Cooperatives
Cooperative Economics: An interview with Jaroslav Vanek PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 22:17
An interview with Jaroslav Vanek, a leading proponent of cooperative economics.

interviewed by Albert Perkins 

Albert Perkins: Professor Vanek, how did you first develop your ideas on economy?

Jaroslav Vanek: I had four major influences. First, I experienced the evils of communism when I was a refugee in Czechoslovakia from Stalinism, and later, when I came to the West, I also experienced the evils of western capitalism. Then, in between, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my late brother who did extensive work for the I.L.O. (International Labor Organisation) and wrote the first book about the workers' councils in Yugoslavia. I learned many of my basic ideas from him. He was a sociologist and I was an economist, and I was able to transpose his ideas into my field. Third was the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Pope John 23rd went a long way toward suggesting the desirability of economic democracy. Finally, I was influenced by Dubceck's model of social democracy. It could have been more successful than the Yugoslavian experiment, but for the Soviet tanks. I have had several interests in my life, including the area I call economic democracy. Economic democracy is a transposition of the idea of political democracy. It implies that economic life is governed by people who are involved in thateconomic life. Capitalism is based on property rights, and democracy on personal rights. Perhaps the most important aspect of capitalism, its objective function, is to maximise profit. If you look at it more carefully, profit is revenue minus labor costs and other costs. This means then human beings enter the defining objective function of the system with a negative sign.  By contrast, economic democracy has an objective function where people are on the positive side of the equation. The idea is to maximise the welfare of the people participating. This is an enormous difference, and I'm convinced that the tragic difficulties of our culture -- ecological devastation, starvation, etc. -- can be traced to this negative side But capitalism could be cured slowly if we developed economic democracy. One of the main reasons why the western world is so schizophrenic is that we have political democracy and economic autocracy.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2009 22:21
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