Three leaders of grassroots campaigns designed to advance public ownership in key sectors of the economy were featured in a panel moderated by The Democracy Collaborative at Netroots Nation 2020, a national conference of progressive activists and political leaders that took place in mid-August.
During the panel, “Public Ownership: Understanding and Seizing the Momentum,” Trinity Tran, co-founder and lead organizer of California Public Banking Alliance; Mari Rose Taruc, coordinator of the Reclaim Our Power: Utility Justice Campaign based in California; and Tara Raghuveer, the Homes Guarantee Campaign director at People’s Action, each shared how they have been working to advance alternatives to profit-centered corporations in finance, energy and housing.
Public ownership is not a radical idea—not even in the United States. It is true that decades of well-funded propaganda from business and conservative political interests have sought to convince us that public institutions can’t run anything well—it’s “failed socialism”—and that the titans of Wall Street and Silicon Valley should be the ones who are given even more control over the essentials that we depend upon. Yet, as Thomas M. Hanna documents in his book, Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, there is ample evidence in our history and our current experience that public ownership works—and works better than the privatization schemes that have been all the rage since the Reagan and Clinton eras.
The experiences of these three leaders offer inspiration and insights into how we can reimagine how our economy should work and how we can together build that new world that we imagine.