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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

What the 1930s can teach us about dealing with Big Tech

[T]he Rural Electrification Act helped bring electricity to farm country, where investor--owned utilities hadn’t bothered to string lines. Low-interest loans through the Department of Agriculture enabled communities to  organize  cooperatives—nearly 900 of which still operate today. The loan program now earns more than it costs. Like the housing policies of the time that gave us the 30-year mortgage, it was a public policy that enabled widespread private ownership.

These were some of the most powerful economic development programs in US history. They introduced dynamism and decentralization to markets in danger of being held in thrall to monopoly and exploitation. If we want a more inclusive tech economy, the New Deal legacy would be a good place to start.

Internet users need the capacity to form cooperative alternatives to the dominant platforms and infrastructure. For instance, much the same model as that of the cooperative electric companies could be used to bring customer-owned broadband to underserved communities. Some old rural electric co-ops are offering fiber-to-the-home already.

Read the rest at MIT Technology Review


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