The Self Help Corporation

A self-help corporation is formed to produce, or otherwise provide, basic necessities for its employee owners. Basic necessities are food, shelter, clothing, education and health care. Shares in the corporation are issued for labor contributed. The corporation is managed by the employee owners through a system of representation based on the number of shares held by each shareholder and the number of shareholders employed in various activities. Shares in the corporation are redeemable for food, shelter, clothing, education and health care produced or otherwise provided by the corporation. All internal transactions trade at cost. The corporation will anticipate opportunities to provide goods and services to the larger community. To the extent that the cost of labor to the corporation is paid out of internal production, the difference between actual cost and retail value of goods and services traded in the outside economy is available to acquire the resources necessary to employ additional labor.
I do not know how the first self help corporation will evolve. That will depend on circumstances and opportunities as they develop. This is an explanation of the generic process. Imagine 100 people who are having trouble finding enough food to eat, have inadequate shelter and cannot afford adequate clothing education or health care. These circumstances exist for billions of people on earth because there are no jobs available and because they do not own land. However, to demonstrate how a self help corporation might work, just imagine any 100 of those people any place in the world.
If these 100 people agreed to cooperate in acquiring basic necessities, they could form a self help corporation. When they start, all 100 have varying opportunities to earn small amounts of cash working odd jobs. Rather than each individual or family struggling to find food every day, they would pool their meager resources and buy food in bulk and pool their housing resources. 4 people could prepare the food for all the participants. Another 4 people would keep the facilities clean. Another 4 people are assigned to mending and laundering clothing and another 4 people are assigned to look after the young children and see that the older children get to school.
In the resulting organization 16 people are supplying support services to all 100. 84 of the participants seek odd jobs. The quality of life is better because all 100 have regular meals, a clean safe place to live, and a lower cost of living. There may even be cash to buy better clothing, and make arrangements for education and health care. Because of the stability provided by the corporation, the participants seeking odd jobs are better employees and, therefore, will have an easier time finding work.
In this group of 100, all of the participants would vote on how the resources will be expended and on what basis, each individual is entitled to goods and services from the other members. Say that the group issued one share for 8 hours of unskilled labor for the benefit of the group. The corporation would be valuable to that laborer so long as the share could be redeemed for more than one day's basic necessities. For those working odd jobs, participating in the corporation is valuable so long as they can get more goods and services through the corporation than they could through the outside economy.
This group of 100 could then decide to operate its own businesses. One natural expansion might be to provide balanced, nutritious, low cost meals to the outside community. Neighbors with regular jobs would benefit from such a service and the corporation could employ its members in the restaurant business. Another natural business is a temporary labor service. All that the coropration would need is a telephone, someone to answer the phone and participants available to work temporary jobs. If members had experience in construction, the corporation might start bidding construction contracts. If members had experience in agriculture, the corporation could arrange for land to begin growing some of its own food. There are many possibilities as explored in the [ Rural Plan ] and the [ Urban Plan ].
As the corporation accumulates resources, the shares will have value. The corporation can then grow beyond the 100 theoretical initial participants. To the extent that the corporation's businesses require additional labor, the corporation can admit additional full time members. To the extent that the members can utilize outside services for specific tasks, if the shares have real value, such as being redeemable at the restaurant, or for house cleaning, lawn mowing and laundery services, the corporation may be able to acquire legal, accounting, health care and other services in exchange for shares instead of cash. To the extent the corporation's transactions are conducted in shares, it conserves its cash for investment in additional capacity.
As discussed in [ Principles of Organization ], the corporation will seek to accomplish as many tasks internally as possible. The corporation will seek to acquire as many goods and services as possible through share transactions rather than cash transactions. Ultimately, the corporation's goal is the control of land. As explained in [ Environmental Principles ], with control of land, there is the opportunity to establish a set of relationships with an ecosystem in addition to the economic relationships discussed so far.
Particularly in the beginning, the corporation would not be acquiring prime farmland. That land would be too expensive and the corporation is unlikely to have the skills or equipment to efficiently utilize prime farmland. More likely, the land acquired will be marginal land. Land is deemed marginal where it has been abused by grazing or logging, or where it is too dry or steep for conventional agriculture. Because the corporation has the labor, it could permaculture marginal land. A permaculture increases the complexity of the ecosystem on a particular piece of land. By adding certain plants, a permaculture allows for a sustainable yield of food and fiber for the use of the corporation. The corporation has the capacity to create new food sources without diminishing what is now produced from modern production techniques. I discuss this issue more fully in the [ Biological Potential Project ].
If there were one self-help corporation or a number of self-help corporations that employed all those who are currently living in poverty, the internal economy of the corporation(s) would become a base economy for the human species as a whole. By providing a mechanism whereby individuals can spend their time providing for themselves, at those times when their skills are not required by the regular economy, the corporation provides a safety net that is not an expense of the regular economy. By cultivating a relationship with ecosystems, environmental degradation can be alleviated. By providing a mechanism where individuals can develop marketable skills, if they choose, the corporation can provide an alternative to violent revolution, terrorism and crime.

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