7 WRONG Reasons/Excuses for Why We Cannot Change for a Better Cooperative Economic System

1 – We shouldn’t complain about capitalism, if we use it

I heard this mean argument recently. Did we choose to be born into that system? That’s like telling the unfortunate living in smog; they shouldn’t complain about the polluted air if they breathe it.

breathing capitalism

2 – Communism isn’t better than capitalism

Did I say anything about communism? I’m talking about Cooperativism. Co-ops can be for profit. The same business models as today can be run democratically. The only difference would be that profits are not exclusively going to a handful of investors valuing short term profits over long-term employment, but would be re-invested into the company and its people who create the value of the organizations with their daily work. Aren’t many of today’s corporations branding themselves as being cooperating, socially responsible, caring for the community? Why then don’t we get a share and vote then? Because that would be the true meaning of community.

cooperatiism as alternative

3 – We cannot treat people equal

Yes, and no. Again, I am not talking about a system without performance-based incentives. We all learn in sports how to be fair losers.

Value creation has to be re-defined. Today, helping rich people avoid taxes is rewarded generously while cleaning up a the dirty environment, caring about weak and sick people, and helping a hungry child has to be done largely as unpaid volunteering.

Humans are relatively equal; there is no reason to make racial differences. The differences that matter are made by external circumstances, such as education, support, and fair treatment. Different talents and ambitions are fine though. Co-op members can democratically determine what efforts are incentivized in what way.

similar and different

4 – Governance by the people ends in chaos

Like in a state democracy with millions of citizens too, a cooperative membership for efficiency reasons can vote for major decisions only, and elects a representation for managing the enterprise. The good thing is, the management would act on behalf of the members (workers, consumers, producers, etc. who are actively involved and interested in the organization in the long-term) rather than on behalf of profit-maximizing outside shareholders.

your vote is your voice

5 – Cooperative decisions are too slow

Of course, a dictatorship may provide for faster decisions. Have you already campaigned dictatorship? Who would you currently choose? Ah, sorry, we don’t have a saying in that.

Feasibly administering elections and voting is possible. As a Swiss, I know what I’m talking about.

democracy or dictatorship

6 – People don’t want to engage

With a balance between responsibilities, accountabilities, and competencies (!) people are willing to assume all of these. Also, a cooperative would educate for active citizenship rather than investing into advertising and luring people into passive consumerism. Cooperative values motivate to engage for individual and collective well-being.


7 – We cannot change it

A couple of dozens of people own the wealth of half of the world population. 1% percent own the same wealth as the rest 99%. The net worth of the world’s billionaires increased from less than $1 trillion in 2000 to over $7 trillion in 2015, so the gap between rich and poor is growing up dramatically.

The rich are worried more and more as their oligarchic power increase becomes more obvious to more people. It looks like they think only a global war will hinder the awakening of the masses and defend their illegitimate privileges.

The current world order is keeping the majority of people poor and uninformed enough, or happy enough so that they don’t take action. War will serve the same end.

We can change it, if we spread the word for workplace democracy and support the cooperative movement. The five firms worth most and extracting most value/profit are all IT/Internet businesses (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft). Maybe it’s not too late to claim back in minimum the virtual world with its increasing real effects on our daily life and the future of our children. (Please see https://mathias-sager.com/category/growth-enablement/initiatives/products/)

keep out

  • Hi Mathias,
    Thank you for this very helpful and informative article.
    Nr. 6 is my concern too. When I still worked in the corporate world, many of my colleagues did complain, when asked for their opinion, they stayed silent. Not because of disbelief was/is possible, but really put an effort/ contribute..that wasn’t their intention either. Started to feel, complaining was/is easier or something like that.

    And then ‘democracy’…is true democracy even possible? Seems to me the countries and companies/organizations based on democracy can’t find consensus. So before even think, let alone implement, your ‘system’…shouldn’t people learn to tolerate each other first, despite their differences?

    • Hi Patty.
      Thanks a lot for your feedback (which in fact, as you supposed, landed in my spam folder). Much appreciated that you add a personal experience! And glad to hear that you found the article helpful.
      Examples are showing that democracy, teamwork, collaboration and cooperation are possible. Your mentioning of “first learning to tolerate” represents the classic chicken and egg situation. I think learning is most effective when theory and practice are combined. For example, how would you increase collaboration and joint decision-making skills in a school class (or any other group of individuals)? My solution would be to let the students work in groups instead of alone and reward group rather than individual results. The “faster” and the “better” can help the weaker and reap the emotional benefits from such positive action. Fostering diversity and equality in environments is crucial to foster tolerance. It is the people who never have contact with foreigners who suffer xenophobia, and not the ones who learned to co-exist.
      Cooperativism isn’t an alien system of mine. For example, in the basque region of Spain, the Mondragon organization of federated worker cooperatives is the tenth-largest enterprise in the country. The co-operatives are owned by the more than 70,000 workers who are involved with their daily lives and long-term interest instead of some few external investors whose interest is primarily, in the worst case, just profit maximization that is not invested back into the company but used for personal enrichment.

      • Ah, so happy you found it and thank you for further educating me. Truly, so interesting. I just learned this morning via a news-article, that in The Netherlands 250 companies and rich families are going to work together with the government to invest hundreds of millions into social initiatives and to help support the development of a better strategy/policy with regard to the integration of refugees. Although not completely without a profit-based plan behind it, but still…a step forward I believe.
        And I was thinking also last night, after thinking some more about this article…if rich people just both two cars, instead of lets say five and instead buy three cars for people who need it to go to work…the car company still gets its profit, and people are helped.
        Cause that’s the ‘thing’ Mathias. Yes, together we could create changes for the better, and yes….corporate work environments like you mentioned are definitely also a step forward, but still I don’t believe all rich are involved in personal enrichment’, without giving back to our globe. It just feels like blaming all rich people for all the problems in the world. I don’t think that is fair either ?

      • Thank you very much, Patty. Good to hear about remaining social awareness also in the Netherlands. I don’t want to stress the co-op topic too much (today), but I saw that question mark at the end of your reply:-) it’s a good opportunity to discuss here, although I know about your good intentions and your high level of awareness!

        It’s a nice gesture that these corporations share a portion. Just, they won’t do it if it wasn’t expected to provide them with profitable opportunities/tax advantages, etc. Otherwise, if impacting profit negatively, it would be like suicide:-). For a co-op on the other side, there isn’t the same pressure on the capital market to perform according to shareholder expectation. In a co-op, the profits are democratically benefitting the people/citizens as they are the workers and owners and of their cooperative enterprises anyway.

        Also in my other post(s), I have highlighted that it is NOT about blaming individuals as we all are socialized according to our dominant and self-reinforcing environment. I got a bit more independent because emigration to Japan somewhat socio-culturally de-rooted me:-).