Alternatives to Wall Street

Once the unsustainable, as well as anti-democratic nature of our corporate-capitalist economy is clear, a rough outline is desirable of what the basic elements of a democratic, and sustainable economy might look like (see Analysis and Links sections of EconomicDemocracy.org).

Equally important, particularly since it's far from clear that time is a luxury the Earth has at this point (as well as the fact that humanity deserves much better -- freedom and dignity humanity through decentralized and democratic economic alternatives to corporate/capitalist/communist type centralization -- or put more simply, "Economics As If People And The Planet Matter") we must ask: "how can we get from here to there?

An economy must include investment. As on Wall Street, two key parts are:

  1. Investment as a way for building business enterprises. [NOTE: Here "business enterprises" means factories, shops, etc that need not be corporate nor privately owned; community and public enterprises, coops, worker/community-owned businesses are intended] and
  2. Investment as a way of building economic security for retirement which is necessitated so long as basic needs are not guaranteed but are to be earned via some sort of revenue stream or the like

With a focus on A. above (democratically owned/controlled funding for business enterprises), Paul Glover (wikipedia) , the community activist who founded Ithaca Hours and the Ithaca Health Fund, has outlined a mechanism, in some detail, in the essay on WISE (Whole Ithaca Stock Exchange) below. With a focus on B. above (democratically controlled non-corporate based retirement systems), and initially unaware of WISE, EconomicDemocracy.org's Harel B. wrote A Workable Transition to Democratic Retirement Systems below.

Essays on Building the Future:

Whole Ithaca Stock Exchange (WISE) essay [backup copy] by Paul Glover

     (SocialForge wiki's WISE entry)

A Workable Transition to Democratic Retirement Systems by Harel B.

During the summer of 2004, Harel B. met with Paul Glover to discuss mutually reinforcing, synergistic ways of fostering these two visions. Out of those discussions, and with input and support from Paul Glover, Harel outlined what a specific instrument might look like to bring the two together, considering ways of building community owned enterprises with revenues invested by individuals who are simultaneously building retirement security for themselves in the form of future access to the outputs (products, food, revenue, etc) of those community enterprises their investments helped build. The DRAFT proposal is below:


Ithaca Hours-style community Annuities

For important background before you read this piece, please first learn about Ithaca Hours and at least look over (it's dense reading but important!) the WISE essay (Lastly see G-1 for the broader framework of "A Workable Transition to Democratic Retirement Systems" into which the Ithaca Hours Style Community Annuities (or "Ithaca Hour Annuities" in this case) proposal fits. See Overview of EconomicDemocracy.org projects)

Additionally, while in DRAFT form, the following should be helpful to those interested in moving these projects forward: samples/examples of what the main Community Annuity "Contract" might look like; and more briefly, what a Community Annuity "investment slip/agreement" might look like, were Community Annuities" to be created as outlined above. Please see sample drafts at:

  • Sample Main Contract for WE*CAN (WISE Equity Community Annuity Note), '05 draft by HB.

  • Sample Deposit slip for WE*CAN (WISE Equity Community Annuity Note), '05 draft by HB.


Harel B (L) with Paul Glover (R) during summer 2004, at Glover's then current home in Ithaca NY, following discussions about ways of integrating Paul's WISE ideas (pun not intended but compliment well deserved) with Harel's Democratic Retirement System and WE*CAN proposals.



"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." -Kenneth Boulding

"Sustainable growth is an oxymoron." -Maria Mies

Footnotes: Dow Jones at 1,000,000 by 2100? Yes, if it grows by "only" 5% for 100 years; and Dow Jones not at one Billion but at a ludicrous one Trillion 300 years later. For sustainability, some additional detail and/or modification to the above proposals may be necessary to avoid the "perpetual exponential growth" problems inherent in Wall Street For this reason the Community Annuity essay proposes for investors possible alternatives to "earn x%", such as "the right to a lifetime supply of [bread, N meals per week, housing, etc] though these ideas clearly need to be worked out in greater detail -- and tried in real-life trials -- to find out what works best.

In any case, while democratic economic control may not be a sufficient condition for sustainability, it is a necessary first step, as it puts those affected by economic decisions (the entire population rather than a tiny corporatist, capitalist, or communist elite) in control of the decision-making.


Closing Quotes...

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration"-Republican President Abraham Lincoln

"Capital should be at the service of labor, and not labor at the service of capital" -Pope John Paul II, On Human Work, p. 31

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power" -Benito Mussolini.

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy" -Wendell Berry

At the end of his address, Wes [Jackson] offered to take a few questions from the audience. A young woman who had come with a group of graduate students stood up and asked him, "Do you really think we can get there". Wes' reply was quick and direct. "If you think you will finish your life's work in your lifetime, you're not thinking big enough". WJ quoted by Jay Martin.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genuis, power and magic in it" -Johann von Goethe


Contact information for serious interest inquiries: econdemocracy (at) gmail (dot) com


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Alternatives to Wall Street