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The fundamental challenge of 2022 and beyond

Fighting for a new systemic vision Expanding democratic ownership

Our contention has long been that we are facing a crisis of the system, not just local political or economic difficulties. Several years ago, that was a bold and provocative idea; it is now one that is increasingly widely accepted even in the halls of power, both domestically and internationally.

For example, in one of her earliest messages to her departmental staff, Janet Yellen, President Biden’s Treasury secretary, spoke of “four historic crises” facing the United States:

COVID-19 is one. But in addition to the pandemic, the country is also facing a climate crisis, a crisis of systemic racism, and an economic crisis that has been building for 50 years.

The Treasury Secretary is not alone in her use of such language, which can increasingly be found in official U.S. government communiqués and even in the pronouncements of such international institutions as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is a sign of important progress that the profoundly systemic nature of the crisis has finally begun to dawn even on high-ranking officialdom.

Yet our economy remains deeply unequal as it recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: the stories of businesses having to add an extra dollar or two an hour to the wages they offer their hourly workers pale in comparison to the outsize financial gains of the executives at the top of the economic pyramid. The extreme right’s ability to whip up a furor over “critical race theory” exposes our continuing inability to reckon with how the racism of our past systemically reverberates through our present and threatens to impede our future. Then there is our paralysis in the face of the climate emergency; even though we see the evidence that our consumption of fossil fuels is killing us in the ferocity of wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts plaguing us, the petroleum dealers are always on the corner, ready to feed an addiction that we cannot seem to break.

In our view, a dangerous gulf remains between the magnitude of the systemic challenge and the scope and scale of the responses that are being conceived and proposed. We need a new economic paradigm that can resolve the triple crises of economic inequality, systemic racism, and ecological disaster. This is the fundamental, epochal challenge of our age—and the mission of The Democracy Collaborative going forward.

In such a context, The Democracy Collaborative is now well-positioned to make significant short-, medium-, and long-term interventions in service of a more thoroughgoing and profound analysis of the systemic nature of the crisis and a response that charts the course of the political-economic transformation we need. Our programs promote system-changing solutions—community wealth building, democratic public ownership, non-extractive capital, next system studies, and much more—supported by cutting-edge research, policy advocacy, and communications.

As we enter our third decade, we are even more tightly focused on building a new system that replaces extractive, racial capitalism with an economy that is democratic, just, reparative, and sustainable. Why? Only when we shift ownership and control of capital so that it is broadly held can we make collective decisions about how to deploy that capital for the common good and correct the inequities that are inherent in a system of extraction and concentration.

Our role is to both lay the intellectual underpinnings of this change—this is what the emerging field of “next system studies” is all about—and demonstrate how this change beneficially alters realities on the ground. As our newly crafted mission statement says, “By making the democratic economy conceivable, visible, and practical, we open minds, ignite hope, and inspire action.”

We invite you to join us.

This article is excerpted from The Democracy Collaborative's 2020-2021 annual report. Download and read the report below.


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