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Reparations are misleading

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I recently shared an idea on facebook that I thought I would share here. 

There has recently been a lot more talk in the US about reparations for brown people. (Yes, I use the terms brown and peach instead of black and white as black and white immediately conjours up diametrical imagery in the mind and fosters division).

The reparations argument is another way of misleading...their money means their system. Usage of their money represents their ownership. Demanding more of their money only solidifies their ownership. There are always ways to combat, but they require training in an imagination that moves past money and the love of their toys. I'm always open to talking to people willing to move past the belly and incorporate the belly into something more

As this community is about restructuring how we work together, I think bringing to the front of mind the bottom line when it comes to money highlights the real struggle involved.

From an action perspective, I think putting together an educational curriculum is one of the best ways to start. I know many will argue that it won't help people eat, but at least it will start to solidify a unified voice. Many voices not in chorus will not make the kind of human impact we need.

  

Discussion 44 Comments

  • Boulder Dash 3rd Apr 2019

    An educational type program sort of was kind of done here for a little bit...perhaps poorly, who knows and there are forums to kind of pursue things if people wish/ed but you know, not many show up...we’re all busy...

    Michael Albert tried an online ZSchool that you can find the remnants of at ZNet if ya want to look...kinda lasted a little bit...I sort of hung in for a while then it just stopped...ran out of steam...couldn’t get enough interest or teachers or money t or something...can’t remember...there were many emails from Albert asking why students weren’t participating...

    Michael Albert has tried this before at Z...much earlier...a program of sorts...an in person one as well...

    Z Social was tried to...a left social media hangout...also a failure...could have had prospects in this area too...

    The Fanfare series of book’s is kind of educational tool...relates to this joint...as does Albert’s Practical Utopia, the RPS/2044 site, a kind of interactive book publishing kind of thing that also ain’t doing that well...a lot of his books can find online at Z for free, but if you have an iPad like mine then some of the drop down link gadget thingies are unstable...the book one for instance...frustrating...do it on a PC...they are there...Moving Forward, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, Looking Forward etc...

    Then there’s a heap of stuff over at the NSP, Next System Project...you can read to your hearts content...not an interactive site but...kind of a little coordinatorialisticarooney I reckon...there’s about 30 or so published essays pertaining to possible alternative economies...see how many you remember after perusing them all...many are much the same thing really just with different headings and stuff...

    Then there’s Commons Transition website...fuck, that one’s out of control...heap of stuff all over...P2P/commons stuff...

    I think you’re meant to just read stuff actually...not actually discuss it too much unless you’re in the inner circle of some left wing think tank type scenario or you go to the odd meeting or teach in or something, I mean seriously...serious conversations are reserved for heavy Marxist’s and tough arsed anarchists and on the ground activist doers...conversations here are kind of loose and casual...just a few people usually in between long times of nothing...they don’t go very far...peter out like everything...nah, maybe they sometimes contain interesting stuff and one learns shit...can be fun...

    Yeah, educational stuff..it’s a hard one...solidify a unified voice eh? Not so sure about that one anymore. Nice idea, been around for a long time and yet has NEVER succeeded and it probably needs to but unfortunately probably won’t. Like even at a basic level of change, you know, like if one was a socialist...you have to ask ‘em what do you want? You know. From each according to ability to each according to need, would be a good place to start. Great, now what? How do you achieve that? What kinds of structures would set that in place?bthen all shit hits the fan...everyone has different views and varying degrees of knowledge and abilities and confidence and desire to learn or not...it’s a fucking mess really.

    I reckon Parecon does comply to the above maxim. But try teaching other people, or at least even just telling them a little about Parecon. Like anyone. Even other lefties. Blank stares usually or they kind of feign interests with lots of nodding and yeahs and reallys but they will never read the books nor go to a class particularly if I was teaching it...or they know of it and just thinks it’s stupid and won’t work...David Schweickart, academic, philosopher, mathematician, you know like a real super smart and clever guy, a market socialist who I am rereading now reckons Parecon is nonsense on stilts. The people at Libcom reckon it’s some kind of perverted Albert mongoloid thing...trying to smuggle in the same kind of capitalist crap as already exists just dressed up in pseudo anarchist clothing. Gar Alperovitz from the NSP ignores it because he thinks it’s not feasible. Most anarchists ignore it based on principle.

    You could read Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics book...George Monbiot reckons it could be THE ONE, after arrogantly dismissing Parecon in a debate with Albert back around 2003...George is also so so soooo smart...good old George...see his email exchange with Noam and watch him get all upset and like stunned at Nosm’s stubbornness...it’s a fun read.

    Then there are the Simpler Way people, degrowthers and stuff...voluntary simplicity folk...Samual Alexander recently wrote a pretty depressing book, Degrowth in the Suburbs, which I followed up with Clive Hamilton’s book that was more depressing, Defiant Earth, which I followed with something even more depressing, America: The Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges. Actually I emailed Clive and asked him a question to which he basically replied “we’re fucked”. To which I replied, yeah, that’s why I don’t want grand kids. To which he replied, I understand that.

    Chomsky has hope. Always hope.

    But back to the idea of some program here, some educational thing...just not sexy enough to out do far greater interest in Joe Rogan and Russell Brand or all those motherfuckers shaping everyone’s minds with incoherent self obsessed well mannered and always presented in good spirit bullshit from the Intellectual-it’s just a joke name-Dark Web. Nah, just kidding, in the name of balance, intellectual honesty and good faith they do a sterling job at educating the masses against the rising socialist threat from political correctness gone mad and post modern social justice warriors...yeah, the socialist threat...yeah, the Koch brothers and the Dark Money Lords are really shitting themselves.

    I’ll leave you with Eric ‘the second smartest man in the world’ Weinstein, the man who came up with the name Intellectual-it’s just a joke name-Dark Web responding to Lex Fridman during an interview that was related to AI about a question pertaining to capitalism and AI and possible problems or issues of sorts...just for fun.

    “Right...you’re a software guy right...[yes answers Fridman]...A human being is a worker is an old idea [yes Fridman says quietly]...a human being has a worker is a different object right [yes]...so if you think about object oriented programming as a paradigm...aah, a human being has a worker and a human being has a soul...we’re talking about the fact that for a period of time the worker that a human being has was in a position to feed the soul that a human being has...however, we have two separate claims on the value in society...one is as a worker and the other is as a soul...and the soul needs sustenance, it needs dignity, it needs meaning, it needs purpose...as long as your means of support is not highly repetitive I think you have a while to go before you need to start worrying...but if what you do is highly repetitive and it’s not terribly generative you are in the crosshairs of four loops and wire loops...and that’s what computers excel at, repetitive behaviour and...when I say repetitive I may mean things that have never happened, be through combinatorial possibilities but as long as it has a looped characteristic to it, you’re in trouble...we are seeing a massive shift toward socialism because capitalists are slow to address the fact that a worker may not be able to make claims...a relatively undistinguished median member of our society still has needs to reproduce...needs to hahav...to dignity and when capitalism abandons the median individual or you know, thethe bottom tenth or whatever it’s gonna do, its flirting with revolution and what concerns me is that the capitalists aren’t sufficiently capitalistic to understand this. You really want to court ah, authoritarian control on our society because you can’t see that people may not be able to defend themselves in the market place because the marginal product of their labour is too, too low to feed their dignity as a soul? So it...my great concern is that our free society has to do with the fact that we are self organised...I remember looking down from my office in Manhattan when Lehman Bros collapsed and thinking who’s gonna tell all these people that they need to show up at work when they don’t have a financial system to incentivise them to show up at work? So my complaint is first of all not with the socialists but with the capitalist which is that you guys are being idiots...you’re courting revolution by continuing to harp on the same old ideas that, ‘well, you know, yeah, try harder, bootstrap yourself’...yeah, to an extent that works, to an extent...but we’re clearly headed to a place that there’s nothing that ties together our need to contribute and our need to consume and that may not be provided by capitalism because it may have been a temporary phenomena, so check out my article on anthropic capitalism and the new gimmick economy...ahh, I think people are late getting the wake up call and we would be doing a better job saving capitalism from itself...umm, because I don’t want this done under authoritarian control and the more we insist that everybody who’s not thriving in our society during their reproductive years in order to have a family is failing at a personal level...I mean, what a disgusting thing that we’re saying...whatawhatawhat a horrible message...who the hell have we become that we’ve so bought into the Chicago model umm...that we can’t see the humanity that we’re destroying in that process and it’s, it’s...I hate, I hate the thought of communism...I really do. My family has flirted with it decades past and it’s a wrong bad idea but we are going to need to figure out how to make sure that those souls are nourished and respected...and capitalism better have an answer and I’m betting on capitalism but I gotta tell ya I’m pretty disappointed with my team. [So you’re still on the capitalism team, just ahhh, I mean there’s a theme here?] oh, radical, radical capitalism...look I, look I want, I think hyper capitalism is gonna have to be coupled to hyper socialism...we need to allow the most productive people to create wonders and you gotta stop bogging them down with all of these extra NICE requirements...you know...NICE is dead...good has a future...NICE doesn’t have a future because NICE ends up with, with gulags. [damn that’s a good line, says Fridman]

  • James Coleman 3rd Apr 2019

    I will be sure to check out some of the resources you mentioned. I think this is why I actually think that religion is the key, education being a part of it.

    So much in your response..."we're all busy"...busy doing what? That is the thing...we spend our time with what we worship.

    I'm not impressed with smart people that can't get done what needs to be done. It is essentially wasted intelligence from the standpoint of progress.

    What I include here in saying we need religion is adherence to a feeling set, adherence to an experience that supports a "better world".

    I am like you, not naïve.

    If people could self organize into something better they would have probably done it already. The fact that we don't self organize into a "better world" to me points to a need to change the programming such that it can support a better world.

    This in turn translates in to starting to do a kind of Kantian live by truth. We can do this by at minimal identifying the truths we live by and keep them in our faces.

    I know I am being simplistic here. My point is that we need to make doing the right thing experiential and not intellectual. Intellectual doesn't work past a certain point.

    I am of the opinion that access to the production of others and how that is managed is the key. This is how we start to move beyond money. I am on purpose translating my need for money into "access to the production of others", or what I call for short, atepro. This keeps me focused on what I really want and thus helps me to organize my thoughts and actions around that...training around atepro is something that anyone can understand and is for me a new kind of starting place for walking out a better perspective.

    • Boulder Dash 3rd Apr 2019

      I do not and never have felt it possible to move past the ‘intellectual’ to something else...no matter what is done, experiential, intuitive, gut, whatever, free improvising, the intellectual will always be there...this notion that say the intuitive or ‘spiritual’ or religious or experiential is something else separate from what is called the intellectual just doesn’t cut it with me. Some people learn quick some take ages. What often is called the intuitive or spiritual may be nothing more than a distillation of a lot of thought and practice of all kinds. Some think music is channeling the gods, coming from some place other...”aww, I don’t know where it came from, like, that melody, and the song, I just woke up one morning and it was there...”

      We don’t know how our minds work, where thoughts come from, what the process is behind the language faculty grabbing sounds for thoughts, whether those words are accurate and whether others a reinterpreting those sounds correctly...nor do I ever really know what people are talking about when they talk about the ‘spiritual’, intuitition or religion. I know what it feels like to behave intuitively according to some general definition, but other than that, what is really happening behind the scenes I know nothing. Can a certain intuition, pertaining to a certain situation ever be heavily informed by what may be defined as deep and considered intellectualising that one may have been doing for years, or decades, that relates to situations seemingly separate from the one where the intuition occurred?

      “Socialism 2: Ethical Foundations

      By Michael Albert

      April 3, 2019

      [This is the second in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it will or ought to seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]

      Often allegiance to socialism (or to some other vision for the future) springs from one or another ideological commitment – marxism, anarchism, feminism, libertarianism, neoliberalism, and so on. But these allegiances tend to take for granted their underlying ideology and only rarely explicitly address its defining aspects. Later, nonetheless, people who support socialism or other aims ideologically often fight with each other over their unexamined and even unstated differences. A disturbing but undeniable truth is that such clashing can get more than a bit cultish. We are right, we are best, because we are us.

      A second approach to specifying that one is socialist is to support a few specific policies, for example, free healthcare for all, free schooling, open borders, or a guaranteed minimum income, but this doesn’t provide much guidance for going beyond those policies.

      In this series of articles I will try a different approach hoping to reduce the risk of both unexamined presuppositions and cultish disputes. The idea is to first settle on some values and only then assess institutions’ abilities to fulfill those values in society’s economy, polity, households, and other key areas of life. In other words, when we consider how society ought to best accomplish its various functions, our shared values will hopefully give us an agreed standard to organize our thoughts around – in short, how well does what we propose fulfill our preferred values, rather than how well does it ratify some old ideological scripture.

      So, the question immediately follows, what values might we adopt as a foundation for going on to envision specific aspects of a future society?

      We know societies impact how much goods, services, and opportunities we all receive; who makes decisions with what level of say; whether we tend to be hostile or supportive or even empathetic toward others; the range of choices and situations we each confront; and how we relate to our ecological surroundings. Even just considering these basic facets of what any society provides and delimits for its members, can we propose a list of values any worthy society ought to fulfill?

      First, regarding how much stuff we all get – don’t we favor that society be equitable and fair? Would anyone seeking a better society oppose that broad aim?

      Regarding influence, we know some people favor democracy, various other modes of voting, or consensus among other options. But isn’t our overarching aim that people should have ample self managed say over their own life choices and situations? Admittedly so far that is a bit undetermined, like equity is too, but even so, would anyone instead prefer people having little say over their own lives and inequitable outcomes?

      Regarding relations between people, surely we can agree that we would like society to foster positive, mutual, and even caring relations and not anti-sociality, can’t we?

      Regarding the range of options society promotes, does anyone not prefer diversity, a wide range, to homogeneity, a narrow range?

      And finally, regarding relations to the ecology, does anyone not prefer sustainability as a value, as compared to ecological decay?

      So suppose we take this list – equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and sustainability – as a starting place. Whether we call the system we seek socialism or something else, can we then say that a society, part of a society, or even a single institution is better to the extent it does a better job of fulfilling these values and worse to the extent that it violates them?

      Can we say that if a society is more equitable (where we determine just what this means for different aspects of social life) that’s better, and if it is more inequitable, that’s worse? If a society comes closer to delivering to all its members ample self managed say over their own lives, that’s better and if it denies people such say that’s worse? If a society fosters people being mutually supportive that’s better and if it causes people to constantly seek to oppose one another that’s worse? If a society has more diversity and less homogeneity, that’s better and if it has the reverse that’s worse? And if a society is sustainable rather that’s better and if it violates ecological balance that’s worse?

      However, indicating what’s better, what’s worse doesn’t demonstrate that any of our preferred values can be significantly attained by a society, much less all of them at once. And it doesn’t clarify the specific meaning of the proposed values in specific settings such as economic life, political life, family life, or culture. Nonetheless, the list already says, look at various facets of society, specify what the proposed values mean in each context, and then envision institutions that fulfill the values individually, and even all at once. If we can usefully carry out that instruction we will have a vision and also some insights into how to attain it. If we can’t carry out that instruction, then we will have to go back to the drawing board. But first, to get a little practice utilizing our proposed values, in our next essay I will take a brief look at our current societies, to see how they fare against our newly proposed ethical measure.

    • Boulder Dash 3rd Apr 2019

      As Albert said in an accompanying comment,

      “...for the value to provide real guidance we are going to have to make it less vague…and will, shortly.”

      Less vague sense good.

    • Boulder Dash 3rd Apr 2019

      Less vague is good. Not sense.

    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      “This is the first in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it seeks or will seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.

      The airwaves parade support for democratic socialism from converted candidates, activist advocates, and a great many young people. Some say socialism is conquering the Democratic Party. Others cry nonsense. Polls say Socialism has attained a plurality among younger generations, while diverse old-timers are responding by urging we are headed for calamity, unless we re-educate our young. So what does this surfacing of socialism mean?

      As I listen, it at least indicates many people support or are prepared to support justice, honest and empathetic integrity, ecological sanity, the ability for everyone to live a full life, and particularly free education and health care for all, among other progressive policies.

      This part is good, but we ought to acknowledge that it is not new. Anytime in the last half century huge numbers would have said they favored such aims. What is new, however, complements of Bernie Sanders and the last five years‘ activism, is that many people no longer avoid the label socialist. Call the same support years ago being socialist and you met an outcry of dismissive outrage, even though, if you called it caring for humanity, or liberalism, or whatever, it would have gotten support roughly like now.

      Another new meaning indicated by the upsurge, less semantic and more substantive, is that few with the indicated humane, liberal, or socialist views, now take as unchallengeable gospel that fixing current institutions by removing some bad people is all the change we need. Many do feel just that way. But many others reject not only being sexist, racist, elitist, and authoritarian, but capitalist institutions. Everyone favoring socialism in polls reject bad apples, but, and this is new, many also reject bad institutions.

      So how much does this growing verbal fearlessness about touting socialism, plus innovative openness to rejecting basic institutions matter? Will it lead to widely shared long-term commitments extensive enough to sustain multi-issue, multi-tactic, grassroots, participatory organization? Or will it surge but then retreat?

      The left has long suffered silos of separate focus. Activists almost universally believe all central concerns intersect and even entwine, yet few who focus on immigration, violence against women, war, feminism, racism, militarism, climate calamity, pollution, income distribution, market madness, police violence, election reform, OR other worthy concerns, actively support not only their own agenda, but also ALL the others.

      Why don’t we all aid the aims of every valid priority, not just with lip service, but with strategic care and sustained commitment? One reason is we don’t have overarching shared answers to the obvious question, what do we want, not just today, but for the long term? An “ism” should provide that, so is “democratic socialism” up to the task? Can it move from being a vague intimation of wanting better lives to being a serious touchstone of committed and comprehensive unity? Can it help us connect our siloed priorities and confidently posit aims that enrich our understanding of current relations and future possibilities, generate hope, and, as the saying goes, plant the seeds of the future in the present?

      To do all that, this series of articles exploring “socialism,” takes as a given that arriving at shared allegiance to a better future is going to require ample institutional substance. If we reject sexism, okay what does that imply for the kind of families and sexuality we want beyond the material equity that other innovations will yield and sustain? If we reject racism, okay, what does that imply for the kind of cultural interrelations between races, nationalities, and ethnicities that we want beyond the social enrichments that other innovations will yield and sustain? If we want an end to political subservience and subordination, okay, what does that imply for how we should arrive at laws, adjudicate disputes, and implement shared programs beyond the solidarity that other innovations will yield and sustain? And if we reject exploitation and class division, okay, what does that imply for how we ought to structure work and workplaces and determine allocation of products, rewards, responsibilities, and costs beyond the justice that other innovations will yield and sustain?

      If socialism continues to only mean nice values and progressive policies for the present, enlarging support for it will be a big step forward, for sure, and in truth despite justified semantic disagreements, that may indeed be the best way to now use the term, but, if it is, we who want new institutions will need a more encompassing term for a new type of society that doesn’t just ameliorate some ills, but that removes their structural causes and liberates full popular potentials. We will need to support and celebrate the emerging progressive socialist trend, not to dismiss or denigrate it, but also to put forth a larger and deeper perspective for it to hopefully lead toward. Or, if the term socialism is to become our label for our full array of desires, then what it conveys needs to be filled out quite a lot.

      Different people have different ideas about the needed extra substance. I favor something called participatory society, or, if it proves more compelling without being fractious, we could call it participatory socialism. As succinctly as possible, whatever name it takes, for me this would include: feminist kinship and gender relations emphasizing men and women not only having equal opportunity and rights, but also equally assertive and caring roles in social life; intercommunalist racial, ethnic, and other relations emphasizing people having means to elaborate and sustain cultural ties and commitments of their own choosing; participatory politics including collective self management via assemblies serving from neighborhood to society level, and renovated legal and executive relations stressing solidarity, justice, and self management; as well as participatory economics including federated workplace and industry councils, equitable remuneration, a new division of labor eliminating harsh hierarchies of empowerment, and participatory planning in place of markets or central planning.

      But my immediate point in this introduction to a series of explorations of “socialism” isn’t what the substance of a needed “ism” ought to be, whether the above or something else, but, instead, that the substance ought to be far more substantial than anything now generally supported, which means that even as activists oppose vile Trumpism and advocate for worthy Sanders-ism, whether we call our goals socialism or not, we should also mutually supportively and inclusively propose, explore, debate, and arrive at a far more substantial and clearly communicable shared vision of what we favor.”

  • Boulder Dash 3rd Apr 2019

    In the above, I may be intellectualising but that shit’s just intuitive for me! I just notice it’s there!

  • James Coleman 3rd Apr 2019

    Let me clarify the main use of religion: commitment to anything you can't really prove...in this context "I want x" is religious because there is some x' that could satisfy, but is rejected. It is a kind of a hazy notion, but it makes a distinction from something like "this is an apple" where the thing in question, is, for the reasonable, in some shared reality.

    I am choosing a different starting place than Albert. I am starting off with something that we want: access to the production of others (atepro). Starting here is more descriptive than prescriptive. From there we talk about how we go about getting it. The idea is not to tell people what to do at first. It is to start to use language that better describes what is done and breaks up these nice euphamisms that hide what is really going on.

    As to intellectualizing...it is a kind of religious activity to me as it is making commitments in the "I want" arena.

    The religious is not to the exclusion of the intellectualizing. It is the basis upon which the intellectualizing occurs.

    If the process of a better world is not naturally self organizing for humans as they are currently programmed, we need to discover the patterns that will aid in the organization. I think at least as a start, it means looking at money for what it is: an easy means of atepro for those who allow it to value their production (or participate in a system that uses it to value their production, even as they seek to undo that system)

    Yes, without a doubt there is a lot we don't know and at present seems like we can't ever know, but that does not stop us from making commitments based on what we do know and the related feelings generated by what we know.

    • Boulder Dash 4th Apr 2019

      Kind of understand but then, kind of don’t really...let’s go with the latter.

      You see, this is kind of why the unifying face of the Left doesn’t work.

      When Indtumbked across Parecon I thought it madness...my head just could not get around the planning process...but I understood it in its basic sense. An economy based on a set of shared values with a set of institutions that foster said shared values. It was just a matter of myself reading more, thinking more and understanding those features more. Yeah we could wax philosophically and argue about the values and whether it’s a good idea to build an economy around a set of values, presumptuous as well, but shit, it was a practical approach that saw the development of the only conceived, coherent and clear non market, non centrally planned economy. Cool.

      What you are talking about here James is to me, not clear. You are saying you are starting from a different place than Albert...what we want, that is access to what other produce. Well, that’s just a part of any economy...how does it allocate and through what mechanism can consumers fairly and justly access the social pie?

      There are many ways that could happen but how is done so that it is fair and just...and further how can such institutions be structured so that they foster fair and just social and economic relations into the future. Something may look fair and just in the beginning and everyone’s getting along and equity is stable, but down the track we find things have become skewed and fairness and justness jettisoned and equity is way out of balance...markets have that tendency.

      You say the idea at first is not to tell people what to do...is it something you do down the track. Parecon tried to establish institutions based on everyone participating in its development...self-management. And I haven’t often come across a better description of an alternative participatory economy, as simply put as Parecon is by the authors who are well aware that using obscurantist language won’t do.

      To me intellectualising is what it is...thinking about shit and trying to understand stuff, like I’m doing right now. Nothing special at all. Everyone does it because the mind is like a friggin’ perpetual motion machine. Goes all the time...thoughts of all shapes and size making its way into the conscious with the language faculty somehow latching onto to some of them...not all my friend...much is lost.

      Language was never ‘designed’, or evolved, to communicate...that’s not how evolution operates. It’s a random mutation that popped up, and as the individual who had it had some kids, it got passed on and a considerable time after maybe, the ability to externalise what was happening in the head, using physiological apparatus that had evolved long before the language faculty did, appeared among some in a group. From then on the propagation of language as a tool, to communicate became a cultural event that could be taught. Intellectualisation was begun. Religion, whatever it is, came second and us to me the result of much misguided intellectualising orthinking really...but myths/stories are pretty cool and have a place.

      But the whole thing was an accident. Like, our physiological evolution was such that at some point we discovered we could throw shit well, better than our arboreal cousins even though they are far more powerful physically, they throw like shit. We didn’t evolve in the way we did to throw shit specifically.

      Commons Transition talks a lot about self emerging organisation. Kind of their MO. To me money is just a means to access the social pie and nothing more. It’s the institutional structures around it that create the disparate the accumulation of it, that then has the effect on others to want more of it, because that’s how the system works and that’s what capitalists want...accumulate accumulate. That’s systemic, it’s not a problem with people and their poor judgement and greed. If you are born into,these types of economic relations that’s all you know...gotta change the structures...that’s on going cold hard thinking, discussion and debate with an accepted willingness by most that such procedures are completely necessary and that we have to act together more than not, even if some of us disagree with a certain vision containing certain institutions for whatever reasons...






    • Boulder Dash 4th Apr 2019

      Corrections,

      When I stumbled across Parecon

      ...thoughts of all shapes and size making their way...

      Religion, whatever it is, came second and is to me the...

      It’s the institutional structures around it that create the disparate accumulation of it,...

  • James Coleman 4th Apr 2019

    First, all of this is invaluable to me. I don't want to reinvent wheels...

    Here is one of the problems I am trying to address: money is means to access to social pie that someone controls for their benefit and to the detriment of others. This is the key idea to keep in the front. It falls into the "who watches the watcher" problem.

    This is important because we have to move, somehow, to more people being concerned with the underlying problem related to money as opposed to its ability to access. And frankly, who says that "their" money should determine access to MY production?

    Money is therefore not just a means to access the social pie, but the means of controlling the social pie. Unless there is a reclamation of that which empowers the money, mainly any given individuals production output, those who control the money will always control the output.

    And this control is always symbolic. The fact that it is symbolic should mean that we can rule over it in a way that is different than the way that we say, need to eat...let me say that a different way...just as we decide what to eat for dinner, we should decide what/how we symbolize with regard to the management of our interactions.

    I don't go down the whole evolution thing as a controller for future decision making. To me it is irrelevant. We have what we have to work with and we work with it. If I have a goal, at best evolutionary ideas can inform my decision, but they certainly do not set the direction given any notion of "freedom".


    It is interesting that you describe this activity as unification of the left. It feels strange seeing as I don't vibe with most classically "left" Americans.

    We could call intellectualizing as equivalent to philosophizing, thinking about stuff sharing it, using the method of inquiry to say what we think is true, why, and explore what we think is true.


    Think of religion as the commitment to what we have claimed to be true that is backed up with action beyond the mere statement of the idea. That is, saying something is true is intellectualizing/philosophizing. Religion is acting on it.


    I, like you, am trying to reframe the use of language such that notions of mystery are left out of the decision making and left in the background where they belong. We can't talk about "God" any more than we can explain "why we are here". To me it is a kind of nonsense. You are here, what do you want to do is the extent of it. At best I can say things like there is a stream of something that supports and is translated into sense data. Beyond that we start to enter speculation and that speculation is usually used to control people for someone else benefit.


    It is the working out of the language, in part, that will help to create the unified left as you call it. This is the part of what I am thinking about when I call for a need for education. The right has certainly worked out their language of unification and we use it every day.

  • Boulder Dash 4th Apr 2019

    Unfortunately, I do not really understand what you are getting at...it isn’t clear to me and seems rather vague.

    Money is the mechanism by which one accesses the social pie. If you can amass enough of that shit you can buy up tons of things, like the means of production, thereby controlling the process of production but the allocation of the product is market based. There are capitalist laws of motion and market imperatives that dictate how one produces and consumes and accumulates more money, wages, surplus, capital, whatever, in order to make more of it or just buy shit...accessing the pie.

    Ultimately money is the mechanism by which you get stuff...without it you can get nothing, including food and could die...that’s why they introduced welfare and also why there are volunteers who help feed people with fuck all money.

    Much of what else you are talking about, the reclamation of that which empowers money, and that bit about symbolising, I don’t understand. It’s confusing, not clear.

    Me talking about a unifying face was meant to be a reference to your statement about solidifying a unifying voice...I just accidentally wrote face instead of voice.

    My real issue here is that what you are writing does not come across as something clear enough to achieve much or attract interest. This is why I am contrasting it with Parecon because Parecon is clear, as is Schweickart’s economic democracy model I am rereading now, although Schweickart’s may come across a little more scholarly or technical at times and has a significant bibliography.

    All that shit I wrote about language, evolution, was just a kind of long winded way of saying intellectualising is as natural as waking up, as walking, as blinking, it occurs all the time even when we call it intuition or anything else. You can’t stop it and language is the tool we use to communicate our thoughts regarding anything and everything. But language is problematic, as we can see here...I am not certain what you are getting at at all really. It is very unclear to me. I’m not really confident in interpreting what you are saying.

    As far as your separation between religion and intellectualising...that saying something is true is intellectualising but acting on it is religion, is just weird.

    If I say it is true that if I hit the third string on the twelfth fret of a guitar lightly without pressing down I will get a g harmonic and then act on it by doing it, that first statement is just a matter of fact and the action is merely putting it into practice. No religion going on.
    But me little mind may be ticking over and running all kinds of thoughts and stuff, so the intellectualising, thoughts, acting on thoughts, feelings and stuff is all going on together whether I articulate it or not.

    I’m not trying to reframe language at all. I’m trying to say, sit back, read Parecon and look at it seriously as a well thought out alternative which may make your own life a little easier because Michael Albert and Ronin Hahnel have done the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. If you don’t like it, then point out your issues and I may be able to help by pointing you to answers. Parecon is just one possible solution...but a pretty thorough, clear and coherent, one and those are hard to come by.

    I ain’t reinventing the wheel either...no intention...

    Unifying the Left will only come with a commitment, from all the disparate, disconnected bits and pieces, to do so, under some kind of unifying banner or goal, or vision, that also allows those bits and piecesto maintain autonomy and to continue to pursue what they are best at pursuing in the interests of the unified whole. Maybe it will happen one day but I ain’t holding my breath.

    • Boulder Dash 4th Apr 2019

      Robin Hanel not Ronin.

      Sorry if I appear a little blunt or harsh James.

    • Boulder Dash 4th Apr 2019

      Fuck...Robin Hahnel...left the second h off in the correction which I didn’t do in the post...

  • Boulder Dash 4th Apr 2019

    “So much in your response..."we're all busy"...busy doing what? That is the thing...we spend our time with what we worship.“

    This is not true...most people in the world, and the developed nations, spend their time in pursuits that are far from what they would desire let alone wirship. Most are working, or trying to find work just to get by, to survive. Doing shit you enjoy or “worship”? That ship sailed early on during one’s school days, if you had any, as the realisation set in as to how the world actually works as opposed to how it is presented to us as children...depending on where you are from... this f you are from a pretty crappy part of the world, like your parents live literally on a dump, then thecrealisation probably sets in pretty quick....

  • James Coleman 5th Apr 2019

    I'd like to establish a common understanding of money. This will help us move forward on the same page. I'll start by deconstructing one claim.

    "Money is the mechanism by which one accesses the social pie"

    The correction I would offer here is that money is a, not the, mechanism by which one access the social pie. There are other ways to access the social pie. Con artists use them all the time. I don't want to spend a lot of time getting into this because the logic speaks for itself. If you can convince someone to give you access to their piece of the pie it is yours. If you can take another's piece of the pie by force, it is yours.

    The other things to keep in mind is that money is driven by a belief system. This is a kind of religion at its core. I am not saying it is not "real". I am saying that is a symbolic system that someone get someone else to believe in based on their control over stuff OR the belief that using THEIR money will give the user more freedom of exchange of the stuff they have.


    There are many problems with money as it is currently regulate. One problem is that money is ultimately used against the worker to enslave the worker. This is clear with real wages falling while worker production rises. It is not reasonable to say this is not "fair". I avoid talking about fairness in general, but here it makes the point clear.


    What money does, that we all most appreciate is that it gives us access to the production of others, or what I shorten to be atepro. This is about a mindset change whereby I stop thinking in terms of money and think in terms of atepro. Basically by removing money as the final say in accessing the production of others, the idea is to ignite the imagination to think differently about the value of one's own production, who should get it, etc. Also, if I believe that money is the major controller, then the one controlling the money (i.e. printing it, telling us how much you can get with it, etc.) is the one who has been given rights to the production of others with little to challenge.


    What I am offering here is the beginnings of a new perspective. I think it is fundamental to any movement forward because a new way for people to think of themselves is necessary in order to form a new collective mindset that rejects the current money based system. This perspective does not even eliminate money as an exchange tool. What it does do is highlight what money does so that each participant can start to evaluate whether or not that money is doing what it should be doing.


    Try not to use their money to access the social pie and they will kill you or jail you...it is much more than a mere mechanism for accessing the social pie.


    The current owners of the world are not going to simply agree to move to ParEcon or any other system just because an intellectual claims it is a good idea. I think they laugh at intellectuals because at the end of the day control of/influence over the people matters more than good ideas.

    I hope to influence people by offering ideas that expose the negative aspects of the current system and offer new ways of seeing the world.

    I also hope to attach emotional significance to these ideas such that there will be commitment to them.

  • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

    Well good luck James because I find most what you say pretty much incoherent. Makes no sense.

    Everything I have read, Parecon, Schweickart’s market socialism, P2P ideas including Christian Siefkes From Exchange to Contribution, Commons Transition, the publications at the Next System Project, steady state theories, simplicity models, Kate Raworth, Takis Fotopoulos, etc., irrespective of my thoughts about them, at the very least make sense to me.

    Of course there are other ways to access the social pie...thieving, sharing, giving shit away, gifting, digital money, tokens perhaps, credit, fuck...but essentially speaking capitalism is a money economy and the predominant global economic behemoth causing most of the shit. And while you may offer your own unique perspective/spin on money as a belief system, kind of religious at its core, symbolic and your own thoughts on how to proceed, I find it all more unhelpful by comparison with most of what I have read.

    Sentences like this make no sense to me at all.

    “I am saying that is a symbolic system that someone get[s] someone else to believe in based on their control over stuff OR the belief that using THEIR money will give the user more freedom of exchange of the stuff they have.”

    Paragraphs like this are just weird and incoherent to me.

    “There are many problems with money as it is currently regulate[d]. One problem is that money is ultimately used against the worker to enslave the worker. This is clear with real wages falling while worker production rises. It is not reasonable to say this is not "fair". I avoid talking about fairness in general, but here it makes the point clear.”

    It is the institutional structure of capitalism that enslaved the worker (before that it was feudalism)...nothing new here...it’s called wage slavery. It’s basically, “

    yes, you don’t have to work if you don’t want to, but if you do not, you will have to gain access to the social pie by other or illicit means, which can be/will be at times, or most of the time, very problematic, otherwise many or most would probably do it, so perhaps it’s better that you take this low paying job...up to you.”

    It’s called the labour market in which people sell their labour power or the get sick and die, or join a drug cartel because it pays a little better.

    Then you say arbitrarily, it is not reasonable to say this is not fair...seriously? And you go on to state you avoid talking about fairness ‘in general’...whatever that means...and complete the sentence by saying ‘but here it makes the point clear’. No it doesn’t. I have no idea what you are talking about. You need to do better than that if you want to be clear.

    “What money does, that we all most[sic] appreciate is that it gives us access to the production of others...”

    The production of others IS either all, or at least part of the social pie...why call it something else that really just causes confusion?

    “Basically by removing money as the final say in accessing the production of others, the idea is to ignite the imagination to think differently about the value of one's own production, who should get it, etc.”

    Fine, many people have suggested ideas that revolve around the removal of money as the mechanism by which people access the social pie or as you call it the production of others...the P2P folk do it, sharing and gifting economies, Takis Fotopoulos does it, as does Parecon, anarchists...

    And anyone who has money has a right to someone’s production if that production is on the market...that’s what exchange is...if you want to barter or exchange something for something else, fine, the seller may be fine with it too...”two pigs for my cd, great, I love pork. Done.” But if you have little money then your options are limited, if you have lots, it’s friggin’ obvious...

    “What I am offering here is the beginnings of a new perspective. I think it is fundamental to any movement forward because a new way for people to think of themselves is necessary in order to form a new collective mindset that rejects the current money based system. This perspective does not even eliminate money as an exchange tool. What it does do is highlight what money does so that each participant can start to evaluate whether or not that money is doing what it should be doing.”

    Look, you may think what you are offering is a new perspective, and fundamental to any movement forward, but one; it probably really isn’t new, it’s just you’re using a whole bunch of terms or phrases in weird arsed ways and made up words to explain your idea so it looks unique, and two; you need to do a better job explaining yourself because I’ve read a lot of this kind of shit man, a fucking heap of it, and continue to read a lot (fucked knows why), and I can tell you, your idea actually kind of just annoys me because it isn’t clear.

    Forgive me for being blunt, but I have dedicated much time to educating myself about new systems and shit from friggin’ scratch basically, and it’s been hard work and takes time and effort, reading the stuff, understanding it, holding it in the memory, writing about it and talking to others about it to help clarify things in my head, joining fucking ZSchools and pestering others, trying to make sense of it all in relation to revolutionary change and related strategy etc., and Inam devoting some genuine sincere time, effort and thought, here with you now, no one else is, it’s just me, and what I read, I can honestly say either just makes me shrug my shoulders because the ideas are not so new (if Imunderstand them) or actually just annoy because you go off on these weird arsed abstract paths that are really just confusing and sound like you are doing it for the sake of being different. And if you want people to jump on board your ‘vision’, you had better make it as straight friggin’ forward as possible and be certain that your not just going over the ground of others (who are possibly doing a better job at explaining it), in ways that just puts people off.

    Sorry.




    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      Corrections,

      “It’s called the labour market in which people sell their labour power or they get sick and die, or join a drug cartel because it pays a little better.”

      “and I am devoting some genuine sincere time, effort and thought, here with you, now, no one else is, it’s just me, and what I read, I can honestly say either just makes me shrug my shoulders because the ideas are not so new (if I understand them) or actually just annoy because you go off on these weird arsed abstract paths that are really just confusing and it feels like you are doing it for the sake of being different.”

    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      Missed,

      “And if you want people to jump on board your ‘vision’, you had better make it as straight friggin’ forward as possible and be certain that you’re not just going over the ground of others (who are possibly doing a better job at explaining it), in ways that just puts people off.

  • James Coleman 5th Apr 2019

    First off, I am appreciative of the feedback, even if the tone is bit hostile :)

    I have had conversations like this before and most seem to understand what I am saying. I am of course open to translating it into different terms if that is necessary to broaden my audience.

    It is very interesting to me that there was no comment on the lack of impact all of the academic/economic analysis you shared has had. It best has generated more analysis but little action in the real world and certainly zero impact in my experience of the world.

    If capitalism is the problem, and the capitalists don't want to change it, and people remain willing to sell their labor in the labor market, a most reasonable option left it is to physically eliminate both the capitalists and labor participants and start over with those that refuse to reinstitute capitalistic practices. All of the review of alternatives is for naught and at best is entertainment.

    The capitalists, the owners, those at the top of the economic food chain, however you want to term them, have no motivation to change. This at least should be some point of agreement. Why should they change? They have an ample supply of slaves/wage earners/employees/laborers (whatever you want to call them) that are willing to serve them, and if you include the military to the death. The also have intellectuals working for them supplying them with a lifetime of ideas on how to sustain their position. If this is the case, I think something more than some fancy economic model is going to be necessary get them to change their minds.

    On social pie vs production of others, I prefer the term that makes it clear what is being sought after. If it means the same thing, fine.

    The fact that there are other ways of accessing the social pie I think needs to be highlighted. Perhaps commitment to some of these other ways could eventually bring down capitalists. Highlighting this, I think, is important, as people who are without money seek to look for different ways to get what they feel they need/deserve/want/etc.


    I make no pretense of being the smartest person in the room. What I can do is identify bottom lines to be recognized as starting points. I am, as previously shared, willing to translate, or learn how to translate, those into different terms for different audiences. I also make no pretense of thinking that I am wholly original in my passion, pursuit, or expression. If there are more thought out ways of expressing what I am trying to say, I am all for learning and incorporating them into my thinking. But I am also aware that clarity of thought for any given model is not the end all be all. You can be right, everyone around you could even agree, and then go about their merry way doing whatever they were doing before, ignoring any better ideas that are brought to the table.

    Perhaps the economic models are less important than the cultural/psychological/sociological structures in/with which people operate and one's ability to impact those structures is what really matters. Get people to stop wanting ice cream, they stop spending money on ice cream, the ice cream economy disappears. At the end of the day it seems like what are you willing to live for or die for is what matters most and that is why religion is so important.

  • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019


    My responses are in square brackets.

    First off, I am appreciative of the feedback, even if the tone is bit hostile :)

    [Not meant to be hostile, but is meant to be blunt and honest from my side, because shit man, this stuff takes up time.]

I have had conversations like this before and most seem to understand what I am saying.

    [Well perhaps I ain’t like most people...or perhaps I’m just being more brutally honest.]

    I am of course open to translating it into different terms if that is necessary to broaden my audience.

    [Do what you like. If I understand it and it makes sense and it sounds reasonable I’d say so....Truth is I do NOT know what you are saying and really, you haven’t presented anything yet...just some vague ideas about what money is and that it’s a problem and stuff about being all symbolic and religion and intellectualising and the like.]

It is very interesting to me that there was no comment on the lack of impact all of the academic/economic analysis you shared has had. It best has generated more analysis but little action in the real world and certainly zero impact in my experience of the world.

    [Well, this is the first I’ve heard of your idea and we’ll see how much impact you have in the REAL world. But the Next System Project, CommonsTransition , P2P, simplicity movement have had impact in the world. But really, that’s not the point. The point is whatever they are doing it has to be clear and coherent at the very least and process by which their projects and accompanying visions will be judged will the same as yours. Good luck]

If capitalism is the problem, and the capitalists don't want to change it, and people remain willing to sell their labor in the labor market, a most reasonable option left it is to physically eliminate both the capitalists and labor participants and start over with those that refuse to reinstitute capitalistic practices.

    [????? Sounds a little final solution to me! Some anarchy-primmies may agree with you here but surely you do not think such action reasonable. Was it reasonable that Thanos randomly turned half the population of the universe to dust because he felt like Malthus, the universe overpopulated? Surely not. Getting a little scary]

    All of the review of alternatives is for naught and at best is entertainment.

    [No it’s not. It may appear that way because of the difficulty of making impactful change at a significant level but it ain’t for naught and entertainment. If you’ve got a coherent vision or alternative or clear ideas, share them with as many people as you can and see how impactful they are. So far, just here with me, and your ideas, I’m not feeling it James. Am I hanging around here with you for entertainment?...we’ll, maybe a little...but not really...and for all I know YOU could be the one looking for entertainment, some kind of troll just trying to agitate like Satan did much earlier on and others...but, must admit, sometimes it beats working you know and it least it gets my little mind ticking over and running over a whole bunch of different, perhaps even creative, algorithms in me head that could be beneficial in the future...or alternatively a complete waste fucking time...well, in the end, what isn’t? Hey, but let’s not get all depressed and nihilistic people, at the very least I am here engaging with you, and that’s gotta count for something, no?]

The capitalists, the owners, those at the top of the economic food chain, however you want to term them, have no motivation to change.

    [Probably]

    This at least should be some point of agreement.

    [Yes...we’re making progress.]

    Why should they change?

    [Exactly, why should they...high five.]

    They have an ample supply of slaves/wage earners/employees/laborers (whatever you want to call them) that are willing to serve them, and if you include the military to the death.

    [Got a tiny home to pick with the notion they are ‘willing’ to serve them. Call me a pedantic bastard, but...worth thinking about that I reckon.]

    The also have intellectuals working for them supplying them with a lifetime of ideas on how to sustain their position.

    [Yep. Think tanks and much else...yep...]

    If this is the case, I think something more than some fancy economic model is going to be necessary get them to change their minds.

    [Yep, can’t be just fancy, it’s gotta be clear, coherent and convincing...the three C’s. But then, you probably ain’t changing the mind of at least a third of the worlds population give or take a few, like the Koch Bros and like folk who occupy the a Dark Money a World, you know, the real wealthy and powerful of the Big Daddy White Geezer Hegemonic Power Grid...so maybe you ain’t targeting those...doesn’t seem an efficient use of one’s energy.]

On social pie vs production of others, I prefer the term that makes it clear what is being sought after. If it means the same thing, fine.

    [ Okay, we agree, social pie it is...we’ll ditch atepro.]

The fact that there are other ways of accessing the social pie I think needs to be highlighted.

    [Exactly. That’s what those other groups/people/projects are doing.]

    Perhaps commitment to some of these other ways could eventually bring down capitalists.

    [Thats what they all hope and are committed to working hard to do.]

    Highlighting this, I think, is important, as people who are without money seek to look for different ways to get what they feel they need/deserve/want/etc.

    [Of course, that’s what all those other groups/people/projects I mentioned and visionaries are doing...and it isn’t just people without money...some people have plenty of it and are committed to the cause for change]

I make no pretense of being the smartest person in the room.

    [Nor do I or those other groups/people/projects I mentioned but the difference is, they’ve actually got something...something substantial...stuff they’ve been working on for decades, and usually by collaborating, discussing, debating with others]

    What I can do is identify bottom lines to be recognized as starting points.

    [No different to those other groups/people/projects I mentioned...gotta start from somewhere]

    I am, as previously shared, willing to translate, or learn how to translate, those into different terms for different audiences.

    [Thats good. If I understood what you were saying then it would be easier to discuss. But really, it does appear, at least to me, and I’m not saying I’m worth listening to or the second smartest person in the world like Eric Weinstein (Sam Harris is probably about fifth behind Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan), and even I, surprising as it me appear, can be a confusing motherfucker at times, that you are trying to reinvent the wheel when you perhaps do not have to.]

    I also make no pretense of thinking that I am wholly original in my passion, pursuit, or expression.

    [Yeah, maybe, but there is a hint of it...you know, a tiny weeny bit...]

    If there are more thought out ways of expressing what I am trying to say, I am all for learning and incorporating them into my thinking. But I am also aware that clarity of thought for any given model is not the end all be all.

    [It’s pretty important...clarity of thought pertaining to a given model...if it ain’t James, no one’s giving it a second glance. The three C’s.]

    You can be right, everyone around you could even agree, and then go about their merry way doing whatever they were doing before, ignoring any better ideas that are brought to the table.

    [Exactly. Again, we gotta he clear, coherent and convincing...the three C’s. If not, back to the drawing board. But of course one has to be open minded, which is why I am still here discussing this with you...or perhaps it’s because I’m just a crazy fucking arsehole with nothing much better to do.]

Perhaps the economic models are less important than the cultural/psychological/sociological structures in/with which people operate and one's ability to impact those structures is what really matters.

    [I think you’ll find most of the groups/people/projects I mentioned would say all areas or spheres of society are of equal importance, the kinship sphere, cultural/community sphere, political sphere, economic sphere and Australian Rules Football sphere and free improvisation sphere. Albert and Hahnel’s model, while economic, is premised and built on such a foundation, and Schweickart’s book starts by making this same point pretty clear but they’re expertise and contribution pertains to the economy. And of course it matters how one impacts existing structures. That’s what change is about. The revolutionary left, at least since say Proudhon, has been trying to do that for nearly two hundred years, with some successes and a lot of failure.]

    Get people to stop wanting ice cream, they stop spending money on ice cream, the ice cream economy disappears.

    [That’s just relying on markets...capitalists would love to hear that...they say it.]

    At the end of the day it seems like what are you willing to live for or die for is what matters most and that is why religion is so important.

    [No, screw religion, that’s why it’s important come up with better practical and coherent ways to organise shit, including one of the most important and impactful spheres of our lives, the economy, that is, production, consumption and allocation. To develop economies that foster equity, solidarity, diversity and self-management, that are fair and just, and it’s probably best to start with those spheres of society in which the institutional structures are easiest to spot and pinpoint and that’s why you find most visionary action/ideas within the economic sphere. Which doesn’t exclude working on the other areas at the same time of course.]

  • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

    I’m posting this again because this site fucked it up.


    My responses are in square brackets.

    First off, I am appreciative of the feedback, even if thie tone is bit hostile :)

    [Not meant to be hostile, but is meant to be blunt and honest from my side, because shit man, this stuff takes up time.]



    I have had conversations like this before and most seem to understand what I am saying.

    [Well perhaps I ain’t like most people...or I’m just being brutally honest.]

    I am of course open to translating it into different terms if that is necessary to broaden my audience.

    [Do what you like. If I understand it and it makes sense and it sounds reasonable I’d say so....Truth is I do NOT know what you are saying and really, you haven’t presented anything yet...just some vague ideas about what money is and that it’s a problem and stuff about being all symbolic and religion and intellectualising and the like.]



    It is very interesting to me that there was no comment on the lack of impact all of the academic/economic analysis you shared has had. It best has generated more analysis but little action in the real world and certainly zero impact in my experience of the world.

    [Well, this is the first I’ve heard of your idea and we’ll see how much impact you have in the REAL world. But the Next System Project, CommonsTransition , P2P, simplicity movement have had impact in the world. But really, that’s not the point. The point is whatever they are doing it has to be clear and coherent at the very least and process by which their projects and accompanying visions will be judged will the same as yours. Good luck]

    

If capitalism is the problem, and the capitalists don't want to change it, and people remain willing to sell their labor in the labor market, a most reasonable option left it is to physically eliminate both the capitalists and labor participants and start over with those that refuse to reinstitute capitalistic practices.

    [????? Sounds a little final solution to me! Some anarchy-primmies may agree with you here but surely you do not think such action reasonable. Was it reasonable that Thanos randomly turned half the population of the universe to dust because he felt like Malthus, the universe overpopulated? Surely not. Getting a little scary]

    All of the review of alternatives is for naught and at best is entertainment.

    [No it’s not. It may appear that way because of the difficulty of making impactful change at a significant level but it ain’t for naught and entertainment. If you’ve got a coherent vision or alternative or clear ideas, share them with as many people as you can and see how impactful they are. So far, just here with me, and your ideas, I’m not feeling it James. Am I hanging around here with you for entertainment?...we’ll, maybe a little...but not really...and for all I know YOU could be the one looking for entertainment, some kind of troll just trying to agitate like Satan did much earlier on and others...but, must admit, sometimes it beats working you know and it least it gets my little mind ticking over and running over a whole bunch of different, perhaps even creative, algorithms in me head that could be beneficial in the future...or alternatively a complete waste fucking time...well, in the end, what isn’t? Hey, but let’s not get all depressed and nihilistic people, at the very least I am here engaging with you, and that’s gotta count for something, no?]



    The capitalists, the owners, those at the top of the economic food chain, however you want to term them, have no motivation to change.

    [Probably]

    This at least should be some point of agreement.

    [Yes...we’re making progress.]

    Why should they change?

    [Exactly, why should they...high five.]

    They have an ample supply of slaves/wage earners/employees/laborers (whatever you want to call them) that are willing to serve them, and if you include the military to the death.

    [Got a tiny home to pick with the notion they are ‘willing’ to serve them. Call me a pedantic bastard, but...worth thinking about that I reckon.]

    The also have intellectuals working for them supplying them with a lifetime of ideas on how to sustain their position.

    [Yep. Think tanks and much else...yep...]

    If this is the case, I think something more than some fancy economic model is going to be necessary get them to change their minds.

    [Yep, can’t be just fancy, it’s gotta be clear, coherent and convincing...the three C’s. But then, you probably ain’t changing the mind of at least a third of the worlds population give or take a few, like the Koch Bros and like folk who occupy the a Dark Money a World, you know, the real wealthy and powerful of the Big Daddy White Geezer Hegemonic Power Grid...so maybe you ain’t targeting those...doesn’t seem an efficient use of one’s energy.]

    

On social pie vs production of others, I prefer the term that makes it clear what is being sought after. If it means the same thing, fine.

    [ Okay, we agree, social pie it is...we’ll ditch atepro.]



    The fact that there are other ways of accessing the social pie I think needs to be highlighted.

    [Exactly. That’s what those other groups/people/projects are doing.]

    Perhaps commitment to some of these other ways could eventually bring down capitalists.

    [Thats what they all hope and are committed to working hard to do.]

    Highlighting this, I think, is important, as people who are without money seek to look for different ways to get what they feel they need/deserve/want/etc.

    [Of course, that’s what all those other groups/people/projects I mentioned and visionaries are doing...and it isn’t just people without money...some people have plenty of it and are committed to the cause for change]



    I make no pretense of being the smartest person in the room.

    [Nor do I or those other groups/people/projects I mentioned but the difference is, they’ve actually got something...something substantial...stuff they’ve been working on for decades, and usually by collaborating, discussing, debating with others]

    What I can do is identify bottom lines to be recognized as starting points.

    [No different to those other groups/people/projects I mentioned...gotta start from somewhere]

    I am, as previously shared, willing to translate, or learn how to translate, those into different terms for different audiences.

    [Thats good. If I understood what you were saying then it would be easier to discuss. But really, it does appear, at least to me, and I’m not saying I’m worth listening to or the second smartest person in the world like Eric Weinstein (Sam Harris is probably about fifth behind Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan), and even I, surprising as it me appear, can be a confusing motherfucker at times, that you are trying to reinvent the wheel when you perhaps do not have to.]

    I also make no pretense of thinking that I am wholly original in my passion, pursuit, or expression.

    [Yeah, maybe, but there is a hint of it...you know, a tiny weeny bit...]

    If there are more thought out ways of expressing what I am trying to say, I am all for learning and incorporating them into my thinking. But I am also aware that clarity of thought for any given model is not the end all be all.

    [It’s pretty important...clarity of thought pertaining to a given model...if it ain’t James, no one’s giving it a second glance. The three C’s.]

    You can be right, everyone around you could even agree, and then go about their merry way doing whatever they were doing before, ignoring any better ideas that are brought to the table.

    [Exactly. Again, we gotta he clear, coherent and convincing...the three C’s. If not, back to the drawing board. But of course one has to be open minded, which is why I am still here discussing this with you...or perhaps it’s because I’m just a crazy fucking arsehole with nothing much better to do.]



    Perhaps the economic models are less important than the cultural/psychological/sociological structures in/with which people operate and one's ability to impact those structures is what really matters.

    [I think you’ll find most of the groups/people/projects I mentioned would say all areas or spheres of society are of equal importance, the kinship sphere, cultural/community sphere, political sphere, economic sphere and Australian Rules Football sphere and free improvisation sphere. Albert and Hahnel’s model, while economic, is premised and built on such a foundation, and Schweickart’s book starts by making this same point pretty clear but they’re expertise and contribution pertains to the economy. And of course it matters how one impacts existing structures. That’s what change is about. The revolutionary left, at least since say Proudhon, has been trying to do that for nearly two hundred years, with some successes and a lot of failure.]

    Get people to stop wanting ice cream, they stop spending money on ice cream, the ice cream economy disappears.

    [That’s just relying on markets...capitalists would love to hear that...they say it.]

    At the end of the day it seems like what are you willing to live for or die for is what matters most and that is why religion is so important.

    [No, screw religion, that’s why it’s important come up with better practical and coherent ways to organise shit, including one of the most important and impactful spheres of our lives, the economy, that is, production, consumption and allocation. To develop economies that foster equity, solidarity, diversity and self-management, that are fair and just, and it’s probably best to start with those spheres of society in which the institutional structures are easiest to spot and pinpoint and that’s why you find most visionary action/ideas within the economic sphere. Which doesn’t exclude working on the other areas at the same time of course.]

    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      Corrections,

      Gotta a tiny hole to pick...

      ...and like folk who occupy the Dark Money World

  • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

    Socialism 3: Ethically Judging Current Societies

    By Michael Albert

    April 5, 2019

    [This is the third in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it will or ought to seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]

    If our current societies do well in fulfilling equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and ecological sustainability, we need not try to envision drastically altered ways of carrying out social tasks as the ways we have would be adequate. But if our current societies do poorly fulfilling our values, then we have great reason to envision drastically altered ways of carrying out social tasks, and good reason to proceed with an essay series attempting to do so.

    When a claim is made that Trump lies, while for some purposes listing a few thousand instances may prove helpful, really just a few choice instances make the case. Better to spend one’s time battling Trump and especially defining and seeking an alternative to Trumpism, than repeatedly excoriating him. And the same holds for the claim that contemporary societies violate our values. Though we could pile up evidence to mountainous levels, a few choice indicators should suffice.

    Regarding equity, in the U.S. three individuals — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett — own more wealth than the bottom half of the country combined. Three stand on one side, a hundred million or so on the other side. That is as opposite to equity as one could imagine, and that is what I mean by a choice fact. Of course one could go on to statistically compare the top 20% to the bottom 80%, or one could impressionistically drive around various neighborhoods comparing homes — supposing one could get past the guards of the rich neighborhoods. One could also compare the wealth or income of various constituencies, men and women, Blacks, Latinos, and whites, and so on. The point is, contemporary societies offer nothing even remotely like equity. Most citizens who aren’t already desperate are one paycheck, one unexpected illness, or one personal misstep from disaster. Perpetual panic is epidemic.

    The inequities are perpetually enforced not only by armed guards, but by cultural repetition and celebration. Those suffering poverty are regaled with TV, movie, and other media images celebrating the rich and famous and their utterly unattainable and even inconceivable lifestyles. Even in sports talk shows, incredibly, the focus has broadened from analyzing the details of performance in years past to more recently studying the mechanics of contracts while commentators get wrapped up in knots of awed respect for one hundred, two hundred, and even three hundred million dollar contracts for single athletes, sagely telling us that it isn’t enough, or, in some cases, is a little too much. And we are given this as our entertainment, literally to root for and to find escape and solace and excitement in — and we do so, because what else is there?

    Look no further for equity unless you wish to wallow in the pain of an endless river of ever more depressing details. The bottom line, equity, is obliterated by a few people owning workplaces and the rest not, by a few people monopolizing skills and information and the rest not, and by many suffering the denials imposed by racism, sexism, homophobia and other social, geographic, and age related divisions. More, society not only generates and defends vast inequities, it celebrates them as if inequity is necessary and even virtuous, piling indignity and stupidity on top of subjugation. There isn’t even a contrary pretense denying uncountable accumulated wealth. Likewise, no one denies gargantuan yearly incomes, palatial mansions, inequitable health care, schooling, and diet. Equity? We don’t have any and everybody knows it.

    Regarding self management, the story is basically the same. Most societal decisions occur with the vast majority of the population not even knowing a decision is being made, much less having a say. Law and disorder, prosecution and revenge, war and military spending, what is produced with what means and norms, the composition of jobs and the distribution of responsibilities, what is available to consume and what isn’t, and the norms of admiration and ridicule that pervade the culture, all these are beyond even our purview much less our influence.

    It turns out that the abhorrent fact that candidates for office win and lose due to media and financial machinations and not due to honest informed accounting of substantive plans, is actually only the surface of society’s denial of people having a say in the outcomes most affecting their lives. Did any person addicted to opioids have any say in the pharmaceutical decisions that addicted them other than saying yes to a doctor’s advice or desperately seeking drugs on the street to survive pain and alienation? We all know the answer is no, and similarly it is no to dozens of similar questions we could investigate. For example, do policed communities have appropriate self managing influence over the policing they endure? In workplaces, do most workers, about 80%, have any say about anything at all…or do they have to accept a degree of subservience in many ways even exceeding that imposed by dictators. Not even Hitler or Stalin ever told a population when it could or could not go to the bathroom, something that occurs daily in many workplaces.

    In institutions across society a relative few decide virtually all outcomes, and the rest obey and endure. It isn’t just that we don’t have self management, it is that we have it’s opposite, and everybody knows it.

    What about solidarity? It is not for nothing that we say it’s a dog eat dog world, a rat race, every one for themself, and so on. It’s because that’s our experience. Market relations require that we buy cheap and sell dear, my gain is your loss and vice versa. Fleece or be fleeced. And then schooling, culture, and even upbringing ratify that this is how it is and how it will always be. You better get yours while you can, others be damned. In truth, in our societies, humans appear to be nastier to other humans than dogs to dogs and rats to rats. Our fetishization of numero uno, our competitive economics, and our perverse culture make it so.

    Consider the aphorism, “nice guys finish last.” First, it is basically true. My more extreme version would be “garbage rises,” which if you think about it, is also true. And, if you don’t want to be nasty, or garbage, and many people do retain enough humanity to opt out of those options, then to avoid being repressed on top of being denied you need to at least accept the subservience that inevitably punishes your civility. Second, all by itself the fact that nice guys finish last, or that garage rises, reveals that solidarity, much less empathy, is an ethical orphan in our society. We all know it and endure it or take advantage of it.

    On to diversity. Here I suppose an argument could ensue. Some will feel that with our hundred channels and countless brands of this and that, diversity is in the saddle. But I would contest even that. Consider blacks, whites, workers, professionals, women, gays, and other constituencies you can no doubt name. Each, to a considerable degree, differs from the rest in its modes of living, dress, music, film, sports, and even diet preferences. Is this all just free choice among options? Or is it the impact of homogenization defining opposed groups? For that matter, is the diversity of, say, the internet, really diversity when a handful of sites garner a huge percentage of all web views, and an even smaller handful mediate an even higher percentage of all online social communication?

    I won’t press this issue overly but perhaps you will take a moment to imagine you are arrested and hauled off. Suppose in jail there is a commissary. You arrive and find its offerings abhorrent. For a couple of weeks, you get nothing. But left with no other recourse, in pursuit of something better than nothing, you start to make choices among the limited offerings. Soon when you visit the commissary, the array of offerings seems reasonable, even plentiful, compared to, well, the nothing you had had for the two weeks you avoided it. You start to differentiate, to want this more than that. Are you enjoying diversity that speaks to your unfettered inclinations, or are you making the best of a horrible poverty of options? And, by analogy, are society’s citizens enjoying diversity in society’s malls, on its TV, seeking and doing its jobs, and all the rest, or are we making do with a horrible poverty of options by bending our preferences to fit the intellectually, socially, and ethically limited range of society’s offerings, in essence making the best of a horrible situation?

    The fifth value we offered was sustainability, or ecological sanity. This is arguably the most calamitous failing of the bunch, and, again, everyone knows it. The world is at risk, elites give lip service to global warming, and humanity barrels over a cliff of our own creation. Suffice to say, climate catastrophe, resource depletion, and poisonous pollution literally threaten human survival. You can’t get much more of a violation of a paramount value than that. And, yes, again, everybody knows it. (I keep repeating that we all know it, exaggerating only minimally, but Leonard Cohen, the poet/singer put the same observation vastly better in his song, Everybody Knows Take a look!)

    But, a question arises. If everybody knows, why are we not all up in arms? Why isn’t our knowing how horribly our societies restrict and even threaten our lives enough to galvanize massive, sustained, revolutionary desire, education, and activism? I think a Catch 22 is at work. Everybody does know all kinds of devastatingly horrible truths about our societies, but only a ridiculously small number of us think it is anything other than just the way things are, and even among that small number who do believe “another world is possible,” only a still smaller group believes they have any way to contribute to bringing it about. So we have a Catch 22. Without a compelling vision of how society could be better and an informed belief that the massive impediments to reaching that better society are overcome-able by actions we can contribute to, why should people give any time to that project, including to the initial task of generating and sharing vision and developing workable strategy. The greatest enemy of potential progress, cynicism, turns out to be a personally self serving albeit socially suicidal disposition. Maybe a series of articles addressing vision and strategy and whatever discussion might ensue, all at our unusual moment of a resurgent and surprisingly widespread espousal of socialist aspirations, can help. That is the hope of this essay series.

    Next Installment: Socialism 4 (Economics): Dividing Society’s Pie

  • Boulder Dash 6th Apr 2019

    Economic Democracy: What It Is

    A serious critique of capitalism cannot be content with merely noting the negative features of the contemporary world. It must show a causal connection between the structures that define capitalism and these features. Otherwise, the negatives can simply be written off as either the inevitable effects of human nature or the consequences of some reformable aspects of capitalism. A serious critique must show that these negative features would not be present, or would at least be far less prominent, if certain structural elements of capitalism were altered and that such alterations would not have other worse consequences.

    Hence, we must specify precisely not only the defining characteristics of capitalism, which was done in the previous chapter, but also the structural features of an alternative to capitalism. Such a specification, even in rudimentary form, is necessarily complicated, since a modern economy is a complicated affair. But if we want to do more than simply denounce the evils of capitalism, we must confront the claim that there is no alternative—by proposing one.(Schweickart)

  • Boulder Dash 6th Apr 2019

    Schweickart,

    ““Market socialism” remains a controversial topic among socialists. I have long argued that centralized planning, the most commonly advocated socialist alternative to market allocation, is inherently flawed, and that schemes for decentralized, nonmarket planning are unworkable. Central planning, as theory predicts and the historical record confirms, is both inefficient and conducive to an authoritarian concentration of power. This is one of the great lessons to be drawn from the Soviet experience. Without a price mechanism sensitive to supply and demand, it is extremely difficult for a producer or planner to know what and how much to produce and which production and marketing methods are the most efficient. It is also extremely difficult in the absence of a market to design a set of incentives that will motivate producers to be both efficient and innovative. Market competition resolves these problems (to a significant if incomplete degree) in a nonauthoritarian, nonbureaucratic fashion. This is an achievement indispensable to a serious socialism. 1”

  • James Coleman 6th Apr 2019

    A serious critique of capitalism cannot be content with merely noting the negative features of the contemporary world.

    [Totally agree here. Just complaining without offering something more to move the conversation forward is not really helpful]

    It must show a causal connection between the structures that define capitalism and these features.

    [This might be tough at detailed level. There are many factors that contribute to all human endeavors: biological, cultural, historical, psychological, sociological, etc. I imagine as I read more, I'll get a feel for how some of these causal connections are made]

    Otherwise, the negatives can simply be written off as either the inevitable effects of human nature or the consequences of some reformable aspects of capitalism.

    [Does it make sense to start with our understanding of human nature and build any new system around that? After all, an economy is designed to meet human needs. If there are reformable aspects of capitalism, it would make sense to implement them. I think people are able to break any system put in place unless there are safeguards put in place that everyone agrees to keep in place over the long haul.]

    A serious critique must show that these negative features would not be present, or would at least be far less prominent, if certain structural elements of capitalism were altered and that such alterations would not have other worse consequences.

    [ok]

    Hence, we must specify precisely not only the defining characteristics of capitalism, which was done in the previous chapter, but also the structural features of an alternative to capitalism. Such a specification, even in rudimentary form, is necessarily complicated, since a modern economy is a complicated affair. But if we want to do more than simply denounce the evils of capitalism, we must confront the claim that there is no alternative—by proposing one.(Schweickart)

    [I think I'll need to read that previous chapter! As I think about proposing an alternative, I considered that one has to describe, in some detail, the behaviors, activities, and the relations of those behaviors and activities that support the system. There must be some kind of "do this with that at this time with these others" instructions along with explanations of why those instructions should be followed. At the end of the day if behaviors and attitudes are not malleable and controllable in support of the alternative economic agenda, it is unlikely that any alternative can be reasonably put in place]

  • James Coleman 6th Apr 2019

    Everybody does know all kinds of devastatingly horrible truths about our societies, but only a ridiculously small number of us think it is anything other than just the way things are, and even among that small number who do believe “another world is possible,” only a still smaller group believes they have any way to contribute to bringing it about. So we have a Catch 22. Without a compelling vision of how society could be better and an informed belief that the massive impediments to reaching that better society are overcome-able by actions we can contribute to, why should people give any time to that project, including to the initial task of generating and sharing vision and developing workable strategy. The greatest enemy of potential progress, cynicism, turns out to be a personally self serving albeit socially suicidal disposition. Maybe a series of articles addressing vision and strategy and whatever discussion might ensue, all at our unusual moment of a resurgent and surprisingly widespread espousal of socialist aspirations, can help. That is the hope of this essay series.

    [I was thinking about this problem today and thought of the following...Any significant change is probably going to be over multiple generations. This points to needing uniform ways of raising kids such that they understand the problem and are willing to do something about as they age. It also seems to be a reminder of the ancient adage that virtuous societies need virtuous leaders. Capitalism seems not to require adherence to this truth in order to establish stability. Thus adherence to any kind of virtue is about a different kind of stability that does not allow "garbage to rise". Additionally, any change would probably need to "choke out" capitalism by denying access to labor. This in turn seems to suggest that folks will have some alternative place to offer their labor in exchange for what they want/need. This may seem kind of obvious, but I am thinking about it in terms of raising an army. The army needs to be clothed, housed, feed, and given a good story to say in line with the agenda. How will this army of the alternative economy remain motivated to say in line when it is easier, even if more painful, to just submit and slave.]

  • Boulder Dash 7th Apr 2019

    It’s a matter of convincing enough people to believe change is possible and that a particular vision is worthy and better than capitalism. That a new and better economy is possible. The vision needs to be clear, coherent and convincing and the movement needs enough people on board otherwise naught will happen. I think the equation is pretty simple, but the vision also kind of has to be. That’s why there can’t be too many of them (personally I don’t really believe there are many options) otherwise people will just throw their hands up in the air and constant bickering, over minutiae, philosophical and ideological differences etc., won’t do. Such issues would need to be resolved swiftly, again so people don’t just throw their hands up in the air and walk away. And everything needs to be transparent and open to everyone at all times...totally participatory, not hidden away in dark rooms. A Parecon would be further down the track. Schweickart type market socialist models are possible sooner (they retain markets), and some of the stuff the Next System Project is promoting is immediate as is some of the stuff Commonstransition is involved with. A green new deal is definitely possible now, possibly even necessary in the interim, as is something like the Climate Mobilisation Victory Plan. But each first step could be seen as part of a constantly evolving strategy heading toward a best option endgame. Could be a Parecon, may be the James Coleman AtePro Reorganisation Program or ARP for short. For now I’m sticking with the former.

  • Boulder Dash 7th Apr 2019

    Musical relief.

  • James Coleman 8th Apr 2019

    I listened for when the music would start...It never seemed to :)

    I have to admit this whole conversation has me thinking very differently about the state of affairs. I looked at the Common Transition Site, The Next System Project, Doughnut Economics, some of what Eric Weinstein has published, and it actually pushes me more and more toward the religious solutions.

    I know many are not fans of that idea and think of it as a non-solution but I am not sure where the commitment to a system whereby the initiators of that system may not see the benefits in their lifetime, especially whey they could just life an enjoyable blind life. In other words, there does not seem to be enough people with enough dedicated resources to shift the existing way people live to a new model.

    The fact that there are no "normal" channels for someone to go through to get involved and still make a living should be a concern to anyone serious about this problem. I can sign up for the military or chuck boxes for Amazon with relative ease. ParEcon? Doesn't even get me a cup of coffee. I say this in the same light that any idea I have come up with thus far converts to about the same amount of material. Well that is not exactly true. I have been able to get some work because of my positions, but it gets me two cups of coffee, and only coffee for me.

    Now, even as I think the real solutions are religious, this does not mean I abandon more classically rational methods. I am agreeing with the three C rule. Any rational person would want to see how any alternative system would work before investing their life to it, let alone any resources.

    This has me now starting list out what the problems are and asking questions and then making statements that address those questions. Starting statements for me are turning more toward observations of the state of affairs that leads to a question that points to a solution.

    Either way, it is a very different drawing board for me now...

    How do you provide for a wage earner to participate in a new system?
    What would motivate someone with significant resources to allocate them toward a new system?
    How do you physically defend any land dedicated to a new system?
    How do you keep the skilled from being tempted by the toys of the current owners?

    Part of me believes that whatever the system, if it is not as easy as joining the army and having a similar kind of economic security as that, even if just for a few years, there is no practical way of moving the labor to stop supporting the existing juggernaut.

    I am looking for the place to "sign up" and not finding it. I am looking for the ideas to have others sign up...and finding it much more difficult than I imagined...I'm still on the hopeful side for now.

  • Boulder Dash 8th Apr 2019

    You need to listen harder!

  • Boulder Dash 10th Apr 2019

    Socialism (Economics) 4: Dividing Society’s Pie

    By Michael Albert

    April 8, 2019

    Call the total goods and services any society produces society’s pie. Socialists typically feel that society’s pie ought to be fairly divided among society’s workers. But is it sufficient to just say income distribution needs to get more fair?

    Don’t we need to say more to help dispel the widespread feeling there is nothing better beyond capitalism? Don’t we need to say more so our actions cumulatively take us where we want to go?

    One option for distributing income is to say that people ought to get more if they own property that contributes to the worth of society’s pie. If I have a deed that stipulates that I own Amazon, then with this approach I get profits back as part of my income even if I simply sit in a chair and “earn” as much each work day as typical workers earn in 100 years. (I am actually being conservative in the estimate for someone like, say, Jeff Bezos, because if Bezos earns $13 billion in profits next year – not impossible – then he earns about $50 million per workday. If Sam, working for Bezos at a pretty good job, earns $50,000 a year, he earns $50 million in a thousand years).

    If there is one thing nearly all past socialists agreed on, it was that property-based income creates dehumanizing poverty, propels holders to lordlike dominion over workplaces, causes ceaseless conflict over property-induced differences in income and power, demolishes diversity by homogenizing contending classes, and subverts sustainability by giving centralized power an interest in exploiting nature and accumulating ceaselessly.

    Rejecting property-based income for those reasons, a second income option is that people ought to get more income if they are strong enough to take more, and less income if they are sufficiently weak to be given less. If I can take more, great, I will. If you can’t take more, too bad, you won’t. Now it may seem that this thuggish approach to distributing income is so odious that no one would advocate it, but in fact, it is literally how markets operate. If you have bargaining power based on your having property, or having a monopoly on information or skills, or being aided by a bought-off government agency, a professional organization, or a union, you can take more than others. If you have less power because your society is racist and you are in a racially subordinated constituency or your society is sexist and you are female, or you are isolated and easily replaceable at work, you get less income. A power-based option to distributing income violates our favored values in the same ways as rewarding property does, albeit, a bit less extremely.

    Next comes an option that’s harder to dismiss and that many who say they are socialist explicitly support. This norm is that people should receive back from society’s pie a bundle of preferred items whose total value reflects the total value of what they contributed by their labor to society’s pie. If you and I pick cotton and you pick more each day, you should get that much more income each day. And likewise if we tend patients, play music, wash dishes, or whatever else – if you contribute more to society’s pie, you should get more income in that same proportion. After all, if we get less than what our work generated, someone else is getting some of the value we generated. If we get more than our work generated, we are getting some value others generated. Shouldn’t we get back the amount that we, by our labors, contribute to the total, and not more or less than that?

    But what might cause you to produce more worth than me, over the same period of time? You may be better equipped for the work, stronger, quicker, or better able to reason. Or you may have a plow and I only have a hoe. You may have a computer, and I only have pencil and paper. Or maybe you have workmates that better aid your ability to produce because they are more capable than my workmates are. Or, finally, you may produce brain repairs whereas I produce car repairs. You may make gourmet meals, whereas I sling hash.

    But why should your more productive inborn genetic characteristics, better equipment, more effective workmates, or more valuable output ethically entitle you to more income? In none of these cases would the extra income reward your activity but, instead, only your luck in the genetic, equipment, workmate, or assigned product lottery. And is rewarding luck in those lotteries economically fair? Doesn’t it subvert our other values similarly to how rewarding property or bargaining power does?

    Please note: a key thing about values is that they are not true or false. I can’t advocate a value on grounds that I can prove it is correct or reject another on grounds I can prove it incorrect. No one can prove any such thing. Instead, the distinction has to be that we like what fulfilling one value leads to for society and we don’t like what fulfilling another value leads to. This was true for our general allegiance to equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and sustainability, all of which we found likable, and as we proceed we need to find likable whatever refinement of those values we settle on to further guide our approach to organizing particular aspects of social life.

    So, do we think a society will be better if it rewards a person for their luck in inheriting traits like strength, speed, smarts, etc? Should exceptional ballplayers, singers, calculators, and what have you, earn vast income for their special abilities? If you think the answer is yes, be aware that top athletes now signing contracts for as much as $35 million a year are actually getting less than the value they add to society’s pie in the enjoyment of people watching them, because much is taken by team owners, TV stations, shoe manufacturers, and the like who have sufficient bargaining power to do so. Or consider a less extreme example. Two farm workers go out in the field and work under the same sun, for the same duration, and using the same tools, but one is six foot four and really strong, and the other is five foot eight and of average strength. They both produce valuable output, but the bigger, stronger farmhand produces twice as much. Do we really feel it is morally desirable to pay the stronger farmhand twice what we pay the weaker one? Might it be better if the workers get income according to a different norm? Or do we think piling wealth on top of lucky genetic endowment is ethically sound?

    And should we reward people, as well, for luck in the equipment lottery? I have better tools at my disposal than you, so should my hourly income be more in the same proportion my tools let me produce more? Or, similarly, is society better if we reward luck in being with a more talented team of co-workers, or of happening to be assigned to produce objects of greater value?

    Socialists of every denomination don’t like rewarding property or bargaining power, but many do favor rewarding output. I would like to suggest, instead, that a worthy economic vision should give income for how long one works, for how hard one works, and for the onerousness of the conditions under which one works, as long as one is producing something that is socially valued. Socialists should favor receiving higher income for working longer, harder, or under worse conditions, but not for being stronger or more talented, having better equipment, better workmates, or producing something more highly valued.

    With this approach an average income will be payment for a workload of average duration, intensity, and onerousness. If I want more leisure than average, I will arrange to work less hours and get commensurately less income. And the same goes for the intensity of my work, or if it is more or less onerous. One way to look at this is that each worker gets a work assignment and an income. Society seeks to ensure that the sum of debits and benefits of one’s work and income taken together equalizes for everyone. If I work harder, or I work longer, or I work under more onerous conditions, the greater loss is offset by my getting more income for my efforts.

    I claim this approach to income distribution is economically equitable and highly consistent with all the values we seek to fulfill. Many will agree it is a fair approach but doubt its practicality and they are right it would do no good to have a fair approach that leaves everyone impoverished due to generating insufficient production. So can providing income for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor not only be ethically sound, but also get the needed economic job done? The next essay in our series addresses that legitimate concern.

  • Boulder Dash 10th Apr 2019

    Socialism: Disputing Pie Slices

    By Michael Albert

    April 10, 2019

    In my last essay I suggested that the growing constituency of people aligning with “socialism” ought to be able to answer the question: In your better economy what determines how much income we each receive. While current activism rightly focuses on climate disasters, the Green New Deal, health, militarism, racism, and much else, we nonetheless need longer term vision to combat the widespread demobilizing belief that all efforts at change will dissolve back into the ills of the present, and, even beyond instilling hope, to provide positive direction and goals toward which our current actions can lead so they steadily enhance our prospects for comprehensive and lasting gains.

    I also suggested an answer to the equity question: Income ought to be for how long we work, for how hard we work, and for the onerousness of the conditions under which we work, as long we are producing socially valued product. But before we can proceed to other issues about which advocates of socialism ought to have answers, we have to acknowledge that many who hear our income formulation will doubt or even strongly reject the approach. What are their reasons? I have heard the following and if you have heard or you yourself have another doubt, please enter it as a comment beneath this article.

    1. The equity approach punishes anyone who can’t work, whether for age or health reasons. If you can’t have duration, intensity, or onerous conditions of work, you have no basis for getting an income, which is unacceptable.

    2. The equity approach doesn’t materially incentivize people to use their inborn talents and so fails to elicit potential output. We may share the social pie equitably, but the pie will shrink horribly, which is unacceptable.

    3. The equity approach doesn’t reward acquired skills. Why would I go to school to become a doctor if I can earn the same income per hour of my work time for doing jobs that require much less preparation? The approach will not yield enough doctors, or extended education for any purpose, and therefore again impose massive, unacceptable pie shrinkage.

    4. The equity approach doesn’t provide sufficient incentives to elicit desired effort/output from each worker. This is another version of the same problem. We will have pie shrinkage so severe it undercuts our more fairly sharing what pie there is.

    5. The equity approach doesn’t provide sufficient incentives to elicit innovation. Why develop new technologies and techniques if you don’t benefit from doing so? This causes yet more long-term pie shrinkage.

    6. In any event, even if the above problems have answers, which is to say even if the social product would not unduly shrink due to equitably sharing it, the final criticism of our equity approach is that no one can measure duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, so it is an unimplementable aim.

    Let’s consider the criticisms in turn.

    The first is only a misunderstanding due to incomplete exposition on my part. Of course, in a worthy economy if you are too young, too old, or otherwise unable to work you get a full adult or child income free, and of course all medical care is free. No one is left out of equity.

    The second concern has in mind someone with great inborn talent for some type of work. A potential pianist, mathematician, architect, athlete, or whatever else. The idea is that the equity approach doesn’t give such a person a material reason to pursue a path utilizing their talent. If you could be a great surgeon, but only a good cook, but you loved cooking, this approach would not give you an income-related reason to forego competent cooking and pursue superior surgery. The observation is true. My reply is threefold.

    First, almost everyone with exceptional talents inclines toward using them and would, indeed, have to be coercively prevented from doing so even if using their talent would yield them less income than not using it. Think artists, athletes, scientists, and so on. Second, the equity approach does include an incentive to utilize one’s talents in the form of the admiration, respect, self satisfaction, and self fulfillment that accrues to superior rather than only competent actions. And third, if you don’t feel a drive to utilize your inborn talents it is presumably because you don’t enjoy them and you more strongly incline toward some other pursuit sufficiently that you would forego the accolades that superior activity would bring. In that case isn’t it actually appropriate and perhaps even more productive that you make the preferred choice?

    The third concern has two parts. First why would anyone pay to go to school to learn new skills instead of immediately earning an income out of school, since continuing in school won’t earn you more later. And second, why would anyone want to become, say, a doctor when you can do something requiring less training, and earn the same? The answer is that in a future equitable economy and society, schooling, for example to become a doctor, is not only free, but you receive pay while in school as it is considered work since you are producing the learning and skills you will later utilize and thereby adding to the social product. And then, beyond the issue of time in school, if being a doctor doesn’t give you a greater rate of income than other jobs, why do it? To heal, to contribute, to utilize your talents. We are are more than financial beings. Imagine, even in our current society you are in high school. You want to be a doctor, and you know that it means you will have to go to college, and then medical school, and then be an intern, and only then be a full doctor, or, if you prefer, an engineer, lawyer, scientist, accountant, or whatever else that takes lots of training. You are suddenly told that there will no longer be massive income differentials in society. You will not wind up earning $500,000 a year as a doctor, while a coal miner earns, $75,000. Instead you will earn much less, though you will start to get paid it as soon as you begin your special training. How low do I have to set your doctor income for you to decide that you will forego four years of college, three years of graduate work, and some heavier than normal on the job training for a couple of years as well, all at your new salary level, for you to instead chose lifetime employment in the coal mine?

    I have done this thought experiment with a great many medical students who, at the outset, were aggressively ridiculing the equitable income approach on grounds that with it in place, neither they nor anyone else would opt to become a doctor. Then, however, as I lowered doctor salaries from $500 000 to $400,000 to $300,000, and so on, each step of the way asking if it was now so low that they were going to forego doctor training and being a doctor to instead work in a coal mine at $75,000 a year, they kept saying no, they wouldn’t. And I would get to $75,000 and finally each would say something like, I don’t know how low an income I could live on and still survive as a doctor, but you’d have to go below that for me to switch. The upshot is people need and deserve income for sacrifices, but not for being their most fully and freely expressed selves.

    The fourth concern is due to miseducation by intrination. In fact, our equity approach provides incentives correctly. Paying someone high income cannot cause them to have a different genetic endowment. There is also no incentive effect on our DNA. … and likewise for better tools or workmates. In fact, if you are working, the things you can yourself affect that impact the amount of product you generate are how long and how hard you work, and also your enduring harsh conditions if it is necessary for the work to get done. And these are exactly what the equitable income approach incentivizes, and properly so.

    The fifth concern is that society can benefit greatly from innovation. So, very often, pursuing innovations is highly desirable. Since equitable income means individuals don’t get to take most of the gain from innovations – unlike owners taking it as profit – that kind of pressure for innovation (as well as for unlimited growth and endless accumulation) disappears. To see why and how a new desirable economy pursues desirable innovations that benefit everyone, whether materially or otherwise, and avoids undesirable innovations that may benefit a few but hurt the rest much more, has to wait further exploration of new relations in coming essays. For now, hopefully the above brief reactions to criticisms are enough to suggest that a new approach can work, and will, when we see how a whole new system can operate.

    But what about the practicality of measuring duration, intensity, and onerousness of conditions to determine incomes? After all, the critics are correct that if we can’t do it, then advocating the equitable income approach is irrelevant to future prospects and plans. My answer is that duration is of course easy to measure. Intensity of useful effort is revealed partly by output, but is also known to and collectively agreed by workmates. And for onerousness, the same holds… but the main thing to realize is that as we proceed and see new ways of organizing work and making decisions, matters of measuring will become much simpler and more collective. So again, to more fully address this concern, some patience is needed.

    Regarding patience, a simple observation that bears on this whole undertaking is that a tenth of a bridge, even a half or nine tenths of a bridge, can’t get you across a river. Nonetheless if it is part of a whole bridge it can help. So our real question should be is there a whole good society, a whole socialism if you will, that our equitable income can be a workable and effective part of? And that is why this essay is part of a series of essays.

    Now you might say, sure, nice dodge, but that’s asking for a lot of reading and thinking. And you are right, it is. Then again, we are talking about whether a new world is desirable, possible, workable, and attainable. Is there something more important to determine?

    Last point: As we proceed with trying to arrive at ways to answer convincingly what socialism or a good society can or even ought to look like, we have to not only make a case for aims, but also describe how they can be implemented. And that’s another task we have to tackle later, once groundwork is laid.

  • James Coleman 10th Apr 2019

    Albert's ideas are intriguing. They are certainly helping me clarify what I am thinking of. A lot to digest.


    Looking forward to hearing his thoughts on punishing non performers and dealing with scammers :)

  • James Coleman 10th Apr 2019

    If you could point me to the part on punishment that would be great...the book does not seem to easily be searchable and is quite large :)

    I have already started to look at it...my head is actually taking this stuff in!

    • Boulder Dash 10th Apr 2019

      Really isn’t a part per se, it’s just the way it functions means that if you choose to opt out you kind of punish yourself.

  • James Coleman 11th Apr 2019

    The police function, at many levels, seems to be one has to be included...justice system as well. But this is way far down the line for me to consider right now...

    • Boulder Dash 11th Apr 2019

      Parecon is just an economy, not a full blown system. It doesn’t talk about legal matters. That would be part of the polity.

  • Boulder Dash 11th Apr 2019

    Gar Alperovitz and Michael Albert have been at the forefront of efforts to design and build an economy beyond capitalism for decades – efforts that have become even more relevant in our age of economic and ecological crises. Albert’s Participatory Economics (Parecon), developed in collaboration with Robin Hahnel, outlines a comprehensive vision of an ethical economic system, in which bottom-up democratic decision making takes the place of market-driven competition. Gar Alperovitz’s Pluralist Commonwealth model extrapolates from existing experiments in the democratization of wealth to build a systemic and multilayered answer to the urgent systemic challenges we are facing as a society. While both share a fundamental commitment to real democracy and true economic justice, the differences between Alperovitz and Albert’s respective models help illuminate what’s really at stake in system change. They recently sat down to better understand where their trajectories intersect or diverge; below is a transcript of the highlights of their conversation:

    THE MODELS

    MICHAEL ALBERT: Participatory economics proposes a small set of institutions that define the heart of a new type of economy. These institutions are conceived to further various values: self- management, solidarity, diversity, ecological sanity. The idea is that as you carry out economic activities – in other words, as you produce and you allocate and consume – you simultaneously accomplish not only those functions, but by virtue of what the institutions require of us as we operate, you also advance those values.

    The basic institutions that are meant to accomplish this are few. There are worker and consumer self-managing councils; where self- management means that people should have a say in decisions proportionate to the degree they are affected by them. There is equitable remuneration – referring to the share we get in the economy in the form of income, our claim on the social product. Under participatory economy, these are in proportion to how long we work, how hard we work and the onerousness of the conditions under which we work.

    There is also what’s called balanced job complexes, which is a way of organizing the tasks that we do, so that our work lives, our economic activity and production, has a comparably empowering effect on us all. Finally, there is an allocative system to apportion work, labor and effort – the goods and services we produce – that isn’t a market or central planning but is something we call participatory planning. So in a nutshell, that’s participatory economics.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: Even though I disagree with many aspects of Michael’s model, what I like about it [is] its rigor and clarity. Parecon is a very tough-minded economic vision and model, and it sets a standard for us to look at.

    One place to start (with my own work) is that – given the specific historical conditions we face in the United States – I’m primarily interested in the question of how we begin to move in the direction of a model that realizes the kinds of values that Michael just laid out, though is different in structure. I am interested in the political economy of institutional power relationships in transition. The question is one of “reconstructive” communities as a cultural, as well as a political, fact: how geographic communities are structured to move in the direction of the next vision, along with the question of how a larger system – given the power and cultural relationships – can move toward managing the connections between the developing communities. There are many, many hard questions here – including, obviously, ones related to ecological sustainability and climate change.

    I’ve called the model for what this might plausibly look like in practice “the pluralist commonwealth”: commonwealth because it seeks transitionally to restructure political reality by democratizing the ownership of wealth, pluralist because it embraces a variety of institutional approaches toward that end. The model includes some planning, a great deal of decommodification and partial use of markets in certain areas. It adheres to the principle of subsidiarity, meaning we decentralize as far as possible to the local level where direct democracy is truly possible, but we are also not afraid to look toward institutional forms like regional or national public ownership when the problems are best solved at those scales. More broadly, it’s a community-centered vision, starting with the questions “How does the community I live in begin to restructure? What are the next steps that could move us toward a larger egalitarian, democratic and ecologically sustainable culture?” As we move toward the pluralist commonwealth, economic interventions that stabilize communities – for instance by localizing the flows of goods and services or by promoting worker ownership – not only have immediate practical benefits but provide the necessary preconditions for the growth and development of a renewed culture of sustainable democracy that can serve as the basis for still further transformations at larger scales. But the model is designed to make maximal use of actual on-the-ground forms of democratized ownership – the millions of employee-owners, the thousands of community development corporations and cooperatives that already exist in the US serve as a key starting point.

    Importantly, the focus is on transitional forms, not on ultimate theoretical final states. A full description of the model, its elements and many of the challenges that come up in connection with the approach is available at pluralistcommonwealth.org (http://www.pluralistcommonwealth.org)

    ON EXPERIMENTATION AND POSSIBILITY

    MICHAEL ALBERT: I appreciate in Gar’s work the emphasis on being attentive to what is possible now. I think where we may have a difference is on the importance, not only of addressing what’s possible now but also whether or not this leads where we want to go – which to me means that we have to have some understanding of where we’re trying to go. So for instance, Gar mentioned that his understanding of the future would include some markets.

    Well, if we mean the same thing by “markets” (people use the term in all sorts of conflicting ways), then I would probably disagree. Markets are a form of allocation that I don’t think a good classless, self-managing society can have and have it be consistent with those kinds of values. Now that doesn’t mean that you can just say: no markets tomorrow. That’s the part I agree with Gar about.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: We need to remember the importance of learning and experimentation. I think that Michael’s projection is utopian in the best sense of that term; I don’t see that as a negative. It’s where we might be when we get to where we want to be. But I think, both as a historian and as an economist, that the problem is quite different from that: How, in the specific historical condition of the United States today, do we move toward a more egalitarian society, one that transforms the ownership of capital, one that builds and nurtures community and that is ecologically sustainable? Lay three or four decades on the table: How do we move toward these larger goals?

    So I’m much more interested in an evolutionary approach that reconstructs community, changes power relationships and also moves toward a kind of large-scale geographic planning that can stabilize communities in a society of 300 million. I come from Racine, Wisconsin, a city of about 100,000. The rug was pulled out from under the economy there: Industries moved out, all driven by the capitalist relationships dominant in the marketplace. What would be ways to stabilize economies, stabilizing the health of communities so that we can build constructive kinship and other relationships of democratic participation in them?

    MICHAEL ALBERT: I agree we need to experiment – but we have been doing this for, conservatively, a couple hundred years and some things we have learned. We may not know all the different options various kinds of workplaces will adopt, from country to country, from locale to locale, etc. But we do know that there are a few institutional choices that really aren’t optional. We can’t have private ownership of the means of productions and vast corporations and make believe that we’re going to have self-management for everybody. In the political sphere, you can’t have a dictatorship and make believe that you’re going to have public participation, freedom and self-management and justice. Those institutions are contradictory.

    So participatory economics doesn’t say that all workplaces will look alike. It does say, however, that we need to apportion work in such a way that 20 percent don’t dominate 80 percent.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: Let me clarify several different points in agreement and disagreement. I don’t disagree in principle; finding ways to organize work in which people are not locked into unequal power relationships is very important.

    Having said that, it’s not easily done, and it’s complicated.

    For example, I was recently out at Isthmus Engineering in Wisconsin, a worker-owned company that was in Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. It is a real high-tech, very advanced-scale, robotic building worker-owned cooperative, and nobody in their right mind in that place wants to be the power player. You’d think somebody would want to take control of the damn thing. Not at all. No one wants to be in charge. So what do they do? What they do is hire a manager who wants to do that, subject to the recall of the workers themselves.

    And they regularly recall them, when they don’t like what they’re doing. So how people actually in the practice of the workplace want to allocate different roles becomes extremely complex.

    WHAT MUST BE DONE?

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: I don’t claim to have a sophisticated view of how transitions might take place in the specific conditions facing other countries, but I do think a lot about the United States. Here, we need to develop communitywide structures of democratic ownership, we need to work out cooperative development, we need to work out participatory management, we need new ecological strategies developed at the local city, state, regional level. We need to go forward in nationalizing several large corporations: I think that’s possible; we nationalized General Motors; we nationalized several of the big banks, de facto; we nationalized Chrysler; we nationalized AIG. I think there will be more crises, and at some point, rather than being bailed out by the government, the public may keep the corporations it has to rescue.

    We’re talking about democratizing the ownership of wealth or socializing in some form. I think that needs to be a precondition in any of the systems we’re talking about. Worker ownership is only one form of democratizing ownership. There are also, for instance, citywide models. In Colorado, we just had the takeover (“municipalizing”) of the electrical utility. That’s citywide, geographic ownership of the means of production, it’s democratic ownership. There are 2,000 public utilities which could become the basis of a whole municipal scheme or strategy. A number of the states already are moving toward ownership of state banks. Most people are simply unaware of these developments expanding public ownership through municipal and state ownership. These are geographic ownership structures that point toward regional or national forms of public ownership for larger-scale entities.

    The Pluralist Commonwealth model begins at the level of an ordinary community reorienting itself but also aims at steadily beginning to develop the institutional substructure necessary for future larger changes. I think the appropriate near-term trajectory of change we’re working with is 30 years; that’s a timeframe that’s reasonable for developing participation to the degree possible, ecological sustainability, reconstruction of community, laying groundwork for a reconstruction of a non-growth system over time.

    MICHAEL ALBERT: You mention nationalizing, and it could be a good thing or a bad thing. It can be a good thing if it’s moving us in a good direction and a bad thing if it’s moving us in a bad direction. That seems pretty obvious. But if we look at it over time, we have lots and lots of instances that are not good, that don’t move us in a positive direction.

    What characterizes positive direction? Positive direction is more and more people having a more and more appropriate level of say over their own lives. It is more and more people getting a fairer and fairer share of a social product and getting a fairer set of burdens they have to fulfill to be a part of society. If we can agree about that, we can demand changes in the minimum wage, changes in the wage structure in a particular firm. We can demand new budget items in our national or local budget. And we can fight for the changes in ways that create an infrastructure that will aid us rather than be corrupted and hurt us in the future.

    There’s a resistance for some people to saying what we want, as if doing so would cause us to trample real and desirable options. If we say we don’t want a division of labor that would put 20 percent above 80 percent, somehow that’s going to cause a problem. If it won’t cause a problem to agree on that, then let’s say it and move on. If we say that we don’t want people to own the means of production and to get their income in the form of profit because that makes class division, crushes solidarity, demolishes dignity, and creates skewed income distribution, then we should say it. That isn’t extrapolating so far into the future or into details that it somehow restricts us. On the contrary, it can help orient us. We have to think about how to make demands and how to build structures that are part of the trajectory of change that takes us where we want to go.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: For 40 years, my argument has been that democratizing ownership of wealth has been the key to egalitarian society and the goals of egalitarian society. But you start at the local level, both at the workplace, community and other institutions and you reconstruct the egalitarian democratized structure as well as participatory structure. And as this happens, we learn more how to move toward the vision that is much larger than just the community level.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t an absence of fear that bad dynamics are going to emerge. For instance, worker-owned co-ops, on their own, floating in the market, tend to replicate the behavior of worker- owned capitalists in some circumstances. They sometimes develop positive participatory schemes, sometimes not. We know from the studies of worker-owned plywood companies in the US, they can tend to develop conservative attitudes, not socialist attitudes. So even though I’m an advocate of further democratization of the workplace, we also need to be building larger structures.

    This is what’s happening, for instance, in cities like Cleveland: The notion is a communitywide ownership structure that encompasses partially independent worker-owned companies. And these businesses are partly supported by the purchasing power of nonprofit institutions like universities and hospitals that depend on lots of public money and this arrangement then begins to give
    stability to the whole geographic community, articulating a vision and politics that builds for the entire community. It’s a mixed model that is being tested.

    I think the question that most critics of your model, Michael, have raised is important: the notion of each person laying down what he or she plans to buy or needs against a production schedule, that is, what they’ll actually contribute, becomes an extremely difficult path to envision as realistic. Somebody pointed out recently in an article in Jacobin that if you look at just the kitchen goods for sale on Amazon, there are millions of items. Now that’s not the society we want, obviously, but it points to the extreme difficulty of the planning problem if you don’t use some forms of market to adjudicate purchases and production.

    I think we need to move experimentally with planning and markets, as well as with community development forms that don’t include either one.

    MICHAEL ALBERT: You mention that markets will corrupt a worker cooperative because markets create a context in which there’s a tremendous incentive to maximize not just profits for owners but surplus among that workforce. So with markets we see colluding, polluting the environment, speed-ups exploiting workers who are weaker, and so on. The solution you suggest is to have community- wide participation that puts restraints on how market pressures and incentives play out. I don’t disagree with that as part of an answer.

    But another way to proceed is to understand that the problem is the impact of the market. And to understand that a corporate division divides the work classes into two classes, one above and one below. If we understand these sources of subversion of our aims, then we can build a movement where people are aware that over the long haul, we have to solve the problem of the division of labor and the problem of allocation, because if we don’t, the old corporate and market structures will corrupt what we’re doing.

    It’s certainly true that if you have millions of goods, and you ask, can Joe look at all those millions of goods, evaluate them and decide how much of each he wants – that’s absurd. Joe can’t do it, and he’s also not remotely interested in doing it. But even now, of course, neither Joe nor you or I evaluate all possible options. We just find options that suit us. So in a participatory economy, the consumer and the producer basically have to indicate their desires for different categories of clothing or food or housing, or various kinds of luxury goods or enjoyable goods. That doesn’t mean we have to itemize down to the color or the size. Many things are statistically determinable once you have the overall inclinations of people.

    In Venezuela diverse local experiments are trying to move toward a more egalitarian society in which wealth and power are democratized. And in these experiments, two things come up pretty often, as immediate short-term issues: the division of labor in the workplace and the impact markets in corrupting possibilities.

    So for instance, in the countryside they have consumer co-ops. And then nearby, there are producer communes that are producing, for instance, agricultural goods the neighbors are going to consume. Instead of having a market determine how this transaction between the people who are farming and the people who are eating in the countryside will occur, they meet together and negotiate cooperatively what they think is just and fair and right. That’s potentially a beginning for participatory planning.

    What happened in Yugoslavia is instructive: they made a revolution, got rid of the capitalists, instituted market socialism and initially had workplaces where everybody was treating everyone equally, everyone calling everybody comrade and so on. But over time, because of the competitive pressure of markets, these Yugoslav workplaces have to cut costs, make alienated decisions, to pollute and on and on. If they previously met together in councils and decided they wanted things like day care, air-conditioning for everybody and clean air in the workplace and wanted to clean up for the community and so on, then, nonetheless, under the pressure of competition, they had to start going back on those decisions. And because most people didn’t want to be the ones to make such degrading choices, they went out and hired managers – from business schools in capitalist countries to a large extent.

    This is what we’re talking about when we talk about replacing markets and changing the division of labor so everyone does a fair share of empowering and disempowering work. Management pe se doesn’t disappear. Rather, managing and conceptualizing and organizing and doing agendas and all sorts of various empowering tasks, as well as the rote tasks, are handled in a way which doesn’t elevate some people to dominating others.

    ON THE GROUND

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: Let’s again return to what’s happening on the ground – all but ignored by the mainstream press. What’s interesting is that a truly massive process is under way that I have not seen happen in my entire adult life, particularly with regard to the ownership of capital and the development of co-ops and worker- owned companies and land trusts and community-owned structures and municipalization strategies. Though the public press does not
    cover this, it is, in fact, explosive. In my experience most activists and radical theorists are also unaware of the range of activity. (Our website community-wealth.org is one useful resource for coverage of these developments). As people learn more and more about the development of this pattern of democratization, they are also teaching each other principles that can be applied at higher levels as we move forward, for instance in a state-by-state move toward single-payer health care.

    The most interesting developments that are going on, in my experience, are those that build and anchor workplaces in communities. In Cleveland – and an increasing number of other cities in the United States – what you have is a quasi- public entity, that is, a hospital or university that has a lot of public money in it, providing support by purchasing goods and services from worker-
    owned companies linked together as is part of a geographic community wide
    structure, with part of the surplus feeding back into the community to create new businesses. So it’s not just about the workers, but as a matter of structure and principle, it’s a vision that builds a community – or commune – and that’s happening experimentally in many parts of the country.

    Interestingly, in Argentina, if you look at the recuperated factories and other businesses, many of them now are actually moving toward the model I just suggested, with places like the municipality (for instance Buenos Aires) purchasing from them as a way to stabilize their market and to socialize their procurement for public use, schools and hospitals, for instance. That structure of using a larger public institution – in this case, city government – to sustain and nurture different patterns of cooperative production stabilizes the market. This points toward a larger systemic vision, where it’s an open question whether that eventually ends up using markets in some cases or cooperative parecon styles in some areas or public planning in other areas.

    MICHAEL ALBERT: I don’t disagree that there are many experiments and in those experiments, people learn principles and those principles can be applied more broadly. There can be instances of governments helping local experiments to stabilizing their operations, but I don’t think this is going to happen at a significant scale anytime soon in the US unless movements force it. And I don’t disagree that in Venezuela and, to an extent, in Argentina, the government has indeed helped experiments become more and more participatory, more and more moving toward self-management, and that is exciting. I was very much excited by the taking of the firms in Argentina. I am excited in the United States, by the development of co-ops and the extent to which people in the co-ops really do want something new and more generally by the simple fact of the changing consciousness in the United States, which is very much drifting away from faith in capitalism.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: On that latter point, that’s exactly where you and I agree entirely!

    MICHAEL ALBERT: But where we seem to disagree is around participatory planning. Most people don’t criticize Parecon because of its notion of what is equitable, or its notion of self-management, or its notion that we should have solidarity; they criticize it for being too complex. The claim is that at some point the participatory planning process simply burdens people in a manner that people won’t accept, or shouldn’t have to accept and that we should try to do it in a more efficient way, for instance, through markets.

    My problem with this objection is twofold. First, it very quickly comes to the conclusion that it’s too complex, there are too many steps or too many people involved in the planning process – all of which there are answers for, which, however, are generally ignored by the critic. And second, it goes back to markets as a solution. The problem with markets isn’t necessarily their complexity (although some of the ones that exist today are so complex that nobody knows remotely what they’re all about!). The problem with markets is not that they demand too much of us. The problem is that they turn us into egomaniacs. They destroy the ecology. They produce class difference and gargantuan income differentials, much poverty and some plenty.

    It may be that participatory planning will in practice ultimately require some very clever refinements so as to reduce the amount of time and complexity that’s involved with that part of our lives. But to say that we can’t go through this process of experimentation and refinement and that therefore we have to fall back on markets, is analogous, to saying that democracy puts complex demands on the voters and therefore it would be much easier to have a dictator decide. Actually, it’s even worse, because you could imagine a dictator who is reasonably humane but markets are structurally incapable of delivering humane outcomes. In such an approach one is literally trading a fear of complexity, for a certainty of cataclysm.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: Michael, we just discussed two specific models in which worker- ownership is combined with one or another form of public planning and a third where this is partially true. In Cleveland and in Buenos Aires, the use of public purchasing partially stabilizes the market for worker-cooperatives. In Venezuela, co-ops themselves provide support for each other (while in practice they also receive public support, i.e. another form of planning in the real world.)
    The critical point here – for a transitional strategy – is to understand the complexity of these processes and at the same time attempt to foster further movement, practically, toward a more evolved model like the one developed in the Pluralist Commonwealth without jumping steps and creating chaos in the learning and development process.

    ON VALUES

    MICHAEL ALBERT: Gar, you’re involved in what I think are incredibly important and valuable experiments trying to do things in new ways. Wouldn’t it be advantageous when working with people who are setting up co-ops to help them understand that they don’t want to replicate the old division of labor, which will corrupt their values and aspirations – that they should want to organize their work in a new way that has everyone participating and empowered? Wouldn’t it be advantageous to help them understand how market pressures will conspire to corrupt their creativity? And wouldn’t it be desirable to help them see that there are ways to avoid those ills?

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: On participatory planning within the firm or within the community, on restructuring jobs and the culture of work – with rotation and open-book management and so forth – that sort of thing is already being developed in many parts of the country, experimentally, and I certainly agree that that is the direction to go.

    Caveat, what you find is that in many situations is that many people don’t want to do these things! The reality of the world we live in is that people sometimes aren’t interested in many circumstances; no matter how much young radicals yell at them, that isn’t what they want to do right now. So you have to work with the reality, and it’s particularly important because what we often find is that people who care about these issues, actually don’t want to deal with what poor black people who are interested in co-ops or what working-class people who are actually trying to develop worker-owned firms actually think and feel. We need to learn to listen to what the people need and want and not try to impose on them a whole schema that they may not. This is historically difficult stuff: how do we balance the project of raising consciousness, advancing a vision of utopia, with the real and honest engagement in real-world experiments?

    And more may be possible than we think. As I said earlier, there has been a change in consciousness that makes this one of the most interesting periods of American history, maybe the most interesting. There’s a loss of belief in the corporate system; there’s a recognition that something is fundamentally wrong, So there’s an opening to a whole different vision of where to go forward. I think that’s where we are in the question, so let’s not blow it; let’s see what we can develop over time.

    MICHAEL ALBERT: We agree that there’s a giant opening. We agree that we don’t want to blow it. We agree that it’s certainly the case that lots of times people don’t want to change their circumstances dramatically in a direction which doesn’t seem worthwhile or which even seems like it might even be some kind of con game.

    Using the Venezuelan example, it’s frequently the case that the workers themselves resist efforts to introduce workers management, not because they resist the idea of self-management per se, but because they think it’s a scam to get them to work harder, without them really having any more power than they do now. So of course, one doesn’t impose something, but one does have to discuss it if you’re ever going to get there. And that means talking about changing the division of labor and about the problems with markets and a real alternative.

    I could be wrong about this, but I think that markets as an institution, even without private ownership, are one of the worst creations of humanity in its entire history. They warp human development, warp personality, misprice virtually everything. They skew development away from human well-being for most of the population. They violate the ecology. They produce class division. It seems to me that saying these things should be no more controversial than saying we don’t want dictatorship or we don’t want private ownership. No one would say that the fact that we need to experiment, to learn, to listen, implies that we ought to hold in reserve or even jettison our understanding that private ownership and dictatorship are disastrous.

    I agree with you, it is a big deal to articulate what the participatory alternative is. But the discussion shouldn’t be that any participatory alternative is too complex or demanding so we have to fall back to markets. Falling back to markets is like falling back to dictatorship. There has to be a constructive suggestion of an alternative way of doing allocation. To the extent we can force government to utilize some of its gargantuan resources to benefit experiments that really would enhance the well-being of the population, that’s terrific. But we don’t want to do it in a way that elevates the government as being our savior and dissolves movements. We want to do it in a way that builds movements and builds continuing pressure.

    Setting up a co-op is good. Setting up a co-op with self- management is better. Setting up a co-op with self- management and with balanced job complexes is even better. Setting one up like that, and that’s in a position to negotiate with its consumers is terrific. And if they can get aid from public funds to stabilize and ensure survival, better still. But I don’t think that is the road all by itself to a better society: We also have to have massive movements which are making demands both in specific institutions, say like General Motors, and also in society as a whole.

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: That goes without saying, Michael. I totally agree with that! That’s what I’ve been saying and writing about for years. But once you get away from the abstract that we’re talking about, these principles, if you actually get your hands dirty and start talking to different groups other than the gang of young people who find these ideas accessible very quickly, it’s a different game. How do we reach ordinary Americans in my hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, where the problems are just extreme? How do we begin to understand them and where they are coming from and actually work with them in a way that works? That requires both understanding of the principles, but also being willing to test different ideas with them: patience and humility.

    ALTERNATIVES

    MICHAEL ALBERT: I was in Argentina in a room with about 50 people that were there from different occupied factories and I’d been asked to come and speak. We started around the room, and the first person who spoke described their situations and concerns. And by the time we got to the seventh person, a lot of people in the room were crying. This person spoke and put it very eloquently and said: I never thought I could possibly ever be saying anything like this – he, too, was tearing up. He said that we took over the workplace; the owners and the upper management were gone, because they didn’t want to be a part of a workplace that they thought was going to fail. And we took it over and made it work. But now he had to say, I’m afraid Margaret Thatcher was right, there is no alternative. This is why they were crying.

    He said: We took it over. We were so excited. We made our wages equal. We instituted democracy. We had a workers’ council. We made our decisions democratically. And after a period of time, all the old crap came back. All the old alienation came back, and now it just feels the way it used to feel. And they were all saying it, person after person was saying it. I talked to a woman in one of those workplaces who had been working in a glass factory, in front of an open furnace all day long. Then they take over the factory and they go around the room and ask who wants to do the finances and keep the books, and nobody would do it. And she volunteered to do it. She’s just a worker, the same as everybody else in the place; she hasn’t gone to school or anything. I asked her “what was the hardest thing to learn?” She wouldn’t tell me. So I asked again and she didn’t want to tell me. “Was it to do the financial books?” No. “Was it to operate the computer?” No. “Was it to do accounting?” No. What was it? I was at a loss. She says “Well, first I had to learn to read.”

    And four months later, she is doing the accounting and the bookkeeping for this glass firm which is now functioning at a surplus, whereas the capitalists had been running it into the ground and losing money. But the downside was that she, as the accountant, was becoming a member of a class of people in that factory, about 20 percent, who were highly empowered and who appeared far more pivotal to the functioning of the factory – and who, over time, were bringing back the old alienation, even though she was just a wonderful person.
    So I tried to describe the idea of balanced job complexes. When they took over and the manager who was doing the accounting left, somebody volunteered because not many people wanted to do it. And I said: well, pretty soon what happened is that you had one-fifth of your workforce doing work that’s really empowering, and after a while they’re governing. And after a while they’re paying themselves more because they think that they deserve more, and the rest of the people aren’t even at the meeting where this gets decided.

    And they agreed with this; it helped them see that there was a reason for this: It wasn’t human nature. Thatcher wasn’t right. It wasn’t inevitable. So my experience is somewhat different from yours: I find that it’s easy to talk to working people about, say, balanced job complexes – I have more trouble talking to perhaps half the young radicals nowadays and much more trouble talking to left academics. With the latter, it’s almost impossible!

    GAR ALPEROVITZ: I don’t think there’s a difference in the value structure here. We may have some different experiences. I think there are some places where people will, in fact, pick up on those themes and try to develop rotations and accept the inefficiencies that they will experience in the short run.

    But all of this takes a lot of energy and a lot of time, and some people just don’t want to do it. In some places, people will. And I think the question of experience, given the stage of history of the real world, where we are really at, will help us understand how to what extent we can push these developments in different areas. I regard this as a question of testing the real world. Not whether or not these principles about planning and markets are correct in the abstract: these questions are testable, and we should test them wherever we can. But I am cautious about imposing or trying to impose a vision on people who don’t want to hear the vision.

    The critical thing is whether or not the communities in which we are engaged wish to do an experiment with and test the models that intellectuals and radicals, the left and theorists and so on come in with. And the answer is, in many cases, no. And for reasons that are good reasons, for instance, in some places, they are frightened to death that it will blow up the current structure of work and they’ll lose their jobs. People will understand what you’re talking about, but they are going to find the solutions, the mix of principles and problems that works for them, in their situation. And that mix is by no means obvious: By no means is theory a reliable guide to the way this comes out in the real world.

    The values you’re talking about, I don’t disagree with at all. What we’re talking about is where we are in this stage of history with specific communities, all with different skills, levels of support, income and training and all ultimately exposed to the markets, whether they like it or not. This is the reality where we need to move and advance these different ideas. And to do so effectively, it seems to me to be a matter of testing as we go, on the one hand – and projecting a larger possible longer-term vision, on the other. I suspect that to the degree we actually keep testing and developing in the real world, there is likely to be convergence on several levels between the Parecon and the Pluralist Commonwealth models we each have written about at length.

  • Boulder Dash 15th Apr 2019

    Socialism 6: The Property Problem

    By Michael Albert

    April 12, 2019

    [This is the sixth in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it seeks or will seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]

    You own your shirt and your cellphone. You decide what to do with them, how to display them, and when and how to use or not use them. I don’t make such decisions about your shirt or cellphone.

    Mr. Moneybags owns a company that produces some important product, mines some important resource, or does some other similar function. Mr. Moneybags decides what to do with his company, what to do with the products of his company, and what to do with the employees he hires to make the company productive. I can’t do those things, nor can any of Mr. Moneybags’ employees. Hehas dominion over his company like you have dominion over your shirt and cellphone.

    Ownership conveys dominion over that which is owned. It’s true for you and your shirt and cellphone. It’s the same for Mr. Moneybags and his company. So what‘s the property problem?

    Your dominion over your shirt and cellphone doesn’t subvert equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and ecological sustainability. Your dominion over your shirt and cellphone doesn’t subvert the participation, dignity, and freedom of others. But dominion by Mr. Moneybags, and roughly 2% of the population over the resources, venues, tools, and technologies of production, and the work lives of those they sign on to do their bidding, does subvert equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and ecological sustainability. It subverts they participation, dignity, and freedom of others.

    Sensible rules for personal possessions become horrific rules when extended to resources, tools, and venues, because resources, tools, and venues are critical to the lives of countless people beyond the owners. The personal rules for owners of shirts and cellphones benefit everyone. The same rules for owners of society’s productive assets serve those owners at the expense of everyone subject to the owners’ decisions.

    This is the underlying reason why socialism has historically always included eliminating private ownership of productive assets. Such ownership creates a division between the owners, called capitalists, and all others. It conveys wealth and power virtually without limit to the owners and consigns others to various levels of enforced obedience and imposed impoverishment all the way down to total subordination and abject poverty.

    But if Jeff Bezos and folks like Bezos can’t own and thereby have dominion over Amazon and other companies, what’s the alternative? That is the property problem for which socialists, and indeed anyone who wants a better economy, needs to have an answer.

    Last essay in this series on societal aims we substantially addressed one half of the issue. If a bunch of Moneybags can’t own and thereby accrue a very large part of the contribution to society’s social product of Amazon or any other company, who should get company-created wealth? Our answer was that workers should get income for the duration, intensity, and onerousness of the socially valued work they do. People who cannot work should get an average share. Some of society’s product should also go to meeting collective needs people have, like health care, safety, public roads, schooling, and the like. And some should go to investment in the future, for example, new construction and research. But none should goes to anyone on grounds they own productive assets.

    Why is that only half the issue? Because the dominion that ownership currently conveys is about income, but also about control. Owners in our current economy make decisions about what to produce, how to produce it, who does the work, what they are paid, and much else. If there are no longer owners of companies, mines, and workplaces, who makes such decisions and by what calculus and methods?

    To conclude this brief essay rejecting private ownership of productive assets, I want only to assert that such decisions should not be the purview of some individual or group simply because they have a document that says they own the companies, mines, or workplaces in question. Some say the alternative to that is that the state should own the companies. Others say the alternative is that workers in the unit in question should own it. Or that surrounding communities should. Or the entire population. But suggest is that no one should own society’s productive assets like no one should own the sky, or the oceans. The concept of owning simply makes no sense if applied to companies, mines, and the like. Such ownership should not exist. The substantive issue at stake isn’t some abstract notion of owning mines and workplaces, but instead the very tangible notion of who gets the wealth created by mines and workplaces and who decides what mines and workplaces do and how they operate. Our equity value guided us toward an answer to the first issue regarding income. Next essay, our self management value will guide us toward an answer to the second issue, who decides what.

  • Boulder Dash 15th Apr 2019

    Socialism: Who Decides What?

    By Michael Albert

    April 15, 2019

    [This is the seventh in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it seeks or will seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]



    We have ethically advocated the idea that everyone should have a say in decisions in proportion as they are affected by them. Decisions affecting only me, I should make unilaterally. Decisions equally affecting all remembers of a group and not others, the group should make unilaterally, each member having equal say. In a group making decisions, if I am more affected, however, I should have more say.

    To fulfill this ethically fine aim in a new economy, or any other realm of life, even if not to the third decimal place of accuracy, but, instead, to everyone’s broad satisfaction and in an efficient manner, is obviously a demanding standard. It is ethically sound as it treats everyone fairly and consistently with both solidarity and diversity. In practice, the hardest part will be the broadest part. When I decide to consume some item from the overall social product something goes to me that could have gone elsewhere. Elsewhere needs to have some say. My action also impacts the environment, and so everyone everywhere, slightly for each, but a lot in total, needs to have some say. Likewise, if I decide to wear my black socks tomorrow and not my blue ones, for all intents that choice affects just me so I should decide dictatorially, with no one else getting any say. But if I decide to buy lots of socks, that does have outward effects, so others should impact that decision, not just me. Similarly, if I decide to consume some of my audio equipment ferociously loudly, that too may well affect others who should have some say.

    Or consider a workplace. Within it, how a work team allocates its time, arranges its activities, etc., assuming the team operates in accord with broader agreed decisions taken by the whole workplace – or the whole society – about, say, the timing of holidays, the length of the work day, or workplace product and output, is largely or even completely the team’s choice. Within the team, if someone is dramatically affected by some aspect, she would get more say about that. Some decisions may be taken by one person one vote, others may require two thirds to pass, or consensus. Some will have more time set aside for deliberation, especially of dissenting views – some less. These are methods that we judiciously choose to best approach self management.

    Short of details, this is actually how caring friends or workmates relate to one another when we are free to do so, and so is not as unfamiliar as an abstract description might make it seem. Many workplace decisions reverberate outward. What technology do we employ affects what we produce and therefore what others get to consume. What forms of energy we use and what we do with our waste, has effects on neighbors and perhaps far more widely. Such decisions will have to be made, if we are to honor self management, in ways that give appropriate influence to affected workers in the specific factory, but also give appropriate influence to affected folks outside it.

    For now, pending our discussing what economists call allocation to see how broader constituencies exert a say on either the consumption or production side of the issue, let’s just consider inside a workplace. What is the implication of advocating self management for decisions inside workplaces, assuming, for the moment, that influence from without is well addressed by structures still to be discussed?

    First, of course, all the workers are going to be affected and so they all together need a venue and methods by which to have their share of say. Call this the workers council, basically the whole workforce able to meet, deliberate, and take votes, when need be. Many decisions affect all workers essentially equally. The length and timing of the workday, when the lights are on or off, duration and time of breaks, use of air conditioning, the total output and therefore total work level. Also norms, if need be, about clothing, noise levels, or what holidays to observe. But is it so obvious all these affect everyone the same? What if those with families and those without have markedly different dependency on the timing of arrival and departure from work? What if some people have conditions that make air conditioning far more important for them? What if different workers of different nationalities or religions are differently impacted by holiday choices? One could go on.

    The answer for all such variations among workforces is up to each workplace to determine. After all, they collectively self manage themselves. Sessions of workers‘ councils in each workplace first arrive at various procedures deemed sufficient – or, when possible, ideal – for giving affected parties appropriate say in decisions. Perhaps this list of options is revisited yearly or bi-yearly and it certainly may be different in different workplaces due to their different features and different preferences of their workers. Once such agreed procedures exist in a workplace, one or more is chosen, as appropriate, for each new case, and deliberations proceed, as do decisions. It is in everyone’s interest that matters are handled sensibly, without undo time wasting, and attending to the needs of all involved.

    Some would say, phooey on that. Let’s let one person just decide, it’s much less messy. Well, the logic of democracy, and beyond democracy of self management, is that imposed order is not, in fact, less messy. It just buries the mess, hiding the fact of people being alienated, and even getting inferior outcomes, beneath imposed order. One workplace may lean more that way, though, and more often adopt procedures that are more cut and dried. Another workplace may lean differently, incorporating more time for deliberation, for hearing minority views and exploring them, and so on. Indeed, you might very sensibly choose where you want to work, in part in accord with your taste for workplace methods. Over time, with experience, various approaches will prove better at arriving smoothly and rapidly at desirable and collectively respected choices, and those will come to be used more often. It’s all a matter, within a firm, of the firm’s workers council. That is the repository of decision making power, not an owner, not a boss.

    Here are two other broad issues to address, however. One is a complaint that turns out to be pretty simple to resolve. The other is an derivative need that is more complex and consequential for a new economy and society.

    First, some would complain that if, we require such extensive decision making participation we will diminish the quality of decisions made. Shouldn’t Joe get more or less say, depending on how good a decision maker Joe is? More generally, doesn’t the participatory approach undercut the benefits of expertise? The answer to this complaint is that the opinions of experts, and expertise more generally, are of course highly valuable. But the fact that Joe is an expert in, let’s say, engineering, or chemistry, or whatever else is consequential to some decision, should not convey to Joe more influence – more votes – even in a decision that quite strongly involves engineering or chemistry. Joe’s expertise should certainly be consulted. But then Joe has a say like others, not elevated. The point is, Joe is not an expert in how much a decision affects me or you, much less in how you or I feel about it. And so we have a say in the decision, though we should pay close attention to Joe’s insights.

    Consider the other half of this issue, intimately connected. Susan has proved over time to have an incredible facility for always advocating decisions that experience shows to be wisest. She is a very good decision maker. Make it, she is simply best in the workplace. Make it, even, she is best by a large margin. Okay, why not simplify worklife by having Susan make all decisions? Ignoring that the assumptions are highly unreal once we have participating, prepared, workers each potentially bringing to deliberations and votes different experiences, (more on that soon), this logic also ignores the value of each person feeling a decision was reached respecting his or her input and say. If experts not just offering their wisdom for others to evaluate and even learn from, but deciding outcomes, is better, then that rules out not only self management, but also even more limited democracy. The reason it doesn’t rule out either is both that there is no such general and universal expertise, and, even more important, people’s exclusion creates problems far worse than a somewhat worse choice being made, even if it did happen now and then. Participation matters.

    The more complex issue that self management raises is how to ensure that all workers are prepared and able to contribute positively to decision making. For there is no denying that if we have lots of workers who have neither the confidence, nor the skills, nor the knowledge to have informed views making decisions – then their involvement will give us seriously flawed results. In a good economy, what prevents that? That is, in most workplaces now, the number of people in the whole workforce in position have informed opinions is maybe one out every five. Why is that, and how do we raise it to five out of five, as that is a precondition for effective, optimal, self managed decision making?

    We take up the issue of universal preparedness for decision making in the next essay in this series, and the issue of class relations and class rule, as well.

  • Boulder Dash 17th Apr 2019

    Socialism: Who Does What?

    By Michael Albert

    April 17, 2019

    [This is the eighth essay in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism, what the surge means, what it seeks or will seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]

    “Who Does What” asks how we ought to apportion tasks to form jobs in each workplace in a good economy.

    Regarding income, prior essays, rejected workplace owners taking profits and advocated workers getting income for how long they work, how hard they work, and for the harshness of conditions under which they work on socially valued products. Regarding decision-making, prior essays urged the merits of self management via workers councils. No more capitalists, no more ethically unwarranted income differences due to bargaining power, innate traits, having better tools, or producing something of greater value than someone else, and no more decisions governing workers from above.

    Returning to who does what, while it is rarely acknowledged, what distinguishes how we allot tasks in capitalism is that among all the multitude of jobs people hold, around 20% of all workers do a mix of tasks that convey to them information, skills, confidence, and social ties facilitating participation in decision making. The other 80% do a mix of primarily rote and repetitive tasks that exhausts, deadens, deskills, isolates, and un-informs them to the point where they are neither prepared for nor inclined to participate in decision-making. The difference is built into the skewed distribution of empowering tasks. I call those who monopolize empowering tasks coordinators, and those who do overwhelmingly disempowering tasks, workers. More, I claim this is a class division intrinsic to the corporate division of labor so that even in a workplace that wants to be democratic, if it has a corporate division of labor, the class division between empowered and disempowered employees will subvert democratic desires. The 20% coordinator class will dominate the 80% working class, even with owners no longer present. The history of what’s now called 20th century socialism, as well as of non profits and publicly owned firms within capitalism, demonstrates this claim. Indeed, the observation is virtually self evident. Out with the old owner-boss can mean elevating a new empowered employee-boss who makes virtually all decisions, not least to enlarge their own incomes in the distorted belief they deserve more than the workers they rule over. The division is structural. The opposed situations and interests are blatant. The hierarchical results are undeniable. That nearly everyone accepts that this division is simply the natural order, is also evident.

    To have some employees such as managers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and public officials empowered, and to have other employees who do only rote and routine tasks disempowered, with the empowered employees dominating outcomes, accruing excessive incomes, and feeling that they deserve their greater power and wealth, and that the disempowered workers deserve their subservience, clearly demolishes prospects for equity, self management, and solidarity. It follows that maintaining the corporate division of labor subverts prospects for a desirable economy. But is there any alternative?

    While quite foreign to widespread beliefs and habits, once we ask if an alternative is possible, a solution is clearly evident. If we must reject defining jobs so 20% of the workforce has means and inclination to rule over 80% who lack means and expect to be ruled, then the solution must be to define jobs so all employees are comparably prepared to contribute to collective self management.

    Suppose we visited a world where we saw that the workforce had two parts, one ruling and the other being ruled, and the ruling part’s members all ate good food, and the ruled part’s members all ate horrible food, and it was clear that the good food strengthened, enlightened, and inspired people, and the bad food weakened, stunted, and depressed people. We would easily see that to eliminate its class division this world would have to let everyone share the good food. It would need to balance good food apportionment.

    In our world, I claim it is just as evident that to eliminate the worker/coordinator class division we need to share the factors that cause its existence, not good food, but empowering tasks. We need to balance jobs so that we all do a fair share of empowering and disempowering tasks and so we all are therefore comparably equipped and inclined by our situations to participate in decision making. No group monopolizes empowering tasks and thereby dominates another group denied empowering tasks. Not only are capitalists no longer present due to having eliminated private ownership of productive assets, but all remaining employees have shared interests due to there no longer being a corporate division of labor but, instead, a balanced distribution of empowering tasks.

    Where retaining a corporate division of labor will preserve inequity, prevent solidarity, and destroy self management, establishing balanced job complexes will not only allow but propel all our aims. It answers the question who does what?

    Consider any workplace you like. Balanced job complexes means no one does just surgery or just cleans up after surgeons. No one only teaches, or only sweeps. No one only digs resources from a mine, or only schedules the mine’s operations. All workers do a mix of tasks such that each job’s overall empowerment effect is like that of all other jobs. I apply to some workplace for a job I like. Unlike now, however, all available jobs are balanced so my work prepares me to make decisions.

    If we can implement them without incurring some dire offsetting damage, balanced job complexes will answer our question who does what and will eliminate the coordinator/worker class hierarchy. But can we? In the next essay I consider why some people may feel balancing jobs is unviable and would even impose economic disaster on society, and also offer our contrary view.