I was honored several weeks ago to be asked to participate on a panel last Friday at the Yearly Kos convention entitled "Progressives and Capitalism" — a very important topic, with two principle questions up for discussion: 1)
"Can progressives be successful capitalists?" and 2) "Can capitalism help us create a more progressive world?"

I was joined on the panel by Andrew Kassoy of B Corporation, Wood Turner of Climate Counts, and Joe Andrew of the Blue Fund.

The answers to those two questions? Yes, and no. Yes, progressives can indeed be successful capitalists; Working Assets is a prime example of that. (Although, to be truthful, we consider ourselves to be a social change organization living inside an excellent telecommunications company. Many of us here would NOT consider ourselves capitalists.) One of the key factors in our ability to thrive and do so much good progressive work is the fact that we are not a publicly-held corporation, and can aim for much longer-term social and environmental goals than the short-term pressures of the market might otherwise allow.

In terms of the second question, the answer to that one has to be a resounding "NO." Capitalism as an engine of change is enormously powerful, but there is little reason to think of it as progressive — it's amoral at its core. Companies like Working Assets, while important, are outliers and not the norm. Activist movements and honest governments (such as the one President Bush is trying to destroy with his crony appointments and "drown it in the bathtub" philosophy) are always going to be needed to rein in the excesses of capitalism.

In answering that second question, I left a very important actor out of the equation — organized labor. Labor unions have been the longest-serving check on the excesses of unbridled capitalism, and have achieved historic wins on things like the eight-hour work day, 40-hour work week, and worker safety, to name just a few. Without labor unions, we very likely would not have the middle class in America as it stands today — the same middle class that the Bush administration keeps trying to destroy with anti-union organizing, unneeded tax giveaways for the rich and cuts to college scholarship programs.

Originally from WorkingForChange on August 7, 2007, 6:43pm


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Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.

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Political Campaign Intervention

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Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:

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  • It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 – present, website developer and writer. 2015 – present, insurance broker.

    Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration.

    Volunteerism: 2007 – present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.

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