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Reply to Chomsky’s criticism of ParEcon


During this interview Chomsky equates certain aspects of the parecon model with capitalist economics.  

The interviewer asks “an objection against the libertarian socialist society is that no one would work in it.  What about those that don’t want to work?”  

To which Chomsky replies “This is one of the things that I have differed some time with the parecon people”.  Adding “They basically have the same view”.  

Chomsky sums up stating -

“The parecon position that I have disagreed with is that they believe that pay / remuneration ought to be proportional to in-put – the harder you work the more you should be paid.”

Chomsky explains his disagreement as follows -

“But I think that is a very demeaning concept of, not only of what work is, but also of what human beings are.”  

For Chomsky, it seems, both capitalist and participatory economics share the same underlying assumption -

“Work is a burden – if you are not driven to work you would prefer to vegetate.”

Okay, here are some comments from me (a parecon advocate) in reply to Chomsky’s criticisms.  Anarchist / libertarian socialists more generally might want to take them up.  

First, the desire to identify a criteria for remuneration for a participatory economy was not, as I understand it, motivated by a negative conception of work but rather by a desire to formulate a fair criteria for remuneration.  Remunerating for effort / sacrifice does not imply that those who advocate it see work as burdensome.  

Second, it seems to me that Chomsky, and anarchists of this type,  mis-locate the source of what makes work demeaning.  For me unfair remuneration is part of the problem but remuneration motivated by a desire for economic justice is not.  Rather, what really makes work demeaning is the class system.  And as parecon eliminates the class system it also eliminates demeaning work – whilst also remunerating fairly.  So I would argue that with parecon we not only get classlessness we also get economic justice.  

Third, parecon advocates would argue that without a criteria for remuneration like effort / sacrifice as part of the economic system of production and consumption it is impossible for  people to know if they are over consuming.  If there is no process by which to measure how much we can consume (other than need) then how do we keep track of our consumption rights?  In the absence of any serious criteria for remuneration how can we feel confident that anarchist / libertarian socialist economics with deliver economic justice?  

In addition to this last point I think parecon advocates would also point out that there is a connection between economic activity and ecological sustainability and argue that if we don’t put values on products and measure our consumption rights how can we act as stewards for the environment?  How would an anarchist economy look after the natural world if it has no means by which to measure these things?

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