Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

ZSplash Forums AskAlbert Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

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  • #724643
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    Site Administrator
    Participant

    Apologies, but I real am pressed so I will answer a bit briefly..

    In the old Soviet Union – at the time of the revolution, there was a rather small and weak coordinator class. So the political elite from the Bolsheviks was running both the economy and the state. That is what has been called Stalinism, rather like fascism being a political elite running the state and economy, with owners still receiving profits.

    It caused people to look at that elite and call it a bureaucratic – meaning, I think, essentially, political product.

    The discussion you point to refuses to even entertain that in the economy there can be a structural basis for a class, the coordinator class, which can even be the ruling class. Once you rule that out – not having any concepts with which to even think such thoughts – you are left with explaining the problem in that social system as just a political feature. And, if you also believe economics dominates politics, then you come up with his notion that you report – the problem is temporary – though one wonders why, for those who thinks society is built upon economic relations and forces, there is no effort to find economic factors even in part responsible for the Soviet outcome.

    I think what you relay is all way off the mark. First, a dictatorship, the political problem, doesn’t have to be so temporary, itself. That is just a kind of economics will have its way formulation. There is an element of truth to it in this case, however, because the collapse of the system was likely largely due to all kinds of elites feeling they would be better off with a transformation toward capitalism…

    Second, there can be an economically based class – the coordinator class, dominating an economy, the thing Mandel seemingly can’t even contemplate.

    And finally, even if the coordinator class is relatively week, in some case, and the political elite is quite strong and impedes the living standards of that class, the possible outcomes are a more democratic coordinatorist result, or reversion to capitalism, or moving on toward a participatory and classless result, but that it was reversion that occurred undercuts sen the notion that it is okay to pass through this arrangement. In China, indeed, the highly authoritarian state persists, plus economic reversion.

    I agree that certain combinations are unstable – certain – and indeed, there is a sense in which pretty much everything is… but that just doesn’t say much.

    But mainly there is a whole additional dimension, far more relevant in the west, just completely left out. That is, the difference between the coordinator class and the working class is such that some modes of organizing and organization elevate the former, some the latter – and those that elevate the former, unlike in the old Soviet case, or China, etc. etc., are unlikely to get enough allegiance in the west to accomplish much of anything, due to working class skepticism or outright hostility.

    #724674
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    Joe H
    Participant

    but that it was reversion [to captialism in China and the USSR] that occurred undercuts the notion that it is okay to pass through this arrangement.

    I guess their comeback is that that was “the result of partial defeats of world revolution” i.e. it wouldn’t have happened that way without the continued strength of capitalism elsewhere. Without this, when the bureaucracy faltered (which I think Mandel argues is inevitable) there would be less pressure to re-institute capitalism. From what little I know it seems clear that the international factor had a major impact; Trotskyists think it is decisive, and everything would be totally cool without the outside capitalist pressure, which isn’t clear to me at all. I take it you think they are definitely wrong on this point.

    #724678
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Yes, I do think they are wrong – I think it is not compelling at all. I think it is a convoluted way to avoid facing facts that they have ruled out, as impossible.

    In fact, even beyond this case, I never like explanations which pin blame on the state and governments and police and whatnot, doing what they exist to do. Yes, that is always a factor, sure, but it is inevitable. If we who seek a better world fail for a time, or in a case, etc., we can’t do better by moaning that the other side smashed us and hoping they don’t act that way next time around. We have to look for flaws in our own efforts to avoid their being able to smash us, or to respond and turn it around, etc. The Bolsheviks created an anti capitalist process that never came close – once they had eradicated and suppressed real grassroots organizing for classlessness and for other related change, which they very aggressively and violently did, to involving the population at large, in particular working people. This owes, I think, to its coordinator class logics and practices – and it is the heart of the matter, not something to gloss over while bemoaning external factors. Sure external factors were important – because the internal dynamics offered no worthy alternative.

    Honestly, the idea that the path to a better world is better taken through establishing some tightly run and regimented hierarchical apparatus, that will then, however, fall apart, at least in this version of the story, and we will then march on to what we really need, strikes me as more less ludicrous, even though I think you are quite right that it is the conception, ultimately.

    I will grant this much, if human beings, or human beings having evolved for as long as we have in the presence of disgusting institutions pressuring us to be individualist, obedient, etc. etc. are simply incapable of mounting movements that are participatory and really seeking classlessness and self management, etc., then I suppose you would have to try to use the master’s tool – vile authoritarian centralism – to try to beat the master. But the prospects of that pretty much magically working are so slim, essentially zero in my view, that I place my hope, instead, on human potentials for solidarity and popular initiative rather than obeying some grand leader – a prospect that is quite hopeful, I believe, if we can simply eliminate the institutional commitments, on our side, that nurture and advance the nasty alternative.

    #724681
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    Joe H
    Participant

    Thanks Michael, that’s useful. From what I’ve read (e.g. Brinton and later discussions) it does seem wrong to say that deliberately squashing worker’s control either didn’t happen, or was necessary, or had no avoidable bad effects on the outcome, or whatever people think, so the libertarian view makes sense to me. I’ve seen a Lenninist refer to Morris Brinton as unreliable (I think Richard Seymour somewhere in the comments here) but he never replied to my query on why he criticizes Brinton. Maybe it’s to do with this debate with Chris Goodey but even assuming the worst on this evidence I can’t see how the debate here undermine’s Brinton’s main points. Anyway I will let you get on with saving Z now!

    #729774

    SamuelNug SamuelNug
    Participant

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    #730205

    A Farmer
    Participant

    Maybe this question is a little simplistic, but how would a parecon society deal with individuals and groups that don’t want to participate? Would participation be voluntary? How would it interact with essentially peaceful people like the Amish who basically just want to live off the land and be left alone?
    Would some attempt be made to collectivize their farmland and other productive assets? If so, how would that be achieved? Would you politely ask them? What if they refused? Would the goon squad be sent in to take it by force? This is what really concerns me about leftist ideoligies. Thank-you.

    A farmer.

    #730294
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    There is no single simple answer because the question assumes, I think, some background additional content. Does the community use roads, electricity, food from elsewhere and so on? Does it use hospitals, resources mined elsewhere, metals smelted elsewhere, and so on.

    I don’t know much about the Amish but I doubt very much that they are as isolationist as you suggest.

    But, for example, suppose some group wishes to literally produce and consume for only itself, and no other connection outside. Fine, I would presume it would do so. The cost to their well being would be enormous. I suppose one could imagine a country with a participatory economy that said, no, that is not allowed because it denies the next generation access to vast means of human well being and development, or something, but I think there is little likelihood that would happen. On the other hand, with a participatory society beyond the borders of the group, I am quite confident that the groups would rapidly dwindle in size…for obvious reasons.

    Now, however, lets return to something a bit more realistic – a group of people does not typically choose to go off into some region and have zero connection to the rest of an economy. Rather, it interfaces, even it is somewhat isolationist or self sufficiently oriented, for whatever reasons, in a host of ways. So, there is no single answer. Can 1,000 people say we want food from elsewhere, electricity, diverse goods and what not, but we want to contribute nothing to the broader society – we want only to have our own production for only ourselves. Again, I can imagine a country with a participatory economy saying yes, but in this case I think it is far more likely (a) the situation would never arise, which is to say no community would ever say that – and (b) if it literally did arise, there would be a problem, though on a very small scale.

    Now let me ask you a question. I believe your concern is about a non existent hypothetical issue or, at most, an issue involving very small numbers of people – and which is amenable to all kinds of solutions in different contexts. It is fine to wonder or be concerned about it, but of very low order, at most.

    Are you equally concerned about a type of economy in which no one can say I want to work and contribute to society and I want to receive from it, but I do not want to be a wage slave – or employer of wage slaves? One could give many more examples of massive scale encroachments on the options of virtually all workers and consumers that exist only to benefit a few. Do you have, I guess we might say, a proportionately greater level of concern and worry about such actual matters?

    #730339

    A Farmer
    Participant

    There is no single simple answer because the question assumes, I think, some background additional content. Does the community use roads, electricity, food from elsewhere and so on? Does it use hospitals, resources mined elsewhere, metals smelted elsewhere, and so on.

    I’m no expert either, but I have had some contact with Amish settlements. The ones I’ve encountered in Misouri are pretty isolationist. They do use roads, but electricity is considered “worldly” and so most Amish communities forbid it.
    A lot of the roads outside Seymour are dirt, but ocasionally you’ll see a horse and buggy rolling down one of the paved roads in town. That’s been a source of conflict in the past because a lot of them refuse buy state license plate tabs and put orange stickers on their buggies.

    They also get into conflicts with “the English” over things like fishing licenses. The whole concept of “a license to fish” seems ridiculous to them because it violates their god-given right to feed themselves. Fishing has always been a way for poor people to feed themselves without stealing or initiating violence against others, so laws against it are considered completely immoral. Jesus was a fisherman and even the Romans didn’t force Him to buy a fishing license. The sheriff is actually a good christian man and stopped enforcing those kinds of laws, but the Fish and Wildlife goons aren’t nearly so nice.

    I don’t know about hospitals. Maybe during emergencies. There was a situation a couple years back where the Akron Children’s Hospital essentially kidnappyed a 10 year old Amish girl and forcefully poisoned her with chemotherapy against the wishes of her parents. The parents opted for holistic alternatives and prayer, but the court called that child abuse.

    Building and health code enforcers also irritate them quite a bit from what I can tell. I imagine they would’t take kindly to some city slicker with a clipboard coming in and telling them how to do a barn raising.

    As for smelting their own metal parts and whatnot, I think the answer is no. But on the whole I’d say they’re pretty damn self sufficient. Most of the men are are farmers, carpenters and craftsmen of one kind or another, so the basic necessities of food, shelter, and transportation can all be taken care of within the community. So what if they don’t have all the fancy iPods and TVs and whatnot. Are they any less happy? They’re not harming anyone, so why is it any of my business?

    Is that too much background and additional content or not enough? I could go on. But what’s funny about all this is that the Amish settlements I’ve seen appear to be very “pareconish”. Balanced job complexes? Check. Shared resources? Check. Decision making through concensus? Check. Social norms enforced by gossip, ridicule, reprimand and scorn rather than through the barrel of a gun? Check. If somebody violates some social norm (dressing too fancy, let’s say), basically what happens is that everyone else stops talking to them at church or something like that. That’s absolutely devastating in a small community, so nobody does it.

    But, for example, suppose some group wishes to literally produce and consume for only itself, and no other connection outside. Fine, I would presume it would do so. The cost to their well being would be enormous.

    I don’t buy that. To me, family and community are far more important than boxes full of electronic junk imported from far away. Local production for local consumption is the way to go, in my humble opinion. Maybe not 100 percent local, but you can get pretty close with enough farmland and rainfall.

    On the other hand, with a participatory society beyond the borders of the group, I am quite confident that the groups would rapidly dwindle in size…for obvious reasons.

    To each their own. I like the peace and graceful simplicity of small farming communities. I’m guessing that you live in a city?

    Can 1,000 people say we want food from elsewhere, electricity, diverse goods and what not, but we want to contribute nothing to the broader society – we want only to have our own production for only ourselves.

    Of course not. 1000 people could not fairly say that because trying to get something for nothing is stealing. But local production for local consumption, along with the peaceful and voluntary exchange of goods and services with neighbors is not stealing.

    Are you equally concerned about a type of economy in which no one can say I want to work and contribute to society and I want to receive from it, but I do not want to be a wage slave – or employer of wage slaves? One could give many more examples of massive scale encroachments on the options of virtually all workers and consumers that exist only to benefit a few. Do you have, I guess we might say, a proportionately greater level of concern and worry about such actual matters?

    Okay, but a voluntary contract is not exactly the same thing as slavery. I see what you’re getting at, but that sort of thing is mainly a problem in cities where land is in short supply and people have forgotten the traditional skills of their ancestors. In the city, you’ve got no choice. Working an iPad is a nice skill to have, but that doesn’t get you community. For that you need traditional skill sets, open land, hard work and strong values combined with limited or zero government interference. My two cents.

    I like some of the values, but the political left really scares me when it starts talking about things like land reform and collectivised farming practices. What that means in practice is that multi-generational farming communities get kicked off the land, supposedly for the greater good, but instead you wind up with with some kind of communist train wreck. I could list examples, but I think you already know them.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 2 months ago by  A Farmer.
    #730368
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Hello, again…

    > I’m no expert either, but I have had some contact with Amish settlements. The ones I’ve encountered in Misouri are pretty isolationist. They do use roads, but electricity is considered “worldly” and so most Amish communities forbid it.

    And of course no one in a participatory society would prevent that, or would have any way to do so…even if for some anti social reason they wanted to…

    > A lot of the roads outside Seymour are dirt, but ocasionally you’ll see a horse and buggy rolling down one of the paved roads in town. That’s been a source of conflict in the past because a lot of them refuse buy state license plate tabs and put orange stickers on their buggies.

    Again, I think that all these kind of issues could arise, or not, depending on a lot of things, not least the Amish – or other “isolationist” group’s perhaps changing self assessment. My guess is that the Amish, living in a participatory society, would likely change in their views of what exists outside their community, quite a lot…

    > They also get into conflicts with “the English” over things like fishing licenses. The whole concept of “a license to fish” seems ridiculous to them because it violates their god-given right to feed themselves.

    It depends, doesn’t it? What if their approach to fishing was denying others access, etc. I think if you actually look at parecon, and parsoc, and ask yourself what the likely results would be for the Amish, say, and for the other folks in the world, perhaps this concern would diminish.

    > Fishing has always been a way for poor people to feed themselves without stealing or initiating violence against others, so laws against it are considered completely immoral. Jesus was a fisherman and even the Romans didn’t force Him to buy a fishing license. The sheriff is actually a good christian man and stopped enforcing those kinds of laws, but the Fish and Wildlife goons aren’t nearly so nice.

    Notice the premise – poor people. Well, there would be no poor people in a participatory society – none. And while someone could choose to not take from the social product even though though they were entitled to, I don’t think anyone would want to call that poverty…

    > I don’t know about hospitals. Maybe during emergencies. There was a situation a couple years back where the Akron Children’s Hospital essentially kidnappyed a 10 year old Amish girl and forcefully poisoned her with chemotherapy against the wishes of her parents. The parents opted for holistic alternatives and prayer, but the court called that child abuse.

    These are actually subtle issues. They would exist in any system. What you have to ask is, in some particular system will medical care be vastly better, or worse, will the situation of children and elders, be better or worse, and all people, and so on…

    > Building and health code enforcers also irritate them quite a bit from what I can tell. I imagine they would’t take kindly to some city slicker with a clipboard coming in and telling them how to do a barn raising.

    But ask yourself – though this really has nothing much to do with parecon or parsoc, what would you think about a community, based on some religion – or perhaps some other logic – which said, child labor is fine and we employ it, schooling is bad, and kids don’t get it, elderly should be killed past the age of 60, or who knows what? Should society as a whole say, the right of the adults of this community to do as they please trumps all other rights and norms? Or not? A participatory society could adopt that approach, or not. Take a look at discussions of participatory culture, which actually has more bearing on some of your concerns, I think.

    > The issues, not solely in the form you raise, I think, but in other forms too, are real. So the question becomes does a set of economic or political institutions create a context in which we might expect the best informed and most humane approaches to occur…

    > As for smelting their own metal parts and whatnot, I think the answer is no. But on the whole I’d say they’re pretty damn self sufficient.

    I don’t know why we are getting into this. I think if you are serious about parecon, or parsoc, or the left, you should explore what these offer. I think your concerns might quickly dissipate.

    > Most of the men are farmers, carpenters and craftsmen of one kind or another, so the basic necessities of food, shelter, and transportation can all be taken care of within the community. So what if they don’t have all the fancy iPods and TVs and whatnot. Are they any less happy? They’re not harming anyone, so why is it any of my business?

    Why men? What if the community has norms and practices that violate society’s norms bearing on women? I am not really asking – but you might consider it.

    It is only your business, or society’s, if, let’s say, some separate community prevents anyone from leaving. No young person who wishes to do so, can, say, go to college, or engage in some profession elsewhere, and so on. Or if they violate the rights of their young or old, say.

    And even then – secession too, is an option. Or change. Etc.

    > Is that too much background and additional content or not enough? I could go on.

    There is no point in going on, I think. The reality is the entire population of a participatory society would have quite a lot – but not all – in common with the Amish community, I suspect, if it really does give its members control over their lives, have fair allocation of circumstances, etc. etc.

    > But what’s funny about all this is that the Amish settlements I’ve seen appear to be very “pareconish”. Balanced job complexes? Check. Shared resources? Check. Decision making through concensus? Check.

    Maybe, I don’t know. Does it all apply to women? And what if a young person wants to suds to be a doctor, or astronaut?

    Parecon has self management, not consensus, but I suspect the Amish don’t really have consensus either – nothing can happen if one person says no. Really? I doubt it. And it shouldn’t. If a drunk says no, you can’t come in and take me away from those I am beating up, and others say yes, we can, does his veto prevent the policy… and so on. I am asking only to provoke consideration. I don’t really want to explore Amish conditions with you…

    > Social norms enforced by gossip, ridicule, reprimand and scorn rather than through the barrel of a gun? Check.

    This is tricky – my guess would be that inside Amish communities their are in fact means to deal with violent violations of people, so to speak. I doubt the approach to a rapist is to simply verbally castigate him, and leave him free to do it again.

    > If somebody violates some social norm (dressing too fancy, let’s say), basically what happens is that everyone else stops talking to them at church or something like that. That’s absolutely devastating in a small community, so nobody does it.

    You might want to consider that something that is absolutely devastating may not be, at the same time, ideal… but I don’t wish to debate Amish practices.

    > > Can 1,000 people say we want food from elsewhere, electricity, diverse goods and what not, but we want to contribute nothing to the broader society – we want only to have our own production for only ourselves.

    > Of course not. 1000 people could not fairly say that because trying to get something for nothing is stealing.

    But local production for local consumption, along with the peaceful and voluntary exchange of goods and services with neighbors is not stealing.

    > Correct, about the latter, but you have described the situation not just of the Amish in participatory society, but of all communities. All will have their members doing a considerable amount of work, in sum, that rebounds inside their community, to their fellows, etc. As well, however, most will have people who do some or even all their work, that rebounds to others, beyond their community, and the fruits of some of their efforts percolating to others, too.

    Honestly, there really is not an issue, I suspect. Except in the ways I described. If a community wanted to engage in practices that violate broader social norms – say, real child abuse, murder of the elderly, or perhaps their solution to getting drunk is stoning, and so on, there would be a problem. The thing to ask about a social arrangement, bearing on the issues you are raising, is – would its institutions be well suited to dealing with such cases, or not?

    > Are you equally concerned about a type of economy in which no one can say I want to work and contribute to society and I want to receive from it, but I do not want to be a wage slave – or employer of wage slaves? One could give many more examples of massive scale encroachments on the options of virtually all workers and consumers that exist only to benefit a few. Do you have, I guess we might say, a proportionately greater level of concern and worry about such actual matters?

    Okay, but a voluntary contract is not exactly the same thing as slavery.

    I am afraid I don’t have time to deal in detail with every issue we could. Wage slavery is not the same as slavery, correct – but it is horrific. Society offers structural relations that mean the only way to survive is to work for some boss, getting horribly low wages, and giving up any say over one’s efforts – and so on. Confronting that situation, one signs the contract. That is not voluntary in any desirable sense.

    > I see what you’re getting at, but that sort of thing is mainly a problem in cities where land is in short supply and people have forgotten the traditional skills of their ancestors. In the city, you’ve got no choice.

    I think there is a degree of narrowness of perspective clouding this conclusion – peasants in the countryside generating food that feeds those cities and not getting a share of society’s product commensurate to their duration, intensity, and onerousness of work – are exploited, and horribly so. The same often goes for people tending the land in developed societies, in some places as horribly, or even more so. But, again, you are asking about participatory economics, and none of the conditions you refer to persist in it in cities or anywhere. There is not just socially useful work for all, but there is just remuneration and collective self management, as well.

    > Working an iPad is a nice skill to have, but that doesn’t get you community. For that you need traditional skill sets, open land, hard work and strong values combined with limited or zero government interference.

    Hre we disagree. The idea that the only way to have community is to live off the land may make those who live off the land feel good about their situation – but it is, honestly, complete nonsense. Working the land one can certainly have community. Or not. And the same holds for producing houses, or vehicles, or, yes, iPads, not to mention hospitals, health, etc. knowledge, art, and so on. The issue is not working hard or not, having open land or not, and having strong values or not. One can have those, or lack those, and be or not be in a state of community with others. Those are neither necessary nor sufficient. And it depends what you mean by government interference – if you mean the social whole should have no collective impact on its parts, I think that is not only not necessary for community, it would be almost the antithesis of it. IF you mean no interference by some kind of authoritarian state entity that exists above and outside the will of the populace, than of course.

    > I like some of the values, but the political left really scares me when it starts talking about things like land reform and collectivised farming practices.

    Well, you may need to think a bit more about it, honestly, touching on effects beyond the most direct and narrow ones you fear. Do you think there is something good about gigantic land holdings by a few, so that most have little or no land and are thus forced to “freely agree” to work for the land holders? Do you think – and you say you favor community – that working the land as atomistic individuals isolated from others doing so, makes more sense then working it in sympathy and solidarity with others also doing so, not least, to magnify effect and minimize hardship – is bad?

    > What that means in practice is that multi-generational farming communities get kicked off the land, supposedly for the greater good, but instead you wind up with with some kind of communist train wreck. I could list examples, but I think you already know them.

    In the world we inhabit, opposing the left out of fear of such train wrecks makes no sense because it means standing pat with arrangements that are horrific. The really worthwhile stance, I would suggest, is to favor changes that bring collective self management, an equitable share of the social product for all, dignity for all, diverse options to choose among for all, and solidarity with others – community – again, for everyone.

    #730453

    A Farmer
    Participant

    Thank-you for taking the time to answer my questions about Parecon. I really appreciate it.

    Maybe, I don’t know. Does it all apply to women?

    Side issue, but I’ll answer since you asked. This is how traditional people live. Men provide the resources and protection and women provide the eggs. That’s the deal. You’ll find that arrangement in primitive and traditional cultures all over the world. Why? Because that’s what is best for children. All the statistics show that. Children raised in traditional nuclear families do far better on average than children raised by single moms or foster parents. Sorry if that offends some people, but that’s just how the biology works.

    I am afraid I don’t have time to deal in detail with every issue we could. Wage slavery is not the same as slavery, correct – but it is horrific. Society offers structural relations that mean the only way to survive is to work for some boss, getting horribly low wages, and giving up any say over one’s efforts – and so on. Confronting that situation, one signs the contract. That is not voluntary in any desirable sense.

    I agree. It’s not good, but I think you overstate the case. I’ve had some lousy jobs, but nothing I would call “horrific.” And it’s not exactly true that people have zero options, especailly in the US. One such option used to be subsistence agriculture, but that door has closed on many people due to artificially high land prices and high property taxes. Since even if your farm is totally self sufficient, where do you get money to pay the tax man? Side note: 97 percent of the United States is unoccupied, so I don’t think there is any land shortage. Barriers to entry, for sure, but peaceful solutions exist for that.

    Hre we disagree. The idea that the only way to have community is to live off the land may make those who live off the land feel good about their situation – but it is, honestly, complete nonsense. Working the land one can certainly have community. Or not. And the same holds for producing houses, or vehicles, or, yes, iPads, not to mention hospitals, health, etc. knowledge, art, and so on. The issue is not working hard or not, having open land or not, and having strong values or not. One can have those, or lack those, and be or not be in a state of community with others. Those are neither necessary nor sufficient.

    I think we’re talking about different kinds of communities. The kind I’m talking about is based on personal relationships and self-governance. It can only exist on a small scale for the simple reason that most humans can only carry on meaningful relationships with maybe 75 to 100 people at a time. 150 max. Communication starts to break down after that. Consensus becomes impossible (I understand that’s not how parecon works). A community of millions or even thousands is a complete fantasy, since how can you commune with people you’ve never met and know nothing about?

    It is also critical that your community be self-sufficient in the areas of food, shelter, transportation and defense. Otherwise it becomes too easy for outsiders to come in and start bossing everyone around. Just ask the Palestinians. I don’t really know, but I pick that example because I just read an article about that situation on Znet. The author was Norman Finkelstein. Sounds like Israel has them by the balls, no? If they get too uppity or whatever, Isreal just cuts of the water supply or something like that, right? Well, this illustrates perfectly why self-governing communities need to be self-sufficient in terms of food, water and defense.

    I you want to know why rural people are so attached to their guns, this is why. They know perfectly well that people who can’t defend themselves and their boundaries are slaves. On the gun thing, you just need to be really clear that your weapons are for defensive purposes only.

    And it depends what you mean by government interference – if you mean the social whole should have no collective impact on its parts, I think that is not only not necessary for community, it would be almost the antithesis of it. If you mean no interference by some kind of authoritarian state entity that exists above and outside the will of the populace, then of course.

    Conformity to the social norms of a deeply immoral society is no virtue.

    In the world we inhabit, opposing the left out of fear of such train wrecks makes no sense because it means standing pat with arrangements that are horrific. The really worthwhile stance, I would suggest, is to favor changes that bring collective self management, an equitable share of the social product for all, dignity for all, diverse options to choose among for all, and solidarity with others – community – again, for everyone.

    I don’t know what the term “left” means anymore. Best I can tell, it’s just an umbrella term for a whole bunch of different activist groups with different and sometimes conflicting goals. And that’s OK as long as things stay peaceful and boundaries are respected. No harm in talking, right? But to the extent that land reform involves aggression toward peaceful farming communities, then I can guarantee you opposition.

    The initiation of violence against peaceful people is wrong. Period. It matters not what your goals are. But communists have always believed that violence can be used to achieve what they call “the greater good for the greater number”, or some formulation like that. Or as Stalin put it, “You can’t make an omelete without breaking a few eggs.” How many eggs will the communists break next time before they finally see that breaking eggs only results in broken eggs and no omelete?

    A Farmer, A Landowner, A Gun owner, A Father, and A Christian. Peace and God bless.

    #730464
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    > Thank-you for taking the time to answer my questions about Parecon. I really appreciate it.

    No problem…

    > Maybe, I don’t know. Does it all apply to women?

    I am not sure I understand the question. Do you mean does parecon have the same norms and conditions and so on, for women as for men. Of course it does. Why wouldn’t it. It has difference norms, I guess you might say, for household pets, and people, but not for different people.

    > Side issue, but I’ll answer since you asked. This is how traditional people live. Men provide the resources and protection and women provide the eggs. That’s the deal.

    I don’t want to be disrespectful – but the only honest reply is to tell you forthrightly that is total sexist nonsense, and quite vile. Some people arguably still believe such things, but, when people do, it is either defensive self serving rationalization, or they are incredibly ignorant perhaps due to a restricted life or indoctrination. I don’t know how to put it more gently. It is typically one or the other.

    > You’ll find that arrangement in primitive and traditional cultures all over the world. Why?

    You will find it in some places, yes, but not in many indeed most others, not as bad as you seem to celebrate, and often vastly better.

    There was a time when you found cannibalism – there was nothing essential or desirable about that, so that one would say, it is often the case, therefore I support it. Where such grotesque sexism exists, or lesser variants, there are various reasons typically rooted in past history and associated ideologies that have elevated men and subordinated women. I highly recommend that you consult feminist literature on the matter.

    > Because that’s what is best for children. All the statistics show that.

    This too is utter nonsense – truly. I know there are people who believe things like this – and I guess you may be one – but belief is not the same as reason…

    > Children raised in traditional nuclear families do far better on average than children raised by single moms or foster parents.

    Sorry if that offends some people, but that’s just how the biology works.

    It is not at all how the biology works because biology has nearly nothing to do with it. It is, instead, how harshly unbalanced social relations work, when indeed it is even true at all. So – you have said children with two parents do better than children with one – I am not sure there is much evidence, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. For rather obvious reasons, don’t you think? So I would wager if there are any such statistics and kids with two parents typically do better, all other things equal, than those with one, then likewise children with two moms similarly do better, in your sense, and thus on average, controlling for income per parent, than children with one dad, say, or with one mom. As well, how about a single mom who is really wealthy, and a male female couple who are dirt poor, and so on. I assume you are a serious person, able to think about things and I highly recommend you consider carefully your views. They are quite like those of a plantation owner, years back, saying the reason the blacks are owned as slaves is biology…etc. etc.

    > I agree. It’s not good, but I think you overstate the case. I’ve had some lousy jobs, but nothing I would call “horrific.”

    Evaluation always requires some kind of comparison. Compared to a rich and diverse self managed job creating valuable outputs justly enjoyed – almost all work in the U.S. is rather horrific.

    > And it’s not exactly true that people have zero options, especailly in the US. One such option used to be subsistence agriculture, but that door has closed on many people due to artificially high land prices and high property taxes.

    Most people would deem working the land endless hours to subsist pretty horrific compared to having an engaging and empowering set of responsibilities, in agriculature or any other domain, with just and enjoyable income, and so on…

    I really do think we are going to need to stop. I don’t see us making much headway…

    > Since even if your farm is totally self sufficient, where do you get money to pay the tax man? Side note: 97 percent of the United States is unoccupied, so I don’t think there is any land shortage. Barriers to entry, for sure, but peaceful solutions exist for that.

    Again, I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree. Not least because I don’t feel good treating you like a kind of specimen of confused thought. Your views on women, economy, etc. seem to have a certain right wing libertarian consistency, but little relation to reality. For some of them there are perfectly reasonable and meritorious values lurking behind them – such as a desire for control of one’s life – whereas others seem to have no basis other than your identity being wrapped up in the views. In almost all cases, you seem to come at the issues entirely in terms of your own particular circumstances and worries about it (often imaginary ones, sometimes real) but without much attention to anyone else’s well being.

    > I think we’re talking about different kinds of communities. The kind I’m talking about is based on personal relationships and self-governance. It can only exist on a small scale for the simple reason that most humans can only carry on meaningful relationships with maybe 75 to 100 people at a time. 150 max.

    And what does that imply? Nothing other than that you or I might wish to engage with a relatively few people in a relatively deep manner. So? That tells us nothing about people having around them institutions that promote and facility healthy interpersonal relations other than, arguably, such institutions should not force you to try to relate deeply with too many other people…

    Consider a college, say, with 10,000 students. Is it a healthy community, or a horrible concatenation of competing atomistic individuals ready to dump on one another. That is a consequential difference, and figuring out what kinds of relations would need to exist among the people in the college, employees and students, for it to be the former, rather than the latter, is a very worthwhile thing to assess. But pointing out that within that population no one is likely to be close with even 100 other people – is simply an observation that has nearly no important implications.

    > Communication starts to break down after that. Consensus becomes impossible (I understand that’s not how parecon works). A community of millions or even thousands is a complete fantasy, since how can you commune with people you’ve never met and know nothing about?

    I would suggest you consider the hypothetial campus, and ask yourself what would it look like if it had no solidarity among its members, if they were competing and cuthroat, individually or in groups, and so on. Then ask, what would it look like if folks sincerely regarded each other as community mates, and were respectful, and so on. And then, ask, okay what kind of distribution of the conditions of well being would be needed, and of decision making influence, to have the latter result.

    What you are saying here is that communicating with tons of people closely is impossible – which is true – and you want to define a community as as a bunch of people communicating together closely – which is your option – and so then a community can’t be very large. Okay, so? Now let’s have another word – communality – or whatever – for a population that…like the better version of the college above.

    > It is also critical that your community be self-sufficient in the areas of food, shelter, transportation and defense. Otherwise it becomes too easy for outsiders to come in and start bossing everyone around.

    I can’t go on with you, I am afraid. You believe you know quite a lot, with a good deal of certainty, but the problem of our communicating this way, as compared to over a beer say, for a few hours, is that, well, honestly, you don’t know as much as you think and I don’t have time to address every point you might raise, in this format. Consider the college with 10,000 students. By your logic, what – there should be 100 communities of 100 people each, each operating self sufficiently, perhaps each being armed, and so on. The things you are saying are part of a kind of world view, I guess, which you seemingly hold and which probably sustains you in various ways, but its truth value, so to speak, is nearly nil.

    > Just ask the Palestinians. I don’t really know, but I pick that example because I just read an article about that situation on Znet. The author was Norman Finkelstein. Sounds like Israel has them by the balls, no? If they get too uppity or whatever, Isreal just cuts of the water supply or something like that, right? Well, this illustrates perfectly why self-governing communities need to be self-sufficient in terms of food, water and defense.

    There is no point replying, there really isn’t. The example you pick is one where the occupier is simply blowing the occupied to pieces. The idea that everyone has to be self sufficient has no bearing when an occupying force doesn’t give a damn. But more, the idea that everyone should fit in a little community of say 150, and regard everyone beyond that with suspicion and hostility, and be self sufficient rather than interdependent, would render billions of people on this planet, dead. And it would leave the rest with horribly constricted and shortened lives. And it would do all that to gain nothing that could not be had without the sacrifices.

    > If you want to know why rural people are so attached to their guns, this is why. They know perfectly well that people who can’t defend themselves and their boundaries are slaves. On the gun thing, you just need to be really clear that your weapons are for defensive purposes only.

    You have strong views, that in practice are horrible – you worry about dangers that don’t exist, or, when they are real are not reduced by your concerns and preparation to deal with them, but only aggravated, and you ignore, it seems, much more massive and real injustices that the people you celebrate often advocate and, I suspect, many people you support and relate to, endure. I have to tell you, being honest, it is a pretty sad picture.

    >> And it depends what you mean by government interference – if you mean the social whole should have no collective impact on its parts, I think that is not only not necessary for community, it would be almost the antithesis of it. If you mean no interference by some kind of authoritarian state entity that exists above and outside the will of the populace, then of course.

    > Conformity to the social norms of a deeply immoral society is no virtue.

    That is quite correct. But acting in accord with norms that are justly established by self managing governance is something quite different.

    >> In the world we inhabit, opposing the left out of fear of such train wrecks makes no sense because it means standing pat with arrangements that are horrific. The really worthwhile stance, I would suggest, is to favor changes that bring collective self management, an equitable share of the social product for all, dignity for all, diverse options to choose among for all, and solidarity with others – community – again, for everyone.

    > I don’t know what the term “left” means anymore. Best I can tell, it’s just an umbrella term for a whole bunch of different activist groups with different and sometimes conflicting goals. And that’s OK as long as things stay peaceful and boundaries are respected. No harm in talking, right? But to the extent that land reform involves aggression toward peaceful farming communities, then I can guarantee you opposition.

    Now just translate your words into the mouth of a slave plantation owner about abolition… If what you mean by a peaceful farming community is a set of giant farms covering massive terrain, operating amidst a landless population forced to work those lands for little – then the violence is that horribly unequal situation, and redistributing the land to attain more just and fulfilling relations for all is the antidote to that violence.

    > The initiation of violence against peaceful people is wrong. Period.

    Mostly that is right – but there is a problem with the phrase peaceful people – let’s take the guy who requires a wife to cook and clean and so on, who forbids her from working, who beats her routinely, and so on. The guy may think he is peaceful, he is anything but.

    Okay, now lets take a reasonably civilized slave owner, and there were many. He doesn’t rape his slaves, or whip them for fun, and so on and so forth. Perhaps he even gives them birthday presents! But he also makes them work all hours in the field and gives them subsistence, and goes out and finds them if they try to escape. So he is peaceful, in his own view, and actually many in those days would say so. So along comes a slave rebellion – is it wrong? Maybe we have to agree to disagree about this, too.

    > It matters not what your goals are. But communists have always believed that violence can be used to achieve what they call “the greater good for the greater number”, or some formulation like that.

    Actually, you believe that. You just said as much when you said you believe that a land redistribution program, even if it was voted on by a huge majority, say, and there was going to be a fair outcome for all, should be met with violence by landowners. The big issue is who is included in the greater number.

    > Or as Stalin put it, “You can’t make an omelete without breaking a few eggs.” How many eggs will the communists break next time before they finally see that breaking eggs only results in broken eggs and no omelete?

    This is an excellent question to ask, say, the U.S. military, and government behind it, most police deparnments, etc. etc. It is also aptly aimed at certain sectarian left or other ideological groups. But you have to be careful. You are not a pacifist, I would bet. There are such people. And they can use the formulation you raise honestly. I think you probably can’t…

    A Farmer, A Landowner, A Gun owner, A Father, and A Christian. Peace and God bless.

    #732162

    Bernard Moran
    Participant

    Hi Michael,

    I have read Life After Capitalism’, as well as many articles of yours and online versions of your other books, and of all the alternatives to capitalism I have encountered, from David Schweickart to Richard Wolff, it seems to be the most appealing. The one thing I cannot get my head around though, which I think is also the core problem to reimagining the economy, is participatory planning. Is there any possibility that you could develop samples of say, a hypothetical individuals consumption requests, or enlist an interested programmer to develop a simulation of the process. Were this to happen its power of persuasion could be much greater than walls of text. If someone could simulate what it might be like to fill out such a request, or for a company to submit how much work they are willing to do, it may be easier to understand.

    Secondly, I am a recently qualified journalist, but every Summer including this one I work with my father as a plumber. The twelve hour days, poor pay and often repetitive work make parecon very appealing. But they also raise an important issue – In Parecon all planning is done at the beginning of the year, and it seems, unless one has planned for it or requested it, you cannot just run to a store for something as the need spontaneously arises. Yet that is required all the time in this kind of work – we only know how many different fittings and of what variety are needed for a job as we do it, or how much paint is required, or whether the drill we have will be enough to get through a school’s walls for example or we’ll have to call in someone with that specific equipment. Even the jobs themselves are impossible to predict as many involve inherently unpredictable malfunctions.

    Similarly it seems participatory planning doesn’t allow for us to change our minds about our consumption for an entire year. Let’s say we want to take up a sport six months after the planning process, but don’t have the equipment – do we have to wait six months to buy golf clubs? Or we develop an interest in reading where previously we liked collecting cars – do we have to wait 6 months to read those books?

    A less frivolous example would be that of someone becoming pregnant – suddenly bottles, baby clothes and all the rest of it need to be purchased but its 3 months since you sent in your consumption proposal and the pregnancy is unplanned.

    My suspicion is that I have missed something and you’ll explain this very easily, but this is exactly why I would implore you to find different ways to communicate this potentially transformative idea than just walls of text in books, which while effective in communicating to some people, would be enhanced by complimentary mediums. Sample paper work from participatory planning, and a comprehensive (if not complete, that would be too difficult of course) simulation would do a lot for people like me who want to evolve these ideas but have found there isn’t enough of this kind of stuff to get others on board.

    Thank you for all the work you’ve done so far to try and improve the world,

    Warm Regards,
    Bernard Moran.

    #732179
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Hello Bernard,

    I am glad to hear you like Parecon. There is some of what you are requesting online – but only some. In an early book, Political Economy of Participatory Economics we wrote a chapter as a kind of spur, I guess, to programmers. Some contacted us, none followed through. I do think some kind of simulation, like a game, might be useful.

    I don’t think a list of things one consumes would accomplish much, though…

    Planning in the large is done at the beginning of the year, true, but updating occurs all year long, in many ways. Take you as plumbers – actually, you would be part of the plumbing industry. Units would submit estimates, and the sum would be estimates for the whole industry. Your week to week variation only even matters vis a vis your plan if it doesn’t largely average out. You didn’t predict when dying the during the year you would need paint or washers or whatever – only broad totals of types for the year. Even then, actual overall changes for specific units could average out to nothing overall, in the industry writ large – even though being real for you and others – and thus have pretty much no effect on production. On the other hand, the point of your question, I think, your unit changes could be typical, for example, of all units – suppose something breaks down, all over, unexpectedly – and fixing it sums to a lot. Actually, i think I remember using air conditioners and unpected heat waves as an example… Both eventualities, however, are easy enough to handle. The former that averages out requires basically no changes other than in particular allotment of your own budget, and some others, perhaps. The latter changes that accumulate require industries to change their outputs to meet the unexpected needs – if they can – but that is fine, too. This is all discussed in many places – my memory is so terrible it is hard for me to direct you precisely. Try the Q/A on parecon for short treatments, perhaps. Or try the interview I did with Ehrenreich who wanted to pursue similar matters mostly about consumption. And I do think, honestly, that it is also addressed in the books – albeit perhaps not clearly enough to meet your needs.

    Similarly it seems participatory planning doesn’t allow for us to change our minds about our consumption for an entire year. Let’s say we want to take up a sport six months after the planning process, but don’t have the equipment – do we have to wait six months to buy golf clubs?

    No, again, see the ehrenreich interview – though this really is dealt with in many places. Mostly, these type changes also average out. But, sometimes not – a new trend of taste emerges, say, writ large. Okay, just like in any economy, that means more of the productive capacity has to be directed in that manner – Tiger Woods gets hugely popular, unexpectedly lots of people want golf clubs they didn’t want before – of course, this will take up some of their budgets, and they will then dispense with other things. Shifts in output in different industries can include using things like overtime and the like – or literally shirts in labor. This is true in any economy. It can actually be handled better in a planned economy – with accurate valuations – than in markets. In the latter, we just don’t explicitly think about the gargantuan amounts of waste they generate – output that isn’t consumed, or is not used once bought, and so on.

    Or we develop an interest in reading where previously we liked collecting cars – do we have to wait 6 months to read those books?

    Nope. Books are a bad example – since almost no cost to generate more – but say there is a fad for dolls of some type, or a new way to ameliorate back pain, and so on. Less problem than in other economies…actually.

    A less frivolous example would be that of someone becoming pregnant – suddenly bottles, baby clothes and all the rest of it need to be purchased but its 3 months since you sent in your consumption proposal and the pregnancy is unplanned.

    But this kind is for the most part in the planning process, actually. That is, there are lots industries like this – and they can easily predict unplanned/contingent consumption needs pretty closely and produce in accord – and again this is like now. The difference is that you don’t have competing firms producing in hopes of selling, but not selling because there is too much or it isn’t like, or too many sellers hoping to get the buyers…and so on.

    My suspicion is that I have missed something and you’ll explain this very easily, but this is exactly why I would implore you to find different ways to communicate this potentially transformative idea than just walls of text in books, which while effective in communicating to some people, would be enhanced by complimentary mediums.

    I don’t disagree about your main point…

    I think a really good novel, for example, would be a boost. Likewise, an enjoyable but instructive game. Even more beneficial would be actual partial examples. And so on.

    But I can’t leave it at that because I think the truth is also that we should not all accept as inevitable the in my view very vicious trend away from reading and then thinking about and discussing what is read – and I mean texts longer than a tweet. The reality is, there is a smidgen of material on economic visions, not an excess. What is in too little supply is attention span and willingness to utilize it, and our minds more generally, for things that actually matter and require effort.

    Sample paper work from participatory planning, and a comprehensive (if not complete, that would be too difficult of course) simulation would do a lot for people like me who want to evolve these ideas but have found there isn’t enough of this kind of stuff to get others on board.

    #732275

    Bernard Moran
    Participant

    Thanks for the quick reply, I’m sure you’re quite a busy person but you always seem to get back to people quickly and in detail.

    I’m not suggesting that written material is not valuable. It is, I think, a necessity, and personally my main way of engaging with this kind of subject matter. That being said, you are competing so to speak, with capitalism – a system where anyone can easily spring to mind its sights, sounds, and whatever else easily. Almost everyone knows what tax return paperwork looks like and so on, but it is understandably much harder to do that with parecon. Simple questions like how specific are the categories of items we fill in? What different categories are there? If there was a sample form where people could imagine they were doing their consumption requests for the year and fill it in, that would give people a taste, and help fill in gaps in our imagination.

    Take my mother, who is dyslexic – all the books in the world about parecon are totally inaccessible to her. The font and print size are one big stone wall, and even allowing for reading it on a kindle, for example, where you can adjust the font, the vocabulary used is another obstacle. However a short video series, or the game you mentioned, or even sample forms demonstrating what the planning process would be like, could alleviate that. I know very few people are dyslexic but many people learn better visually, or from interacting with something, than they do from reading. Usually I’m better at learning from reading but even I found myself wishing I had another way to get my head around a vision that is so different from how things are. Of course nothing beats practical examples – someone espousing the benefits of cooperatives can point to Mondragon or SEP, but for participatory planning, its much harder to set something like that up without fictional examples to act as bridges.

    A novel is another good idea, just look at the success of Ayn Rand’s awful fiction in spreading her equally awful ideas. But even then the reality is many people are more receptive to ideas through visual and interactive media then they are through reading. Replace capitalism first, then maybe when we have a less superficial and materialistic culture as a result, people will properly appreciate the value of reading.

    Maybe if you tried doing a crowdfunded initiative using something like kickstarter to fund hiring programmers to make such a game, that could work? You could give them the rundown on what parecon is, and they could create an interactive experience to help communicate that to people. I would certainly donate to that, and I’m sure many other people would too. Or you could crowdfund a competition for the best ideas on communicating parecon on a wider and more effective basis – crowdfund the prize money and whoever comes up with the best idea, use that money along with them to implement it.

    Anything that might help should be tried – if it doesn’t work, it can be reassessed and tried again more effectively.

    #732278
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Generally speaking people do and what they are able to and moved to do… For myself, while not contesting what you say about diverse methods of communication – I would be happy to see a lot of people writing first, even a few. There is no excess of that – and if there were a lot more, albeit from many different angles – then perhaps some folks would also become knowledgeable on related issues and tackle the tasks you have in mind.

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