Our common wealth

The return of public ownership in the United States

By Thomas M. Hanna

Our common wealth


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3379-3
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: September 2018
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Public Ownership / Nationalization, Politics, United States of America, USA, Public ownership / nationalization


Public ownership is more widespread and popular in the United States than is commonly understood. This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of U.S. 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

'Hanna (Democracy Collaborative) explores the history of public ownership in the US and connects ownership choices to systematic crises in ecological, political, economic, and social relationships. He makes a broad, international case for public ownership as potentially ameliorating some of these crises and making inroads into solving problems of inequality. The author does not make a blanket argument that public ownership necessarily eliminates the above-stated problems. Public ownership in a context in which powerful private enterprises influence management decisions may result in policies with similar externalities to private corporations. The author recognizes that private corporations have more complex effects, such as strategies to build monopoly power by using scale as a substitute for profit maximization. Hanna recognizes that public ownership does not preclude negative externalities. Some publicly owned corporations may have negative effects, depending on governance and outside influences. This is the reason the text makes a case for democratic public ownership as the alternative most likely to serve the well-being of communities. This book is unambiguously partisan in its presentation and cases, but it nevertheless offers a powerful argument for public ownership as an alternative to private ownership.'
S. J. Gabriel, Mount Holyoke College, Choice Vol. 56, No. 12 (August 2019)


Foreword: On the importance of democratic public ownership - Gar Alperovitz
Preface: The return of public ownership - Andrew Cumbers
Introduction: Public ownership in urgent political perspective
1 Public ownership in the United States and around the world
2 The efficiency debate
3 Why public ownership?
4 Public ownership and alternative system models
5 Towards a framework of public ownership for the twenty-first century
Conclusion: Systemic crisis and democratic public ownership


Thomas M. Hanna is Research Director at The Democracy Collaborative in Washington, DC

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