To the Discussion Leader

Cooperative ways of doing business have more meaning for farmers than for any other single group of Americans. Among men who have been or who hope to be farmers you will find those with the most ideas on this subject. In planning your discussion, you might use such a man as an assistant leader. You will remember also that many men have insurance policies with mutual companies—a type of cooperative service—and that still others are trying to make their dollars go farther through membership in cooperative stores. So a G. I. Roundtable discussion of cooperative business should be an interesting and valuable addition to your program.

Get Your Facts Across

To get your basic facts across, use your five-minute introductory talk. It is suggested that you summarize the main points made in this manual under the headings:

Cooperative Pioneering in England

What Is Cooperative Business and How Is It Different?

How Are Cooperatives Classified

How Has Cooperative Business Grown?

Under the last heading the most pertinent information is given in the section headed “In the Twentieth Century.”

Two charts printed in legible lettering on a blackboard or oil large sheets of paper, will help you keep some essential matters before your group: (1) A list of the “Rochdale principles” given on page 4; (2) a list of the four general types of cooperatives—producing, marketing, purchasing, and servicing—described on page 5. Other ideas for charts may occur to you and should be developed if you believe the meeting will need still more basic information. There is no better time-saving device for presenting information than a legible chart.

Other practical suggestions for preparing and conducting your discussion are to be found in EM 1, G. I. Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders. Be sure to secure a copy for ready reference.

Questions for the Discussion

  1. Why do people who advocate the cooperative way of doing business call it “economic democracy”? Is it just because of direct control exercised by members? Are federated cooperatives likely to be controlled by managers rather than by members? Are federated cooperatives run any differently from ordinary business corporations? Do you think that mutual insurance companies are true cooperatives? In your opinion, should cooperatives be considered a part of our free enterprise system? Do they tend to stimulate or to discourage competition? How do co-ops get capital?
  2. Why do people form cooperatives? Can a member lose money in a co-op? Can a member make money in a co-op? Can co-ops be said to increase the income of their members? Why are there so many farmer cooperatives in the United States? Are cooperative stores able to provide high duality goods at low prices for members?
  3. Is “Rochdale cooperation” better than other kinds of cooperation? How is it different? Have Rochdale principles proved successful?
  4. Are there disadvantages to the cooperative way of doing business? Should cooperatives be granted exemption from taxation? Are they nonprofit making enterprises? What are the arguments against exempting co-ops from taxation? Have co-ops made contributions to our economic life? Why has Congress encouraged agricultural cooperation by passing favorable laws?
  5. Are there prospects for expansion of the cooperative way of doing business? In agriculture? Among city people? In what lines of business have co-ops been strongest? In what lines have they been weakest? Are there conditions that may reduce the growth of co-ops? Are there some that may expand it?

From EM 23: Why Co-ops? What Are They? How Do They Work? (1944)