Citizens' Ownership
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A NEW FORM OF ECONOMIC GOVERNANCE

To grasp this new economic structure the reader who has been brought up not to question the current economic structure will need to think the unthinkable: or as T H Huxley put it, to "sit down like a child before the facts". Our world is in a very traumatic turmoil and therefore we need extraordinary solutions.

This contribution is devoted into changing the pursuit of profit into stewardship of the world's material wealth over to ordinary people and there are ways and means of doing it in a comparatively simple manner that already exists. It is not rocket science.

 

The Current Paradigm

Shakespeare has had a word for it. In Julius Caesar Caesar says "Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look, such men are dangerous". Had our Bard lived today he could have added "they may even resort to terrorism". There are billions of the lean and hungry and yet the world has never been richer in material things; unfortunately this wealth is controlled by the very few in the corporations whose sole object is "shareholder value" or profit-taking and this is underpinned by law. Others on this website have outlined the fine detail of how it is achieved.

Shareholder value‚ or profit-taking stands above all other considerations, be it safety, consumer satisfaction, care for the environment, health of employees, working conditions, the impact it has on the nation and all else besides. Because it stands supreme it follows that it has the status of a deity and creates a new religion, the manner and methods by many of its adherences pursue stop at nothing.

In 1933/34 a group of the rich and wealthy made an attempt to oust the President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the White House and replace him with one of their own. Had the plot succeeded it would possible for America to have been ruled by a Hitler or Mussolini type. (source: The Plot to Seize the White House‚ by Jules Archer).

If there were no oil in Iraq this war would have never been started.

The shareholders of a limited liability company whose venture falls into bankruptcy only lose the money they invest and then walk away leaving chaos behind them which again is illustrated by others on this website.

We have been here before, the renaissance and the reformation from 14 to 16 centuries broke away from previous thought patterns. This is a new thought pattern related to economics and is revolutionary but not in the sense of violent revolution: that is self-defeating. There is an excellent reason for this. Once the truth genie is out there is no way of returning it. All the persecutions that are arraigned against this new idea and make no mistake there will be very many both fair and foul these cannot overcome; because truth is truth is truth. It has been around since 1992 and as yet none has seen a flaw in the concept - a bold claim - the only objection is that is will opposed by the movers and shakers of the corporations.

What follows is an outline of an alternative to this religion of greed.

 

E.S.O.P. (Employee Share Ownership Plan)

This gives the employees, through a Government National Bank, the responsibility to buy up 90% of the company shares. However, this implies that the government buys up the remaining 10% which is a golden share, held directly by government and none other, any decision must include this golden share. As it is almost impossible to get complete unanimity a 75% vote carries. The implication of this means that 5% of the dissenters need to be won over.

This is how ESOP works. In the CO system the works council take out a loan from the National Bank, a business plan is drawn up and after about five the loan is paid back to the bank. Further details see my pamphlet, third edition: New Governance - A Necessity‚ appendix A. Rather like the Tower Colliery take over in 1994.

As we have already indicated, the government would need to pass at least one Act to establish the CO system: this would include a detailed examination of a company's books and future plans.

Every company has its Works Council, this has been common practice for many years. Thus in effect the Works Council now own and therefore control the company.

The Works Council is equally divided into three areas 1/ Producers, 2/ Consumers (customers), 3/ Environmentalists. All are employees of the company; working in their normal manner. In the case of 2: Consumers, they have the needs of the consumers (customers), in mind, they will work for quality, and quantity, plus the price of the product: in he case of 1: Producers they will work for fair working conditions and pay: in the case of 3: [the] Environmentalists they will ensure, as far as possible, the whole set up is pollution free, but they also represent the company to the wider world including a presence in the second chamber, of this more later in this contribution. In all three areas consultants may be brought in for impartial advice; but do not have a vote in any decisions. This will ensure the employees are in control.

We shall call this system CITIZEN'S OWNERSHIP.

 

Political Considerations

Recent history teaches us the only difference between the parties is on domestic matters. Whereas as the above system is universally adopted, the causes of war and here we include trade wars, will be resolved. To illustrate: if this system were in place, for example, Iraq, the terrorist cause would be forestalled by a fair sharing of the wealth among the ordinary people, why stop at Iraq? In Venezuela the President has decreed that idle firms‚ ie companies which have been shut down are being taken over by cooperatives drawn from the local people.

Then again, what of all the exploitation of the native population by these corporations others on this website have shown?

We look in horror at the gigantic sums spent on waging war. Let us get these numbers into perspective. They represent the BTTS (Blood & Toil & Tears & Sweat) of billons of ordinary people; think of the hard graft of mining for tin, iron, copper, ore and coal, again think of the harvesting raw cotton under the tropical sun and countless other commodities that go towards the manufacture of weapons of war, the early stage of a gun barrel is glowing a bright yellow heat. And for what purpose? These sort of things I have experienced: working inside a cement kiln as a welder, more than once I have been brought out unconscious over come by the heat.

Having said that, with such a system throughout the nation or country, the political party with all its feckless feuding is bypassed.‚ And yet the only way to enact legislation is through a government that is the child of a political party. Clearly what is needed is a political party whose main thrust is to promote CO (Citizens‚ Ownership) and to achieve this is probably a revamped Labour Party. This will be light years away from the current New Labour. This is quite possible: a moments reflection tells us New Labour would make Keir Hardy turn in his grave.

 

Funding Considerations

Perhaps one of the first things a new Government would do is to establish a National Bank, the second to publicise their aims via a free newspapers; because be quite sure all sorts of opposition will be levelled at this new thinking by the media and their cohorts inside and outside the law. Others on this website could envisage it happening.

Because wealth will be controlled by our people, it follows they are the best people to fund it and the main source of revenue must be corporation tax - it cannot be any other; from this it is implied income and VAT along with most other taxes; these are phased out as and when they become redundant, for example, to discourage smoking and drinking the taxes are retained, but the tax on fuel will go.

It is doubtful if any government have a clear idea of that our people's wants and desires are. There are tried and tested ways of finding out what they are through market surveys, the same mechanism could employed to find out what they are.

For example. Would congestion be eased by a reduction of fares in public transport, thus making not worth while owning a car; or even free transport in city centres, free underground services, obviously, the numbers of buses and trains must be increased. Such a step would mean a huge building programme of buses, underground and surface trains; as to the question. "Where will the money come from?" None other than the National Bank, with interest free loans, but charging only nominal administration fees.

Clearly, this will create jobs in the U.K. all based on the CO system. A far cry from what appears to be happening today with a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) probably from China, coining money from the British taxpayer. The NHS are short on funding not only in hospitals but also in our teaching hospitals, but here a warning: on accepting a place as a student s/he also commits themselves into staying in the UK for a given time. The same proviso also applies to other disciplines in our universities at the same time these universities are adequately funded.

All this bypasses the controversy on student loans: if a student is prepared to take our money to develop talents, then clearly staying in the UK is pay back time.

Research needs to be done on paying for the enhanced life style of our people.


On Housing

There is a dire shortage of affordable housing, so much so that local authorities insist that the developer shall build a number of affordable houses in the contract. Such a requirement would not necessary if the developer operated under the CO system; indeed the consumer element would ensure these homes were built in adequate numbers. In the UK there is a pattern of owner-occupiers but in the CO system the procedure is different.

The prospective buyer borrows from the National Bank at no interest charges but only administration fees. S/he puts in a contract for the local CO builder to build the property and pays a nominal rent or fee for its maintenance, the reason for this proviso is that as people get older maintaining a property becomes an increasing chore.

The community has done the owner a great service, via the Bank, through a no interest loan; therefore when the property becomes vacant through death or moving into a retirement home (which is free). The property reverts back to the community who then lets it to another tenant or occupier. However, the former owner can nominate another to take over his or her former home - provided that someone is not in desperate need of a home.

This procedure ensures a single person cannot occupy a large house when others in the community are living in cramped conditions.

The tripartite concept extends throughout the CO system. Going to law can be very expensive; much injustice is done because the plaintiff is frightened off by the costs; this is especially true when the poor suffer at the hands of those wielding a greater legal weight.

The CO system would employ the ombudsman far more whose fees would be nominal and it should be possible these be paid by The Treasury, depending on the circumstances. If the ombudsman cannot decide and the whole paraphernalia of the law in called in then the costs are set to a sum the poorest litigant can afford.


The Environment

Earlier in this contribution there is a hint on the part played by the environmental elements. The basic industries are the backbone of any country. Therefore it follows that the environmental elements of these should have seats in the second chamber. Remember the second chamber has a voice on foreign policy and these basic industries also have international links.

 

Albert Rowland
August 2005


Postscript

For Citizens‚ Ownership (CO) to be established in the United Kingdom or in any other country it will need legislation. At least a Government controlled National Bank. Another enabling Act that gives powers to a least 80% of a company's employees to legalise an ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan) and buy out their company and with the Works Council controlling the company.

It will be seen the Works Council take over the duties of the directors board. All this is set out to comply with the three elements regulations above.

Such a system would run up against opposition as we already indicated above in ["The Plot to Seize the White House"]. One cry would be "Freedom". This could interpreted as freedom to exploit our fellow men. There must be a compulsorily component in this: but need we worry overmuch about it: we have conscription and here men pay for it with their lives. This is by far a greater tragedy for the man and his loved ones than the transferring the control of wealth from one pocket into another. The former owners will not be left destitute. Again, the compulsorily acquisition of land is common place in today's society.

As to whether the "TRIBUNE" Group of our Members of Parliament could adopt this concept this as one of the planks of their platform remains to be to be seen. CO is different from the current economic world wide system.

Turning to Europe, we have the European Works Councils (EWC). Their operative word is founded upon a partnership principle between employers/employees and judging from the strife it would better to write employees v employers. It is not hard to see the main cause of this hostility. The major driving purpose of the limited liability company is "shareholder value" - all else takes second place, as noted above.

The sins of the multinational corporations are well documented by more able pens other than mine. It is their greed which has caused the downfall of the capitalist system. We are not much forward with Mondragon. The Communist Party have organised labour in their own fashion. Although the workers are told "it is your company" the ordinary people have far too little control over the working conditions, although the pay is reasonable. It is on record that workers in a private firm see little or no difference than working for the Mondragon (Source."The Myth of Mondragon" Page122).

The reason for this is easy to ascertain .The same philosophy is the common factor to both. Quite probably workers in the Soviet Union had similar conditions to that exists in Mondragon. Indeed, far from being a employees paradise, there have been strikes at Mondragon.

We now enumerate the humane characterises of the CO system. For the first time in history ordinary people will have a voice in the creation of their wealth. True, such a voice will need to be vigorously expressed by the individual and those whose thinking are on similar lines and if reason and common sense are on their side the rest of the population will support them.

The way to achieve this is by delegates from the environmental elements of our basic industries having seats in the second chamber. These are from the very heart of our citizens not subject to any party whip, or big business lobby, or even from the TUC. Granted, they need to have access for expert opinion from whatever quarter it may come. This is economic democracy, from this premise could it be questioned. Do we need the political party system at all?

When all parties use the same economic system small wonder that they all have similar policies but cut the cake in different proportions. However, it must be said that had the Conservatives‚ gained power in the last election, life would have been much harder for our poor and the NHS would have been gutted. True, a central government is a necessity, if it only to organise the heart beat of the nation and keep life running smoothly, to curb our wrongdoers and collect taxes.

We need to ask; "For what purpose shall taxes be used?" A CO regime would need to find out exactly what our citizens‚ aspirations are. One way to do this is to use the tried and tested method of a market survey in which people tick a multi-choice questionnaire and to include space for positive comments.

It must be said that the environmental elements do far more than act as pollution watchdogs. At home, they are very much an integral part of company and are able to give an impartial judgement between the producer and consumer elements. They would be in touch with their similar counterparts overseas, remember these are ordinary citizens talking to other ordinary citizens.

By being on good terms with similar industries overseas they are able to act as unofficial negotiators between governments thus defusing any tensions that may arise.

If we had a CO set up in place today it is doubtful we would have had the Iraq debacle: with a possible repeat debacle in Iran. A CO regime would have realised oil and the fossil fuels were running out and greater effort would be made into the production of renewable energy.

Could the climate change be halted? With a realistic tackling of the causes of climate change, even this meant a wholesale reforestation in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe? The core philosophy of CO is the stewardship of our environment. This is totally different from the greediness of the capitalist economy; where "Every man for himself and the devil take hindmost" rules. There are some who may feel this requires the essential factor of religion; as a practising Quaker I disagree. That we should have a spiritual input I could not agree more: what must be avoided is the uncompromising fundamentalist fanatics who often resort to violence.

Albert Rowland
January 2006

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