John Logue was a rare combination of thinker and doer: a professor with a radical vision for transforming American capitalism but also a practical man who had the knowledge and patience to make it happen, company by company. Those of us who learned from him know the country lost a treasure when John died on December 9 from a fast-moving cancer. He was only 62. He created and led the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University, which for more than twenty years served as the hands-on midwife for nearly 500 worker-owned companies.
The timing of his death was especially poignant because John’s vision is on the brink of realization. John was a leading mover in creating the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry described by Gar Alperowitz, Ted Howard and Thad Williamson in this issue. The effort is a prototype for a very different kind of capitalism–an economic system that is more just and accountable because it is more democratic in its allocation of voice and power in management. Very difficult to accomplish, but not utopian.
John liked to talk about creating “Mondragon in Ohio,” an industrial park filled with employee-owned enterprises and patterned after the Mondragon network of cooperative enterprises in the Basque region of Spain. I once heard him ask a workshop of working people, managers, bankers and union leaders to think about how the allied companies could share functions and costs. The room lit up with smart ideas, from energy efficiency and job-sharing to accounting and daycare. John understood that ordinary people have this great, untapped capacity to think for themselves.
John also understood that deep democratic change that truly matters cannot be faked or imposed from above, because the people are also required to change themselves. I occasionally needled him about how to get his grand vision moving faster. John would smile and say, Yes, that would be good, but only if the people know what they are doing. His death stokes my impatience. What this country needs are 1,000 John Logues or maybe 10,000. But only if they understand what John understood.