So, what are we going to do about it?
The OWS movement is encouraging in that it shows that people are waking up to the fact of corporate oligarchy, but it lacks any clear agenda. Even if OWS or some other grassroots movement toppled the government tomorrow, we'd undoubtedly get something even worse to replace it. If OWS does develop a clear agenda, it might incite some serious reform, but we'll still be just cogs in the corporate machine even if we're happier with our working conditions. A slave on a plantation with a full belly and nice clothes and good healthcare is still a slave on a plantation.
We need a solution that doesn't require a huge amount of money, weaponry, or other resources. We need a solution that doesn't require violence or even any law-breaking. We need a solution that a small number of people can implement, anywhere in the nation (and in most parts of the world). We could try to abandon society and build our own, but that would be leaving an awful lot of people behind. . . we need a solution that allows us to stand our ground, band together, and deal with the oligarchy from a position of power.
I say: When life gives you corporate oligarchy. . . incorporate!
My solution is a sort of chewy Communist nougat center with a crunchy delicious Capitalist shell.
Imagine thirty or forty people getting together and pooling their resources to buy or lease some real estate (a high school campus in Detroit would be perfect, but it could be anywhere). They form an umbrella corporation that acts as their collective face to the outside world, and provides business administration services to members of the community. Those members of the community who have their own businesses or who want to start their own businesses are freed to do the work they really want to do, while the umbrella corporation handles the drudgery common to all businesses, like payroll and taxes and human resources and so on. Those who are not ready to start their own businesses provide a labor pool for those who are.
The gross income of everyone's entrepreneurial pursuits goes to the umbrella corporation, which pays all the expenses of the various businesses. The umbrella corporation also pays for things like rent/mortgage of communal living spaces, utilities, medical insurance for members of the collective, etc. What's left over is divvied up as profit sharing, with the umbrella corporation itself taking a share. The umbrella corporation uses its share of the income to expand into new businesses, and to improve living conditions for the collective. Shares for members of the collective are calculated by share-hours; for example, if the collective has 100 members who work a combined total of 500 hours in a particular week generating a net income of $100,000, then everyone gets paid $20 for each hour they worked that week ($100,000/500 work-hours = $20 per share-hour). . . so everyone gets the same, but those who go the extra mile and put the long hours in get rewarded for working harder. Since everyone's income is directly dependent on everyone else's productivity, any tendency toward laziness and shirking and gaming the system is corrected on a peer-to-peer basis.
Some members of the collective are paid to be janitorial staff, so there's never any controversy over whose turn it is to clean up, or over who left the mess in the common area. If someone in the collective wants to run a restaurant, the other members can eat there free, subsidized by the umbrella corporation. If we don't have a restaurant, the umbrella corporation pays someone to shop for groceries and cook. . . so there are never any "who ate my food?" arguments, because it's OUR food and it's someone's job to make sure we have plenty on hand.
If a member of the collective fails at their chosen business, the collective absorbs their labor into some other business until they can regroup and try again or try something different. That person still gets a paycheck, still gets fed, still has a place to live, and still has work to do.
If a member of the collective wants to purchase any goods or services that a business in the collective can provide, they get it at cost (but not, of course, for resale). If a member of the collective wants to purchase any goods or services that no business in the collective can provide, they can leverage the power of the corporation to do it on the cheap; instead of one person going out on their own to buy a car, the corporation negotiates an appropriate fleet leasing deal. . . or sets up an automotive dealership. Instead of one person going out on their own to buy car insurance, the corporation negotiates an insurance deal for the entire collective. . . or goes into the insurance business.
As the collective grows and becomes wealthier, it can challenge publicly-held entities by competing with them directly. If you had two big box stores in your town, one a Wal-Mart funneling your town's wealth upward to rich people somewhere else, and the other an employee-owned enterprise that puts all its profits into the pockets of local people who are members of the collective, where would you shop, all other things being equal?
Ultimately, the collective can break the corporate oligarchy by becoming the corporate oligarchy. . . but the new corporations will be owned by their employees, not by shareholders, and will lack the profit-at-any-cost motive that drives every publicly-held company.
I made a Facebook group where we can talk about this more. If you're interested, come and join us! http://www.facebook.com/groups/bulletsnotincluded/