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Thomas Hanna

Director of Research

Thomas M. Hanna joined The Democracy Collaborative in 2010 as a research assistant to Gar Alperovitz and became Research Director in 2015. He received his M.A. and B.A. degrees in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. Thomas’ areas of expertise include public ownership, privatization, local government, democratic ownership, and banking, among others. He is the author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States (Manchester University Press, 2018), co-editor the e-book Scaling Up the Cooperative Movement, and has published articles in popular and academic journals including The New York TimesThe NationTruthoutYes! MagazineAlternetOpenDemocracyRenewalIPPR Progressive ReviewThe Independent, and The Good Society. He has provided research support for various Democracy Collaborative and Next System Project reports as well as the 2011 second edition of America Beyond Capitalism and 2013’s What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution

Selected Publications: 

Socialism, American-Style

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Research Director Thomas Hanna shed light on current examples across the United States of public ownership, basic income demands, and the broader movement for government-controlled production.

Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna
The Nation

Hey, look it over—public ownership is the most effective way to fix America’s economy.

It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda. It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. We contend that it is possible not only to talk about this once forbidden subject but to begin to build a serious politics that can do what needs to be done in key sectors.

Proposals for public ownership will of course be attacked as “socialism,” but conservatives call any progressive program—to say nothing of the modest economic policies of the Obama administration—“socialist.” However, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated “free” enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.


Mondragón and the System Problem

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Senior Researcher Thomas Hanna discuss the challenge of sustaining and building participatory decision-making structures and organizations within a corporate capitalist system. They note the recent bankruptcy filing of Fagor Electrodomésticos Group, the principle company of the Mondragon Corporation, as an impetus to confront the institutional incompatibilities between the free market and cooperative forms.

Free Market Mythologies and the Future of Public Ownership

Thomas Hanna

“I’m a free market guy. But I’m not gonna let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system” – George W. Bush, December 17, 2008

At the heart of the present debate on how to address the continuing political stalemate and economic decay in America are some fundamental misconceptions about the nature and operation of the current system. Many Americans—and not just avowed conservatives—have been led to believe that it is possible to have a “free market” economy, and that the quest to reach it will generate greater prosperity and better social outcomes. Both beliefs are false.

Democratic Wealth: Building a Citizens' Economy

Joe Guinan, Marjorie Kelly and Thomas Hanna

Democracy Collaborative senior fellows Marjorie Kelly and Joe Guinan and senior researcher Thomas Hanna each contribute chapters to a new free e-book, Democratic Wealth: Building a Citizens' Economy. The authors discuss economic institutions, alternative economic system designs, and forms of democratic ownership. This open Democracy and Politics in Spires series, hosted by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, advances the conversation on visioning an economic system that serves the common good.

Recent blog posts:
  • The Next Global Financial Crisis is Inevitable

    The Real News Network
    The Real News Network

    The Real News Network  interviews Thomas Hanna of the Democracy Collaborative about 'The Next Global Financial Crisis is Inevitable.' In this article, The Real News Network discusses the report The Crisis Next Time:

    It has been ten years since the last major financial crisis. With systemic deregulation undoing the safeguards, we are due for another crisis very one soon. Thomas Hanna, research director of the Democracy Collaborative’s Next System Project, says it is almost guaranteed

    Watch in The Real News Network 


  • The return of public ownership

    Thomas M. Hanna

    Thomas Hanna writes for Renewal "The return of public ownership." In this article, he writes about about his book on public ownership: 

    Public ownership is back. And, in fact, outside the UK it never really went away – as a forthcoming book amply demonstrates. Democratised and decentralised forms of public ownership can and should be a component of the left’s vision for a new economic settlement.

    Read more in Renewal

  • A Trump Plan To Nationalize Coal Plants Could Be A Surprise Gift To Climate Hawks

    Alexander C. Kaufman
    Huffington Post

    Alexander C. Kaufman writes in the Huffington Post "A Trump Plan To Nationalize Coal Plants Could Be A Surprise Gift To Climate Hawks." In this article, Kaufman quotes Thomas Hanna and the research by the Democracy Collaborative: 

    All of this fortifies the argument that investors cannot reform fossil fuel producers quickly enough, making the case stronger for severe government intervention in the form of nationalization, said Thomas Hanna, director of research at the Democracy Collaborative, a left-leaning think tank.

    “Time may simply have run out on other options that we may be considering now,” Hanna said. “If climate change is a crisis, which it will be in the future, all economic possibilities need to be on the table to deal with that, and that means taking over fossil fuel companies.”

    Hanna and his team estimated that it would cost the government $1.15 trillion to buy the top 25 largest U.S.-based, publicly traded oil and gas companies as well as the roughly four major remaining publicly-traded coal producers. That may sound like a lot, but he argued that could cost less than $200 billion annually over six years, which is slightly over one-third of the military’s current annual budget.

    Read more in Huffington Post 
  • The ‘Preston Model’ And The Modern Politics of Municipal Socialism

    Thomas M. Hanna, Joe Guinan and Joe Bilsborough
    Open Democracy

    Thomas M. Hanna, Joe Guinana, and Joe Bilsborough write in Open Democracy  "The ‘Preston Model’ and the modern politics of municipal socialism."In this piece, the writers highlight the flagship community wealth building project in Cleveland, Ohio, and Preston, England and what it means for municipal socialism: 

    There are now two flagship models of community wealth building—and a growing number of additional efforts in cities across the United States and United Kingdom.  The first model is the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio—created, in part, by our own organisation, The Democracy Collaborative. Cleveland had lost almost half of its population and most of its large publicly-traded companies due to deindustrialisation, disinvestment, and capital flight. But it still had very large non-profit and quasi-public institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, and University Hospitals—known as anchor institutions because they are rooted in place and aren’t likely to up and leave. Together, Cleveland’s anchors were spending around $3 billion per year, very little of which was previously staying in the local community. The Democracy Collaborative worked with them to localise a portion of their procurement in support of a network of purposely-created green worker co-ops, the Evergreen Co-operatives, tied together in a community corporation so that they too are rooted in place. Today these companies are profitable and are beginning to eat the lunch of the multinational corporations that had previously provided contract services to the big anchors. Last month came the announcement of an expansion of the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry to a new site serving the needs of the Cleveland Clinic, with a hundred new employees on fast track to worker ownership.