Can We Do It Ourselves?

Can We Do It Ourselves?

2015, Economics  -   50 Comments
Ratings: 8.47/10 from 186 users.

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.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

In short, there is no such thing as "corporate capitalism". There is Corporatism(the more accurate term for Fascism according to Mussolini who coined the term) and there is Capitalism, the ability for people to trade freely among themselves without interference (especially from govt).

The Collectivists (Marxists, Socialists, Progressives, Communists) lie, confuse, and manipulate people who refuse to do their homework into believing Capitalism is causing problems that Collectivism and Corporatism are causing.

For example, in Europe importing people of a culture disharmonious with the existing culture is a Collectivist ploy to bring about more govt control, via cries for protection, which by its very nature is Collectivist. It also makes most poorer to pay for the imported people.

The less money, the less power and ability you have to fight what the Collectivists push upon you.

ricky terry
5 years ago

most of th comments i read are hitting close to karl marx

5 years ago

According to supply and demand,gold and or sliver as abacking of money are inferior to food and housing, transportation,etc.

5 years ago

Purchase voucher money concept. A car manufacturer produces one hundred cars at a ten thousand dollar price,it may therefore produce vouchers representing this value.Basiclly supply and demand determine viability.

6 years ago

When big corporate and bankster sponsored university collectivists professors teach the govt school indoctrinated, with mislabeling and redefining terms like "capitalism", "market economy", "democracy", etc. so as to manipulate the mental sponges who have no clue what much of anything is about, except maybe a starter summer job or part time that they didn't think they got paid enough at... we get more Marxism.

1. Most people, no matter how high of pay, never thinks they get paid enough for their trouble.

2. Ignorance is bliss. We have people telling how great things would be under a particular system when they have already been tried. If you think it is such a great idea, move to where that system is. Why is it always the goal of the Marxists to ruin yet another country?

3. The increasing problem with Capitalism in the usa has been and still is incremental Socialism and Corporate corruption of govt = Fascism. Meaning that Capitalism is not the problem at all. Problem has been and is everything BUT Capitalism.

4. Your Socialist-Communist professors, if they were honest, which Marx and/or Alinsky tells them to lie or the people would never go for it, would properly define Capitalism as simply the ability to freely trade among yourselves without ANY interference. Govt IS the problem, provides the means for corruption. Corruption is much WORSE under Socialism because you are not allowed to compete against protected established companies who "donate" to or put their people in govt. That is what we have now and has NOTHING to do with true Capitalism.

5. Huge corporations hate competition so favor Socialism/Marxism, therefore that is what YOU are taught in school. Money talks. If you fall for it, you are then the useful idiots which wants to bring about the revolution, thinking you are fighting the big corporations, when you are fighting FOR them. Fighting for your enslavement to CorproGovtMedia complex, Brilliant. And all the while you are telling the Freedom loving true capitalists which participate in a Market Economy they are the problem.

6. Without Govt, there would not be any corruption, no corporate welfare. If the workers hated the company, if they weren't so lazy and chicken, they would pool their money and compete ...or find a new biz they liked even better. Govt causes the problems by making/allowing an uneven playing field, then creates more problems they label as solutions dreamt up by indoctrinated know nothings, most of who never worked ...or thought they should own the company after doing a little work.

7. Unions are thugs who are too chicken to spend their own money to build a business and compete. Unions find it much easier to extort from others, from established business. Caesar Chavez? Why didn't he gather the workers to pool their funds to buy some land, to grow their own produce? No money? Hogwash. $5/yr x 200,000 workers = 1mln/yr = a lot of acreage in the span of 5 years. No. much easier to point fingers, to extort, than to look in the mirror. This is the mental disorder of the Marxist/Socialist who would never stop shouting for more, even if the owner of the company took 1c as a salary, paying the workers as much as the company could bare and stay alive. It would never be enough because the actual purpose is not fairness, it is a ploy, a scam, a method of enslavement the "intellectuals" who are the minions of the bankster elite promote and the skulls full of mush students who think they are smart, lap up like a cat at a bowl of milk.

8. Human nature is buying into the first thing they hear if someone supposedly knowledgeable states it, rather than doing proper homework.

9. There is NOTHING but being chickens of risk, stopping a group of workers from forming a company which they all have a share in the profits, as well as paid a wage or salary. They exist NOW in Capitalism. If people did their homework they could name several such companies that compete in the market place; some in the same cities and towns as Wal Mart. Is that Economic Democracy? A BS term. Or just Capitalism with more shareholders of the company being restricted to the workers, rather than the original owners cashing out to Wall Street and letting the bean counters and lawyers run the company and screw the workers? Well there is one other thing stopping those workers from competing rather than trying to extort: Mental deficiency caused by big corporations and banksters that own them, who desire less competition so sponsor Marxist professors to dumb down the populace. If you don't like capitalism as it is supposed to be, move. Lots of people moved to the usa to get away from the very thing an "economic democracy" would turn into if not simply free men freely trading in a market driven economy = Capitalism.

10. Can the people bring about the change they want themselves? Will that particular change be better or worse than before; should be the question. The same question I kept asking those who parroted the media-Obama mantra that we needed change. To demonstrate the mentality: The only answer I ever received was, "I don't know, I just know we need change." Obviously the assumption was change for the better but actually Obama never said that. He stated he wanted to transform. And he did. And the results of THAT change, which is more of what you dislike, more govt encroachment on your freedoms, more spying on you, more data collecting on you, more Socialism-Communism-Fascism-Corporatism, is the exact thing you are blaming on Capitalism. Obama was a minion of the bankster elite, he was funded by Soros.

11. Free men who join together in the market place to enhance their lives by trading goods and services (Capitalism) have no need of ANY govt, except that defense to keep foreign or domestic invaders from stealing what they have built. Such as a nice producing farm. Or nice tractor factory.

12. Why and when did it become the job of govt to take care of the incapable? That used to be the job of charities until those Collectivist politicians saw a means of buying votes. There would be a lot of people who would get their mind right if govt politicians weren't stealing from those who work to BUY the votes of those who don't. Govt doesn't protect you at all, never has. Who was first on the scene to help those in need after the hurricanes? Christians, those the Collectivists hate because why? Because they are propagandized about them, told their short comings but never the good. Never told the tremendous short comings of Collectivism only the supposed good. The bigger or the more Collectivist the govt, the more corrupt vote buying. If not for corrupt continuing incrementally more Collectivist, regulators wouldn't allow people to be poisoned by Fluoride, chlorine, GMO, chemtrails, radiation, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, nutrient empty food, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, growth hormones, etc. Collectivism is all about getting rid of the competition so you have no choice. Freedom is choice.

13. Marxists, Socialists, Progressives, or whatever flavor of Collectivism you favor you are the useful idiot bringing about your own enslavement. And when you do, I will escape to some other country, just like many did to get here, to escape the very thing you want.

14. Did I miss the point of the video? Hardly. It is just another way to confuse people into Marxism, when if you cleared out all the marxists and marxism we have already, it would be a easy simple thing for the workers to start and run their own company if they had the balls. That is the real issue. They want the glory without the guts, without risk. They want their utopian workers world and of course will vote for a collectivist govt to support it so they have no risk.

15. Please, go to where that exists already, Zimbabwe or where ever, quit forcing the rest of us to despise you for wanting to take our freedom because you are too chicken to risk your own money or those of your pooled workers in a system where you have to compete. No. You just want paid upper class salary just for showing up and doing whatever you feel like. And if you can't get that then you want to steal from others to get "subsistence level income" for free, so you can do nothing and demand more for your vote. Piss off.

6 years ago

50% of all businesses fail in the first five years, so pointing out that some cooperatives fail is not looking at the capitalistic ones that fail. Just something to keep in mind.

mike m
6 years ago

You people don't have the intelligence to get together and run a business.
That' why you never have.
That's why you look for work.
You require some one intelligent and skilled to think up stuff for you. Ya know ya do!
You little people better leave the corporate stuff to us or everything will be ruined.
Now, run along and consume while I do smart stuff for ya.

Silas Charleaux
7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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.

Yavor Hadzhiev
8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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.

Austin Anderson
8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

"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?

Chad Butler
8 years ago

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...:)

Roserval Paarkund
8 years ago

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

M Schultz
8 years ago

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.

John Defalque
8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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!

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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.

Janeen Clark
8 years ago

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.