[In the 'Hiroshima+66, Detroit+Welfare' comment stream RR reader Michael Rogers introduced us to the John Lewis Partnership, a unique type of worker owned/controlled corporation that has a ‘constitution’ as its organizing and operating policy document – let’s call it a Constitutional Partnership Corporation (CPC). MichaelR launched a comment thread that expanded its examination. RR readers are familiar with my concern about the growth of US un(der)employment which I project to be over 70 million by the end of this decade. This will call for massive wealth redistribution which I have discussed extensively in these pages and in my Union column (here). I introduced the Non-Profit Service Corporation (NPSC) as a stake in the ground for starting a discussion about how to accomplish such wealth redistribution. I have elevated MichaelR’s thoughtful and extended comment into a post of its own to invite development (integration?) of his expanded CPC and the NPSC ideas. For continuity, please see the 'Hiroshima' comment thread. gjr]
Since when has complex design ever stopped us? We flew to the moon, built the Panama Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, and the modern economy that has brought security to billions worldwide for gosh sakes.
I am not happy with (the John Lewis Partnership) constitution either -- not a tight feedback system as I see it. I also am not sure I see robust checks and balances or separation of powers in their design. However, they do seem to have created a stable management system that has a good deal of accountability built in, and appears to have legitimacy in the eyes of at least the long-term partners.
I think that a system like this applied to Detroit would necessitate the elimination of unions and the imposition of personal responsibility on the individual worker level so that working partners would need to focus on the efficiency of their unit in particular, and the coordination of the entire company in general, in order to get their wage or benefit desires fulfilled. Also, the more self-managing a unit was, the fewer managers are needed and thus more resources are available for higher wages/benefits or shorter work weeks.
There might also be the possibility of passing legislation where Industrial Democratic Incorporations are giving special tax-exempt (or at least tax reduced) status and long-desired deregulation could be achieved with bi-partisan support based on the premise that an Industrial Democratic Corporation would have a self-regulating, tight feedback design and does not need the regulatory oversight that an open loop control, traditional corporate management system does.
This could be extended to a drastic reduction in OSHA and Labor Law interference which were all predicated on an adversarial worker/management dynamic. When workers have the right to redress their grievances within an internal structure then the need of a nanny state to meddle is reduced if not eliminated.
It might also be possible to achieve a privatization of Social Security as the accountable and elected corporate officials in the pension division of the company would act as professional managers of the retirement portfolio of the partners thus reducing the likelihood of waste, graft, or stupidity diminishing the value of the portfolio -- and the portfolio manager who achieved a 55 year retirement age would be carried around the company on gilded litters as if he were a conquering Roman general.
The financing to build these companies could come from tax free government bonds which would create a tax advantages investment vehicle for the "1%" so that, rather than worrying about taxing the rich, the left could be focused on convincing them to invest.
You spoke of the ephemeral nature of our monetary system and the disconnect from anything of tangible value. I have even imagined the possibility of the growth of a stock standard, where the bonds of self-regulating companies become a currency of value. Where the stock of smart, well-run companies with solid markets, low levels of debt, and abundant tangible assets are traded at a premium and the bonds of poorly run companies with speculative markets and highly leveraged are discounted to their true market value -- these bonds would become the currency of trade and the ability of government to reduce or manipulate their value is eliminated.