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Soc 292 – The Second Student


The second student worries about parecon’s method of allocation.

> For the purposes of making decision about allocation, Albert advocates ‘decentralized participatory planning’ (p. 122), in which members of a parecon, in their respective capacities as producers and consumers, come to determine what will be consumed and produced through a series of proposals, which end up being negotiated at successively higher and higher levels before agreement is reached.

This is actually not right. There are no higher and higher levels – though there are wider ones – that is larger units. But most things aren’t debated at any level rather proposed and modified by actors…meaning individuals or councils.

> Albert proposes that initial proposals (though only with respect to types of goods) be made one year in advance. I think I personally would find this maddening. It is hard to see where ‘spontaneous’ consumption decisions fit into this model. Perhaps it is only an illusion, but I do think that my tastes and preferences evolve and develop, and I do not think I (and I would assume many others) would enjoy living my life planned out in this way.

Again…this is just confusion about the model. Yes, consumers plan for a year – so much steak, so much shoes, whatever – extrapolating from the past and new preferences or needs. But as the year progresses, one can change one’s consumption.

> The difficulty of making consumption decisions (so far) in advance seems to be amplified if one considers the issue of entertainment services. How would these be allocated? Although presumably one could propose to allocate a given amount of income for entertainment services, how does one know what one wants to consume before a product is created?

You don’t know what book, or play, or sports event or what have you – but you do know the overall number of each, close enough to generate a plan, interactively with others, which you then amend as your desires become more clear during the year.

> It also seems possible that, since everyone can apply to do whatever they want (though it is not clear to what extent this is regulated), that so many people might wish to be entertainers (writers, musicians, other kinds of artists) that the system would not be able to support them all.

Again, this is just confusion. As many people as wish to can apply to be shortstop of the Yankees now – but, of course, only one gets hired. That being the case, very few apply, knowing that others are much better. I would not apply, either, to be a violinist or gourmet cook, and so on, even if I might like doing it a lot – because I couldn’t get the job. In a parecon, like now, workplaces hire people and standards of course exist. As well as competition. You don’t get to be what you prefer just because you prefer it.

> What is to stop everyone from saying they want to be an entertainer and then offering bad entertainment? Or does one get to be an entertainer only if enough people request your services?

One gets to be an entertainer if one is hired by a workers council of entertainers to join – and the council knows how many to employ based on the plan, and chooses based on diverse criteria certainly including ability to entertain well…

> More generally, couldn’t many people become independent producers of various sorts, and only offer for production things they decide they want to make? How effective will the councils and so forth be at getting people to agree to change?

The planning process won’t provide inputs to units that don’t produce socially desired outputs – using balanced job complexes.

I am a little confused at the confusions about parecon – did these students read a book, or just a very short summary, I wonder.

> Albert tries to eliminate power differences in negotiation, but it seems he is not successful at doing this. Albert claims that bargaining power will not become an issue in a parecon because, since all will earn the same income.

Of course, that isn’t claimed – at least not like that. Remuneration is for effort and sacrifice, not power or output, etc. There is no means to exert power, much less accrue it.

> After a round or two of exchanging proposals, “what would then happen is that consumer federations, industry councils, and individual work units would negotiate adjustments in consumption and production…” (p. 133). What is to stop one group from having an advantage in negotiation over others?

When you want to propose calamity – not sure why – without having yet understood the system – still, it is necessary to provide/explain motive as well as means.

Parecon of course falls apart if everyone is a serial killer – but we take it for granted that in a context of generalize justice and fulfillment these will be few and far between and handled by the political system.

The cooperative negotiation doesn’t pit interests against one another. The result of choosing amounts to produce and consume, etc., isn’t an affair in which each side is trying to fleece the other – because neither side can fleece the other. You wind up with income in accord with effect and sacrifice. You wind up with goods you choose within your budget. You produce items, better they meet needs optimally than they don’t. And so on.

We aren’t negotiating that I will work less but get more – we are negotiating what items will be produced – as compared to what other items.

> Could those in charge of an essential good (say oil) not be able to unyieldingly state that their job tasks are “very very difficult”, and thereby reduce their work time and increase leisure at the expense of the rest of the parecon/society?

They have a balanced job complex… like everyone else. If oil work is rated incorrectly there will be lots of social signs to show it is the case – people wanting the job excessively or not at all.

Another way of asking your question is, are there things people can do to muck up the works? Yes, of course – as in any social arrangement. The point is not that this is gone per se, but that the benefits of doing something that mucks up the works are so meager, if not negative, that there is no incentive to pursue such a path.

To make this case in full, would probably require, for this student, walking through how the system works, again…

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