A democratic economy is an economic philosophy in which people share ownership over a resource and are actively involved in resource management. The socio-economic decisions are made by the managers and shareholders, and stakeholders such as customers, workers, suppliers, neighbors, and the general public. Neoliberalism is unrestrained-market capitalism through deregulation of capital markets and less government involvement. Over the years, liberalizing the economy has proved to be almost impossible. However, in recent years, populists have ruled the economy and favor a liberal social economy (Angel, 2020). A liberal economy is human-friendly and focuses on maximizing social wealth, unlike past economies, which emphasized profit maximization. Evergreen Cooperative embodies democratic principles of community, inclusion, place, good work, democratized ownership, sustainability, and ethical finance, prioritizing the common good and disrupting neoliberalism via regulation, communal ownership, and state interference.
Principles of a Democratic Economy
The community principle is the foundation of a democratic economy and prioritizes the common good. In this, the social nature of human beings connects people individual stressing community importance in a democratic economy. Herman Daly and John Cobb explained that individualism does not exist in the real world and a community approach enables all people to flourish (Kelly & Howard, 2019). A community approach is driven by place, ownership, collaboration, multipliers, workforce, system, and inclusion. Community seeks to create inclusivity in property ownership, employment, institutions and develop under-utilized assets. Secondly, the principle of inclusion includes the excluded population. It focuses on prospering the ordinary people through racial inclusion. Historically, economies have been built on racialized bedrocks. Inclusion means people of all races, gender and wealth are allowed to form unions and give opinions. The principle of community and inclusion cultivate empathy by acknowledging property rights and inclusive human flourishing, creating a society that serves all.
Creating community wealth is localized through the place principle. According to Kelly & Howard, people work together to develop towns and cities they are passionate about (2019). A democratic wealth begins by building social networks, personal skills, environment, and ecological assets locally owned and broadly held to enhance joint success and resilience (Kelly & Howard, 2019). The structures that represent the community include hospitals, schools, universities, and colleges. Also, non-profit organizations help develop the economy by buying and investing locally, generating more wealth. The principle of good work prioritizes quality labor before capital. This principle emphasizes good jobs with decent wages. Political and economic freedoms are applied by valuing and treating employees with respect. In short, when workers are valued, they provide quality labor leading to more localized economic development.
In the democratized ownership, enterprises are human commodities and are communally owned for the benefit of all. Public entities such as workers, municipalities, or investors own properties via private, public, cooperative, or communal ownership. Ownership does not necessarily mean taking part in managerial decisions. The principle of sustainability guards the ecosystem by arguing that human beings are merely members of planet earth and not masters. Sustainability principle is contrary to an extractive economy, which revolves around maximizing profits. Kelly & Howard explains that ecosystems are life foundations and must be protected (2019). Fundamental rights like clean air, water, and sunlight are impaired by dumping toxic materials, and contamination must be legally recognized as a wrong. Ownership and sustainability demand corporation accountability by limiting and regulating their actions on people.
The ethical finance principle objective develops the community through investing in people and aims for ecological and social benefit. In ethical finance, banking institutions and investors have a moral obligation to bring people capital and limit speculative trading in casinos (Kelly & Howard, 2019). Also, banking institutions are obliged to fund local operations to amass wealth locally. This principle suggests that the power to manage an economy must be distributed among the majority by handing over that responsibility to democratic government systems (Kelly & Howard, 2019). Ethical finance limits wealth accumulation by deploying assets to establish resilient systems and build democratic economic institutions. In other words, democratic economy principles determine individual wealth accumulation and bring people together to build wealth for the common good.
How Democratic Principles Disrupts Neoliberalism
Democratic principles disrupt neoliberalism through government interference and regulation. Neoliberalism refers to free-market capitalism, capital market deregulation, and minimal government involvement. The control of economic factors is transferred from the state to the private firms, and it promotes free markets by lowering trade barriers, price control, and privatization of government enterprises. Shifting the economy towards socialism and democracy threatens the foundation of capital, is wealth creation, and maximization. All the democratic economic principles focus on communal wealth creation for the benefit of everybody in the society (Kelly & Howard, 2019). Secondly, a democratic economy call for regulations, inclusion, and accountability, especially in utilizing natural resources.
Additionally, it emphasizes empathy and communal engagement in development (Kelly & Howard, 2019). Capitalism facilitates economic growth with free markets, minimal regulation, and state interference. Changing capitalist policies which encourage individual wealth accumulation and profits maximization disrupt the foundation of capitalism. Considering neoliberalism is committed to trading freedom, a democratic economy will be the death of neoliberalism.
Evergreen Cooperative, Cleveland Components
Evergreen cooperative Cleveland is a global innovation model building a sustainable democratic economy where residents have stakes in thriving enterprises to establish vibrant neighborhoods. It is a worker-owned, community-based democratic economy organization established via the Cleveland Foundation and Democracy Collaborative. It is composed of cooperatives like the Evergreen Energy Solutions, Green City Growers, and Evergreen Co-operative Laundry (Evergreen cooperatives, 2016). The cooperative creates community wealth using community ownership and participation. In this, institutions such as hospitals and universities create a constant, reliable demand for services and products offered by locally owned worker-owned cooperative businesses. Moreover, they are designed to be wholly owned and democratically managed by employees. The Evergreen Co-operative Corporation ties together the Evergreen Co-operatives and related entities such as the Evergreen Land Trust, Development Fund, and Neighborhood Connections (The Cleveland Model, 2019). Also, the corporation upholds the trust and vision of the cooperatives. The evergreen economic initiative is simple yet profoundly successful and is a global inspiration.
The Evergreen Co-operative Embodiment of Democratic Economy
All the Evergreen Co-operative embrace principles of the democratic economy by concentrating wealth in communities in the employee-owned business model. It is built on society, inclusion, good work, democratized economy, sustainability, and ethical finance. For instance, workers are locally hired, provided with livable wages, and trained for management positions, so the companies are owned by the community. The Evergreen cooperatives explain how initiatives like the Green City Growers use greenhouses to produce all-year-round clean produce. The Evergreen Co-operatives serve local institutions, including hospitals, hotels, and others (2016). The cooperatives match the procurement needs of the local institutions with local worker-owned businesses to meet the demand for products and services. Additionally, Evergreen alleviates poverty using the Green Economic Development to train the local workforce to operate with them. Embracing the principle of good work with sustainable wages has contributed mainly to economic development in Cleveland.
In the Evergreen community neighborhoods, employees are trained beyond the technical skills for the common good. Also, the Evergreen cooperative is a product of many entities and collaborations, such as anchor institutions, community groups, philanthropists, government, and mission experts (Evergreen cooperatives, 2016). The initiatives were developed to build economic breakthroughs via economic inclusion and the economy from the bottom. Instead of offering public subsidy, the Evergreen strategy calls for new enterprises owned and governed by the workers. Alternatively, instead of training employees for unavailable job positions, the Evergreen initiative first creates jobs then recruits the residents in training. In short, the industry embraces the principles of a democratic economy to alleviate poverty and increase community wealth successfully.
The Application of the New System to Communities
The success and impact of the Cleveland models in creating community health have attracted worldwide attention to the democratic economy. It is an essential model for healing poor and neglected industrial economies in America and other nations. Although a democratic economy rejects the policies used in capitalism, it leads to economic development in individual societies and people in the long run. The Cleveland model (2019) demonstrates how cooperative businesses create place-focused economic development to benefit every community member. Other nations can benefit from this by first rallying city residents to own properties jointly and establish employee-owned and managed cooperatives. Following the Evergreen model, the government should first create jobs then train local people. In short, economic empowerment will improve the quality of life and reduce poverty.
A democratic economic model locally concentrates skills and wealth for long-term community development and sustainability. Training people for unavailable job positions leads to unemployment which slows down economic growth (Evergreen cooperatives, 2016). Also, the government should connect local institutions with local business providers to concentrate wealth and job positions locally. It is an inspiring philosophy, and other cities are replicating this innovative approach of creating jobs and stabilizing the neighborhoods. For instance, Preston Lancashire, Northern England, is experimenting with public service to establish further innovation. Preston is used in the United Kingdom (UK) to study civil innovation. Having worked previously with people in the United States, the Collaborative team based in Brussels nurtures community wealth and sustainable economies in Europe (The Cleveland Model, 2019). In other words, the Evergreen model is a perfect democratic model for cities to harness and create wealth for all.
The principles of a democratic economy, such as community, inclusion, good work, democratized ownership, and ethical finance object wealth accumulation, create communal wealth, and disrupt neoliberalism through government regulation and interference. In this, the Evergreen Co-operative in Cleveland proves the success and benefits of integrating democratic economy principles. This economic model has led to a financial breakthrough in Cleveland. A democratic economy with government and people support improves the economy of local towns and cities without limit. Neoliberalism is a capitalist economy that is entirely based on maximizing profits. Currently, cities and states are replicating the Evergreen cooperative initiative to improve the economy of local communities and establish long-lasting, sustainable economies. All in all, this economic model is the foundation of community development and empowering all the community members; therefore, this democratic financial system should be applied worldwide for sustainable economic growth.
Evergreen cooperatives. (2016). About Us | Evergreen Cooperatives. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://www.evgoh.com/about-us/
James Angel. (2020). Seven steps to building a democratic economy. Retrieved from transnational institute website: https://futurespublic.org/
Kelly, M., & Howard, T. (2019). The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just a Few. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
The Cleveland Model. (2019). Cities copy Cleveland’s prosperity model | Atlas of the Future. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://atlasofthefuture.org/project/the-cleveland-model/