-- Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be, 1976, p.186
Q u e s t i o n s & A n s w e r s , i n D e t a i l
~ T H E S O L U T I O N , P A R T O N E ~
Q. In a Cooperative Society, if work no longer occurs in the context of profit-based corporations which control us, how would work be structured so that we control the economy, and thus we become the powerholders?
A. In organizing ourselves as a Cooperative Society, the concept of the "corporation" is obviously obsolete. The basic social structure that would replace the corporate system is called the Cooperative Industrial Framework. Here's how it would work:
In One Country
Production of goods (and provision of services) occurs democratically, from the ground up, in offices, plants, and all other workplaces around the country. For example, suppose there are one-thousand people working at baking plant #10 in Des Moines, Iowa. They manufacture bread, rolls, and pastries. All the people who work at this plant would actually vote, directly, for their plant representative (every other baking plant around the country would similarly vote for their plant representative). Then, this same group of one-thousand workers in Des Moines, in combination with all the workers in all the other baking plants in their region, would also directly vote for a regional baking representative, to supervise and coordinate baking production for that entire region (the Northeast, or Southwest, for example). Then, this same group of one-thousand people in Des Moines, in combination with all the workers in all the other baking plants across the country, would directly vote for a national baking representative, to supervise and coordinate baking production for the entire country.
This example uses the baking industry, but the process would work identically in every industry and profession. You see that instead of political representatives, the nation would have an "industrial" government, based on economic activity--issues of work, hours, conditions, shifts, production, distribution, technology use, and related matters. Representation for community and cultural affairs would be similarly structured. People who stay at home to raise children and manage the household would be recognized for their engagement in this kind of activity, and would be similarly represented.
And I hope you've noticed that every single layer of representation is directly voted on by the workers in the respective industry...by the people! Power would flow in the exact opposite direction than it does now--bottom up, instead of top down! Managers would not be hired by owners or bosses from the top down, they would be voted in from the BOTTOM UP!
This puts real and actual control of the economy in the hands of the people.
This is not a republican form of government, as we have now in the United States, this is absolute direct democracy! Of course, workers can recall any representative who is not performing to their satisfaction. Recall was a cooperative principle long before Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected in California!
In All Countries
States (of the Union) are mentioned in my CIF example, above, but regions or in fact any kind of geographic demarcation can just as easily be substituted. We can speak, for example, not of baking plant #10 in Des Moines, Iowa, but Mid-West baking plant #10 in the United States, and eastern province baking plant #451 in China. Each baking plant could have not merely a number, but its own name, as well, perhaps to honor a revered individual, principle, or aspect of nature.
Thus, while the CIF model as presented above is applied to a nation, one of the virtues of the CIF concept is its apparent scalability. Thus, it can be applied globally; polling and other information-gathering methodologies to assess needs amongst various populations globally will determine resource allocation. Shortages or competing claims for resource-intensive goods (a Stradivarius violin, say, or a fine diamond, or a bleeding-edge computer system) can be adjudicated via the mechanism of the "Needs Committee."
In all, the Cooperative Industrial Framework is one of the strongest points of the O.H.F. perspective and elements in its program, for reasons as just partially described of:
Q. How would a Cooperative Society work, in practice?
A. Here is a basic outline: Goods and services required or desired, whether by individuals, communities, or the larger society, are contributed freely by the workers in the industry appropriate to the need. Then, in turn, those workers freely take the goods and services they need, from the appropriate industry. Suppose, for example, that you're a baker. When people in your community need baked goods they will come to you, and you will supply them with your baked goods, free of charge. Perhaps several of the people who enjoy your baked creations work in an automobile plant. When you need a new automobile you will go the automobile plant (or a local auto distributor) and you will take a new car, without charge. Maybe another of your takers manufactures furniture, either in a plant or by hand in a shop. When you need a new dining room set you'll go to a furniture store, perhaps the one your patron works in, and you'll select and receive the dining room set you want. Likewise, when the individuals who make furniture require a new home or apartment they'll select one from the available supply, built by the workers in the construction industry. And when those (or other) construction workers require or want a new washing machine they'll select and receive one from their local appliance store. And the people who build appliances will similarly receive the goods and services they need from the appropriate industry, free of charge. And so on, and so on.
No individual, shop, factory, or industry will demand or require "money," "payment," or a "fee" to perform, provide, or render their contribution, in a cooperative system. Goods are distributed and services rendered with no currency transfer of any kind. In fact, there is no currency. This is not a barter system, but a love-based system whereby people get what they need, regardless of their contribution. Of course, we anticipate that in this truly human-oriented social environment, free of the many economic, educational, and other constraints of a profit-based system, the overwhelming majority of people will want to, and will, fully develop their talents, and contribute to their neighbors, community, society, and world.As you can see, this is a dramatically different way of doing things, and of viewing other people, than we're used to in our money-centered capitalist world. In a Cooperative Society, we wouldn't have to live continually preoccupied with thoughts of money; nor would people's needs go dramatically unfilled, as often happens, now. We would work, produce, create, and live for the right reasons, instead of doing so for a thousand of the wrong reasons, such as fear of poverty, for example.
At the moment, as a practical matter, I encourage you to take freely from the resources of this website; I similarly encourage you to give away the product of your own labor, whatever that may be, as much as you can. In this way, we can wean people off the idea that an obsession with, and a society based on, money, and its accompanying mental slavery, is the only way to "be" in this world!
Q. What if free access to goods and services proved unfeasible?
A. The feasibility of free access to goods and services is a basic assumption of the Cooperative program, based on facts such as:
However, the possibility that free access may require time to develop after the revolutionary change, and may not be immediately applicable, is why this point is not one of the core principals required for membership in O.H.F..
And an alternate access model has been proposed, that of "labor vouchers." These vouchers function as a form of payment for work performed, but they are based directly on the amount of work someone performs, disallowing exploitation, and disallowing the accumulation of vast wealth without real work performed. So, for example, to earn a million labor vouchers, one will have to perform a million hours of work. The vouchers function in a completely different way than money does under a money-and-profit system, and of course the larger social and economic context under which labor vouchers would be used would be dramatically different, as well.
Q. How would we determine what goods and services people want?
A. Also included in the new "Cooperative Industrial Framework" would be departments to:
The six functions above do not typically fall under the auspices of, or require as such, a "congress." They fall, instead, to one or more planning offices or technical departments. It might make more sense for the sixth function, adjudication of competing claims for resources, to occur under a community or neighborhood-based committee or group.
Q. What if the majority democratically votes for a resource allocation which does not address the stated needs of certain people or groups? Isn't there a potential tension in trying to decide resource allocations and make social decisions based on democracy and need?
A. There could be, but we believe it will be minimized or otherwise addressed by the way the new system will be structured.
People or groups desiring or needing this or that resource allocation can make their case prior to voting using the free media, such as television, radio, print, and/or the Internet. Resource allocation will then be democratically decided upon. Since all citizens will be inculcated with the love ethic from childhood onward, strong social reinforcement and encouragement will exist to pay attention and show sensitivity to the stated needs of fellow citizens, and it is likely that the voting public will do so.
However, if the stated need of a person or group is not met by a particular resource allocation, that person or group will have options. They can:
Q. Capitalism is lauded, in part, for its entrepreneurism, which is seen as a dynamic and necessary part of society, and driver of economic activity. What will happen to entrepreneurs and entrepeneurism in a Cooperative Society?
A. There is no reason that they, and it, should not continue to exist, and they likely would. Fundamentally, entrepeneurism is the impulse by individuals to gather resources to manufacture and/or provide a good or service, often either a new, previously unknown product or service, or one that is manufactured or provided in a new way. Such dynamism would presumably be welcomed under any form of social organization, as it provides the twin benefits of satisfaction of the individual drive for achievement and social recognition, and goods and services society requires.
Of course, there must and will be key differences between our present entrepeneurism under capitalism, and that within the context of a love-oriented cooperative society. These differences will be necessary to reflect and embody the dramatically different system of values and attendant social operation of the new society, though none of these differences should impinge on the dynamism that is associated with entrepeneurism.
(Further information pending.)
Q. Since a Cooperative Society would be moneyless, what would motivate people to work?
A. Under a cooperative system, each of us would continue to do our jobs and produce products and services as before (after selecting a job we really cared about), but our reasons , our motivations, for work would change: we would produce, not as slaves, to blindly earn untold amounts of profit for a company, but instead:
A powerful, amazing--and amazingly simple, new paradigm of work!
This new way of doing things would not only provide for our needs, and thus bring a complete and permanent end to problems like lack of health care, hunger, homelessness, and indeed poverty, itself, but would also greatly simplify our lives. Indeed, it would bring about the kind of simplicity in living that so many of us crave today--but which seems--and is--absolutely impossible to achieve under the stressful, complicated, and slave-like system of capitalism, and its attendant conditions of life and work.
Join the movement of hope, optimism, and realistic social change, the movement for a Cooperative Society--and let's change all this--together!
(This F.A.Q. response remains under construction.)
Q. Under a cooperative system, will all work be voluntary?
A. No society can survive unless everyone, or most people, work. However, under a cooperative system the character of work will undergo such transformation that, believe it or not, unlike the present day, people will actually want to work.
The O.H.F. perspective and program are rooted in realistic conceptions of revolutionary change. "Realistic" meaning 1.) consistent with what our evolutionary development over millions of years has made us, 2.) not so far afield from the system we'll just be coming from, capitalism, so as to be implausible or unworkable, and 3.) likewise, not inordinately far afield from at least a basic conception of "human nature" or our most basic set of needs as humans.
With regard to #2, and perhaps #3, above, part of what is meant is that the proposals that comprise the O.H.F. program go as far as required to effect the required revolutionary changes--but no farther.
Many other revolutionary parties and organizations assign themselves no such parameters. They routinely promulgate notions that are often more about ideology, frequently Marxist, and preference than reality, some pertinent to theory; others to practice. For example, regarding the practices of a cooperative society, some groups will assert that "all work will be voluntary." This notion is obviously as wishful as it is unworkable, and it does not represent the O.H.F. view.
Adherents of this philosophy, for example, would likely agree with the following actual argument sent to me by a member of the WSP, a group advocating a new society with a strong strain of advocacy in its ranks of this notion of "voluntary work":
"...my bike was also made, just like the car, out of metal extracted from a stinky dangerous mine ... if no one wants to go down a stinky mine ... then yes ... society would have to go without the metal, end of argument, unless they could remotivate themselves at future elections."
The writer in this example cites bicycles. However, as we know, bicycles are not the only good made of metal. Suppose that, in fact, there was little or no metal available since no one wanted to work in the occupation of mining, and because all work was voluntary, there was no social mechanism in place to ensure that somehow this important work got done. What, then, if the child of the writer became ill and required medical equipment made in whole or part of metal that was unavailable per a dominant "voluntary work" policy?
Should his child remain ill or possibly even die until uncooperative people "remotivate" themselves, as the writer suggests?
Remaining on the medical theme, what of ill persons, even terminal patients, who can't have their surgery because there aren't enough metal surgical instruments available, subsequent to a "voluntary work" policy? A new society so ill-planned could likely find itself with a copious supply of writers, poets, musicians, and athletes, as well as an equally large body of persons content simply to live la dolce vita, the sweet life, but precious few persons willing to perform, even in a shared fashion, the work traditionally considered less attractive.
A society operating in this manner would likely extinguish itself in months rather than years; it would implode, disintegrate, or otherwise "voluntary" itself out of existence.
Advocacy of the untenable, and indeed, implausible policy of "voluntary work" finds it root in the ugly reality of work under capitalism, which is coerced, usually unrelated to our interests, personality, skills, or goals, low-paying, and in the case of low-income, blue-collar, or dirty jobs, often stigmatized. Positing the notion of voluntary work is a comprehensible reaction to the deleterious, alienated, and broadly injurious work environment of today under capitalism; it is seen as an approach to work that represents and embodies freedom and dignity. An absolute counterpoint to capitalist work.
However, a model of "voluntary work" represents a point on the extreme other end of the work spectrum, and throws the baby out with the bath water. Work under capitalism suffers many deficits as just characterized and described, and the new Cooperative Society must and will rectify this. However, the need for everyone to work will likely remain, especially in a future society with a global population that could reach 10 billion people, all of whom will have multiple and sometimes complex needs, and have them unceasingly over their entire lifetimes.
Thus, everyone will have to pitch in, to ensure that everyone else's needs, and in some measure their wants, are met, and the new society thus succeeds.
The debate over voluntary work is actually a non-problem, provided the proper steps are taken within the framework of the Cooperative Society: if people are inculcated from birth with the notion that they must work to contribute to society, which is really a large part of what a cooperative paradigm is all about, mutual assistance in what is clearly supposed to be a group or "collectivist," not individualist framework, then people likely will work, even in dirty or undesirable jobs. Which in some cases there will be fewer of, anyway, because of technology. Indeed, in a cooperative system safety and comfort in the workplace would comprise key, not secondary or tertiary, considerations, and its mine workers would simply not find themselves in a "stinky" working environment.
Also, the stigma presently associated with low-paying, blue-collar, or dirty jobs will be gone, as will the issue of low pay, itself, all of which will make it likely that people will work all jobs. Moreover, under a cooperative system we will all...cooperate...by sharing the less pleasant jobs: I'll work on the sanitation truck today; you, tomorrow. This will "bring up the rear" in terms of people being willing to work.
(The relevant psychological mechanisms implicitly involved in people's motivation to work would likely be that much more developed and effective, if taught from birth and continually reinforced afterward in their most explicit form: love, which is, in part, why agape, or "brotherly love" is an official part of the O.H.F. program.)
The combination of all the above factors (and others not yet discussed here), will result in all work being done. This is a far more effective, realistic, and sophisticated answer than the unrealistic, in fact anti-cooperative notion of "voluntary work." Voluntary work is the evil twin of the capitalist work ethic: the latter is based on the pathological egotism (and market requirements) of the capitalist; the former on the pathological egotism of the worker. Ultimately, what's the difference? They're both expressions of egotism and they both have the power to hurt people.
Voluntary work is an expression of individualism; indeed, in the worst of cases an expression of laziness (within the framework of "individualism," if you wish). And in the case of urgent social needs going unmet because people won’t perform certain jobs, voluntary work then becomes an expression of a socially pathological individualism.
Individualism, especially when it harms the group, speaks to (i.e. reflects and embodies) the spirit of capitalism, not a cooperative system. The latter is defined by everyone in the group actively helping everyone else in the group. Remember--the principal of radical cooperation is rooted in a group or collectivist philosophy, not an individualist one. What's the difference between the worker under a cooperative system refusing to work the mine because it doesn’t suit them for one reason or another, and the pharmaceutical company under capitalism refusing to produce a needed drug because it doesn’t suit them for one reason or another?
Both actions 1.) are substantively rooted in egotism, and, 2. harm other people. In fact, the cooperative scenario is far worse because of what radical cooperation is supposed to be, supposed to represent, in itself, and, in terms of a sharp and dramatic social advance over capitalism. A radical advance economically, and morally. Both suffer if social needs, especially urgent ones, go unmet because uncooperative people haven't yet "re-motivated."
Moreover, what of persons who foresee complete civil liberties under a cooperative system, for example, the right to use drugs? Whether such rights would exist under a cooperative system cannot be known beforehand; however, what can be known in terms of work is that such rights could complicate and likely diminish the plausibility of voluntary work even further: wouldn't marijuana use, for example, given its propensity to induce lethargy in users, produce a sub-class of citizens quite content merely to sit around stoned all day? Any inclination such persons had to share work, especially disagreeable work, would likely diminish if not functionally disappear.
Nor is the principal that all must work like the Leninist "Those who do not work shall not eat" model. Rest assured that under the O.H.F. Cooperative paradigm, everyone will eat. Those few unwilling to share all jobs will undergo a humane social process of some sort, perhaps a kind of "rehab," intended to effectively re-acquaint them with the basic predicates of our new society, its philosophical principles as well as those practical realities that must exist for it to operate, and the concrete injury done to some people when some other people don’t properly contribute.
Moreover, in their own lives some people may experience the injury resulting from the bouts of non-work by the uncooperative, and over time this pain will generalize to the entire population, presumably resulting in a generalized social ethic that all must work.
The writer, above, appears to have indulged a careless impulse, unaware of the abject, unforgiving and unforgivable narcissism of his opinion, that of permitting, indeed, encouraging, glorifying, and approbating the arbitrary, hence, egotistic withholding of cooperative assistance, in this case in the form of needed work, behavior that is so clearly and immediately selfish.
Simply put: One Human Family advocates the establishment of exactly this. Yet, persons wishing to avoid all participation in work that everyone else requires are obviously and simply not cooperating. Thus, O.H.F. cannot support such behavior or any model or paradigm of social organization that permits it, and still assert proper fidelity to its stated mission. And neither can any other organization, or corpus of political theory or belief, that purports or properly intends to support this same mission.
Such support would comprise a logical inconsistency, rooted in the fact that "voluntary work" fundamentally represents an individual, not collective or cooperative, notion and impulse, as stated above.
Erich Fromm states interestingly and powerfully that the principal "production for use" alone is inadequate, because it doesn't state what *kind* of use: healthy or alienated. The same notion and warning can and must be applied to work.
Can and must, especially since as advocates of a sharp transition to a Cooperative Society we're advocating "revolution," i.e. essentially the almost complete transformation of our entire existing system, which will likely include personal upheaval for many, and could even mean loss of life for some (or many), in favor of this purportedly far more economically and *morally* elevated cooperative system. Please recall the O.H.F. principal of "responsible revolution:" in view of this potentially catastrophic nature of revolution, we have a moral obligation to minimize such catastrophe; thus 1.) every new element that we propose must be thought through, and thought through again, and thought through, again, and 2.) every possible element and factor that can be considered, must be seriously considered, whether agape, necessity of work, or anything else.
Q. What are the benefits of this kind of system?
A. Well, in addition to the benefits described throughout this document so far:
In a cooperative system of this type, there would be no more corporations speeding you up, dumbing you down, and impoverishing you. Work would occur to produce what people need and want, to fulfill yourself creatively, and to assist and contribute to your family, community, country, and indeed the world--not to compulsively increase the corporate bottom line, as your corporation feverishly competes with every corporation in its industry, with industry competing against industry, and person competing against person; people, the environment, worker and consumer safety, corporate honesty and ethics, and just about everything else be damned. Since production is for use, not profit, all goods and services are now free--so money is no longer required. No more money requirement to live means no more need for your continual, obsessive preoccupation with wages, taxes, car payments, mortgage payments, school tuition, doctor and hospital fees, HMO deductibles and copayments, long-distance and other telephone charges, ISP bills, leases, rents, tolls, insurance, IRAs, bank accounts, late fees, interest, and on and on and on.
Free from mental and physical slavery, you'll actually sleep at night, in a way you've never slept, before!
Welcome to the first truly human, truly free, society in history!
Welcome to a Cooperative Society!
Q. Is anyone doing this, yet?
A. There are several interesting, relevant, and in some measure powerful examples, then and now, of human beings attempting to 1.) democratically run their own economic affairs, with the objective of satisfaction of human need, not accumulation of profit for a tiny owning class, and 2.) fundamentally inform the operation of their communities or societies with notions, if not principles, of community, caring, and brotherly love.
Firstly, in example of the former: in 1871, in a historic event that has become known as the "Paris Commune," the citizens of Paris, France took over the city, and ran it in cooperative fashion, for the common good.
(We do not advocate the acquisition of power by "taking over." Since democracy and the election process is so developed and valued in the West, citizens can and should express their political sentiment by peacefully voting.)
And much more recently, this year, in fact, an utterly amazing phenomenon has emerged in Argentina: workers in bankrupt companies have been rejecting their pink slips, and refusing to simply go home. Instead, they have kept the companies open and running, continuing production under their own self-management. The disastrous condition of the Argentine economy has prompted these uncommon actions (it's amazing how open-minded we can become when our economic survival is at stake).
Regarding the second phenomenon, above, that of human beings attempting to fully inform the operation of their communities or societies with community, caring, and brotherly love, it is fascinating, revealing, instructive, and likely shocking for many to learn that, in fact, there are many such social groupings in official existence today around the world. Known generally as "intentional communities," they are relatively small-scale at the present time, of course, but are spread across any number of nations, including the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, and others. One such group, for example, is the Huttarian communities or Hutterites, existing principally in several of the plains states in America, and in several regions of Canada. The various Hutterite communities hold all major financial and other resources in common, and distribute them based on the need of individual residents or families at a given time. It's all for one and one for all.
The significant point is that these and similar groups collectively perceive the holes in our present capitalist system so large that one can drive a truck through them, and are trying to fashion a better arrangement for their local communities using a set of principles, political theories, and other conceptual, organizational, and operational tools that are far more advanced than those that are, or can be, associated with our present system, capitalism. Such radical social enhancement and improvement is what O.H.F. advocates and seeks to do on a global scale, in accord with the specific means, methods, and objectives described and delineated at this website.
(Radical, from the Latin meaning to get at the root of.)
And there's more: at present, there are myriad people and institutions around the world giving away the fruit of their labor! Most notable in scale, focus, seriousness, and sincerity is the "open source" movement (link at page bottom, below), which creates excellent-quality computer software and then gives it away!
O.H.F. has compiled a small database (link at left, "The Free Economy") of all these resources--take a look!
Last, for now, here is a list you may find interesting, if not fascinating: it consists of well-known individuals who are (or were, while alive), adherents of the idea of a Cooperative Society in some form:
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: "If we are going to achieve a real equality, the U.S. will have to adopt a modified form of Socialism."
Since a love-assisted Cooperative Society as described at this website is a brand-new paradigm, specific to the O.H.F. program, the individuals above do not, or would not, have conceptualized the new kind of society they sought in terms of this specific new paradigm. They thought and think in terms of, and consequently advocated, a benign, democratic form of socialism, probably only loosely similar to the conception of a Cooperative Society advocated here by O.H.F..
Q. A friend of mine is a Star Trek fan. Future Earth society, as represented on that show, is moneyless, and all human problems have been solved--sounds like what you guys are talking about!
A. Yeah, fans of the Star Trek series have been acquainted for a long time now with the notion of a moneyless society, where the activities of life, including economic activity, have a pointedly humanistic, spiritual, or other kind of non-commercial orientation and goal, and, as the show asserts, all human problems have been solved. The purposes of life and work in the Star Trek universe are noble and cooperative--not shallow and acquisitive.
In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, note the exchange between the Picard and Lily characters:
Picard: "The economics of the future are somewhat different, you see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century."
Lily: "No money! You mean you don't get paid?"
Picard: "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity."
This exchange alludes generally to the new kind of society and social ethic One Human Family is advocating!
Of course, the great debate amongst Trekkies has always been: how did the future Earth civilization suggested by Star Trek actually accomplish its great resolution of all human problems? The series never addresses that question. O.H.F. submits that it must have been ala' a cooperative system as we're suggesting; there is no other way. Would anyone seriously suggest this kind of sublime and superior social evolution occurred under the dog-eat-dog, law-of-the-jungle system of capitalism, a mode of social organization which clearly, aggressively, and unyieldingly emphasizes not human beings, but money, profit, selling, and a compulsive kind of individualism?
When it comes to the desirability of a cooperative system--resistance is futile!
Q. You're criticizing capitalism. But isn't capitalism the same thing as democracy? Don't you need capitalism to have democracy?
A. Absolutely not. This is a huge misconception and point of confusion for many people. Many democratic countries, like the United States, are capitalist, but capitalism and democracy are not the same thing--they don't even refer to the same thing. Capitalism refers to the kind of economic system a country has (i.e. who owns what and for who's benefit), while democracy refers to the governance of a country (i.e. who generally rules and controls that country).
Germany, under Hitler, was certainly not democratic--but it was capitalist. El Salvador, for much of its history, was certainly not democratic--but it was capitalist. China, today, is still not democratic--but it is becoming increasingly capitalist! The two things are simply not the same, and don't necessarily even have any relation to one another.
The inescapable conclusion, simply put, is that you don't need capitalism to have democracy, and a cooperative system, in fact, which is definitely not capitalist at all, would represent the most comprehensive, advanced, and all-encompassing form of democracy ever known to humankind!
One of the biggest problems with capitalism is that where it exists, especially in advanced form, it actually erodes political democracy (i.e. voting for your senators, congressmen, etc.), and by definition is incompatible with economic democracy (i.e. democratic control over our jobs, working conditions, what is produced, what is available and to whom, etc.).
The ultimate point is, as the Mercury space capsule was well-suited to orbit the Earth, but not designed to land on the Moon, so too is the framework of capitalism well-suited for limited social purposes over a given historical period, but simply not designed to accomodate a society based on the superior dual foundation of total democracy, both political and economic, and the highest human principle, love. A cooperative system, however, is designed for precisely this. Therefore, if we want our society to progress to the next, and best, level of social evolution--the best quality democracy, extended to every area of life, not just politics--we simply must move to a cooperative system--period. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816:
"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment…we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their ancestors."
Translation: when the conditions of society change, it's way of organizing and governing itself (expressed and codified through it's constitution), must also change!
Q. What about our civil liberties in a cooperative system--freedoms including privacy, press, religion, expression, even the right to bear arms?
A. We Americans highly value our freedoms, including those you've mentioned. Therefore, we can safely assume that during the period of changeover to a new cooperative system, when we, as a society, are formulating the new constitutional rule(s) for our pending cooperative system, we would make certain to carry over the entire U.S. Bill of Rights, and all the other freedoms enshrined in our present U.S. constitution, as well as in our collective American body of law. In other words, all the freedoms we're used to would exist in our new Cooperative Society, providing we wanted them to--which we most certainly would.
The critical difference is that, in addition to the continuation of these freedoms, a Cooperative Society would give us, for the first time in human history, the one freedom we do not have, and have never had; the one freedom which neither ours, nor any other human society on Earth, has ever had: economic freedom. As we've been discussing, this refers to such things as the freedom to choose our work, the freedom to always have work, freedom from unsafe working conditions, freedom to decide what kinds of products and services our society will produce, and the freedom to easily and naturally acquire those products and services, that we, ourselves, have produced.
Even with the wonderful and essential freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights, which certainly represent a titanic evolution from the incomplete and constrained freedoms enjoyed by peoples around the world in earlier ages, we cannot live fully and freely without that crowning human freedom--economic freedom.
One of the reasons a Cooperative Society is so attractive is that it represents a monumental expansion of human freedom!
Q. Will my taxes rise in a Cooperative Society?
A. You will have no taxes in a Cooperative Society. No one will. They are not required.
In a Cooperative Society, the goods and services required or desired, whether by individuals, communities, or the larger society, are contributed freely by the workers in the industry appropriate to the need. Suppose, for example, that a new road was needed. Unlike now, taxes would not be required to construct the road. If a new road was required or desired, the asphalt industry would simply provide the asphalt, the heavy equipment industry would provide the paving machines or cement mixers, and the workers in the construction trades would contribute their labor to build the road. No one would demand a "fee" to perform their contribution. The road would be built with no currency transfer of any kind.
Q. Then how would those workers live? They'd have no money to pay their bills and expenses.
A. There are no bills and expenses in a Cooperative society! As stated, above, once production of goods and services is for people's use, instead of profit, money is no longer necessary. So just as the construction workers would contribute their labor because a new road was needed, workers in every other industry would do the exact same thing! So, for example, when those construction workers needed groceries they'd go to the supermarket and simply take what they needed, no money required, because the workers in the farming, food production, and food distribution industries would likewise be contributing their labor for the good of everyone! And these workers would, themselves, take the goods and services they needed, from the appropriate industries or their distributors. And so on, and so on.
Remember, a Cooperative Society is...cooperative!
And as you can see, in a Cooperative system taxes are unnecessary.
Q. What Is the relationship between a Cooperative Society, and religious belief?
A. Belief in a Cooperative Society is not meant to replace, or even compete with, belief in God. Many people with a strong religious orientation see belief in a Cooperative Society and belief in God as complementary beliefs. They recognize that, arguably, a Cooperative Society involves a better and closer expression of God-like values than a profit-based society: brotherhood, cooperation, and love!
In fact, because it is believed that Jesus instructed his apostles to "hold all things in common," some scholars consider him the founder, or first practitioner, of the Cooperative idea!
Christians and others might consider the words of Luke in the New Testament:
"All whose faith had drawn them together held everything in common: they would sell their property and possessions and make a general distribution as the need of each required" (Acts 2:44-45)
And the words of St. Ambrose in the 4th century:
"God has ordered all things to be produced so that there should be food in common for all, and that the Earth should be the common possession of all."
To be clear: life in a Cooperative Society would not require us to relinquish our personal possessions. In fact, as this Q &A has been discussing, only under a cooperative system would we finally gain access, readily and naturally, to the material goods we need, want--and are entitled to. The value of the above quote rests in its assertion of the ideals, generally, of common ownership and distribution by need (and in our modern era of titanic abundance, we specify "want," also, not just "need"). The quotation also illustrates that the idea of a cooperative system is very old, and is, in fact, contained right in the New Testament, itself, the most modern portion of the Bible, the part believed to express the principles and teaching of Jesus.
Q. Will a Cooperative Society be a utopia?
A. A Cooperative Society will not solve every single problem of humankind. We'll still have earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes; human beings will still make mistakes in their various individual and social endeavors. But there is no question humans living in a Cooperative Society will have far fewer problems, and the few remaining ones will be the problems we should be working on in the year 2010, like learning how to prevent or mitigate the effects of natural disasters or communicable diseases--instead of still trying to figure out how to feed, cloth, and employ everyone! Given the abundance of resources in this world at this point in history, we are presently working on the wrong set of problems--things we should have solved many years ago. A Cooperative Society will bring us up to date, wiping away many of our most troubling difficulties, in the process.
Q. Is a Cooperative Society some form of socialism?
A. No, not as that word is commonly understood.Through history, that word has been used so many times, by so many people, to mean so many different things, that it has lost all concrete or specific meaning. For example, here is a partial list of the people and nations who, through history, have referred to themselves as "socialist":
The Soviet Union. Cuba. China. North Korea. Slobadan Milosovic. Saddam Hussein. Adolph Hitler.
France. Italy. Sweden. The Socialist Party of the United States. Even United States Congressional Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont considers himself a "socialist," as does United States Congressional Representative Ronald V. Dellums of New York.
So what does socialism mean? You simply can't know, unless the individual, group, or organization using the word specifically explains what they mean, in using it. In part because of this wide divergence in the meaning of this word, O.H.F. de-emphasizes it. We prefer the phrase "cooperative society," and we are careful to describe exactly what we mean.
Our idea of "The Cooperative Society" builds, in certain respects, on what socialism was supposed to be, before the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China distorted and killed it, but our concept of "The Cooperative Society" goes far beyond it, in every respect. Thus, we don't generally use the word socialism, or the terminology of socialism (phrases like "class struggle").
The information scattered throughout this website, and on the Questions & Answers web page you are reading at this moment accurately describes our conception of a Cooperative Society. If by "socialism," therefore, you mean a Cooperative Society exactly as we have described it at this website, which is to say a society, and its economy, controlled democratically by people from the ground up, all the people, and underpinned both in relations between people, and in how the economy operates, by a strong ethic of love, then, according to this definition, and only this definition, you can consider a Cooperative Society generally synonymous with a completely peaceful and democratic form of "socialism." And as you can see, we mean nothing even remotely like the kinds of societies listed above.
Ultimately, we are not advocating "socialism," as commonly understood, but a new social and ethical paradigm or system called Cooperation, Cooperationism, or The Cooperative Society. It is rooted in the love ethic, and calls for the practice of love in interpersonal relations, and the creation of a new, moneyless, cooperative social system, which itself is based on the principal of love.
You could say a Cooperative Society is a kind of genuine socialism, but not socialism as commonly understood. Our program represents a model of people and society that goes beyond, and is somewhat apart from, traditional socialist models, even democratic ones. It is clear that we are talking about a new paradigm of personal and social relations--not merely a new political program, but a new cultural program, as well.. . .
"De Leonists" can examine a comparative treatment of the Cooperative program and the De Leonist program; link at left (De Leonists are persons who adhere to the democratic and peaceful socialist program of Daniel De Leon; this is not the Cooperative program).
Q. How will the transition to a Cooperative society actually occur?
A. Are you aware that Article V of the United States Constitution provides the means for a peaceful, legal change of government? In the United States, Article V would be the actual legal instrument by which we would effect the change to a Cooperative Society. The means might be different in other countries, but we would always seek the peaceful, democratic method.
The best way to embody the complete set of social changes in the United States would be in the form of a brand-new constitution; this document would retain, and build on, the strengths of our nation, while correcting the weaknesses we have been discussing.
Here is the specific 5-step process:
Once the reorganization is complete, the human race will have achieved our crowning achievement as a species! We can begin to enjoy the benefits of a world as we've never seen before!
~ Advocating Economic & Personal Change ~
One Human Family