One of the most important things happening today is the stark reality of growing inequality. This divide is evident not only in terms of income and assets, but also in terms of opportunity and access to quality education, healthcare, and housing. While this problem has been building for decades, it has come into even sharper relief in recent years as the wealthiest members of society have grown exponentially richer while the middle class continues to decline.
In an oligarchic society, the economic playing field is tilted decidedly in favor of those at the top, making it difficult for everyday Americans to get ahead. However, several strategies can be employed at the community level to start chipping away at this inequality and build real wealth for everyone, not just the privileged few.
Asset ownership is one of the most important determinants of wealth, yet the oligarchic structure of our economy makes it increasingly difficult for working-class and middle-class families to accumulate assets. A key way to begin rebuilding community wealth is therefore to ensure that everyone has a stake in owning property and other essential assets.
One way to do this is through community land trusts (CLTs). CLTs are nonprofit organizations that purchase land and then lease it back to families, businesses, or other members of the community at an affordable rate. This model allows people to gain a foothold in the property market without being priced out by developers or speculators, while also ensuring that land remains accessible for future generations.
Another strategy for increasing asset ownership is worker-owned cooperatives. Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by their employees, who share in the profits (or losses) generated by the enterprise. Types of co-ops include worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, food cooperatives, and credit unions. They are democratically run and operated for the benefit of their members, not for private profit. This model gives workers a direct stake in their company’s success and allows them to share in the rewards generated by their labor. It also provides them with more control over their working conditions and job security, which helps to insulate them against economic downturns.
A third strategy for building community wealth is to invest in quality public goods and services. This includes everything from schools and parks to roads and public transit. When these services are adequately funded, they provide a benefit to everyone in the community, not just those who can afford to pay for private alternatives. Furthermore, public goods and services are often associated with increased property values, which can generate revenue that can be reinvested in the community.
These are just a few of the many strategies that can be used to start building community wealth in an oligarchic society. All of these things working together means that people have better wages, greater wealth equality, more stability in their work and family lives, more democratic communities, and better results for the environment and the planet’s climate.
It is important to remember, however, that true wealth-building requires a fundamental shift in the way our economy is structured. Only by addressing the root causes of inequality will we be able to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.