Capitalism Eats a Co-op 


Capitalism: it naturally devolves towards ruthless monopolistic unaccountable forms. Ugh! But short of Smashing The System, there is at least one good corporate model—the co-op. Now for some terrible news on that front.

True Value is a chain of more than 4,000 hardware stores around the world. It is a cooperative, meaning simply that it is collectively owned by the individual retail store owners, rather than being owned by, for example, a faceless outside investment firm who cares about nothing but the bottom line. This does not mean that True Value hardware is the vanguard of the socialist revolution, but it does go to show that a thoroughly middle American company can operate at large scale, for many decades, under a decentralized cooperative ownership model. It is simply a living demonstration of the fact that capitalism need not operate in its most rapacious and inhuman form; it can, instead, with collective agreement, be operated in a somewhat less horrible way, in which individual small business owners are empowered.

Ah… cancel that. True Value has been sold to a private equity firm.

“The concept of a co-op, which I’m very respectful of even though I’ve asked shareholders to move away from that, is that individuals came together as a group to do things they couldn’t do on their own,” said John Hartmann, president and CEO of True Value. “The unfortunate thing is it traps their investment, their equity, in the company.”

Yes… it is true that a co-op model of investment requires cooperative investment. Now that True Value has sold control of the company to Acon Investments, it will finally, after 70 long years, be exactly like every other motherfucking company.

As we were saying, capitalism tends to devolve to ruthless monopolistic unaccountable forms.

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