Modernized craft guilds as a means to revive Detroit and also as a means for remote areas and or inner cities struggling to develop economically in order to their propects for economic progress in the face of pervasive and mean spirited off-shoring mainly by multi-national corporations to the People's Republic of China. The dramatic photo is meant to shock and force people to realize that this is the nature of the regime that Benedict Arnold CEA's are off shoring to.
The problem facing western societies is that the current existence of offshore labour on a truly massive scale is a relatively new phenomenom since the fall of the Berlin wall and the PR China's entry into the WTO. This has permitted those companies with good contacts overseas and or by hiring N. Americans from the PRC knowing the language and who to pay the inevitable kickbacks the means of crushing their local current and or potential rivals without the necessary infrastructure and or the indifference to the implications of their decision to offshore (those without a conscience). The vast army of eager to please cheaper labour that isn't overly concerned with the environmental degradation of their country as well as their blatant exploitation effectively doubles as a club to keep those who haven't already lost their jobs in the west in line and is effectively morally bankrupt and ultimately self defeating for those coporations that so engage in off shoring as they are effectively planting the seeds of their own destruction.
It's in this environment of managerial bliss that the creative individual is increasingly marginalized and his efforts often muted and in the case of Detroit an entire city. The Wal-Martization of the world means that corporations force inventors and artists to sign humiliating contracts resulting in their essentially handing over the rights to their creations for relatively little in return and without even a guarantee of long term employment with the corporations in turn off-shoring the work to the oprressive PR of China etc...: the old social contract has ceased to apply.
There is a great deal at stake as those societies which engage wholeheartedly in creative endeavours stand to be in the best position possible to deal with the plague of off-shoring by modern day Benedict Arnolds/Quislings. Western de-industrialization and a falling birth rate have resulted in a surplus of industrial and educational types of buildings in remote areas (not cities -but is so in Detroit- as they end up becoming Condos) to be available in some parts of the world and are frequently owned by the state due to the non payment of taxes and or disrepair. My solution would be to permit these buildings to be made available to a new type of social construct called Modernized CRAFT GUILDS that would have temporary non-profit status for 3 to 5 years provided that they firstly produce something, have a one worker one vote structure, have an an uquitable share in the net profits of the worker owned co-operative and not be a polluting entity. The temporary non profit status would permit this new social construct to acquire the equipment, machinery, educational liasons and the infrastructure necessary to get started and off the ground. The approximiate prototype for this idea is the Mondragon worker owned co-operative in the basque region of Spain which currently has approximately 120 000 members with a typical individual equity of ~ 60 000 euros, a pension plan, health care system, supporting technical university and an extremely low unemployment rate due to an extensive retraining system. Google: Mondragon + BBC + Youtbe to get an historical perpsective of the mondragon co-operative. For the record, 2012 in the international year of the CO-OP. The ideal craft guild would be an assemblage of architects, engineers, artists and production technicians who would enter into mutually beneficial contracts respecting their individual rights and not excessive in their demands and allowing for both horizontal and vertical growth. It would be unwise to limit this idea to merely arts and crafts and furniture etc... as I see this idea being applicable to the full range of economic activities especially high technology activities such as packaging of commodities, electronic production and generic pharmaceutical production and could permit western societies to effectively compete against the military dictatorship that is the PR China, a regime that some day could be numbered as it is being held together by an iron fist. Egypt collapsed relatively quickly and there were no less than 100 000 incidents of revolt against the Chinese authorities in 2011 for various reasons.
Patents, copyrights and designs would be owned by the their creators with a 10 % royalty fee for the FIRST invention reverting to the guild in order to enable the continuity of the guild's existence. The idea is permit the benefit of the collective but to also encourage individual innovations via recognition and profit. Guild types can cover the entire spectrum of creative activities but the special status of the modernized guilds would be dependant upon their being engaged in CREATING goods and or services that are not readily available and not simply being job shops which in reality would have them compete with existing companies and merely be subsidized competition and would in effect be moving work from one entity to another. A prime example of this is Formetal which is a school/company in Montreal which in reality uses 'students' for a period of six months which are paid for by welfare and ALL machinery paid for by government grants: this is not a viable option but unfortunately it is figured to be an economic development tool but it is in reality exploitation. This entity is run by RESO which gets three million or so a year in order to 'improve' econmic prospects for their area but in reality resort to misguided self benfitical and exploitive measures such as Formetal.
It should also be an objective of the guilds to disavow any government assistance whatsoever except for the building and renovation assistance. Donations would be tax deductible and in effect corporations could be helpfull to these entities as they will be eager to gain tax credits that could acrue from the donation to these temporary non-profit entities instead of simply scrapping frequently funtional equipment due to the tax code pertaining to the preogressive depreciation of physical assets rendering assets to be worthless from a taxable/asset evaluation perspective. Donations in the form of machinery and or construction materials which typically end up in the scrap yard thus ending this illogical activity. The supreme irony is that a good deal of these machines end up in the PR China thus increasing the probability of a further erosion of the formerly industrialized West's ability to compete effectively against a military dictatorship that has murdered 34 to 76 million of it's own citizens between 1949 and 2011 (depending upon which of the 15 different assessments you consult, a typically usefull one is either 'Le Livre Noir du Communisme', Agence France Presse and or the Walker senate sub committee on mass murder by the PR of China).
I believe these guilds can work within the capitalist system and even creates greater flexibility for western capitalism to survive and yet be more equitable with they're simply being another social construct such as the corporation or the permanent non-profit entity. Modernized guilds can offer society the benefits of invention and creative production in order to combat the flood of cheap imports produced by having limited production capabilites as part of the guilds' structure. Prototypes, proof of concepts and short production runs in the least should be possible and even existing corporations can benefit from the concept as they can farm out their research and development to these entities. The ideal model would be something like a Bauhaus type assemblage of creative people eager to be pathfinders for a new alternative method of ethically producing products and services and finally push back against the PLAGUE of substandard and questionable products made in unsafe and under unfair terms.
Marketing can be carried out via the internet through Kijiji, Craigslist, Hoobly and Ebay etc.... in order to bypass the lowest price is the law of Wal-Mart etc... This would permit a closed loop between the creators/producers and the end consumer thus guaranteeing the integrity of the design and manufacturing process and at least allowing the possibility of options for consumers. A seal of the guilds along with details as to how the product or service was created and or manufactured could be given providing the consumer that cares the peace of mind that he/she is part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.
All potential members of these possible guilds should have a proven track record of creativity without any financial assistance completely independant of any institution so as to demonstrate the ability to think outside the box and survive with limited or even no resources as anything is possible with government handouts such as what is pervasive in Quebec (Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney et al) but things get far more difficult without easy handouts. Non profits and NGO's are not a viable option to pursue this idea as they have a tendency to suffer from a permanent dependency mindset and are in effect cut off from global economic realities as well as not having the requisite individual drive to create and prosper from what I have observed as they tend to simply worry about retaining their jobs and the status quo (It's been two years and Haiti has hardly progressed despite having many millions donated to NGO's). This is about creativity and not getting on a gravy train, the soft life is for those hiding out in universities or think tanks pontificating as opposed to being in the front lines trying to repulse the onslaught of unethically and environmentally unsoundly produced items from the PR China, it's tough love, sink or swim.
The original craft guilds didn't have a steady stream of government handouts to rely on and yet they managed to bring about the basis from which the industrial revolution sprung forth. The impact of creativity should not be underestimated as it has taken a single mother scraping by in England to being a billionaire. How many other J.K. Rowlings have yet to see their creations see the light of day due to the narrow limitations of what creatively challenged/narrow minded managers deem will work or not. I believe modernized guilds can be a medium by which society can be transfromed and the rights of the creative better promoted and protected.
This way the current prevalence of societies begging and pleading corporations to invent things with extremely generous R & D tax credits and employ people in the western world when in reality they are merely re-inventing the wheel and buying off the shelf items instead of doing "actual" research and development, can be offset by a system that gives little but receives a great deal. Large corporations are getting money from all levels of government on the pretense they are developing products with the intent to produce locally but there is enormous off-shoring of even what little research is actually done, how much of this is copied and pasted from outside sources and called 'Canadian' research and then asking for the handouts ? Large corporations talk a good game about free market capitalism but they are so hooked on government handouts that they are very far removed from free market capitalism and there needs to be injected into the system a grass roots people serving system to counter the callous indifference of global croney corporatism and it's pathetic junky and mafia (in terms of who they hire) like moralities regarding their crass pitting of one jurisdiction against another for the purposes of extracting the largest handouts. This is far removed from the capitalism of the 1960's and beforehand, it's what I call extortion: give us handouts or we'll move the plant to China, give us excessive research and development handouts even though there are no noticeable differences in product development of processes etc.. and give us interest free or no interest loans that more likely than not to ever be repaid. The system is severely corrupted as to make it a jury rigged assemblage of incoherant and conflicting messages that are sent to people as to how they can be truly effective and constructive citizens.
Thanking you in advance for your consideration, Robert Hennecke.