Saturday, September 5, 2009

Objection to Worker Cooperatives

When a firm is highly complex, like an orchestra, it needs a conductor. Money serves this conductor role in a modern economy, Joseph Heath argues.

Heath also asserts that cooperatives also inhibit employment, which may be true and which may make them undesirable, but which would not make them infeasible.


  1. However, the Mondragon co-op has managed to produce highly advanced technology. Quite possibly this is because it was founded by a Christian, who sought profit in the world to come, rather than by a Mammon-worshipper who would have sought profit in this world.

    Co-ops do indeed stop hiring long before a profit-seeker would, but they also don't fire their employees at the first sign of difficulty.

    The shill wrote:"workers in a co-op typically confront an uncomfortable choice. They either leave productive capacity sitting idle, or they hire new workers and accept lower wages."

    But in fact not all production is optimal production. Idle capacity is not the end of the world. There is such a thing as producing enough to live on and not trying to maximize profits at any cost. - Incidentally, this approach often leads to high-quality products. The monks who brew the best beer in the world refuse to commercialize it, because they only sell enough to pay their bills so that they can devote themselves to the more important things in life, such as prayer.

  2. A quick search produced these items:
    Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

    The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1991 by musicians from the former New Orleans Symphony, is the only musician-owned and collaboratively managed professional symphony in the United States.

    . . . and this:
    Self-Governing, Cooperative Orchestras

    The more radical approach to musician involvement is the formation of self-governing, cooperative orchestras. The cooperative orchestra actually has a long and rich history. The New York Philharmonic was a “musician cooperative,” with musicians exercising the typical management responsibilities of programming concerts and hiring conductors, musicians, and soloists. (1)

    Cooperative orchestras also have a rich European history. Three prominent European orchestras with “self-governing” roots are the London Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, and Berlin Philharmonic.

    The London Symphony Orchestra was established by former members of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra in 1904. The musicians are responsible for all internal matters, including ...hiring of the music director. Nine of the 14 members of the board are orchestra musicians.

    The Vienna Philharmonic was established in 1842. Twelve elected musicians oversee the daily administration of the orchestra with two of the musicians acting as business managers. All major decisions, including personnel issues, are taken to the full orchestra.

    The Berlin Philharmonic was established in 1887. Several governing bodies in the orchestra are elected by the musicians to represent the needs and requirements of the musicians. ... The musicians choose the permanent conductor....

    Cooperative orchestras are fairly rare in the United States, but there are a few prominent examples. Each has taken a different path in evolving into a cooperative orchestra. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is a very unique group because it is known as the orchestra that performs without a conductor. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra was formed by a group of freelance musicians in New York City in 1972. The goal of the musicians in creating the orchestra was to gain control over their working lives by not being locked in with one orchestra, and also to belong to a group that would be musically challenging for the musicians and the audience.

    Other examples of current American cooperative organizations are the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra. Each of these cooperative orchestras was formed after the predecessor orchestra that employed the musicians dissolved because of dissolution and/or bankruptcy.

    The Colorado Symphony was established in 1989 after the Denver Symphony declared bankruptcy. Management’s declaration of bankruptcy was the culmination of years of debt and demands for financial concessions from the musicians. In the early years of the Colorado Symphony, the orchestra was run by a steering committee of musicians and supportive community members.