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Ehrenreich Interviews Albert Q/A 7


Ehrenreich: That response raises all kinds of questions and sets off some alarm bells in my mind. To start with one of them, which may seem trivial, but is actually very central to our differing visions of a utopian arrangement: When you say “let’s say someone, really values time a whole lot,” I cringe. Is there anyone who doesn’t? What’s important to me is my work and time with friends and family. In my vision of the good society, there is more time for these things, not less. So I want as little time devoted to planning as possible. Maybe I’m just a deadbeat, but I do think this issue needs to be taken seriously unless parecon is to be run, by default, entirely by weirdly obsessed nerds.

I referred to someone “really caring about time a whole lot” referencing someone valuing time so much that saving even a little would outweigh eliminating class division, exploitation, mispricing, misdirection of motives, and so on. I pointed out that even such a person, and I don’t think that is you by a long shot, would have no reason to worry about parecon’ time implications, because parecon in total frees time rather than robbing it.

To not care about time would be odd, I agree with you. We should value saving an extra hour a week, but not so much as to sacrifice equity, solidarity, diversity, self management, sustainability, and an end to class division to attain that extra hour.

Suppose having a dictator would save time. Suppose allotting supreme power to an owner of some firm and derivative power to some managerial henchmen keeping others completely subordinate would save time. Suppose utilizing markets would save time. Time concerns shouldn’t trump all other concerns. That said, in fact, in parecon to participate in decision making rather than to obey decisions taken by others takes some time, but other time reductions more than offset this.

I indicated diverse factors bearing on time reduction last answer. But let’s concretize one. In the mid 1950s, which was generally considered the golden age of capitalism, as our mutual friend Juliet Shor points out, the per capita output in the U.S. was nearly exactly one half what it rose to about 40 years later. That means by the mid 1990s we could have worked one week on and one week off, or a month on and a month off, or a twenty hour work week, and produced the same total output per person as we had available in that earlier golden age. Market competition ensured, instead, that the total time allotted to work went up instead of down. Participatory planning would have let us choose. And that immense gain isn’t the whole story. Parecon would also save time no longer allotted to producing excess advertising and packaging, to producing shoddy individual goods replaced by collective durable ones, and of course time no longer allotted to military production.

I should add, I don’t think there is anything nerdy about people deciding their own lives.

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