Skip to main content
Cover of book, superimposed on a map of the US

Our Common Wealth: The return of public ownership in the United States

Thomas Hanna

Thomas Hanna

Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative more

Democratic Ownership

Buy on Amazon | Buy from a local independent bookseller

Public ownership is more widespread and popular in the United States than is commonly understood. This new book from Democracy Collaborative Research Director Thomas Hanna is the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of US public ownership, debunking frequent misconceptions about the alleged inefficiency and underperformance of public ownership and arguing that it offers powerful, flexible solutions to current problems of inequality, instability, and unsustainability—explaining why after decades of privatization it is making a comeback, including in the agenda of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain. Hanna offers a vision of deploying new forms of democratized public ownership broadly, across multiple sectors, as a key ingredient of any next system beyond corporate capitalism. This book is a valuable, extensively researched resource that sets out the past record and future possibilities of public ownership at a time when ever more people are searching for answers.

“Deeply-informed, thoughtful and beautifully-written. Thomas Hanna surveys the rich history, surprising tenacity and hopeful future of public enterprise, which along with non-profits and cooperatives surely define the sustainable future if we hope to have one.” —James K. Galbraith, The University of Texas at Austin, author of Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know

“Mainstream economists mostly affirm that more choice is better than less, but then insist that private be the only choice for enterprise ownership and that hierarchical be the only choice of enterprise structure. The alternatives, public enterprises and worker cooperatives, are effectively excluded. Private enterprise and hierarchical fundamentalisms are as unattractive as their religious or ideological parallels. Public enterprises are important objects for the respectful study this book provides.” —Richard D. Wolff, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, author of Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown

“Remunicipalisations and renationalisations of public services are spreading and unstoppable. Recent developments in Germany, Spain, the UK and elsewhere as a collective response to the systematic failures of privatisation have demonstrated that there are better solutions than ever-more privatisation, ever-more austerity and ever-lower expectations. Thomas Hanna’s study on Public ownership in the United States is timely. We urgently need to develop viable and achievable alternatives for economic democracy internationally.” —Satoko Kishimoto, Public Alternative Project at Transnational Institute, Amsterdam

“British politics is only now catching up with the reality that public ownership is popular, possible and potentially transformatory. This book is crucial both in demonstrating the need for alternatives to our current economic system, exploring what those alternatives might look like and detailing the lessons we can learn from existing examples of public ownership.” —John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Thomas Hanna

Thomas Hanna

Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative more

More related work

Public rail UK

Constructing the Democratic Public Enterprise

This response to the Labour Party’s Consultation on Democratic Public Ownership sets out the key features of what existing research and experience tells us works for creating democratic forms of public enterprise. read more

How to Create a Thriving Global Commons Economy

Not since Marx identified Manchester’s manufacturing plants as blueprints for the new capitalist society have our political economy’s fundamentals faced a more profound transformation. As structural crises beset capitalism, a new mode of production is emerging: commons-based peer production. read more
Joe Guinan on Raising Incomes panel

The role of worker ownership in raising incomes

The Next System Project’s Joe Guinan called for a “democratic ownership revolution” at a Washington forum organized to discuss strategies for addressing extreme wealth inequality in the United States. read more