A Wealth of Living Enterprise Forms

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Living enterprises may take on a variety of organizational forms. They may, for example, be organized as consumer cooperatives, worker-owned corporations, community corporations, partnerships, family businesses, or simple sole proprietorships—all of which involve rooted, engaged ownership. Contrary to the claims of market fundamentalists, there is no reason that all enterprises should be profit maximizing. There are many needs—health insurance, electricity, water, and banking among them—that may best be met by community-owned, non-profit, or cooperative enterprises.

Where the nature of the work requires greater aggregations of skills and capital, individual living enterprises may come together to form larger alliances comprised of locally rooted living enterprises. Examples include the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain, the Organic Valley dairy coop in the United States, local manufacturing networks located throughout the world, and purchasing and branding cooperatives owned by member stories, as for example Ace and Tru-Value Hardware. [For additional examples see "Keeping Wealth Local" and the National Center for Economic & Security Alternatives: "Models & Innovations in Ownership."]

The only excluded enterprise forms are those that give a controlling interest to absentee owners, legally define organizational purpose primarily in terms of financial returns to shareholders, and/or confer on owners and officers special rights and immunities not available to other persons. Lacking natural community connections, these old economy corporations tend to act like cancer cells, seeking their own unlimited growth in a quest for ever increasing monopoly power. They serve absentee owners and managers whose only stake is financial and who use the corporation as a legal shield to insulate themselves from responsibility for the social and environmental consequences of their actions.  

As the body develops mechanisms to protect itself from cancer cells and parasites, so too living communities properly maintain regulatory defenses against predatory forms of enterprise that lack community roots, come only to extract community wealth, and have no moral qualms about engaging in unfair competitive practices to destroy the living enterprises on which the community's long-term health and well-being depend.