Beyond the Mondragon experiment

When Labour peer Maurice Glasman recently went on BBC Radio 4 with TCC’s Detlev Schlichter I was disappointed and a little taken aback to learn of his Lordship’s ignorance when it came to the Austrian School of Economics. While towards the end of the interview he accepted the need for honest – backed – money, he went on to demonstrate his ignorance when he implied that free marketeers have a prescriptive attitude to ownership philosophies and organisational models. I was really saddened by this not least because like so many other Austro-libertarians I have spent years pointing out that genuine markets would encourage more open and diverse forms of ownership including mutuals.

When I was fifteen I avidly watched this excellent BBC documentary on the Mondragon Experiment which sparked a life long interest in mutuals, friendly societies and co-operatives. Later, as a university student I went on to study a wide range of radical dissenters including a wide range of anti-statists. Indeed, it is with this history in mind that I find it ironic that away from the naïveté of Lord Glasman, it is Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron who is planning to introduce a Parliamentary bill promoting co-operative forms of ownership and doing so in key areas such as education and healthcare.

Thirty-two years on from the BBC’s film on the Mondragon Experiment, maybe opinion formers are finally rediscovering the libertarian tradition of collective forms of organisation and self-help without the state. As much a part of a market as any other form of non-coerced organisation or ownership philosophy, I do hope Lord Glasman and his Purple Book friends take note.

1 Comment

  • Paul Marks says:

    I can testify that Dr Evans is telling the truth.

    In the decades I have known him, the above has been of great importance to him.

    And I say this as someone who has little faith in cooperative ownershop ideas – so I have no “axe to grind” on this matter.

    Actually I was rather pleased that Lord Glassman knew as much as he did – for example most “mainstream” people would not accept that the Austrian School is basically correct (I will not get into details – for example why I would argue that a commodity BE the money, as oppose to just “backing” it).

    As for organizational matters and ownership…..

    I would argue that Lord Glassman missed the point of his own example – Germany.

    Germany is not famous for cooperative ownership.

    It is famous for privately owned (individal-family owned) enterprises.

    And it is famous for having far less of what the (vile) Financial Times would call a “division between ownership and control” than Britain and the United States do.

    In Germany, in many enterprises anyway, managers SERVE the owners of the enterprise (they do as they are told – and so on), whereas (due to the anti individual owning tax structure, such as inheritance tax, and the vast web of pro manager anti owner regulations) in the “Anglo Saxon” world managers are often a law unto themselves.

    And their pay and perks reflects this.

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