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Thomas Hanna

Co-Director, Theory, Research, and Policy Division and Director of Research

Thomas M. Hanna joined The Democracy Collaborative in 2010 as a research assistant to Gar Alperovitz and became Research Director in 2015. He received his M.A. and B.A. degrees in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. Thomas’ areas of expertise include public ownership, privatization, local government, democratic ownership, and banking, among others. He is the author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States (Manchester University Press, 2018), co-editor the e-book Scaling Up the Cooperative Movement, and has published articles in popular and academic journals including The New York TimesThe NationTruthoutYes! MagazineAlternetOpenDemocracyRenewalIPPR Progressive ReviewThe Independent, and The Good Society. He has provided research support for various Democracy Collaborative and Next System Project reports as well as the 2011 second edition of America Beyond Capitalism and 2013’s What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution

Selected Publications: 

Our Common Wealth: The return of public ownership in the United States

Thomas Hanna

Public ownership is more widespread and popular in the United States than is commonly understood. This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of U.S. public ownership, debunking frequent misconceptions about the alleged inefficiency and underperformance of public ownership and arguing that it offers powerful, flexible solutions to current problems of inequality, instability, and unsustainability- explaining why after decades of privatization it is making a comeback, including in the agenda of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party in Britain. Hanna offers a vision of deploying new forms of democratized public ownership broadly, across multiple sectors, as a key ingredient of any next system beyond corporate capitalism. This book is a valuable, extensively researched resource that sets out the past record and future possibilities of public ownership at a time when ever more people are searching for answers.

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Socialism, American-Style

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Research Director Thomas Hanna shed light on current examples across the United States of public ownership, basic income demands, and the broader movement for government-controlled production.

Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna
The Nation

Hey, look it over—public ownership is the most effective way to fix America’s economy.

It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda. It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. We contend that it is possible not only to talk about this once forbidden subject but to begin to build a serious politics that can do what needs to be done in key sectors.

Proposals for public ownership will of course be attacked as “socialism,” but conservatives call any progressive program—to say nothing of the modest economic policies of the Obama administration—“socialist.” However, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated “free” enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.


Mondragón and the System Problem

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Senior Researcher Thomas Hanna discuss the challenge of sustaining and building participatory decision-making structures and organizations within a corporate capitalist system. They note the recent bankruptcy filing of Fagor Electrodomésticos Group, the principle company of the Mondragon Corporation, as an impetus to confront the institutional incompatibilities between the free market and cooperative forms.

Free Market Mythologies and the Future of Public Ownership

Thomas Hanna

“I’m a free market guy. But I’m not gonna let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system” – George W. Bush, December 17, 2008

At the heart of the present debate on how to address the continuing political stalemate and economic decay in America are some fundamental misconceptions about the nature and operation of the current system. Many Americans—and not just avowed conservatives—have been led to believe that it is possible to have a “free market” economy, and that the quest to reach it will generate greater prosperity and better social outcomes. Both beliefs are false.

Democratic Wealth: Building a Citizens' Economy

Joe Guinan, Marjorie Kelly and Thomas Hanna

Democracy Collaborative senior fellows Marjorie Kelly and Joe Guinan and senior researcher Thomas Hanna each contribute chapters to a new free e-book, Democratic Wealth: Building a Citizens' Economy. The authors discuss economic institutions, alternative economic system designs, and forms of democratic ownership. This open Democracy and Politics in Spires series, hosted by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, advances the conversation on visioning an economic system that serves the common good.

Recent blog posts: