Thursday, November 10, 2011

Capitalism - modified.

I came across the Mondragon corporation for the first time this morning via an article on Salon. The article on Salon started off, quite rightly noting that it is possible to criticize capitalism while still celebrating aspects of it. It's still possible to acknowledge that some people (like Steve Jobs) did a lot and probably deserve spectacular remuneration. William Buckley (conservative - he thought the republicans were a bit wishy washy, back when the republicans weren't bat shit insane) thoroughly agreed, and used Thomas Edison as an example. When people create wonderful things, you give them credit (I'm not going to get started on Denis Ritchie here). Buckley also worried that the excessive sums corporate executives were getting - despite in many cases destroying wealth rather than creating anything, would end up damaging capitalism. On current evidence, you'd probably have to agree that he was right.
Which brings us to the Mondragon corporation in Basque, Spain. It's a corporation owned by it's employees. Typical hippie behaviour nothing special you might say. This one corporation owns 256 companies. Each of which is owned by it's employees - 83,000 of them in total. As a whole it turns over 14 billion Euro a year. That, is not a hippie commune running a vegetable garden. I'm intrigued as to how it all works. One eminently sensible bit it has is that the wage scales are set by the employees/owners at each company. So you never get the bit were CEO's end up getting paid hundreds of times more than their lowest employees, which is one of the main problems that Occupy has with Wall St.
As for the arguments about attracting the best people to run the company? I'd say it all depends on how you define the best. If you're looking for people who will make the most money no matter what, then yeah, go find yourself a schmoozy MBA.  Mondragon though, has a bunch of codes of practice which basically entail not shitting all over everyone to make money.
"Co-operation, acting as owners and protagonists; Participation, which takes shape as a commitment to management; Social Responsibility, by means of the distribution of wealth based on solidarity; and Innovation, focusing on constant renewal in all areas"
I'd rather work for slightly less money for a bunch company that stood by those values (especially if I was a shareholder), than someone who uses money as the primary measure of what is worthwhile in life. Capitalism isn't inherently unworkable, we just haven't got it right yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment