John Duda – Democracy Collaborative

Here at this conference, we face a tremendous problem with wealth inequality in this country. Ownership of the basic institutions we rely on for living, eating, and working is increasingly concentrated in fewer hands, which is deleterious. It causes significant unemployment and disruption. It forces people who are struggling to survive, despite working multiple jobs, to find work, if they can find any at all. Meanwhile, the wealthier are getting wealthier. We need to reverse this trend. We must come together and find ways to make this economy more democratic. By ‘more democratic,’ I mean ownership should be democratic. It should be owned by cooperatives, by communities, and by hybrids of cooperatives and communities working together. It should be distributed among the people, as economic power is the root of political power. Without democratizing our economy, we will not achieve the kind of society we aspire to be; we will not truly be a democracy.

So, I’m very excited to be here because the Internet is certainly not helping. The Internet economy, fueled by short-term thinking and corporate pockets, is directed by venture capital, further concentrating wealth in even fewer hands. We see this where the tech economy is rampant: displacement is prevalent, and housing becomes unaffordable except for the wealthiest. We need to reverse this trend. We need to build an Internet and an economy that works for all. This means figuring out how to democratize ownership, how to harness the best strategies from the long and exciting history of the cooperative movement, and how to bring them into the digital age. I’m really excited to spend this weekend here with all these amazing people—from technologists to co-op developers, politicians to philosophers, media theorists—all thinking about how to tackle this problem in new, exciting, creative, and innovative ways, because it’s vitally important. There’s really no way we can expect to keep living in this world unless we make some progress and build an economy that’s democratic.