Work. Democratize, Decommodify, Remediate

by Ingrid Robeyns on May 16, 2020

What follows is a manifesto that has been published today in its original in French in Le Monde and translated and published in 37 other places, which will be listed at the end of the text.

Working humans are so much more than “resources.” This is one of the central lessons of the current crisis. Caring for the sick; delivering food, medication, and other essentials; clearing away our waste; stocking the shelves and running the registers in our grocery stores – the people who have kept life going through the COVID-19 pandemic are living proof that work cannot be reduced to a mere commodity. Human health and the care of the most vulnerable cannot be governed by market forces alone. If we leave these things solely to the market, we run the risk of exacerbating inequalities to the point of forfeiting the very lives of the least advantaged. How to avoid this unacceptable situation? By involving employees in decisions relating to their lives and futures in the workplace – by democratizing firms. By decommodifying work – by collectively guaranteeing useful employment to all. As we face the monstrous risk of pandemic and environmental collapse, making these strategic changes would allow us to ensure the dignity of all citizens while marshalling the collective strength and effort we need to preserve our life together on this planet.

Why democratize? Every morning, men and women rise to serve those among us who are able to remain under quarantine. They keep watch through the night. The dignity of their jobs needs no other explanation than that eloquently simple term, ‘essential worker.’ That term also reveals a key fact that capitalism has always sought to render invisible with another term, ‘human resource.’ Human beings are not one resource among many. Without labor investors, there would be no production, no services, no businesses at all.

Every morning, quarantined men and women rise in their homes to fulfil from afar the missions of the organizations for which they work. They work into the night. To those who believe that employees cannot be trusted to do their jobs without supervision, that workers require surveillance and external discipline, these men and women are proving the contrary. They are demonstrating, day and night, that workers are not one type of stakeholder among many: they hold the keys to their employers’ success. They are the core constituency of the firm, but are, nonetheless, mostly excluded from participating in the government of their workplaces – a right monopolized by capital investors.

To the question of how firms and how society as a whole might recognize the contributions of their employees in times of crisis, democracy is the answer. Certainly, we must close the yawning chasm of income inequality and raise the income floor – but that alone is not enough.

After the two World Wars, women’s undeniable contribution to society helped win them the right to vote. By the same token, it is time to enfranchise workers.

Representation of labor investors in the workplace has existed in Europe since the close of WWII, through institutions known as Work Councils. Yet, these representative bodies have a weak voice at best in the government of firms, and are subordinate to the choices of the executive management teams appointed by shareholders. They have been unable to stop or even slow the relentless momentum of self-serving capital accumulation, ever more powerful in its destruction of our environment. These bodies should now be granted similar rights to those exercised by boards. To do so, firm governments (that is, top management) could be required to obtain double majority approval, from chambers representing workers as well as shareholders. In Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, different forms of codetermination (mitbestimmung) put in place progressively after WWII were a crucial step toward giving a voice to workers – but they are still insufficient to create actual citizenship in firms. Even in the United States, where worker organizing and union rights have been considerably suppressed, there is now a growing call to give labor investors the right to elect representatives with a supermajority within boards. Issues such as the choice of a CEO, setting major strategies, and profit distribution are too important to be left to shareholders alone. A personal investment of labor; that is, of one’s mind and body, one’s health – one’s very life – ought to come with the collective right to validate or veto these decisions.

Why decommodify? This crisis also shows that work must not be treated as a commodity, that market mechanisms alone cannot be left in charge of the choices that affect our communities most deeply. For years now, jobs and supplies in the health sector have been subject to the guiding principle of profitability; today, the pandemic is revealing the extent to which this principle has led us blind. Certain strategic and collective needs must simply be made immune to such considerations. The rising body count across the globe is a terrible reminder that some things must never be treated as commodities. Those who continue arguing to the contrary are imperilling us with their dangerous ideology. Profitability is an intolerable yardstick when it comes to our health and our life on this planet.

Decommodifying work means preserving certain sectors from the laws of the so-called “free market;” it also means ensuring that all people have access to work and the dignity it brings. One way to do this is with the creation of a Job Guarantee. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that everyone has the right to work. A Job Guarantee would not only offer each citizen access to work that allows them to live with dignity, it would also provide a crucial boost to our collective capability to meet the many pressing social and environmental challenges we currently face. Guaranteed employment would allow governments, working through local communities, to provide dignified work while contributing to the immense effort of fighting environmental collapse. Across the globe, as unemployment skyrockets, job guarantee programs can play a crucial role in assuring the social, economic, and environmental stability of our democratic societies. The European Union must include such a project in its Green Deal. A review of the mission of the European Central Bank so that it could finance this program, which is necessary to our survival, would give it a legitimate place in the life of each and every citizen of the EU. A countercyclical solution to the explosive unemployment on the way, this program will prove a key contribution to the EU’s prosperity.

Environmental remediation. We should not react now with the same innocence as in 2008, when we responded to the economic crisis with an unconditional bailout that swelled public debt while demanding nothing in return. If our governments step in to save businesses in the current crisis, then businesses must step in as well, and meet the general basic conditions of democracy. In the name of the democratic societies they serve, and which constitute them, in the name of their responsibility to ensure our survival on this planet, our governments must make their aid to firms conditional on certain changes to their behaviors. In addition to hewing to strict environmental standards, firms must be required to fulfil certain conditions of democratic internal government. A successful transition from environmental destruction to environmental recovery and regeneration will be best led by democratically governed firms, in which the voices of those who invest their labor carry the same weight as those who invest their capital when it comes to strategic decisions. We have had more than enough time to see what happens when labor, the planet, and capital gains are placed in the balance under the current system: labor and the planet always lose. Thanks to research from the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering (Cullen, Allwood, and Borgstein, Envir. Sci. & Tech. 2011 45, 1711–1718), we know that “achievable design changes” could reduce global energy consumption by 73%. But… those changes are labor intensive, and require choices that are often costlier over the short term. So long as firms are run in ways that seek to maximize profit for their capital investors, and in a world where energy is cheap, why make these changes? Despite the challenges of this transition, certain socially-minded or cooperatively run businesses — pursuing hybrid goals that take financial, social, and environmental considerations into account, and developing democratic internal governments– have already shown the potential of such positive impact.

Let us fool ourselves no longer: left to their own devices, most capital investors will not care for the dignity of labor investors; nor will they lead the fight against environmental catastrophe. Another option is available. Democratize firms; decommodify work; stop treating human beings as resources so that we can focus together on sustaining life on this planet.

Signed on behalf of more than 3000 professors, scholars and scientists:

Isabelle Ferreras (University of Louvain/FNRS-Harvard LWP), Julie Battilana (Harvard University), Dominique Méda (University of Paris Dauphine PLS) Julia Cagé (Sciences Po-Paris), Lisa Herzog (University of Groningen), Sara Lafuente Hernandez (University of Brussels-ETUI), Hélène Landemore (Yale University), Pavlina Tcherneva (Bard College-Levy Institute), Ingrid Robeyns (Utrecht University), Olivier De Schutter (UCLouvain, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights), Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (UCLouvain), Elizabeth Anderson (University of Michigan), Philippe Askénazy (CNRS-Paris School of Economics), Aurélien Barrau (CNRS et Université Grenoble-Alpes), Neil Brenner (Harvard University), Craig Calhoun (Arizona State University), Ha-Joon Chang (University of Cambridge), Erica Chenoweth (Harvard University), Joshua Cohen (Apple University, Berkeley, Boston Review), Christophe Dejours (CNAM), Nancy Fraser (The New School for Social Research, NYC), Archon Fung (Harvard University), Javati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Stephen Gliessman (UC Santa Cruz), Stefan Gosepath (Freie Universität Berlin), Hans R. Herren (Millennium Institute), Axel Honneth (Columbia University), Eva Illouz (EHESS, Paris), Tim Jackson (University of Surrey), Sanford Jacoby (UCLA), Rahel Jäggi (Humboldt University), Pierre-Benoit Joly (INRA – National Institute of Agronomical Research, France), Michele Lamont (Harvard university), Lawrence Lessig (Harvard University), David Marsden (London School of Economics), Chantal Mouffe (University of Westminster), Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University), Susan Neiman (Einstein Forum), Thomas Piketty (EHESS-Paris School of Economics), Michel Pimbert (Coventry University, Executive Director of Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience), Raj Patel (University of Texas), Katharina Pistor (Columbia University), Dani Rodrik (Harvard University), Hartmunt Rosa (Max-Weber-Kolleg, Erfut), Benjamin Sachs (Harvard University), Saskia Sassen (Columbia University), Debra Satz (Stanford University), Pablo Servigne PhD (in-Terre-dependent researcher), William Sewell (University of Chicago), Susan Silbey (MIT), Margaret Somers (University of Michigan), George Steinmetz (University of Michigan), Laurent Thévenot (EHESS), Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University), Judy Wajcman (London School of Economics), Léa Ypi (London School of Economics), Lisa Wedeen (The University of Chicago), Gabriel Zucman (UC Berkeley), and many others.

The full list of signatures can be found here, as well as an invitation to anyone else to sign the manifesto:

Published today in Argentina (Ambito), Brazil (La Folha de Sao Paulo), Perú (El Comercio), United States (Boston Globe), Uruguay (La Diaria), Peru (Disonancia), Chile (Radio UChile), China (Made In China Journal), Hong Kong (South China Morning Post), India (The Wire), Belgium (De Morgen; Le Soir), Czech Republic (A2larm), Denmark (Politiken), Estonia (Delfi), Finland (Helsingin Sanomat), France (Le Monde), Germany (Die Zeit), Iceland (Stundin), Italy (Il Manifesto), The Netherlands (De Groene Amsterdammer), Norway (Klassekampen), Poland (Gazeta Wyborcza; Krytyka Polityczna), Portugal (Diário de Notícias), Spain (Publico; El Diario; La Vanguardia); Switzerland (Le Temps), Turkey (Cumhuriyet), United Kindgom (The Guardian), Australia (The Guardian), Israel (Davar), Morocco (Média24; Lakome2), Tunisia (La Presse; Assahafa), and here at Crooked Timber.



Anarcissie 05.16.20 at 4:59 pm

We’re going to do away with capitalism and all that? Good luck, but how?


Hidari 05.16.20 at 5:59 pm


The article makes it very clear: the problem is capitalism, the solution is democracy. Democratisation of the economy is the last, ‘unfinished business’ of the democratic revolutions. Capitalism, at least in its ‘laissez-faire’ format is not compatible with democracy, and in the (admittedly, very) long run, you will have societies which are democratic, or societies which are capitalist. You can’t have both.

If you doubt this, come back to me in 30 or 40 years time, when you see what capitalism does to the polities of the ‘advanced’ capitalist countries, and then we will talk.


Gareth Wilson 05.16.20 at 8:38 pm

I’m sure that workers in the Sunderland Nissan factory know what policies are best for their workplace and will vote accordingly.


nick j 05.16.20 at 11:08 pm

is this progressive international?


John Quiggin 05.17.20 at 2:43 am

Thanks for posting this, Ingrid. The failure of capitalism, at least in its current form, becomes more obvious with each crisis. As with the Soviet Union in its declining years, it’s easier to see that what exists is unsustainable than to work out how to change it. But change must come one way or another.


Anarcissie 05.17.20 at 5:00 am

@2 — I doubt if capitalism is compatible with life, at least that of large animals like human beings. But this doesn’t tell us how to get rid of it or emerge from it or whatever we’ve got to do. I think it’s fairly apparent that all top-down solutions are quasi-capitalistic even when they’re called ‘socialism’. I suppose it was fun to épater les bourgeois by using the word in public discourse recently, but that adventure seems to have come to an end, and we’ve still got to get down to business. Does anyone have a plan?


Jim 05.17.20 at 6:05 am

@3 The workers in the Sunderland Nissan factory who voted for tory interests are obese with prole-feed. Engagement at the policy face would have fitted them to see through the farragoists.


Jim Rose 05.17.20 at 6:35 am

Please save me from a workers democracy.

Employee participation in management is a pay cut. You take on additional responsibilities and burdens for no extra pay.

Normally, management responsibilities come with pay rises.

As Oscar Wilde was said to have said, socialism takes up too many evenings. Michael Walzer wrote a great critique of workers democracy in the Dissent Magazine in 1968 explaining about all the meetings you have to go through every day all day for everything you participated in because it was workers participation everywhere


Hidari 05.17.20 at 7:10 am


The parallels with the old Soviet Union are irresistible. What will the sight (in November 2020 assuming the elections aren’t ‘postponed’) of Joe Biden (b.1942) vs. Donald Trump (b. 1946) both elderly white men who have faced….certain accusations….remind us of but the aging gerontocrats of the old Soviet Empire, men like Andropov and Chernenko, now almost forgotten?

Of course, as the Soviet Union’s (later, Russia’s) experiences in the 1980s and 1990s remind us, change is rarely pleasant. Things have to get worse before they get even more worse. But as Brecht put it, ‘because things stay the same, they change.’

Change is inevitable, no matter how impossible it seems right now.


Philip 05.17.20 at 7:29 am

@Gareth Wilson. Living near Sunderland, knowing people who have worked at Nissan and seeing lots of discussion around it I agree with your statement (ignoring the sarcasm). Of course it would help if the communication to them was honest.


Gareth Wilson 05.17.20 at 9:16 am

@Philip I couldn’t avoid an error of composition. It’s very rare to get polling data from particular workplaces, and just because the city of Sunderland voted 61% for Brexit, doesn’t mean the workers at the plant itself did. I usually just assume that because the workers are mostly male and without higher education that they’re even worse than the general population. Talking to workers at the factory and finding opposition to Brexit is evidence against that, of course. But you have to ask how representative your own interactions with the workers were.


Hidari 05.17.20 at 9:55 am

‘Employee participation in management is a pay cut. You take on additional responsibilities and burdens for no extra pay.’

And why must you not get paid for this?


steven t johnson 05.17.20 at 12:12 pm

Hidari@9 quotes comrade Reagan about the Soviet “Empire,” proving occasional flashes of common sense and common decency are not enough. The English are still in Ireland, the US is still in Guantanamo, tribal people in the US are on reservations which apparently are run exactly like autonomous regions in the Soviet Empire, and of course every single war like Korea and Vietnam and the interminable war in the Middle East is just another inter-imperialist conflict, where the Soviet imperialists are equally to blame, if not more so.


Philip 05.17.20 at 6:24 pm

@Gareth Wilson. I did not make any claim on the ratio of brexit voters at the Nissan Washington plant. Even if there was a majority in favour of Brexit I believe most will have been aware of the potential impact on their workplace. It looks like it is the Barcelona plant that Nissan will now close. It is possibly things like the agreement between the UK government and the European commission killing shipbuilding in Sunderland that led to the belief that the EU is good for jobs. link here <\a>.


Doug 05.17.20 at 7:13 pm

A good start down this road would be for governments to close tax loopholes that favor the very wealthy, raise taxes on the top 5%, then offer a guaranteed universal basic income which gets clawed back in taxes if you make over x$. Wages are the biggest hammer corporatists have over their employees, especially in regions with high unemployment. In America there is also the healthcare sword of Damocles hanging over everyone’s head so some form of single payer healthcare should also be provided.


Andres 05.17.20 at 8:21 pm

@8: ‘Employee participation in management is a pay cut. You take on additional responsibilities and burdens for no extra pay.’

Just to pile on, workers’ democracy does not mean parliamentarian votes on all management decisions; that’s a cartoon/straw-man version of socialism that has been peddled by every propertarian propagandist since the 18th century. What it does mean is that every firm’s management is held accountable by their employees, maybe by their local communities, and by no one else. This means that workers elect their chief executives and supervisory bodies like boards of directors. And yes, this means meetings, including to hold elections, but any business firm worth its bottom line already has a lot of meetings in which they request input from their employees, even when such input is ignored as it too often is. All told, I am thoroughly skeptical of the argument that a properly managed worker-owned firm entails an efficiency loss.


SamChevre 05.17.20 at 9:20 pm

every firm’s management is held accountable by their employees, maybe by their local communities, and by no one else.

That sounds like several kinds of a disaster. No capital other than the enterprise’s own retained income or that of its workers, no environmental or safety regulation, no way of doing quality assurance (neither branding nor quality-certifying associations).


Gareth Wilson 05.17.20 at 9:39 pm

Of course there’s one kind of workplace where we have a very clear idea of the politics of the workers themselves, not just the towns they live in. So, would you insist on worker’s democracy for the NYPD?


wpjames 05.18.20 at 11:00 am

About whether democracy and capitalism are compatible, these two scholars seem to answer in the affirmative:

I wonder though if there a possible middle ground between complacent affirmation and dogmatic denial. I’m more inclined to agree with those who are asking “what’s the plan”?

And even if there is a detailed strategy, there’s no guarantee that the end of capitalism will solve the following problems:

1.) People who press traffic stop buttons more than once, thinking that if they continue pressing them the lights will change more quickly

2.) People who use the expression “To be perfectly honest with you…”

3.) People who talk about musical theatre as if it’s the greatest thing ever

4.) People who, while sitting on the train on the way home from work, talk on the phone for 30 mins and then finish with the words, “I’ll see you soon”


Anarcissie 05.18.20 at 4:49 pm

‘People who press traffic stop buttons more than once, thinking that if they continue pressing them the lights will change more quickly.’

Of course it will. They’re adding energy to the system, which will make it move faster. Same with elevators.

As for the workers or the community owning and controlling the means of production, it’s obvious that it entails more work, just as being a functioning adult entails more work than being a small child. Still, surely reasonable arrangements can be devised. The problem is not there, it’s getting there.


Andres 05.18.20 at 5:27 pm

Sam Chevre@17. “No environmental or safety regulation” applies only if you define accountability broadly to include government regulation, for example of macroenvironmental costs such as emissions. I am not using this broad definition of accountability, but mean simply the power to elect and/or remove a business firm’s executives, and maybe to have an internal veto over management decisions that have major long-term consequences.

Ignorant econ major that I am, you will have to explain to me why workers’ ownership means a lack of quality assurance, since worker-owned firms can still do their own branding and can still belong to quality-certifying organizations; again, please don’t conflate accountability with public regulation or market discipline.

As for lack of capital, outside of communist countries every environmental disaster or financial crisis I can think of has been caused by industrial or financial firms that had too much capital to begin with. Also, any industry that requires a very large injection of capital in order to get off the ground is likely one that will turn into an oligopoly or natural monopoly; if no careful government regulation is present, then perhaps it is better that that industry not get started in the first place.

Overall, I am not persuaded by the argument that the correct amount of investment in an industry requires external ownership of that industry, which is what capital is when it comes down to it. If you are passionate enough about a new venture to invest in it, you should be passionate enough to work in the firm that carries out that venture.


Andres 05.18.20 at 7:22 pm

@ 18: “Of course there’s one kind of workplace where we have a very clear idea of the politics of the workers themselves, not just the towns they live in. So, would you insist on worker’s democracy for the NYPD?”

Another straw man argument: Workers’ democracy does not entail letting a company’s employees have absolute control over their own actions. Any sophisticated economic system needs to (a) make sure that managers can discipline employees guilty of responsibility or malfeasance and (b) ways of making private and public enterprises accountable to local communities. In the case of the NYPD, NYC failed on both counts. A truly democratic NYPD would not have some utopian implication that the Internal Affairs department would vanish the moment the police department became policeman-controlled. Quite the contrary: a truly democratic NYPD would give more power to policemen to call out and punish the abuses of their colleagues, whether as managers or subordinates.

Overall, the broad pattern of arguing that we can’t have democracy because people cannot be trusted to control themselves will always be with us, and needs to be called out as BS whenever it appears. When people like Trump rise to positions of leadership, that is an indication that democracy has broken down, not that voters have too much power.


SamChevre 05.18.20 at 9:04 pm


I think you mean something very different by “are not accountable to anyone else” than it would appear from the words. Clearly, the EPA is an entity that is not either the workers or the community, as is OSHA, the EEOC, the Patent Office…

The issue with quality assurance is that if I produce SamChevre brand shoes, and can forbid you to call the shoes you produce SamChevre brand shoes”, that’s a constraint that isn’t imposed by either the workers or the community.

I think that your fundamental argument, though, is that there should be no high-capital businesses–your concern is really about any constraints related to the need to acquire capital. I think that would be a hugely bad idea, since it would mean that only the already wealthy could start any business–anyone else needs a source of capital beyond their own savings.


Andres 05.18.20 at 9:36 pm

Oops. That should be “…discipline employees guilty of _ir_responsibility or…”. Another case of caffeinated fingers being faster than the higher brain functions.


J-D 05.18.20 at 10:21 pm

The direction in which this discussion has moved has suggested to my mind the following inquiry.

As I understand it (but maybe I have misunderstood), the typical pattern in the USA is that local law enforcement functions in urban areas are carried out by city police departments each headed by chief who is appointed by the mayor (and/or the city council?), while local law enforcement functions in rural areas are carried out by county sheriff’s departments each headed by a sheriff who is elected by the county’s voters.

(Yes, I am aware that each State has its own laws and its own system, which is why I wrote ‘typical’ not ‘universal’.)

If my understanding is roughly correct, or even partially correct, how do these two systems compare? How are the results produced by having a sheriff who is directly elected different from the results produced by having a police chief who is not?


wpjames 05.19.20 at 1:25 am

@ Anarcissie
That’ll certainly teach me not to make claims that go beyond my knowledge base…this wouldn’t happen be a common habit nowadays would it?


Collin Street 05.19.20 at 1:51 am

By definition, a passive profit-taking “owner” is contributing less to a business than they take away. For a lot of small businesses, the owner’s labour [inc management and marketing labour, mind] is a key contribution to the business: a lot of propaganda goes into making people in this situation frame their income as due to ownership per-se rather than in large degree being wages for labour.

[this causes extra problems when owners who are for various reasons not making a significant labour contribution want to draw incomes comparable to owner-manager-workers; total payroll is almost always bigger than the profit you can sustainably draw, and in a small business one person’s payroll is often going to be larger than total sustainable profit.]


Gareth Wilson 05.19.20 at 3:21 am

Police unions are usually much more reactionary than the actual police leadership, which doesn’t say much for a hypothetical democratic police department.


Rob Chametzky 05.19.20 at 2:37 pm

The best analysis of pretty much all the issues raised in this thread—from techincal economics through poltical theory to social movements and the various connections among them–remains “Democracy & Capitalism” (1986), Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis. Fwiw, Milanovic explicitly and accurately credits it as a precusor/influence on his recent “Capitalism, Alone”; sadly, others who should cite and credit it do not.



Andres 05.20.20 at 6:06 pm

At this point, I doubt that I’ll change either Sam’s or Gareth’s opinion, but just for the sake of providing the most complete defense I can of workplace democracy:

Sam: Once again, you are interpreting accountability too broadly: workers’ ownership/management is orthogonal to the issue of intellectual property. A worker-owned business can be penalized for infringement of intellectual property rights; that is not accountability in the internal sense of the term. The issue in this case of providing behavioral constraints is who does the penalizing: government regulators or external shareholders; I prefer the former by far, because the latter often will not exact any penalties at all.

The idea that worker owned/managed business would not be able to raise sufficient capital for expansion is unconvincing, imo. As mentioned earlier, it can definitely be the case that private allocation of capital results in too much business concentration, leading to oligopoly/monopoly market structures and to production scales that are inefficient once pollution and other “externalities” are factored in. In fact, the external shareholder demand for profits is usually the trigger mechanism for irresponsible shifting of costs to employees, to local communities, and to the global environment, and this cost-shifting is in fact the source of a large share if not most profits in any economy.

But even if that issue is left aside, there is still the question of why providing capital to a business should require control of that business. The eternal justification for profits as a return to capital is to reward risk-taking, but if one insists on also having control of a business, one is trying to minimize risk (often by shifting it to other parties), which feels like a case of having your cake and eating it too. In any case, in true economic democracy, it would be perfectly possible for a large non-profit financial entity (not necessarily the government) to provide capital without ownership conditions, after carefully assessing the risks for each individual business entity.


Andres 05.20.20 at 6:24 pm

Gareth: The idea that any group of people is too backward/reactionary/racist to make decisions for themselves is a weapon for just about every dictatorial political movement that I can think of. The Republican party routinely does everything it can to make its voter base more bigoted, nationalist, and paranoid, and then smiles in secret when misguided advocates on the left use that lack of civilization as an argument against workplace democracy or any sort of democracy. The pattern eventually reaches a reductio ad absurdum: Since Trump voters are systematically ignorant and bigoted, the best solution is to take away their right to vote, no?

With regards to the specific example of the NYPD, you don’t seem to be open to the possibility that redistributing power away from the commissioners or high-ranking officers of the NYPD toward their subordinates (including stronger whistleblower protections) might actually help to reduce abuses. But in general the real problem with the NYPD is not their internal accountability structure, but the insufficiency of external constraints from the NYC government and from state/federal regulators who should be carefully looking at the NYPD’s hiring practices.


J-D 05.21.20 at 7:24 am

But even if that issue is left aside, there is still the question of why providing capital to a business should require control of that business. The eternal justification for profits as a return to capital is to reward risk-taking, but if one insists on also having control of a business, one is trying to minimize risk (often by shifting it to other parties), which feels like a case of having your cake and eating it too. In any case, in true economic democracy, it would be perfectly possible for a large non-profit financial entity (not necessarily the government) to provide capital without ownership conditions, after carefully assessing the risks for each individual business entity.

As I understand it, under present arrangements, businesses sometime raise capital in the form of equity by issuing shares and sometimes raise capital in the form of loans by just borrowing the money. Investors who provide capital by buying newly issued shares obtain an ownership interest in the business, but investors who provide capital by funding loans don’t. I assume that a reason both methods are used is that each has some advantages and some disadvantages, as compared to the other (that is, from the point of view of the business raising the capital).

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