A dialogue between Cooperative UK and the TUC is taking place to define “what is a good public sector `mutual ?” . Any advance towards the democratization of the economy is more likely if there is a coalition of support but this needs clear definition based on mutual and cooperative principles to have integrity. Developments are likely to be layered to address problems at appropriate scale, but should also maintain subsidiarity. This probably means the emergence of cooperative and mutual enterprises be they worker, community,energy, housing or financial, from within communities and cooperatives in association. The reform and democratic revitalization of local municipal and regional government would facilitate the development of economy emancipation. This all, needs to be inclusive, distribute equitable incomes and build up democratic commonwealth while being practical.
At the large-scale much of the public sector might lend itself to democratization. An advantage would be that the citizen might feel more direct ownership, of for example, national insurance, health service and welfare . The modern public sector which delivers public goods emerged after two world wars, at time society was dominated by centralizing organization. This might have been an advantage at the time , giving universal cover. The welfare state was built upon an array of mutual forms of welfare. These usually belonged to members and was answerable to them. The NHS was inspired by such Friendly societiess as the Tredegor Medical Aid Society, set up by the miners union. A part mutualization of the public sector giving democratic accountability to all stake holder groups, if done in a benign way might work in some friendly society character into the NHS and other public sector services. The rebuilding of strong links between mutual , cooperative forms and trade unions is long overdue. This allows a pro-active agenda based on direct agency, doing it ourselves whether there is state support or not. If it works and is shown to be congenial , has public support then the politics might follow.
A democratic economy implies a wage solidarity policy and could be adopted in all areas where this principle is operative, public, municipal, mutual and cooperative sectors. Human scale wage differentials of no more than perhaps 10:1, and based on a living wage, signal integrity and solidarity to the public. This would recover the sence that a motive for work can be a sufficient remuneration with the pleasure of serving the social good in all its aspects.
The above suggestions would develop from the weak and modest aspects of our economy that have a democratic component. These often have cooperative or mutual structures but their democratic component is often all but dead, it is a matter of reviving cooperatives as culture plus effective practice. This needs to survive in a Corporate and Financial Market which is very powerful. Capitalism privileges private property , enclosing as much as it can, destroying commons in all their forms, tend to make relationships commodities, strip and squeeze assets, capital, land /environment, and people. Any counter positional development will only come if there is a clarity of purpose. It perhaps can be done, but any development in that direction needs boosting as effective practice and then scaled up by replication. Can we do this?