economics is a set of institutions for accomplishing production, consumption,
and allocation while meeting people’s needs and furthering their development;
is a set of institutions designed to propel equity, solidarity, diversity, and
self-management; is a set of institutions centered upon democratic councils,
remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, balanced job complexes, and
participatory planning; is a set of institutions that answers the question: if
not capitalism, what do you want?
economic program is a set of demands meant to win improvements in people’s
lives in the short run while laying the basis for more gains and the eventual
winning of a participatory economy in the long run. It includes demands for…
rewards — including profit, wealth, inheritance, luxury, and income taxes,
affirmative action, full employment, minimum wage supports, social wage
supports, reverse income taxes, higher wages, and also just rewards inside
— including workers’ and consumers’ councils, democratized information
access, democratized workplace decision-making, consumer power over
production norms, democratized budgets, and also self-management inside our
work — including upgrading degrading jobs, regulating overly empowering
jobs, creating balanced jobs, empowering all workers, and also dignifying
and balancing work in our own movements.
planning — including council infrastructure and democratic knowledge
disbursement, social regulation of prices, expansion of qualitative
descriptive information, enlargement of solidarity, placing human needs
above profitability, democratizing budgets, winning more leisure and less
labor, and also participatory allocation inside our movements.
and just international relations (which are the subject of many other ZNet
Commentaries) including abolishing the World Bank, IMF, and WTO and
instituting in their place democratic agencies subordinate to the will of
local populations and seeking to regulate world trade and exchange to the
benefit of the worst off participants.
the above has been discussed in this series of parecon commentaries and now one
final step concludes the series.
we adopt a participatory program encompassing all the above. What do we then
highlight as our central demand? What feature becomes the lynchpin of our
efforts, the element that produces public visibility and widespread support?
What is our version of “abolish slavery,” “get the vote,” “end the
war,” “free my people”? What current demand within the broad program can
address needs that people currently feel
propel parecon consciousness-raising
empower people to seek still more, and
and galvanize people to win sought gains and simultaneously advance the
encompassing broader program it is part of?
am going to hazard a guess…very loosely and broadly, and obviously not refined.
demand one quarter less work time for everyone, plus a parallel one quarter
drop in wage and bonus income for the top quarter income earners in society
(including an additional quarter profit tax on their income from capital),
no change in total wage income for the middle half of society, and a one
quarter raise in total wage income for the bottom quarter of society.
demand overtime must be paid at twice the rate of normal time and firms
cannot hire or maintain overtime workers while there are applicants for
normal time labor.
provide that anyone who wishes to work beyond three quarters of their
current load can do so, but only in special employment programs initiated
and paid by the government, administered locally by workers and consumers,
and directed at improving local health care, education, social services,
public housing, or other basic functions in poor communities where pay for
this “surplus” work would be at twice the minimum wage (and the minimum
wage, by the above requirements, would be two-thirds above what it was
before this demand is won, until other pressures raise it still further).
demand the government invest in social programs including: training the
unemployed to fill newly open work positions, training folks in previously
unemployed or unskilled jobs to take up higher skilled work left unattended
by the reduction in workload of the currently well employed, oversight of
the whole system in each workplace by unions and worker’s councils, the
research and activism to pare away currently socially useless labor in
advertising and similar worthless pursuits, and service work for those
wanting to add their energies to advancing health care, education, social
services, public housing, etc.
work reduction and income altering scenario releases – I think — more income
than it hands out, assuming any resultant lost output is confined to useless and
pointless products. But does the freed income (equal to one quarter of the
current wages, bonuses, and profits of the top quarter income earners in
society) fall short of the costs of the job program plus the costs of training?
Perhaps, and if so, we then demand that the government reduce defense spending
and spending on the prison industrial complex – and thereby free appropriate
people to work in the real economy making up for lost hours and funds needed to
handle program expenses.
would all this do?
by reducing everyone’s work time commitments by 25% it would greatly empower
the public to have time to develop agendas of change and to fight for them.
People can do this with there new found time either through the social programs
by which they can also get additional income, or via volunteer movement
demands also dramatically redistribute income.
before derivative impact on bargaining power changes wages further, the top
quarter earns wages at the same rate as before, though losing a quarter of
their profit income and of course a quarter of their wages and bonuses due
to reduced labor time. Yet even this group can be addressed about the
benefits of the program not only in moral terms regarding the well being of
others, but also because through the changes they will get more free time
and will also enjoy many of the social benefits such as reduced hostility in
society, increased public goods, and so on,
next half of the population has a one-third hourly pay rate increase so that
they earn the same amount as before but for three quarters the time spent at
work. They therefore benefit from reduced work time, an increased hourly pay
rate, from the social spending, and also from the changed balance of power
between society’s classes due to new found security, etc.
bottom quarter of the population also spends three quarters the time spent
before at work (though the unemployed of course increase their time at
work), but now they get a quarter more total pay then before before, which
is a two thirds hourly pay increase. They also benefit most from the new
social spending and changes in balance of power among society’s classes.
the program directly immediately improves the condition of society’s worst
off, but, more, it diminishes and perhaps even eliminates unemployment thereby
securing the weak against job threats by the strong, further empowering workers
to take a still larger share of output as they solidify their new strength. The
redirection of much labor to social programs also not only benefits the poorest
constituencies in society directly, due to new schools, housing, etc, it also
greatly empowers them, in turn leading to new demands for better wages and
conditions and other social improvements. Likewise, efforts to replace highly
skilled labor allotments reduced by a quarter for such jobs, uplifts other
workers, eliminating barriers to entry to better tasks at work.
supremely strategic aspect of the program is, I think, that at its heart is a
core demand to work less hours, something that people at every level of our
society think is warranted and desirable and which no one will be able to argue
powerfully against. The rest of the program flows logically from the desire to
reduce hours in ways most benefiting the worst off while improving the overall
quality of society, rather than enriching only the powerful and already
privileged. In addition the program opens doors to issues of remuneration,
power, job definition and allocation, and budgeting and broad valuations. The
program, in other words, wins terrain that leaves folks not only immediately
better off, but also more empowered and ready to struggle on.
thinking about what might be a lynchpin of an economic campaign that would
galvanize broad and deep support, I gravitated to demands about length of work
time and associated income because my experiences suggest that time pressure is
greatly felt, greatly despised, and a great barrier to radicalization…and
therefore a great target for a massive campaign. The whole project just
embellishes demanding thirty hours work for forty hours pay, and, I admit, even
that simple demand, all by itself, even without diverse caveats and
improvements, would be a wonderful centerpiece for a parecon movement.
Embellished more or less as above, however, seeking a quarter less work time
looks to me like a wonderful lightening rod, lynchpin, and foundation for