Episode 10: Small-Town Socialism: Thomas Hanna on public & worker ownership in the U.S.

By Derrick Crowe
September 17, 2018

Ten years after the financial crisis, the generation that came of age in the aftermath of the crash is more positive about the term “socialism” than ever. And, thanks to Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Cynthia Nixon, and others, people know the basics of what democratic socialists want for the immediate future:

  • Medicare for All so that health care is a right.
  • Free college so that everyone can get the education they need without crushing debt.
  • A federal jobs guarantee.

These policies have shockingly solid public support. Seventy percent of people support Medicare for All. Fifty-two percent of likely voters support a federal jobs guarantee.

The thing is, these big programs tend to fall into a very familiar policy framework. It’s not a stretch to call these simply the completion of the New Deal. They are about putting public resources into funding programs. But one thing these items don’t directly touch on is a core concept of socialism: public or worker ownership of productive capital. To a lot of people, that idea conjures up soviet-style collectivism. But, as my next interview subject will tell you, democratized ownership is actually already all around you.

Thomas Hanna is the research director at the Democracy Collaborative and author of the forthcoming book, “Our Common Wealth: The return of public ownership in the United States,” and I spoke to him to explore small-town socialism and what American-style socialism would look like.