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Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize

Zephyr Teachout

Two days ago I wrote about introducing a new kind of scale-based antitrust. Before exploring some other structural reforms, I want to encourage people to join a nationwide demonstration of support for some basic principles of structural change in the banking sector.

On Saturday, 60+ demonstrations will be held around the country, demanding structural change in the banking sector. The group organizing the demonstrations, a New Way Forward, started less than a month ago, but is already approaching 10,000 members. A New Way Forward embodies the logic of the most thoughtful economic thinkers in the country, translated into clear, direct language and action.

We/they support a Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize platform, pointing to Krugman on the need for temporary nationalization, Simon Johnson on the need for removing current leadership in the banking sector, and Mike Lux on the importance of creating a new, decentralized private market, with new banks run by new people. Any bank that's "too big to fail" means that it's too big to exist in a free market.

I got involved in A New Way Forward a week or so after it started, and its an amazing grassroots organization in a few ways.

The first is that it is completely unfunded. Tiffiniy Cheng, Donny Shaw, Morgan Knutson, Andrew Packer, and the 60+ local organizers who have sprung up are all working (a lot) for free: not a one is making a dime. There are no paid advertisers, media campaigns, or strategists. Every piece of this effort is unpaid.

The second is that it is intellectually serious and engaged, without being condescending. On the organizers listserv, the 60+ organizers share tips on how to get megaphones, how to make effective signs, how to get permits, who to ask for legal advice...and thoughtful opinion pieces by economists about the pros and cons of different regulations. The wisdom of particular regulations is debated.

The third is that the process is deeply democratic. Debate on the organizers listserv--and it is a listserv about highly contentious issues, so there is debate--is respectful and thoughtful. Suggestions are made, but not commands. In the "top down" vs. "bottom up" range of organizations, this one is deeply bottom up, with a fundamental attitude of respect and care--necessary features in a sustainable democratic community.

All of these things to me give me great hope that it will have an impact, and become a sustainable force demanding a complete change in the way we organize our banking structure, in both the short and long term.

The summary of demands: "Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize" applies to banks, but also applies to the politics of the group--everyone comes together to organize locally, in a decentralized fashion.

As Bill Greider said describing it on Bill Moyers, it is an expression of true citizenship--active, thoughtful, public expression and engagement in the most important political debates of our times.


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Zephyr Teachout teaches Election Law at Duke University School of Law. She is the former National Director of the Sunlight Foundation, Director of Online Organizing for Howard Dean's Campaign, and Researcher at the Center for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia-Herzogovenia.

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