Real Men and the Economy: Florida orange growers reject employee subservience
Two ideological camps determined much of history last century—those who carried the banner of democratic freedoms and private enterprise, and those who sought control of the economy and society through central command structures. The former viagra super active is known as Liberalism, the latter Communism.
Little remains of the numerous conflicts between these two camps owing to the collapse of Communism beginning about ten years ago. The victory of private enterprise, with its claim of being based in the cherished reality of human freedom, covered the victory with a moral and humanistic cast. “The End of History”, as Francis Fukuyama entitled his 1992 book, does appear to be here—and just in time for the 21st century.
Others would say that the history of human freedom has only started—and that there are alternatives to the behemoths of both largescale enterprises like corporations, the type of private enterprise at issue here, and government authority over society as dominant motifs. One such alternative was advertised on television throughout much of 1999. The ad promoted something called “Florida’s Natural” orange juice as a product of a “co-op of Florida growers whose only business is making juice. They own the land, they own the trees, they own the company.” This co-op message, plainly and clearly delivered, stuck out from the usual glut of slick and clever corporate self-promotion as immaculately as a white gown amongst dark business suits for those as accustomed as most Americans are to a steady (albeit forced) diet of corporate messages only.
Further checking revealed that the co-op, called CitrusWorld, Inc., based in Lake Wales, Florida, comprises 12 grower organisations owning close to 60,000 acres of citrus groves, with a 540-acre citrus fruit processing center capable of extracting juice from over 10 million pounds of oranges every 24 hours. The juice is sold in liquid and frozen forms as a broad variety of juice products. The co-op also has a processing plant in Fullerton, California, and has recently planted over 15,000 acres of new groves in South Florida.
Cooperatives in this country have existed since its founding. President Washington’s cabinet contained a
co-op advocate. Subjecting co-ops to damnation by faint praise as just another way to do business
(something implied by President Reagan, for example) misses the point, however. Co-ops are not just
another way to do business. They are the next step forward in human freedom and democracy. A step that
will take us beyond the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and all other efforts aimed at
lifting people out of the socially repressive aspects of monarchies and the Middle Ages.
Who Own Americans?
In the typical corporation, whether employing a few dozen or a few hundred thousand people, control is
centralized at the top in the hands of a small number of relatively wealthy shareholders and high-level
executives. All others are, to use a Prout term, “subordinated” to their desires and decisions. The vast
majority of people working in these structures, including mid- and lower-level managers, are under their
control either directly or indirectly. To use the language of government, they lack the freedom to govern
themselves within the corporate structure. True freedom to decide is reserved for a few. This consolidation
of authority makes corporations “private” in spite of the fact that the buying and selling of shares on
the open market makes them seem to be “public” entities.
Thus, though ideologues of the modern system of thought called Liberalism like Francis Fukuyama, Milton Friedman (who wrote Capitalism and Freedom), and a multitude of others claim that we live in the freest of conditions, reality is something else when we look at how the private sector is set up along lines that could be called more fettering and authoritarian than free or democratic. It is more accurate to say that we lose our freedom—and democratic rights—when we go to work, and that private enterprise is a mechanism that institutionalizes this loss. On the door to every corporation should read the inscription, “Democracy not allowed. Leave your rights at the door.”
The New Synthesis
Co-ops resist the deprivation of freedom inherent in corporate enterprise. Rather than centralize decision-making, they decentralize it so that all members partake in key decisions, either directly or through a board of directors that they themselves elect. It is like the difference between being told by your parents what to do (even at age 50 or 60)
and being able to decide for yourself. Or between being told how to vote by party apparatchiks and weighing the virtues of various candidates and voting for yourself.
In dialectical terms, co-ops transcend the mediation and alienation inherent in both the large-scale private
enterprise of Capitalism and the centralized government control of the economy of Communism. The former
interpose a relatively small number of powerful corporate shareholders between employees (including most
managers) on the one hand and significant decision-making power and other legal benefits like rights to
profits on the other. The latter interposed the state, party apparatchiks and bureaucrats. Even trade unions,
said to be the most advanced form of labor organization in modern industrial societies, fail in this regard
They maintain the mediation between employer and employee rather than unify employer and employee in
worker/manager ownership, as co-ops do. The welfare state, the ambition of the modern Liberal Left, especially
on the federal level, also fails to overcome this mediation.
Both unions and the welfare state also have to contend with the caprices of political democracy, which has no
principled commitment to improving prevalent economic conditions. Often-lost battles for better income, better
working conditions, a shorter work week, mandatory health insurance and the like will continue until this
mediation is overcome, as will, most likely, extreme economic disparity.
Cooperatives overcome the contradiction between the promise of freedom and its extensive denial in the
economy. They also advance humanity psychologically and socially. Insofar as they extend decisionmaking
and other benefits beyond a small circle of key share-owners and executives to working members as a matter
of right, based on recognition of human freedom and rationality, they are psychosociologically embodiments
of a more mature condition of humanity.
Corporate enterprise, to compare, is a system that prolongs childhood and adolescence for the majority
since it reserves substantial freedoms and rationality for a few key players. By consolidating
organizational power and subordinating others beneath them in employee status, these few potentates
also instill a psychological condition of subservience in those beneath them, a condition broken only
at the risk of being fired. In the sense of being autocratic-dictatorial, large-scale private
enterprise, like that in large corporations governing many people, resembles the Communism it reviles
and the monarchies it overthrew. Its whole structure contains an intrinsic, fundamental social
inequality, not simply differences in opportunities to accumulate wealth. This social inequality is not
remedied by either equal civil or political rights since it is an essential part of modern economic
dynamics and the civil rights system. In Freudian terms, employee status resembles the infantile oral
receptive stage of character development.
“By the oral-receptive character Freud means the person who expects to be fed, materially, emotionally and intellectually. He is the person with the ‘open mouth,’ basically passive and dependent, who expects that what he needs will be given to him, either because he or she deserves it for being so good, or so obedient, or because of a highly developed narcissism that makes a person feel he is so wonderful that he can claim to be taken care of by others” (Fromm).
Employees of course work for a living, but they are essentially passive recipients of the orders of executives and owners. As a result of their work and status they expect to be taken care of via paychecks and benefits and to be relieved of the responsibility for decision-making characteristic of the mature personality. Many people operate from the oral-receptive stage of existence; many others who are mature and capable however are forced into this state by anti-democratic, authoritarian economic structures.
This category of character applies even more to the consumer mode of existence, by which people select from among the products and services offered them by others. Consumption of course is to a large degree oral-receptive by nature, but it can be more pro-active if organized cooperatively. In consumer co-ops consumers decide for themselves which products should be sold in their stores and have active, direct relations with manufacturers rather than submit to the tender mercies of middlemen. Large-scale private enterprise utilizes both socio-economic roles—the employee and the consumer—to impose or reinforce the psychological condition of dependence. Psychologically more mature conditions—independence, pride, and greater self-repect—are systematically stunted.
The main structural difference between corporate and communist enterprise is that in the former a relatively
small number of business owners and managers, instead of the monolithic state and its agents, accumulate
economic decision-making powers and rights over the majority of society. In both cases, however, working
people are administered like cattle or machines, not full-fledged participants in company policy-setting
procedures. Compare Bill Gates giving orders down the ranks to tens of thousands of employees with yourself
discussing freely and deciding democratically in a cooperative you own jointly with other working members, and
you will begin to get the idea about what is at stake.
Cooperatives are not just another business option—they are another species of economy altogether because of the way they affect and embody freedom. To the extent that freedom is a part of our humanity, co-ops reflect our humanity far better than either large private enterprises controlled by a few key players or Communism. And since, according to some philosophers, deliberative freedom, and not blind obedience or deference, is an element of morality, co-ops can better embody morality, too. This makes them a moral imperative, not just a business or political choice of convenience. The moral, humanistic economy of choice is mainly cooperative.
The moral and humanistic superiority of cooperatives is currently no shield against private enterprise,
however. Dan McSpadden of the marketing department at CitrusWorld declined to answer questions about the
co-op in large part because of the possibility that corporate juice manufacturers would use the information
against the company. A very real possibility considering the competitive—or, in less polite terms,
carnivorous—ethic of the private sector.
How Americans Lost Economic Freedom
The stage for the subservient position of most Americans in the economic structure was set at the nation’s founding. Then the economy was largely agrarian. Self-employment was the norm.
According to historian Joyce Appleby, the ideological ambience of the young economy was strikingly characterized by “the association of America’s prosperity with free labor —the free and independent labor of farmer-owners and their families” (italics added). Family farms were the expected norm—not employeeship, which to Americans of that time may have appeared closer to plantation slavery or European serfdom than independence.
Nevertheless, there was no prohibition or restriction on the exchange or accumulation of property. It is the
right of exchange and accumulation, otherwise known as the free market, that led to the accumulation of
productive property in fewer and fewer hands and the consequent demotion of free and economically independent
Americans to dependent hired-hand status. Most modern Americans have lost a freedom and independence that
earlier Americans once had. Rather than making people free, the “free” market, for most people, removes it.
Modern politics by both Left and Right is a continuation of what Prout terms the “subordination” inherent in employeeship.
The Left, after promoting the welfare state, government regulation and strong unions for several decades last century, has now widened and significantly shifted its focus to promote environmental protection, civil and cultural rights for racial and ethnic minorities, and gay agendas, using the free market as its economic engine.
The Right of course still promotes private enterprise and bitterly opposes any infringement on it. Entrepreneurial ventures and small family enterprises may receive support, but not in principle at the expense of corporations and shareholders. The freedoms the Right promises via the economy are radically curtailed when they concern
employees, which most Americans are. A large number of supporters of the Right are thus under an illusion about their own politics, and myopically assume only government can be the enemy of liberty. Neither Left nor Right promotes as a matter of principle the “insubordinate” kinds of economy embodied in small entrepreneurial
ventures, small family enterprises and cooperatives.
The current stage was set for the Left, or New Left, during the 1960s, when it made its fateful break from the communist-influenced economic thinking of the Old Left. The African-American civil rights movement came to serve as a paradigm for other social groups who in turn adopted the garb of the oppressed, including women, gays, and other racial and ethnic groups.
In opting for civil rights like desegregated schools and social venues as well as, later on, other rights against civil discrimination, the New Left effectively abandoned the Old Left’s goal of dictatorial control of the economy. As a result the condition of employeeship continues, though it would have anyway and in more extreme form under governmentcontrolled enterprise favored by communists had they come to power. In other words, the subordinated socioeconomic status of most Americans continues with the acquiescence of the main trends of the New Left. Unions, for all their value to working people, also perpetuate this subordination.
What Is to Be Done
Cooperatives like CitrusWorld stand as a repudiation by example to both the corporate private enterprise politics of the Right and the welfare state/minority civil rights focus of the New Left. Though no political, educational, social or religious leaders are taking up liberation economics via the cooperative cause at the moment, this is what is to be done if the majority of Americans, including minorities, are to taste true freedom, and greater dignity, in the economic sphere. According to Prout, to free the maximum number of working citizens from subordination the cooperative movement should include the manufacturing, service and finance sectors, not only agriculture. An
economic result of this step upward in dignity will be reduced economic inequity, another goal of Prout. Since co-ops greatly widen the population of owners, they will decentralize wealth into the hands of tens of millions more Americans—and not by taxation, which is unreliable for this purpose and is highly vulnerable to special interest
lobbying and the political centralization of power over society in the federal government.
CitrusWorld sells their fine-tasting orange juice and other products around the country and overseas under the brand names of Florida’s Natural (orange, grapefruit, apple, orange-pineapple and others), Bluebird, Texsun, Adams and Vintage, and are licensees of other brands. You can find their website at http//www.floridasnatural.com.
Appleby, Joyce. Capitalism and a New Social Order The Republican Vision of the 1790s, New York University
Press, New York, 1984, p. 42. Fromm, Erich. Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought, Mentor,
New York, 1981, p. 53. Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan. Proutist Economics Discourses on Economic Liberation.
Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, Calcutta, 1992, pp.128-45.