Frustrated with the left and right in politics American political economist Gar Alperovitz writes about how communities can develop wealth using the cooperative model. He describes examples from across the world where communities have started from scratch to build successful cooperative businesses. Cooperative businesses, he argues, are win-win businesses. They are run for profit but not for profit maximisation as they generally are run to provide benefits to the employees, the customers and the community instead of profit maximisation for the owners and shareholders.
These ideas are applicable to New Zealand. We are accustomed to think of individual rather than community wealth and to have a very zero sum game mentality towards enterprise. However many of New Zealand’s largest, most successful and longstanding businesses are cooperatives. Research shows that cooperatives are more sustainable, less likely to become bankrupt and are focussed on real goods and services rather than on profits from speculation. Cooperatives have few of the personal and societal negatives that have been associated with investment opportunities like currency, futures, share trading or property speculation. Fewer cooperatives have failed during the Global Financial Crisis because the members who are often employees, customers and suppliers all have a vested interest in their success.