Imagine the permanent economic benefits a community would gain if a new law prohibited any more commercial buildings from being built until ninety percent of its empty stores have new occupants doing business in them. Drive around town, just try to count the empty stores. Imagine how quickly this would change with the incentive of a companion law requiring store owners to pay a hefty waste tax on any store that’s been empty for more than one year. Imagine how pleased you’d feel to see thriving new businesses in all those formerly empty stores, from downtown to suburbs, every one of them adding the economic multipliers of new jobs, new incomes and new taxes to benefit and enrich life in that community. Imagine using our voices and votes to tell our politicians what they shall do if they wish to stay in office. Imagine that.
Now expand the perspective. Imagine how much better life could be if every commercial entity selling things to the American public were prohibited by law from controlling more than five percent of the U.S. market for whatever it sells. This major reform could be incentivized with that law’s promise: Any commercial business which grows to more than five percent of the U.S. market will be immediately subdivided into two new businesses, neither of which controls as much as five percent.
To be consistent, of course, updated antitrust laws would mandate that commercial entities already controlling more than five percent of the U.S. marketplace must be broken up into new smaller entities, none controlling as much as five percent, all taking new names unrelated to the old name. It happened before, when our federal government broke up John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire that had grown so huge, and so arrogant, it in fact controlled much of the U.S. economy and the prices people must pay.
This modern downsizing would banish corporations and giant commercial entities of every nature, both publicly and privately-owned. Employees in each newly subdivided entity would vote (one employee, one vote) on whether to proceed 1) as an employee-owned co-op, under strict rules to meet their communities’ needs, or 2) as a conventional private company subject to very few rules. In both categories every organization will compete against all others to keep prices low while staying under five percent of market.
Goodbye Walmart, Amazon, Exxon-Mobil, Apple, Conagra, et cetera ad nauseum, with wealth and power greater than many whole countries. Welcome to new thousands of capable small entrepreneurs and co-ops with ample incentives to compete and succeed, experimenting with bright new ideas corporations can no longer quash.
Thus could we Americans, at last and belatedly, resolve our longstanding “too big” problem, at least for “un-natural” monopolies that grow huge through mergers, buyouts and hostile takeovers with intent to stifle competition so they can charge outrageous prices. The problem of big “natural” monopolies, with fixed infrastructure such as pipelines, railroads and electric transmission lines, is solved by placing every one of them under control of a government—federal, state or local, as appropriate—subject to uniform rules, with customer service and low prices its highest priority.
And did I mention, new laws will require every U.S. employer to pay every employee at least a “living wage,” meaning enough money to buy an adequate measure of life’s necessities, plus a bit to save. “Necessities” means eight “economic rights” enshrined in new laws throughout the USA: food, clothing, shelter, dependable transportation, health care, insurance required by law, adequate income for retirees, and a life-starter account for young people who complete three years of mandatory public service. The living wage will be a special blessing for rural and blue collar workers who haven’t had a genuine raise in over forty years and earn less in real dollars than their parents did.
In every co-op, the highest paid employee (CEO, whatever) may be paid up to eight times more than the lowest-paid employee—and not a penny more. The “minimum wage,” which only guarantees poverty, will be abolished and good riddance Amen. Sales taxes, which fall most heavily on the poor, will be abolished nationwide, while personal income and inheritance taxes will be increased sufficiently that all government agencies—increasingly starved by political chicanery—will be fully funded to do the public good works they were created to do.
With poverty and egregious inequities thus eliminated, the USA no will longer need labor unions or welfare. With corporations abolished there’ll be no need to pay dividends to stockholders, whose investments will be bought out over ten years at trivial interest using the tobacco buyout of 2005-2014 as precedent. Within all co-ops the word “profit” will be redefined as “surplus” to be retained within the co-op to fund business improvements and employee bonuses. Stock markets, having become irrelevant, will be abolished and their office space converted to housing for the few remaining homeless Americans.
There’s lots more details about fundamental changes in this tale of populist corrections to our abysmally unequal, grossly unfair, economic situation. But for starters this is enough to stimulate fresh thinking, especially by citizens who understand that FDR’s practical commonsense changes, called the New Deal, saved capitalism and democracy in a nation far worse divided than it is today. We inheritors can use our voices and votes to tell our politicians what they shall do if they want to stay in office. Imagine that.