Reply To: Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

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> Thanks for the answer, I appreciate it.

You are welcome, but I do think we are going to have to agree to disagree, soon…very soon…

> I didn’t adress the analogy with dictatorships because I don’t see it as valid…

Okay, fine, that is your view. But honestly, it is not asking me anything about parecon. And I just don’t have it as a priority, right now, to blast markets since I have done it, at length, numerous times and places.

Markets requires that buyers and sellers compete – buy cheap, sell dear. Every economist advocate of markets will verify that they fail in the absence of that. This creates a horrible pressure on personalities, producing the worst kind of individualism. It is an elementary prediction, and it is borne out all around us, all over the planet. Markets misprice anything with external effects beyond the buyer and seller. Again, every economist advocate of markets will acknowledge that. And this is a large problem, because everything has such external effects. It leads to particularly horrible results in biasing against public and collective goods. Markets are not efficient, because they use incorrect prices. Interestingly, in a serious discussion, must economists will admit that as well, but claim there is nothing better. Markets create a context very very useful, however, for those with more power to aggrandize themselves at the expense of others, and the environment – which markets horribly violate – to the tune of threatening the continuation of the human species. Markets also produce class division, though it is a harder case to make. If firms don’t try to maximize revenues and cut costs they will be outcompeted, and not enjoy the gains that would accrue. But, to pursue advantage, or just survive in context of others doing so, requires all kinds of self destructive decisions regarding those in a workplace. This is far far easier to carry out with an internal hierarchy wherein those at the top are immune to the effects of cutting air conditioning, spewing gases, having rote jobs on vicious assembly lines, and on and on. It is those in that hierarchy who become the new class, I call the coordinator class. There is much more to say – about all of this – and I have done so, many places.

Are these the same problems as dictatorships impose. No. Are they immense problems, yes, I would say so. And interestingly, really no economist in a serious discussion will disagree, they just may not place much value on the losses…and will claim that there is nothing better, though without bothering to look.

You know what mainstream economists critique parecon for – workers will choose, freely to work less. There is no built in pressure to work longer and harder if people would prefer more leisure, less stuff. You are all about liberty, you say, but markets introduce a context that makes what people want, irrational to seek. Economists admit this, freely, they claim it is a virtue. They say in parecon people will cut the work week length drastically, and that is such a problem that we can’t have parecon.

> This is somewhat connected to why I think it only necessary to reply to objections to markets, and not positivelly advocate them by providing arguments as to why are they better then alternatives, because markets are the null hypothesis, they are the sum of free, unhindered, spontaneous action of people, and if someone wants something else, he advocates establishment of regulations and organization that hinder the free and spontaneous action of people, and it is he that must give arguments, not the one advocating market.

I have to tell you in all honesty, I find this formulation, while prevalent, so ridiculous that I have little patience for trying to argue with you about it. To say that an institution that breeds – thrives on and that fails without – competition, and that rewards bargaining power and, of course, allows advantages in bargaining power to snowball, thus not only produces horrible distortions of personality that destroy solidarity, has a short time line, etc. etc. are just some kind of neutral free thing, has always sounded weird to me. But I will just leave it…

Markets at their very best – that is, as you envision them – are utterly impossible – that is, the dynamics of markets push further and further away from the sought condition. But intact, I would find the sought optimum, even it could last, horrendous in any event.

You seem to agree that market logic leads to all kinds of horrible results – things like, oh, child labor, dumping, etc. etc. And so you say, let’s regulate them, try to mitigate the ill effects, etc. And I say, well that is better than just having them run wild, sure, but why not have an allocation institution that doesn’t need to be guarded against and that won’t constantly promote subversion of what is desired?

> In that sense, analogy to dictatorships could be made for any non-market system, because it is any interference with liberty that requires justification, not liberty itself.

This is just weird, honestly. Saying that markets promote liberty or freedom, when they tell each actor to fleece other actors or be fleeced, and when, if you successfully fleece others, you are in position to do it even more so, and will have developed a disposition to, and, in any case, if you don’t you will just get fleeced, yourself, is absurd. Institutions are not neutral but have implications built into their dynamics. When one person’s freedom, or unit’s, curtails comparable freedom for others, the system is flawed…mightily.

Markets destroy solidarity – in fact rewarding anti sociality, they create a competition in which any gain snowballs into further gain. They generate prices, used in decision making, that systematically diverge from a measure of true social costs and benefits. Again, these are not full arguments – but I have made those in many places. But they are also not controversial claims. Even most advocates of markets – other than very strange libertarian market advocates, would acknowledge their validity. So if you are interested in my views of markets – great – you should take a look.

As to parecon, honestly, it seems your only interest in it is that it threatens markets…unless I am misremembering, I don’t think you have asked anything about it.

> As I have already said, I do accept many such interferences, but I don’t take them as self-justified, no matter what (alleged) bad consequences freedom has, I am aware that I must have arguments for any type of regulation and dirigism (no matter how democratic) I support, such as prohibitions and sanctions concerning negative externalities, welfare, etc.

Do you realize that having negative externaliities which pour garbage into people’s lungs, or CO2 into the air, etc. etc. are not a matter of freedom…but violations of it, for most. To say we should be free is fine – but only insofar as one person’s freedom is matched by everyone else’s. To say a company should be free to ruin the environment of a neighborhood, has no freedom logic at all.

When my freedom creates a context curtailing your choices – for clean air, for sensible climate, for fair income, and on and on, then my choice doesn’t respect freedom for all, and honestly, only talks about freedom, typically, to advance my own agendas. Markets force everyone to act individually, without concern for, and by and large without information about, impacts on other people, much less other people having a say commensurate to effects on them.

> I haven’t seen any convicing arguments that go to prove that markets would necessarily produce corporate division of labor inside firms, even the free markets that are non-capitalistic such as proposed by Anarcho-Individualism (advocated by e.g. Benjamin Tucker) or by Proudhonian Mutualism,

Okay, fair enough, but, I suspect, nor have you looked. That is, I don’t think you have read serious market critiques I, Hahnel, and others have offered. You certainly have not said, here, there, and here, you are wrong – and shown why you think that. Try the book Quiet Revolution in Welfare Economics…

The freest markets in history, I suspect, were in early England – and it was one of the most abhorrent messes in history…

> Even in a totally free market, I don’t think that the profit motive necessarily warps people’s motivations, being that markets are about supply and demand, I don’t see why would a person making or selling something, or providing services on markets necessarily need to have some ominous disposition of mind, thinking only about his own profits, he could also think about how what he’s doing is about satisfying other people’s wants.

Okay, you think that. Fine that you do. If you want to see a full discussion of these matters, market pricing, market motivation, markets and class, great, take a look.

> Voltarine was a 19th century anarchist, and in a couple of short essays in 1893 she was commenting on decentralized (/participatory) planning proposed by anarcho-communists.

Well, I rather doubt it was the same…but let’s see…

> Interestingly, she makes a comment about authoritarian communism which might be applicable to Parecon, when she says: “He cries: “Down with property and competition,” and means it. For the one he prescribes “take it” and for the other “suppress it.” That is very frank.”

Effective writing, I suppose, but irrelevant. The property was taken…now it just needs to be re distributed to all again. Competition has its place, in sports, but not as the logic of economic interaction.

> That connects to the question of dissent in Parecon, I mentioned that the (AnSyn) communists in Spain did tolerate dissenters, so if a small town agreed to collectivize, but a few artisans in their workshops didn’t want to join, the collective didn’t have anything against them running their small workshop as a coop and trading with similar worshops and farms that were coops, they even bartered with them.

For the most part, it is an unreal issue. Once you have an allocation system, to think people are going to operate outside it, in significant degree, is unreal. Where does one get electricity, roads, schooling, etc. etc. Is it allowed to disconnect from society? Sure. I guess a few might do it, but not many.

> There is the question of what about dissenters in Parecon, which I don’t remember seeing adressed in what I’ve read about Parecon.

But it is addressed, in many places. I think you are here defending markets – not addressing parecon. That is okay, fine, up to a point – but then we just have to agree to disagree, it seems to me.

> What would happen e.g. to my brother if Parecon were to be instituted in my society, and he didn’t want to join? Namely, he and his family have a small plot of land behind their house, two small greenhouses (about 5 ares each), a rototiller, they grow veggies and sell them to a few shops, and sell them themselves in the marketplace. What if Parecon were to be instituted, but they, along with some other people, don’t want to participate, they want to continue to produce on their own and continue to trade among each other, how would the Parecon system treat such a minority?

I don’t believe it will happen – but it would be no problem, except in one respect. Your brother would want electricity, to use roads, schools, to get food that others produce, maybe have a computer produced elsewhere, and on and on. So the question becomes, can he participate in the economy, using its venues and resources and methods, and also grow stuff in his yard and trade it with neighbors. Answer, sure.

> What I mentioned that has made me a little afraid is her comment about the proposal of economic plannig, when she notes that there would have to be some “board, with branch offices everywhere, which should proceed with a general kind of census-taking regarding the demand for every possible product of manufacture, of agriculture, of lumber, of minerals, for every improvement in education, amusement or religion.

Well, again, I think you should take a close look at participatory planning, if you are interested in it.

> “Madam, about how many balls do your boys lose annually over the neighbors’ fence? How many buttons do your little girls tear off their frocks? Sir, how many bottles of beer do you stow away in your cellar weekly for Sunday use? Miss, have you a lover? If so, how often do you write him, and how many sheets of paper do you use for each letter? How many gallons of oil do you use in the parlor lamp when you sit up late? This is not intended as personal, but merely to obtain correct statistics upon which to base next year’s output of balls, buttons, beer, paper, oil, etc. ”

I hate to tell you this, but what you worry about currently exists. That is, google and amazon and a few others know nearly everything about everyone…and far beyond just their consumption and work levels.

> I am not convinced in the necessity of such comprehensive cataloguing and planning in advance, I do not see how it is worth it to do all that so to prevent the over or under-production that would happen in non-capitalistic markets, I would rather go along with Voltairine when she says “I had rather a few thousand cabbages should rot” then go through all that, especially if in the case which I support, where there would be various systems of social security available and I am never in danger of starving if my cabbages do rot due to lack of demand for them.

Well, sure, if you describe a nightmare, and then minimize problems in the other option you get a particular result. But what if 30% – or 40$ of all food is wasted in a market system? What is to make more revenues all kinds of actions are taken with animals, to sell more meat, higher, that have horrendous impact, but make sense for the proximate buyer and seller. And what if participatory planning would take less time than dealing with markets and market regulations, eliminating all kinds of time wasting, etc. Now the choice swings the other way – not to mention what if producers in one case have a huge incentive to despoil the environment, and in the other case, not. What if in one case there is real equity, and in the other, growing and in time grotesque inequality, and so on.

So, okay, take a look at the actual proposed vision. And at the discussion of markets you are unlikely to see in books whose purpose is to defend them, celebrate them, etc. And then see what you think. If, after that, you believe something I describe about buying and selling, etc., or participatory planning, is wrong – let me know.