Will Co-ops and Social Enterprise Increase Inequality and Hurt Growth?

A blog about business and economics.
March 13 2012 12:52 PM

Will Co-ops and Social Enterprise Increase Inequality and Hurt Growth?

Freelancers' Union founder Sara Horowitz writes on behalf of co-ops and social purpose enterprises, arguing that "We need a complete reorientation of workers' relationship to business and government's relationship to workers."

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. In our personal lives, we're well aware that people make tradeoffs between income and non-income goods. Choosing to launch or work for a co-op or social purpose enterprise could easily fit that kind of bill. As society grows wealthier and wealthier, it makes more and more sense for people at the margin to decline income-maximizing job opportunities in favor of greater autonomy or work they feel good about. That would tend to create situations in which job creation outpaces GDP growth, and would also imply higher inequality of market wages. After all, a very hardworking and talented person who's spending his time and energy to trying to help manage a worker-owned socially conscious cooperative just has no chance of earning nearly as much money as an equally hardworking and talented person who's actually trying to maximize his income as CEO of a for-profit drug-store chain. But while slower growth and more inequality sound bad, if they were to come about in the future by more people choosing autonomy and self-respect over money there wouldn't really be a problem. The challenge for advocates of this sort of approach would be to sell the country as a whole on that different way of looking at things.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.