It is easy to critique capitalism. Probably too easy. Offering alternatives can be more difficult, but when they offered, they are immediately dismissed by many. Over the past few days, I have heard many times that the alternatives offered could never work, or they are unsustainable, or they could only work if everyone cared about one another and wanted to share, but then we would have to change human nature. Basically, alternatives to capitalism are unrealistic, especially for the United States.
I am not sure why so many of my peers and elders are so closed to thinking about alternatives to capitalism. But I did find one person who was not: my roommate. And no, he is not an international student from Socialist Sweden. Right here in the United States, workers are taking control.
My roommate’s home in New Hampshire is supplied electricity by the New Hampshire Electric Co-op. NHEC is a member owned and controlled electric distributor serving approximately 80,000 members in 115 towns and cities.
We begin with respect for each other, our environment, and our communities. We commit to work together with integrity to create change and innovation for the betterment of the Cooperative and us as individuals. We will act courageously and decisively to create breakthrough change. The change we create will have a positive impact on our communities and result in the thriving (sustainability) of NHEC for the members’ benefit.
Nearby is the Littleton Food Co-op, a community owned market. As the mission statement describes:
The mission of the Littleton Food Co-op includes promoting local food production and environmental sustainability. While other markets focus primarily on the bottom line, the Co-op also works to enhance the local society and environment. The Co-op emphasizes fresh, local, organically grown foods; superior customer service and a knowledgeable staff; and a healthy lifestyle. Because the Co-op store is owned by its members, we provide what our members want, rather than what manufacturers want to sell.
Decisions in the Littleton Food Co-op are made democratically by members, and membership is open and voluntary.
We do not need to go to New Harmony, Indiana in 1825 or down to Argentina to find viable examples of non-capitalist production. Nor do we need to change human nature. They exists here and now. All we need is a bit more open mindedness, and yes, maybe a new word. (Democratic workplace, cooperative, economic democracy. be creative.)