Ideas for change: 8 steps to a new economy

what then must we doIn his latest book What Then Must We Do, Gar Alperovitz sets out the practical and demonstrable strategies for overturning the current economic system and creating one which democratises the ownership of wealth.

His specific ingredients are:

  1. The use of city, school, hospital, university and other purchasing power to help stabilise jobs in a manner that both is anchored and democratised in terms of ownership and also benefits (and improves the economy of) low income neighbourhoods and local small and medium sized businesses. Precedents include the kinds of things now happening or being explored in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington DC and many other cities – and especially the use of public and quasi-public (nonprofit hospitals and universities) contracts to add leverage to the effort.
  1. The use of public and quasi public land trusts (both for housing and also for commercial development) to capture development profits for community use and to prevent gentrification – as is happening in Irvine, California; Sarasota County, Florida; North Camden, New Jersey; Austin, Texas; Las Vegas and many other places.
  1. An all-out attack on the absurdly wasteful and costly giveaways that corporations often extract from local governments. Such giveaways are commonly used to entice corporations to move into the economy but all too often the firms quickly leave or threaten to leave unless new or renewed subsidies are provided.
  1. The use of community benefit strategies – and community organising, backed also by labour unions – not just to achieve traditional development but also, where possible, to move new efforts forward that democratize the economy (thereby also helping stabilise the tax base that supports public services).


Community wealth building programme in Cleveland, Ohio

5. The exploration of further ways for cities to make money and thereby offset costs and taxpayer burdens. Examples of this approach can be seen in many land ownership efforts; the nearly 700 projects in cities and counties that capture methane from garbage, turning it into jobs, revenue and electricity; public ownership and other new ownership ideaa and practices now emerging in many cites.

6. Taking over and municipalizing electric utilities to improve services, reduce costs (in line with the experience of roughly 2000 existing public utilities), and secure added revenues in the city. Check out the hard-fought struggle to muncipalise the electricity in Boulder Colorado and the 16 new public utilities in cities across the US.

7. Improving the local economy through the development of local municpalised internet and cable services

8. Expanding ‘participatory lease’ arrangements that make money for the city through ownership of other forms of property and in ways other than taxation (Developers pay the public landlord a yearly agreed rent and an additional amount pegged to project performance based on criteria like private projects and gross income).

  •  For more ideas see the What Then Must We Do website.





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