Community Coops – Addressing and solving the issues of Consumer Cooperatives

Community Coops

Community Coops

Consumer cooperatives provide millions of people in Cascadia and alternative to the standard Capitalist model. While they act in a way more beneficial to the average member of the working class they still share many of the same issues that Capitalist firms do.

Consumer Cooperatives operate the way most firms do in a market economy but are owned and operated by the consumers themselves rather than a private Capitalist or a Board of Directors. This enables consumers to work directly in their own interests often receiving a rebate at the end of the year rather than centralizing wealth into the hands of a small group of the Capitalist class.

Issues:

Buy ins

Since Consumer Cooperatives do not receive investment from a pool of private investors, with the intent of exploiting as much surplus labor as possible, raising capital presents issues. Many consumer cooperatives raise capital via a process known as a buy in. This raises similar issues that Capitalism does in that the cooperative is inaccessible to those who cannot afford the membership cost.

Externalization of Costs

Consumer Cooperatives often allow people that do not live in the immediate community to become members of the cooperative. This allows for the same exact externalization of costs that is allowed for under Capitalism.

For example, a member of a Consumer Cooperative could vote to lower the wages of the workers in a particular firm and never have to directly deal with the consequences of such actions increased crime, homelessness, etc. This could also apply to issues such as pollution.

A proposal for Community Cooperatives

These problems can be solved by the creation of what I have termed Community Cooperatives. These cooperatives would operate similarly to Consumer Cooperatives but membership would be issued according to residency in a particular locality.

Keep in mind that this does not, per say, exclude consumers that are non-members from patronizing these firms. There are many Consumer Cooperatives, as they exist, that allow non-members to do so. Non-members are only excluded from rebates and decision making. While cooperatives could implement such policy it would ultimately work against their own interests as it would reduce the total rebate.

I propose that communities assess needs (needs being defined by demand so strong that a good or service does not require profit incentivization) and implement these cooperatives where they can. Anything from grocery stores to internet access to medical clinics to electricity to automotive repair shops could fall within this category.

Through Community Cooperatives individuals and communities could take the money and resources that would normally be extracted by the Capitalist class and use them how they see fit.

Big thanks to all my patron supporters for making this and future articles possible.

COMMENTS

  • K Baron

    I like it a lot. Some questions:

    Say my county council identifies my area of the county as a “food desert” (it is). They want to create a grocery store. If everyone in the area is given a voting share in the co-op, but there is no buy-in required, where will the start-up funds come from to create the store?

    I happen to think “taxes” is the logical answer, but that’s too “statist” for some people.

    • >where will the start-up funds come from to create the store?

      I was intentionally vague on this point because I didn’t want to be perspective. Different situations merit different solutions and these should largely be determined by those who live in the region.

      However I happen to think the best response to this issue is the establishment of a Cooperative banking firm that would lend with the intention of creating cooperatives. Bernie Sanders has made proposals along these lines. Another solution is better utilization of credit unions. Members of a credit union could band together and force funding of such projects.

      Run of the mill lending is another solution. The costs of products would just have to be raised in order to adjust for repayment. Though this is the lest desirable.

      Taxes could be used to fund such projects but we would have to ensure that the firm would operate independently from the state. We don’t want the state apparatus interjecting it’s desires into the decision making process and that would be my fear of using tax dollars. Outside of that I really don’t take issue with it.

      As a side note a grocery store doesn’t make something not a food desert you’d need a community garden to take care of that 😉

      • K Baron

        Hmm, My credit union is MUCH too conservative to want to do anything like that. You’re likely right that a separate type of lending institution would be needed for this.

        And we already have a community garden. The “barriers to entry” for that are much, much lower.

        Still, I like the idea a lot. Another alternative: have you also considered a “multi-stakeholder cooperative” as described by Morris Altman, which is a coop where workers, customers, and suppliers all have votes. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228272144_History_and_Theory_of_Cooperatives

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