This is Richard Wolff with a response to a question sent in from our Patreon community and in particular from Matt Slagle. Good question! Very much worth a response! Matt asks about the tremendous controversy in California over the performance—or better put the malperformance, the bad performance—of a major public utility there: Pacific Gas and Electric PG&E as it’s known. As many of you know reading the papers, listening and watching the news, there have been unspeakable fires caused by that electric utility and likewise power outages as the response of the utility to the inadequate way it has been providing its services. So, Californians get to choose between the fire risk and the electricity outage. It has produced a firestorm—pardon the pun—of criticism long overdue and well-deserved by PG&E. But importantly, this criticism has not stopped short as mostly in the past these kinds of criticisms did. It has not stopped short of questioning the very existence of PG&E as a capitalist corporation; a corporation that puts forward explicitly that profit is its bottom line, that profit is its goal, that profit is what it promises to the wealthy who buy shares in the company, etc. These criticisms have gone further and said that’s not the way we should handle something as important as our basic energy sources, and something that should not be handled where the first order of business the priority the bottom-line is profit because that risks our health and our safety, and nothing proves it more than the failures of PG&E. And these critics have gone on to suggest that the company ought to be taken over, removed from the private profit drive and incentives, and made instead into a genuinely public service company whose first priority isn’t private profit but public welfare, public safety, public use of energy without the risk of fire or outages. And so these critics have promoted the idea of a consumer co-op. That is an electric utility owned by the people who use it, you know, like a credit union exists as a banking institution owned by the people who deposit their money there. No private profit to be earned, but people instead to be served as the bottom line, the ultimate goal, the top priority. And the question Matt asks is kind of what’s the relationship between a consumer co-op— which is what’s being suggested for PG&E—and a worker co-op which is something different, and that difference has to be underscored. A consumer co-op makes the production of a good or service shaped by, owned by, controlled by the people who consume the service. A worker co-op makes the industry or the firm or the enterprise owned and controlled by the people whose labor makes it work. And so the question is which one is appropriate in which circumstances. Since this is a short answer to a very big question, let me give you my blunt response: why choose? The best operation we could have is both of them. Make the work a cooperative venture and the consumer a cooperator with the workers. In other words, let’s have industry and firms—and not just in electric utilities but in all the important areas of social life—let the work that has to be done be shared as a community together with the people who depend on the work, the enterprised ones, the consumer. Let’s have it be a cooperative in which the workers as a group and the consumers make decisions together.