired or reach IPO—and pay up to the institutions who lent them their original capital.

No, charging the Fed with fixing the problems of capitalism is like asking an oil company to help get us off fossil fuels. That’s selling the wrong tool for the job.

As I’ve argued in my upcoming book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, we are running a 21st Century digital economy on a 13th Century printing press-era operating system. The opportunity of a digital age and the sensibilities it brings is to reprogram money to favor transaction over accumulation — flow over growth.

This means experimenting with new, frictionless forms of exchange—from local currencies that increase circulation 10-fold over bank-issued money to Bitcoin, which verifies transactions without the need for an expensive central authority. Already, we see successful implementations of alternative monetary systems not only in progressive coastal cities, but also former industrial cities of the steel belt. Online “favor banks” energize the exchange of goods and services in communities from austerity-paralyzed Greece to recession-devastated Lansing, Michigan. New, investor-proof co-ops — from window manufacturers in Chicago to software developers in New Zealand—consciously optimize for the flow of value through a network, rather than the extraction of value from it.

Platform cooperatives—such the driver-owned, ride-sharing platform Lazooz—utilize the blockchain to assess ownership based on the number of miles driven. Even if the company follows Uber toward driverless vehicles, at least its workers will share in the future earnings their labor has created.

What distinguishes these experiments from traditional Leftism is that they are not attempting to compensate for the inequities of our economic system after the fact. They are not redistributing the spoils of corporate capitalism, as top-down enacted policies would do. Rather, they mean to distribute the means of production and the tools for exchange more widely. From Benefit Corporations to local crowdfunding, the best efforts at forging more equitable financial instruments are characterized by a willingness to reprogram business, currency, and exchange from the inside out.

That’s why, as we embark on another election year, we must stop looking toward candidates to tweak one knob or the other on our existing economy or monetary system. Replacing the members of the Fed won’t change the basic nature of the Fed any more than an incrementally more progressive tax code will change the extractive nature of central currency.

What those who hope to rein in the banking industry must do instead is break its monopoly over value creation and exchange by fostering competitive currencies, alternative corporate structures, worker-ownership, and restored respect for land and labor instead of just capital. If we can’t join ’em, then let’s beat ’em at their own game. We can make our own economy and money, too.

After all, it is a free market.

Rushkoff’s upcoming book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, is available from March 1.

Article via Shareable.


Online Behaviour That Creates Change

Posted on 21 February 2016 | No responses

• It is better to create allies than to make enemies.
• It is better to educate than to argue.
• If someone is genuinely intractable, do not waste energy on them. State your position clearly and concisely once, and then walk away.
• If someone is causing genuine harm, do your best to get out of their way and/or stop them.

These are mature skills worth developing. There will be times when I can be tired, stressed, or something is simply a hot button and these points are forgotten. Eventually I recognise that it is time to stop. I apologise if need be. I do my best to learn from the experience and move on. For the last one, it’s okay to be scared and seek help or at least support.

Ending The Cycle of Violence

Posted on 9 February 2016 | 1 response

When I was five years old I would walk home from kindergarten which was only a couple blocks away (this was the 60s). On several occasions an older girl, who lived nearby, would cross the street when she saw me, knock me down, then start pulling my hair. After complaining a few times my mother took me with her to where this little girl lived. Her house was dirty and falling apart. The mostly dead lawn had rubbish strewn about. The girl’s mother answered the door and didn’t look in much better condition.

My mother spoke with this woman to stop the bullying. I don’t remember what was said. I just remember this horrible feeling that I might knock littler kids down and pull their hair if I lived in the same way this girl did. I felt awful for the other girl. I didn’t want her hurting me, but she was already hurting before she came to me. No punishment was going to help.

This last week some fellow with emotional and mental problems decided to make me the focus of his pain and began to harass me. We started with gentle steps, then had to get firmer and firmer with him to leave me alone. I called on friends to help keep me supported while this was going on. I was uncertain how far he would take things and it was getting scary.

What surprised me was the violent anger some women wanted to direct toward this fellow on my behalf. Their feelings are valid, because many of us have been abused by men poorly educated in social skills and respect. The desire of these women to call a halt to mistreatment should be heard and acted upon. But we all have to slow up and make sure we recognise the humanity of our “enemies” when we start thinking about solutions.

Martin Luther King, Jr is quoted as saying, “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” This is often misattributed to Mohandas Gandhi. When retribution is used as the measure of justice you then have to ask how much retribution is enough? A person can choose to be hurt all their lives. How about all the hurt the perpetrator was exposed to before committing a crime? Those hurts contributed to making this person more likely to act out. Who is held responsible for that?

In Norway the maximum prison sentence for any crime is twenty-one years. After that even people like Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a bombing and mass shooting, are potentially set free. And yet, Norway has one of the lowest prison recidivism rates in the world. That’s because they are more interested in rehabilitating people than retribution.

Enacting damage on an already damaged person is a waste of time. The saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child” is equally true when it comes to various forms of criminality. Some villages will breed certain sorts of criminality, and until that village takes responsibility for its culture, more and more criminals will be produced.

I grew up in part in a small town where a girl just hitting double digits was raped and killed by a boy who was part of a small abusive gang. Because he had committed an “adult crime”, it was deemed appropriate to try him as an adult. This made national news because at the time he was the youngest person ever to be tried in the US as an adult.

I was among the girls these boys would shove into lockers and start grabbing at their crotch and breasts. Because they were members of the local winning football team, their actions were overlooked. More than that, they were given all sorts of privileges around town. They were a critical part of the collective ego of that place. So when one of their members was caught out, he wasn’t being punished with such vigor because he deserved it, so much as he had exposed the town to scrutiny. In my opinion the whole town should have been put on trial. If that boy had been raised in Norway, he might have grown up to be a nice kid. He is still responsible for his actions, but so is everyone else.

Right now I see so many people getting fiercely angry at people of or without religion, people who are for or against vaccination, people of differing ethnicities, people of a variety of sexual alignments, etc. People are making enemies of one another and cry out for vengence on those who dare to support a differing view. We absolutely should stand up to the bullies of the world, we should protect human rights, and demand the planet be treated with respect. However, simple punishment isn’t the answer. Somewhere at some point we have to recognise each other’s humanity and offer peace. Make the world a place where it is easy to do the right thing because everyone is fed and everyone has their needs met. How else do we transcend a world where everyone becomes a victim?

Peace and kindess,


An End to War

Posted on 29 January 2016 | No responses

We have wars on terror, drugs, and poverty. We fight for rights, freedom, and justice. We have backyard warriors, eco warriors, and social justice warriors. We compete for position, status, power, and to survive.

We live in a deeply embattled society. When do we get to live in peace? When can we face our challenges as thoughtful adults, rather than warring factions? Is it any wonder that society is splintering itself, as people dig into their home trenches to protect themselves?

We have no shared future, in fact no future at all, when we are incapable of sharing: goods, power, welfare, resources, and responsibility. This invisible war we are fighting will only go away when we actively find peace within ourselves, with each other, and with every living being on this planet.

It is time to declare peace.

In friendship,


Open Cooperativism

Posted on 20 January 2016 | No responses

The not-for-profit cooperative model is a critical one we all need to pursue in order to more sustainably live in the world. It is also critical for the survival of community arts groups. The below should help in wrapping your head around what needs to be done.
~Katherine Phelps

The cooperative movement and cooperative enterprises are in the midst of a revival, even as some of their long-standing entities are failing. This revival is part of an ebb and flow of cooperativism, that is strongly linked to the ebb and flow of the mainstream capitalist economy. After systemic crisis such as the one in 2008, many people look at alternatives.

Yet, we can’t simply look at the older models and revive them, we have to take into account the new possibilities and requirements of our epoch, and especially of the affordances that digital networks are bringing to us.

Here are a few ideas from the ‘peer to peer’ perspective, as we develop them in the context of the Peer to Peer Foundation.

First, let’s start with a critique of the older cooperative models:

Yes coops are more democratic than their capitalist counterparts based on wage-dependency and internal hierarchy. But cooperatives that work in the capitalist marketplace tend to gradually take over competitive mentalities, and even if they would not, they work for their own members, not the common good.

Second, coops are generally not creating, protecting or producing commons. Like their for-profit counterparts, they most often work with patents and copyrights, doing their part in the enclosures of the commons.

Third, coops may tend to self-enclose around their local or national membership. Doing this, they leave the global arena open to the domination by for-profit multinationals.

These characteristics have to be changed, and can be changed today.

Here are our proposals

1. Unlike for-profits, the new cooperatives must work for the common good, a requirement that must be included in their own statutes and governance documents. This means that coops can’t be for-profit, they have to work for social goods, and this must be inscribed in their statutes. Solidarity cooperatives, already active in social care in regions like Northern Italy and Quebec, are a important step in the right direction. In the current capitalist market model, social and environmental externalities are ignored, and left to the external state to regulate. In the new cooperative market model, externalities are statutorily integrated and a legal obligation.

2. Unlike co-ops that draw their membership from a single class of stakeholders, cooperatives must include all stakeholders in their management. Coops need to be multi-stakeholder governed. This means that the concept of membership must be extended to these other types of memberships, or that alternatives to the membership model must be sought, such as the newly proposed FairShares model.

3. The crucial innovation for our times is this though: Cooperatives must (co-)produce commons, and these commons must be of two types.

a. The first type is immaterial commons, i.e. using open and shareable licenses to that the global human community can build on cooperative innovations and in turn enrich them. At the P2P Foundation, we have introduced the concept of Commons-Based Reciprocity Licenses. These licenses are designed to create coalitions of ethical and cooperative enterprise around the commons they are co-producing. The key rules of such licenses are: 1) the commons are open to non-commercial usage 2) the commons are open to common good institutions 3) the commons are open to for-profit enterprises who contribute to the commons. The exception introduced here is that for-profit companies that do not contribute to the commons have to pay for the use of the license. This is not primarily to generate income, but to introduce the notion of reciprocity in the market economy. In other words, the aim is to create an ethical economy, a non-capitalist market dynamic.

b. The second type is the creation of material commons. We are thinking here of the creation of commons funding for the manufacturing equipment for example. Following proposals by Dmytri Kleiner, cooperatives could float Bonds, to which all cooperative members (of all other coops in the system) could contribute, creating a commons fund for manufacturing. The coop seeking funds would obtain the machinery without conditions, but the owners would be all the cooperators, which would gradually build up a basic income from the income generated by the fund.

4. Finally we must address the issue of global social and political power. Following the lead of the transnational Sociedad Cooperativa de las Indias Electrónicas, we propose the creation of global phyles. A phyle is a global business-ecosystem that sustains commons and their community of contributors. Here is how this would work. Imagine the existence of a global open design community for the design of open agricultural machines (or any other product or service you can imagine). These machines are effectively manufactured and produced in a system of open and distributed microfactories, close to the of need. But, all these micro-coops would not exist in a isolated fashion, merely connected through the global and ‘immaterially-focused’ global open design community. Instead, they would also be interconnected through a global cooperative uniting the microfactories. The combination of such global phyles would be the seed for a new form of global and social political power, representing the global ethical economy. Ethical entrepreneurial coalitions and phyles can engage in post-market and post-market coordination of physical production, by moving towards open accounting and open supply chain practices.

In summary, though traditional cooperatives have played an important and progressive role in human history, their format needs to be updated to the networked era by introducing p2p and commons producing aspects.

Our recommendations for the new era of open cooperativism are:

  1. That coops need to be statutorily (internally) oriented towards the common good
  2. That coops need to have governance models including all stakeholders
  3. That coops need to actively co-produce the creation of immaterial and material commons
  4. That coops need to be organized socially and politically on a global basis, even as they produce locally.

Further reading:

TOWARD AN OPEN CO-OPERATIVISM: A New Social Economy Based on Open Platforms, Co-operative Models and the Commons

From Commons Transition
This work is licensed under a Peer Production, P2P Attribution-ConditionalNonCommercial-ShareAlikeLicense.

With Great Freedom Comes Great Responsibility

Posted on 19 January 2016 | No responses

I’ve been watching news about the militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and am both saddened and bemused. The people who form the occupying militia like talking about how they are representing freedom. I don’t believe it.

I support Linux and the free software movement. At the Linux Users annual picnic this last Saturday, I was surprised to find myself chatting with a young fellow who felt the citizens of Australia should be “free” from certain government regulation such as that which prevents gun ownership. I have hippy friends who don’t like guns, but want the freedom to explore drugs and feel we would be better off with no government at all. I tried mentioning to one such friend, don’t you like indoor plumbing and clean water, and he didn’t get the point.

The point most people don’t understand is that how much personal freedom a society can afford to give to its individuals is dependent upon how responsible those individuals are. If giving some people certain sorts of freedom means they will use it to abridge other people’s freedoms and/or cause harm, then social action has to be taken to ensure the general welfare of the populace. Absolute freedom would mean we should open up all the prison doors and set every last criminal loose.

I can understand a desire to have the freedom to be responsible for yourself. We don’t want to be dominated by a parental substitute when we are capable of making decisions for ourselves. But far too often what various people are after is freedom from responsibility and without consequences.

“I should have the freedom to own automatic weapons” even if that means people are killed in mass shootings or these weapons are used to over-ride democratic decisions by force. “I should have the freedom to drive any type of car I like, in any sort of condition, in any way I like…including under the influence,” even if that means more people are killed in traffic accidents. “I should be able to have all the sex I want with all the women I want without using a condom,” even if that means spreading sexual disease and leaving behind women and children living below the poverty line.

I am boggled by left-wing friends who talk about “freedom” in their relationships, meaning they want the freedom to leave all household duties to one partner. They want the freedom to not talk about fairness. They want the freedom to find mistresses while calling it “love”, then leave their partner in charge of the children. “Sure, you can find a lover as well” they say, but the partner has their hands full and knows if the relationship falls apart, they and their children will be living below the poverty line. The one partner gets freedom, the other gets unfair imprisonment. Real love takes work and involves people who freely choose to commit to one another. It’s not just a warm feeling below the waistline.

We don’t give complete freedom to children, because they need time to understand consequences. They need us teaching them how to cooperate, how to be thoughtful, and how to take responsibility for themselves. Our culture is training people to seek indulgence above all else and thereby losing their capacity to understand the value of responsibility, much less act in a responsible manner.

The more responsible people are the more they can be trusted. With greater trustworthiness the wider the freedom that can be granted to them. For example people who pick up after themselves when they use a park are more likely to be welcomed back to freely use a space. If no one picks up after themselves, no one gets to use the park.

Of course in getting caught up in arguing about these sorts of freedoms, we are overlooking really critical types of freedom: Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Choice, and Freedom of Being. When xenophobic sorts talk about stamping out religion, throwing out refugees, harrassing the gay community, removing equal rights laws, etc, it becomes clear that they are only about the freedom to dominate. We will be free when we learn how to responsibly care about each other and how to share with one another.

In peace and kindness,


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