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An audacious proposal to advance a participatory economy: Start one


I had an idea for a tactic to proceed our economy. Why not just go ahead and start a participatory economy? Some might react by saying "We already have projects like Z Magazine and South End Press which already are starting". I know that, but that’s not what I had in mind. But start building and implementing a participatory economy, now. This might sound nearly impossible to do in the world here and now, but this idea wouldn’t be in the world here, at least. But in another, possibly virtual, world. Or at least, could. It would take the form of a massive role-playing game, where people could learn a small number of base rules quickly, allow a measure of contribution. It’s not as unfeasible as it sounds. Social networks like Facebook and Projects like Second Life have grown from non-existence to huge (7 million registered in Second Life, 24 million in Facebook) in just a couple of years. Why can’t this inspire parecon-minded activists to strive for such similar growth? Just to give this project a name, I call this project "Project Rope-Can" (the name is an anagram of "parecon"). I could foresee the project (and the economy built around it) divided into ten interacting pieces (and how they would be built into a website). (1) A list of goods, and their particular individual details. [Key question: what do you want?] (2) Indicative prices — and their breakdown by affected costs for labor, societal impacts, environmental impacts, and supply-and-demand. [what would it "cost"?] (3) Workers councils which produce the goods outlined in part (1), and which registered users would join. [how do you make it?] (4) Non-transferable credits — the payment system for socially-valued labor done. Clarification: It’s "nontransferable" in the sense that if you get a credit, you can’t give it to anyone else, nor can you take a credit from anyone else. Any attempt to do so would render the credit invalid. [how do you get "paid"?] (5) Jobs balanced for desirability and empowerment. Each job would have a desirability rating (which I suspect would be automatically computed) and an empowerment rating (which would be assigned by real-live human beings). [What do you do in your day-to-day work life?] (6) Impact rating for decisions within workers councils. Those more impacted would get a higher rating, determined by [good question; I'm not sure how this would be determined either -- it sounds like another judgment call that you can't easily automate] and incorporated into a group decision mechanism [here it depends too, and something we'd have to figure out in more detail]. [how do you make group work decisions?] (7) Individual consumption plans. Individuals would determine how to "spend" the individual credits they get during the iterations of participatory planning, and submit that plan. [how do you decide what do you (singular) want?] (8) Group consumption plans. [how do you decide what do you(plural) want?] Likewise, consumption councils would accumulate the group credits combined from their individual members, and formulate and submit a group consumption plan for the… (9) Participatory planning procedure. Workers councils submit their plans to produce goods to consumers who would be affected. Consumption councils likewise submit their plans to consume goods to those workers affected. If everything matches, we’re set. Otherwise, we’d make adjustments based on feedback we receive from previous rounds and repeat the process. Eventually we arrive at a society-wide allocation plan to use as a baseline for the given period of time at issue. [how do we mesh all of our wants and needs into a coherent whole?] One possible complaint I could foresee would be that this doesn’t sound fun, exciting, sexy, and isn’t bound to pique your interest. There might be a way around this. Wrap this up in something that would get people hooked. People don’t fear learning things that are, or get, complicated (witness the labyrinthine plots of most soap operas). I think it just needs to be packaged in a way that makes the INTRODUCTION to it inviting to a broad audience. What do you think?

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