The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Evolutionary Reconstruction of the American Economy

I remember commenting to a co-worker, a few years back, that our company’s projected growth of 15% year over year was an inflated and impossible target.  The “growth” the firm was touting wasn’t coming from increased sales but from cuts.  In order to show profitability, service staff was reduced, billing was centralized in states with the lowest labor costs, sales compensation was slashed, warehouses were consolidated – anything to reduce costs in order to meet the stated quarterly and annual goals.  While corporate executives earned their bloated bonuses, everyone else suffered, including the customer.  Eventually a buyer was found and the firm was sold.   And while the corporate executives and stockholders were happy, at least in the short-term, the remaining employees were subjected to layoffs, more consolidation of departments and even shoddier customer service.

This is far from an isolated case.  It’s business as usual in corporate America.  Employees are no longer referred to as John or Susan, but as an FTE (full-time employee), a cipher on a balance sheet that can easily be cut to improve the bottom line.  Far too many companies have abdicated their responsibility to their employees and to the communities in which they reside in a race for short-term profits.  That’s why I believe a new economic model is required – one that empowers workers and is responsive to the needs of communities.

In their essay, The Possibility of a Pluralist Commonwealth and a Community-Sustaining EconomyGar Alperovitz, a Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and Co-Founder of the Democracy Collaborative and Steve Dubb, a Research Director of the Democracy Collaborative, present a way forward. Continue reading

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Baby Boomers Should Consider Selling Their Companies To Employees When They Retire

In his Oped in the New York Times, Gar Alperovitz highlights a tremendous opportunity to create worker-owned businesses in the coming years:

Over the next decade millions of business owners born during the baby boom will retire. Many, with no obvious succession strategy, will simply sell their companies, the backbone of Main Street economies across the country, to large corporations. All too often the result will be consolidations, plant closures and lost jobs for the people who helped build and sustain their companies for decades.

The boomers should think again: selling to their employees is often a far better way to go — for both moral and economic reasons.

Take New Belgium Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colo., which its chief executive and co-founder, Kim Jordan, sold late last year to its 400-plus employees through what’s called an employee stock ownership plan. “There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multigenerational impact,” she said. “This is one of those times.” Continue reading


Gar Alperovitz suggests what the next economic system might look like.

In What Then Must We Do?, Gar Alperovitz speaks directly to the reader about where we find ourselves in history, why the time is right for a new-economy movement to coalesce, what it means to build a new system to replace the crumbling one, and how we might begin. He also suggests what the  next system might look like—and where we can see its outlines, like an image slowly emerging in the developing trays of a photographer’s darkroom, already taking shape.

He proposes a possible next system that is not corporate capitalism, not state socialism, but something else entirely—and something entirely American.

Alperovitz calls for an evolution, not a revolution, out of the old system and into the new. That new system would democratize the ownership of wealth, strengthen communities in diverse ways, and be governed by policies and institutions sophisticated enough to manage a large-scale, powerful economy.