Can We Do It Ourselves?

2015 ,    »  -   38 Comments
Ratings: 8.68/10 from 141 users.
Can We Do It Ourselves?

Can We Do It Ourselves focuses on economic philosophy with an emphasis on the concept of economic democracy. The film helps viewers understand the difference between a market economy in which consumer demand drives a company's supply of goods and services, and a capitalist economy in which private owners control production and hold a right to the profits. There is strong support for the potential promise of a democratic economic model in which workers have more of a say in business operations than either market or capitalist models.

Input from European and American economic experts as well as general consumers helps to unveil the complexities of these economic models by presenting the potential benefits and pitfalls of each. Many of the interview subjects argue in favor of greater democracy in the workforce, highlighting a need to establish a system that emphasizes the importance of workers' welfare.

Political scientist Bo Rothstein argues that capitalism essentially sees workers selling themselves into slavery. Companies built around a workers' cooperative, however, center more on the well-being of those providing labor over the maximization of profit. By making managers responsible to the workers, instead of the other way around, the quality of work improves. The driving philosophy in putting more power in the hands of the workers is that they will take more pride in what they're doing when they are, in essence, working for themselves.

Janerik Larsson, former VP of the Confederation of the Swedish Enterprise, is the primary voice of dissent throughout the film, cautioning that proponents of a democratic economy are trying to make an ideology out of a reality that is too fluid and ever changing in nature. He claims that he has not seen effective, practical economic democracy, and weighs in favor of a market economy within a democratic society instead of an actual democratic economy.

Can We Do It Ourselves calls into question the fact that democracy prevails in so many models of world politics, yet not in economic spheres. By examining the key differences between market, capitalist and democratic economies, the filmmakers are able to present the many perceived benefits of empowering the working class and re-calibrating the scales of corporate influence.

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38 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Janeen Clark

    while there is potential for obvious improvements over capitalism, its seems like putting a bandaid on a cancerous growth, that is, not dealing with fundamental flaws inherit within the idea of money itself and the problems that occur as a direct consequence of money barter and trade as a specific methodology. for example with money you are only as free as your purchasing power this is far from democracy. human effort does not translate to income level and on and on
    we can do much better. we can identify the domination mentality of other humans that is a direct consequence of any competitive structure vs. a co-operation based structure. we can look scientifically at the issues of resource monitoring,management, extraction, as well as manufacturing and distribution. we can work toward creating a freedom based, economy instead of a economy thats creates haves and have nots.
    there does seem to be some potential here anyway and improvement is good but it is only for a lack of imagination due to culture defined beliefs are people not thinking even further outside the box taking a look at the best methodologies and working to deal with fundamental problems inherint in the competition based economic structures.

  2. Pascalore

    I would love to play baseball against these experts as they continue to swing and miss on every point. Production of any material product is dictated by the wants of that product in any market. One of the best ways to make that work is paying by the piece produced and not by the hours spent producing. If the worker produces more units, they get paid more for that production. If you produce less, you are paid less but teaching can increase production such as putting the slower worker alongside of the faster worker to teach and learn better techniques.

    Much is said about capitalism as being the level playing field where each company is equal to any other. But the U.S. hasn't had a level playing field since 1913. In order for equality, the money system of an economy must be a bedrock foundation. This means that money cannot be a traded commodity, cannot be manipulated by changing interest rates and must exist without any interest due to anybody simply for its existence.

    Simplistically, consider an economy like a bathtub with no drain. The tub represents all of the people in an economic group. The water represents the money used in this system. The part of the bathtub underwater represents those who are working to keep the water circulating. The remainder of the bathtub out of the water are the spouses (almost said women) and the children being supported by the working group. So long as their is no drain on the supply, the only need to increase the quantity of water/money in the system is when the population grows and more people need "things" and "services" which require more people to produce those things and provide those services. The bathtub gets bigger and needs a larger quantity of water/money to maintain a sustainable level.

    In this system, though, as automation takes over many aspects of the physical tasks performed, the level of water/money can be reduced and still maintain circulation. Consider the bucket brigade firefighters of old requiring many strong backs and many buckets to put out even a small fire. Putting large tanks of water on the, now motorized, trucks eliminated many workers. And installing underground water piping and fire hydrants reduced the worker requirements even further with more efficient results.

    The displaced workers could then become artists or designers or layabouts with no detriment to the overall social system. Their labor simply would not be needed and the money supply could eventually be eliminated when enough of the work would be done by engineered mechanisms - including computer controlled manufacturing - local 3D printing - indoor food production - etc. This is true "smart growth".

    The current system, however, has a drain installed in our bathtub which doesn't recycle back to the economy. If it did, i.e.taxes and payments for government services going to the treasury to be re-injected into the economy, the system would work as described above and did for many hundreds of years here in America. The drain directly feeds the interest owed on a "National Debt" which is borrowed from nothing, based on nothing and is not only manipulable by changing interest rates as well as the overall supply (quantity) it is also a commodity, traded and further manipulated by a market which also is controlled by the self-same interest rates and supply. It is a juggling act carried out on a trampoline. It can't be sustained and will, as we see it today and have seen it throughout history, collapse in on itself with the manipulators claiming real-world goods and property to compensate them for the fake money they created this system with.

  3. williamdais

    Why does democracy prevail in the political sphere but not economic? Are you KIDDING me? Have you looney leftists forgotten the mistakes of the past, with the utter failure of communal ownership every time it is tried? Are you to completely devoid of understanding of human nature as not to understand incentives which compel people to work? Unbelievable, that in this day and age, with the staggering successes and wealth that property rights and free trade have bestowed on countries which adopt them, that intellectual idiots continue to spread this stupidity. Business entrepreneurs take the risks, and they reap the rewards as they see fit. That is why businesses are not freaking democracies. If business managers don't pay their employees well, they lose their businesses due to attrition. Capitialism, i.e.: voluntary commerce, is NOT a zero sum game. All parties in voluntary exchanges benefit. Incredible that so many people have been brainwashed to your mentality of servitude to the collective. Simply astonishing.

  4. dmxi

    all practical known political/economical systems have an in-built
    shelf-life as postulated in 'evolution' (not to be mistaken with
    Darwinism-survival of the...u know!)!all of these are steps to the next
    transition....which,by logic only leave 2 possibilities:self-destruct or
    unity-of-all!.....& i don't mean "a new world order",just a world
    in order with the (k)new!

  5. John Defalque

    Every workplace should be run as a co-op and non-discriminatory, that way those who lack an education will have the means by which to get there.

  6. M Schultz

    If you want to learn about a successful cooperative economy, Check out Mondragon in Spain. It is living proof that a democratic workplace can survive and thrive without a parasitic super rich elite.

  7. Roserval Paarkund

    I see (at least) two problems:
    1) I belive he aim is to bring better conditions and more money to workers by renting the factory and dividing the profits between workers - however the owner of the factory would not rent it cheaply if the factory could bring him much more money by running it on it's own.. therefore the rent would be high and the workers would end up with the same low wage as before.
    2) This in not new idea at all. During comunist regiem in eastern europe there were only co-operatives or state-owned companies. For example in Czechoslovakia it worked in that sence that over 40 years of comunism there was no famine.. However as there were no business owners who would keep the effiiciency and quality the Czechoslovakia went from 7. richest country in the world in 1930's to the bottom half of all countries in 1980's. I am sorry guys but it just doesn't work.. belive me.. I am from the Czech republic

  8. dmxi

    thanks to the 'durutti-experience'!one of my few heroes!

  9. Yaroon

    i get what you're saying but:
    There was no free market in that part of the world at that time.
    you're making the mistake they tried to prevent you from making in the docu when they made the distinction between democratised enterprises and the free market

  10. Chad Butler

    ideas are ideas, this isn't a bad one. These guys seem like 'optimists' to which profiteering could simply vanish if more control would be put in the hands of the worker. But I would think that human nature is human nature, at this time, still 'greedy', or put more lightly 'needy'. Since capitilism has increased mass consumerism, many have forgotten where to stop the need to keep having more than we really do need. Perhaps university's should have an interactive philosophy course purely based on Zen, where one could practice the art of having everything already on the inside, so democracy in the work place (or better even in the corporate sector!) could still have a chance of feeling equal. Its a tough one, but nice try guys and I loved the warm ending...:)

  11. 2veritas2

    The owner then puts a lower price on each item you produce.

  12. techcafe

    "When people come to realize: "We can run this ourselves" Then we're on a path to a higher level of democratic development."

    Economic Democracy may be fine & dandy for those who are able to participate in such worker cooperatives, but what about the many millions of unfortunate people among us who are unable to work, due to mental illness or physical disabilities, or for whatever other reason. Our social welfare systems today, meagre as they are, are wholly dependent upon taxation of our economy.

    Will the unemployed, the marginalized, the malcontents & misfits living on the fringes of society be included? how do we fit everyone into this 'Economic Democracy'?

    I guess what I'm asking is, how do WE ALL take care of each other, particularly the least among us? Those on the lower income rungs of society, struggling & stresssing every day, just to get by. Will they have a voice, and a place, in this wonderful Economic Democracy?

    Some economists are now saying that we need to have a 'Basic Income' that guarantees all citizens a minimum standard of living (food & housing, and the many other essentials our modern 'consumer culture' demands of us), regardless of a person's ability or willingness to work. Mandating a basic standard of living would, ultimately, end up being less costly to society overall. It's pretty well understood that Crime/Poverty are two sides of the same coin, wherever there is poverty, there will be chronic suffering and higher crime. So giving more to the poor, probably a lot more, would actually be the least expensive, and most humane, way to make a Democratic Economy work for everyone. If poverty & crime go hand in hand, and it's pretty clear they do, then it just makes good economic sense to get rid of poverty altogether.

    So Economic Democracy sounds lovely and all... but how do we make our economic systems HUMANE, where all of our basic needs are met? A decent standard of living for everyone, regardless of his/her status in life.

    How do we get to that place?

  13. Austin Anderson

    Had Dr. Schweickart as a professor in a political theory course last year at Loyola.. he's a fantastic professor and person. And a Noah Chomsky interview? Insightful documentary and intriguing, unbiased views on an infinitely intricate issue.

  14. jerrymack

    I agree with Ivan Ilich. First we need to limit the scope of industrial production. Otherwise workers remain the slaves of machines. So we need to develop new tools that are high tech but on a human scale so workers can really be workers again.

  15. socratesuk

    Great documentary. Some great graphics/animations as well. I think we need more democracy in the workplace. Particularly in large established corporations. Realistically some jobs are always going to be pretty rubbish. I.E Working in a fast-food chain. But creative businesses would certainly function better and produce better products and services with a more democratic approach. I have worked in several hotels in the past, and the management is always terrible, the wages are also terrible. The problem is that middle-manager's rarely listen to the workers. The workers often have good ideas of how to improve a product or service but are ignored by people higher up the chain. The best approach would be a basic wage every month and then a % of the profits at the end of the year as well. Also laws should be passed to free humans from pointless jobs such as sitting on a till for 9 hours a day. (All large super-markets should be forced to go self-service). Also one day self-driving cars will replace the need for expensive taxi drivers.

  16. socratesuk

    If workers are paid more, then their income tax contributions will also increase. Giving "money to the poor" has rarely worked in any country. Instead its about providing the right institutions so the people can free themselves from the poverty. US DRUG laws are also another reason why some areas are poor. In poor areas n the USA most of the men are in prison for selling some kind of drug. The US system is largely based on huge debts. However it is possible in most E.U countries to pull yourself out of poverty, as most E.U countries have tax-funded healthcare and good educational facilities. So even the poorest of people have a chance to do something with their life's.

  17. socratesuk

    Czechoslovakia probably wasn't that productive in certain areas, so when it was opened to foreign competition, the country become poorer. (Rich countries often protect certain industries)

  18. socratesuk

    A good post. But I think certain companies could benefit from more honest internal communications and a better democratic framework.

  19. socratesuk

    Are you suggesting that a planet of 7 billion should scrap the medium of exchange?

  20. techcafe

    "Giving "money to the poor" has rarely worked in any country. Instead its about providing the right institutions so the people can free themselves from the poverty."

    you're not getting it: there will always be a percentage of society that simply CANNOT WORK, for a myriad of reasons. what shall the fate of these people be? destitution??

  21. socratesuk

    No income tax is usually one of the largest taxes, as is VAT. So a reduction in corporation tax should make hardly any difference. In the UK its possible to claim around £15-£18k a year in Benefits in some situations. Full time minimum wage is roughly £14,500 a year.

  22. Christopher Kwall

    Rightly said. .. Don't worry people we are growing to a higher consciousness, more aware of the shame of capitalism ...It's only a matter of time before it falls apart... Like all these bail outs, who's bailing us out? And, how much debt will gov't a mass?

    love to you all. .

  23. socratesuk

    Capitalism isn't all bad.....You are no doubt reading this comment on a laptop which was put together by a profit-seeking company? Your electric, water and gas? Are also profit-seeking companies. The food in your fridge is largely provided by profit-seeking companies as well.

  24. SoMeINTP

    Your stupid statements:

    1. Only entrepreneurs take risks.
    2. Capitalists have to pay their workers well.
    3. All exchanges are voluntary.

    Think some more then return to the real world.

  25. SoMeINTP

    You missed the whole point of the documentary. The way the capitalists model works is different from the way it is sold. You are selling the false model and your own crackpot theories.

    No one can predict or guarantee prosperity under the current regime. It is not a science. It is an ideology. Don't fool yourself with convoluted rationalizations. Words are cheap.

  26. socratesuk

    Thank you for your reply.

  27. Yavor Hadzhiev

    Great work. This documentary is a breath of fresh air in economic and political philosophy. Co-operativism is the third route that has been so neglected throughout the years and it has been object to alot of prejudice and many misconceptions. I congratulate the film makers and all participants, even the dissenting ones, for this potentially game chaning film.

  28. Yavor Hadzhiev

    This is a very interesting question you are raising. First, let me remind you that cooperatives must have roots in the community. Besides, their prime objective is to satisfy certain needs, not profits. My guess is that cooperatives are the most social inclusion friendly associations/enterprises that we can have. It is simply that since cooperators are not to be worried about maximizing profit, and by having democracy and human rights in the core of cooperative organizations, there isn't any obstacle to finding any sort of a task that a person with disability should be able to do as to earn a living. In any case, a cooperative economy does not exclude central and local state autorities which can, and should, promote social security and social inclusion policies.

  29. Yavor Hadzhiev

    I don't think that any sane social scientist will defend a fixed and static "human nature". I think the whole concept is ultra-old and inaccurate. People are socialized into thinking, feeling and behaving in certain ways and in certain circumstances. A technique used in sociology sometimes is to compare how moral values have changed over time. Yes, indeed greed has been dominant throughout History, but then we have been reproducing, more or less, a similar economic system over and over. But when we speak of values, viking mens, for instance, supreme value was to reach Valhala and have a honourable death. That is quite disconnected from money.

  30. Yavor Hadzhiev

    Just because capitalism works well for some, or even a large portion of people, it doesn't mean there isn't any better system. No doctor will let out of a hospital just because he has stopped your bleeding. Capitalism may have solved some problems, but it has created others. My view is that cooperativism, as an alternative to communism and capitalism, is an elegant way to solve many of Humanity's problems.

  31. Yavor Hadzhiev

    Communism, or State capitalism, is extremely different in philosophy from cooperativism... And we can start with the fact that the first one relies on "dictature of /over/ the proletariat", while the latter aims at rationally spreading democracy to the "realm" of labour.

  32. Yavor Hadzhiev

    First, I don't think it is fair to label cooperativism "leftist". Second, there are examples of failure, but there are inumerable living examples of how it can be succesful. Third, workers do take risk - they can have workplace accidents, they are many times subjected to toxic working conditions, they can be made redundant. Fourth, "human nature" is socially defined and it is not an objective inheritable property. Fifth, cooperatives do not exclude property rights, they take them to another level. Cooperatives do not counter free trade and they take wealth to a completely new level of moral legitimacy and purpose - to benefit the community and everyone in an organization.

  33. socratesuk

    Thank you for your reply. A lot of people on here dismiss capitalism (yet their homes are full of its products) So thank you for being honest. I agree that there are better systems. I would probably argue that Capitalism could still work, but that certain industries should become co-operatives. For example super-markets typically can only expand so much, and then there comes a point where the staff who work there are literally doing the same thing every day for the same pay, being a co-op they could potentially earn a little more. Alternatively governments have the power to increase minimum wage. So you can still have a relatively free-market, but occasionally I think its good for the state to meddle (particularly with the problem of low wages). Apple is currently siting on a huge reserve of money, (I assume they are secretly working on some sort of augmented reality glasses or tech clothing or something interesting). The only good thing about companies with lots of cash, is that they have the means to invent new products. (That said were still waiting for a stronger I-phone screen)... So yeah I kind of think there is lots of good points and lots of bad points about the current system. The solution would probably be a more honest and accountable political solution. Sadly politics in the West is very hypocritical and has also been hijacked by a lot of elite people from wealthy backgrounds. Do politician's really care about the people? Or are they more interested in becoming friends with a billionaire? I don't know. But one way of fixing capitalism is by first fixing our political system.

  34. Yavor Hadzhiev

    Hello. I agree that Capitalism could work better. Actually, there are scholars who argue that what we have now isn't really Capitalism. There is a part in the documentary where it is examined how easy it is to create a succesful company... It turns out it is really hard because markets are already monopolized. Capitalism, as it is theorized, is anti-monopoly, at least in general.

    Regarding the political system, yes, I couldn't agree more. What we have aren't true democracies. They are partidocracies and oligarchies. There is barely any civic participation and big companies and banks are the ones pulling the strings. There is alot to say on this topic. But definetely, our political systems are in a very, very, bad shape.

  35. socratesuk

    Great post!. I totally agree. Its very hard/almost impossible to set up a company and say compete with KFC or Walmart? (Tho it is possible to set up your own small chicken take-away which in theory would possibly deliver a basic salary and maybe just enough to pay for 1 or 2 part-time workers) Our political system has basically given up on workers and workers rights. The UK potentially has a more left-wing Labour party emerging, but the problem with left-wing politics is that the markets/imf/world bank/big business have more power than governments. If a government says its going to raise Corporation tax, some companies threaten to leave. If a government says it wants to increase minimum wage, a lot of companies moan that they cant afford it, (even though the produce record profits every year). Sadly there is a lot of dishonesty with the modern world, and a tiny bit of honesty could go a long way. I think if you invent a good product or service you should be rewarded financially. But the problem is modern capitalism is less about individual inventors and is more about improving the latest I-phone with a slighter better camera knowing people will pay $500 for a phone that is just slightly better/faster than there old one.

  36. Bradley

    I remember when I still believed stuff like this was a good idea then I started studying economics ,both Keynesian and Austrian, and business; particularly focusing on how modern businesses function both big and small in various economic environments with various levels and types of state intervention into the economy. It simply isn't. You can create your own company with your own funds that the workers of said workers are partial owners of.None of this is illegal in the modern era in most western countries.

    The fact that you are in a competitive economic environment more or less makes this idea noncompetitive in most markets,and thus nonviable without special government protections for these co-op business setups and strict enforcement of said protections. Not to mention the immediate capital flight that would insure once such legislation is passed in whatever nation, because the people willing to sell their labor for wages as opposed to a stake in the company are going to be cheaper to hire especially over the long term generally and thus out compete those who want stake in the company. Even though there are many start-ups that offer stock in there company as opposed to wages; this usually occurring in times of economic downturn with low cash flow.

    The main issue is individual property rights and whether or not there should be limitations on private property and how do you justify that and the legitimate removal or limitations on the property of private citizens. It has already been done in the case of slavery which has long been abolished in most nation states. There are real reasons why socialism and various collective ownership arrangements fails. Look at Venezuela's collapsing economy in the face of O.P.E.C. driving down oil prices with increased production. Not to posit that socialism is always a bad idea just happens to be from an economic stand point.

  37. Mashu

    Such a range of comments and differing opinions one wonders if we were watching the same thing :) its interesting to me that critics of economic democracy can't see beyond government controlled centralised socialism as being the only alternative to our current capitalist system

  38. Silas Charleaux

    Marx was right, the more we deny it, the more obvious and present his predictions become.
    We are at the verge of the fall of Capitalism.

    There is a lot of socialist institutions rising. It really doesn't matter if we think its right or wrong, good or bad, it is just that it is happening.

    He did stated that we need to allow the system institutions to full develop by themselves and not coerce or force them to become what we want, only then real transitions would happen.

    We as a whole are just denying his predictions because it allows us to enjoy perversion for a prolonged period of time. Lets all be perverts, it only speeds up the process of conversion to the new system.

    It is a metter of forcing it and seeing it failling (URSS), admitting and refusing the enjoyment of perversion(FUTURE). Denying it and ultimately materializing it(CAPITALISM). He was genious.

    If we don't come up with new ideas outside of this system, we are inevitably taking the steps towards it.

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