The New Ownership Society (The *socialist* Nation)
Just beneath the surface of conventional media concern, the groundwork is quietly being laid for a powerful new strategic initiative: a progressive "ownership society." Traditional liberal approaches may be blocked for the moment at the national level, but there are increasing openings for serious action at the state and local levels, with longer-term nationwide implications. What is striking is that the idea that wealth should benefit the community directly is quietly becoming a commonplace. This community-oriented concept is the polar opposite of the Bush ownership principle that wealth should be concentrated among individuals (especially those at the top).
Note: Home ownership is at record levels.
Land development is "old economy." A fast-growing arena of new activity involves Internet and related services. In Glasgow, Kentucky, the municipally owned utility offers residents electricity, cable, telephone services and high-speed Internet access--all at costs lower than private competitors. The city also has access to an Intranet, which links local government, businesses, libraries, schools and neighbors. In 2003 the municipality offered a package of eighty digital cable channels for $19.95 a month. More than 350 communities, including Tacoma, Washington, and Cedar Falls, Iowa, have built or are planning networks like the one in Glasgow.
You mean that government can undercut it's private competition? I bet that next you will tell me that those evil private companies will lay off workers just because they can't make their evil profits. Imagine that.
The basic principle at work in municipally owned real estate development is that appreciation of land should be turned to public advantage. Community land trusts help produce stable and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents. One of the earliest and most influential is the Burlington (Vermont) Community Land Trust, organized with bipartisan support when an early-1980s economic boom caused housing costs to spiral out of reach for many long-term residents. Land is owned by BCLT and leased to homeowners. Member-residents devote no more than 30 percent of their income to rents or mortgages. Those benefiting from the resulting low costs sign contracts agreeing that future housing resale prices will not increase beyond a certain percentage, thereby allowing other low- and moderate-income families to benefit from BCLT's efforts.
So you don't really own your home in this socialist panacea that liberals dream of. But they'll call it an "ownership society" anyways because our true master, government, owns it.
We may add two further strategies to this listing: First, more than half the states now have venture capital programs in which the state invests in promising companies, commonly taking back public ownership of stock.
The "ownership society" where the state decides who owns what has been tried before... I don't really remember if that experiment failed or not.
The stage, in fact, is now set for significant advances in policy development and progressive strategy. Two factors suggest that a major breakthrough is possible over the coming decade: the expanding fiscal crisis at all levels of government, and the steadily increasing insecurities of the global economic era. The former is already forcing consideration of alternatives that promise new ways to earn service-supporting revenues, directly or indirectly. The latter increasingly highlights the need for strategies that anchor jobs, especially those that improve the local tax base.
For writers at The Nation, the need to anchor jobs is not about helping people feed their families or buy a house, it's all about "improving the local tax base."