What will it take for capitalism to end? That was the topic in a Clubhouse room Saturday, the new phone-based social media platform for spontaneous, real time curated voice conversations set up like panels at a conference, with speakers and audience. It’s attracted more than a million people in just a few weeks and is growing virally.
Because I co-founded SOCAP and was an early impact investor, I was asked to come on stage as a speaker; one of the fun things about Clubhouse is the non-hierarchical architecture; an audience member can become a speaker, say what they have to say, and rejoin the audience.
There were more than 400 people in the “room” (you can click on their photos and see their profiles, their Instagram, etc). The energy was high. Finding a way to end capitalism, a system that victimizes and commodifies us, that sees your grandmother as an expendable human resource, is a popular topic.
I felt at home; it’s something I’ve been focusing on for more than 20 years. At Faith+Finance we are trying to bring about an economy of interdependence to replace the maskless economy of rugged individualism that’s killing us. We think people of faith, with a grounding in valuing of their neighbor can play an increasingly valuable role in that transition from rapacious capitalism to a Gospel economy.
The realization that capitalism is working for the one percent and working against the rest of us has only grown during the pandemic, as seen by the rapidly increasing number of successful union elections that are cropping up; collectively standing up to mega corporations through organizing is now a trend.
Sessions like the one I was asked to speak at are also increasing. People increasingly want a way out of the oppressive economic system we are immersed in. We are immersed against our will, stuck on Facebook because our friends are there, but knowing we are victims of social media platforms that foment division in order to make more money through greater engagement.
“So what can be done about capitalism,” I was asked. “What’s working to change it?”
I had a pretty good answer. I’ve been doing a comparative analysis of the new wave of investment funds set up to invest in the new breed of cooperatives and other forms of shared ownership. (A room by our partners at Start.coop explaining the new co-op movement the next day had even more people; more than 500). One reason the movement of employee ownership is growing is something called the Silver Tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of businesses owned by Boomers whose children don’t want the family business often can’t find a buyer and may just have to close. Groups like Project Equity have raised funds to invest in business conversions and there are dozens of other new funds, all of which realize ownership matters, and that if everybody is an owner, no one is a commodity, an exploitable human resource to serve corporate shareholders. New style co-ops have streamlined governance so that they are not immersed in endless searches for consensus to make business decisions; they can be as efficient as ordinary businesses. The difference is that everyone creating the value shares in the profits and the growth in the businesses value. That’s one part of what an economy of interdependence is: everyone creating the value shares in the value.
In the next post I will highlight an even more important change inside of these funds: in each of them the power of capital itself is reduced and the investors’ and the collective of entrepreneurs’ power is increased. There is more equality, more reciprocity, between capital and worker-owner in explicit ways that will matter more over time. The terms of engagement between investor and investee are being rewritten, and that’s even more significant.