2. Q&A: Remuneration
All who are not lunatics are agreed about certain
things. That it is better to be alive than dead,
better to be adequately fed than starved, better
to be free than a slave. [More] humankind has
become so much one family that we cannot insure
our own prosperity except by insuring that of
everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you
must resign yourself to seeing others also happy.
Remuneration according to effort and sacrifice (and in some cases need) is rather different than the usual left preceptwhich is remuneration according to contribution to the social product. The latter pays a large person and a small person cutting cane by the size of the piles they accumulate. The former pays a large person and a small person cutting cane for the amount of time they are working (assuming they are both working comparably hard). This also goes for a person who has learned how to cut well and one who doesnt have the same competence. For the same hardship and effort, even with different size piles cut, you get the same pay.
Now suppose you have a cushy job and I have a horribly onerous one. We both work a full day, at the rate each job calls for. I would be paid more because of more hardship (and probably more effort). Thus if there is no equity of circumstance but there is pay according to effort and sacrifice, pay makes up for inequity of circumstance. If there is real equity of circumstance, then pay will be a function of time worked except for modest variation in effort.
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Criticisms among progressives and leftists of paying according to effort and sacrifice are rarely that it is unjust, but that it doesnt provide a proper incentive system to get the best overall outcomes. Critics admit parecon has just work and remuneration, but assert that the total produced will drop drastically with the gain in justice. But this is typical economic dogma that falls apart under even modest scrutiny...
A good economy has to perform a somewhat delicate balancing act if it is to promote both productive efficiency and also social justice. It has to maximize socially valuable production and at the same time it has to assure that individual workers compensation is based on effort and sacrifice rather than rewarding innate talent, luck, good-looks, etc. A participatory economy would do this in a two-step process:
Step 1: Within the workplace each workers degree of effort is assessed by those who are in the best position to know and most fairly acknowledge it. Workers can choose lots of approaches for thisthere is no single right way. They might all carefully be given a ratinglike a school grade of 0%-100%, with careful gradations. At another workplace, average effort may be the assumed default, and deviations from it registered only in special cases, and with only a few grades of rating. In any event, rating is done with the understanding that the distribution of workers effort in the workplace is accurately reflected in the distribution of ratings. (When we discuss balancing job complexes in and between workplaces to eliminate class division and create conditions for real self management, well see that it also has the convenient side-effect of making it much easier to measure effort and sacrifice.)
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Step 2: Among workplaces, we also need to regulate the total compensation one workplace receives with what others receive. In effect, this sets an objective standard for the assignment of effort ratings. Lets say for the sake of simplicity that two councils produce the same productorganic rolled oats. If the productive resourcesunrolled oats, plant, machinery, human talent, etc. and effort in each workplace is the same, then the operative assumption is that output will be the same (within a tolerable margin of error). It is the job of some office or section of the economy to keep an accurate inventory of each councils productive resources, including the relevant abilities of the workers themselves. Using this approach, if council A has 20% better productive resources than council B (holding effort constant), A is expected to produce 20% more rolled oats. Similarly, each council has a quota to meet which is set by the overall planning process, in which, of course, it participates proportionately, as we will see in later chapters. If a council makes 80% of the average, then since differences in productive resources have already been accounted for, the under-performance is attributable to whats lefteffortand each workers rating is multiplied by 0.8. If a council makes 120% of its adjusted expected output the reason must be more exertion, more effort, so the worker gets more paythe rating is multiplied by 1.2. This is a possible approach. There are many others. Different industries, much less different economies, can vary in this and other aspects, of course. A parecon can choose among possibilities that achieve desired outcomes depending on its priorities and on its assessment of the worth of different ways of operating.
Depending on what method is in place, yes, I suppose there could be a lot of belly-aching when it came time to review a councils productive resources and establish its output. But if the criteria for assigning these goals were determined by the people within a sector of the economy who knew it bestthe workers themselves or their chosen representativesthen it would be a democratic and defensible process.
And again, the above is only one approach, not a single correct approach. A parecon might come up with other options, as might different firms and sectors within a parecon. For example, different workplaces might have more relaxed or more demanding attitudes about trying to make remuneration precisely reflect a very detailed accounting, or might (this is my personal expectation) just have it default according to hours worked, ignoring minor variations in effort in balanced job complexes, and appending ratings deviations from average only in special cases. What is accepted throughout every participatory economy, however, is the remunerative norm and the need to implement it consistently with all other defining norms of the economysuch as balanced job complexes, council democracy, self management, etc.
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None, if the poetry is only for you. That is, if you choose to do things that have no benefit for others , then you are saying that society should carry you because you say it ought to. There is no moral reason for that. It is called freeloading.
Think of fifty people marooned on an island. They have to make do by their labors. There is a lot of work to get done. There are also, however, fun things to dofrom walks on the beach to swimming, to playing games, taking a nap, etc. Someone says, hold on, I dont want to prepare meals, or to deal with maintaining shelters, or to do anything else even a little onerous. Should the rest of the islands citizens feed that person with their labors? No, of course not. Now suppose they are there by virtue of a shipwreck and one person was hurt badly and cant work. Do we want to feed that person? Of course we do. These are the norms of parecon, trivially obvious human norms, it seems.
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There are some problems of communication feeding this question, I think, and then some real issues.
First, nothing in a parecon can be called forced labor in any sensible interpretation of these words. Second, because even after clarifying the above an issue still remains, the link between effort and sacrifice and income is a bit more subtle than you are crediting, and sundering that link has diverse implications that you are missing.
In general, in any economy, if we look at a years outcomes retrospectively we can see that a certain total volume of stuff was produced. More, the total output had a certain make up of so much of this and so much of that, was distributed to the population with so much going here and so much going there, and was produced in the first place by people doing so much labor, under such and such conditions of work, with so and so levels of impact on their circumstances.
Okayso, in any economy we can ask how from all the possibilities that one could imagine occurring, does this one that actually occurred get picked? The answer is always going to involve some combination of the dynamics of the economy and the choices of whichever actors are able to impact outcomes.
The economic visionary, therefore, has to come up with economic institutions that yield desired human, social, personal, and material outcomes in ways that persist over time and meet his or her moral requirements. Now,shortcutting to the issue in contention, supposing we have for an economy (as with any parecon) the following, among other norms:
1) Everyone receives a socially average income of items and services of their choosing, and those who have special needs for more (such as medicine) get that tooall by right, as citizens.
2) Everyone who is able (but not those who arent) has a responsibility to work at a socially average job complex producing socially valued outputs of his or her choosing, for a socially average length of time each month. However, if one wishes to, and if ones work situations allow for it, one can work some overtime for proportionately more than the socially average income, or somewhat less than the social average, for proportionately less than the socially average income.
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3) The total volume produced, and its composition of different items, and the actual tasks and procedures undertaken, and so on and so forth, are decided via participatory planning (still to be described).
That is parecon. And now the question that we are discussing arises, should we add another normfor example:
4) Anyone can decide for whatever reason to work less than the social average by any amount they might choose, but still receive the socially average income.
4a) There is some income deemed living and anyone who wishes to, and is able, can decide not to work at all and nonetheless receive this living income by right.
Well, if we are going to decide whether to add (4) or (4a) or some other option to receive more than the effort and sacrifice you expend in work warrants, we have to determine what are the gains and losses of the proposed change. And to do that properly, we have to ask not only about one aspect or twofor example does the person who works less and gets the same amount as if they worked more feel better, but about all sides of the situation including effects on others, on social relations, on the quality of choices made in participatory planning and their trajectory, etc.
Thus, we have to state our values and ask if the proposed change, via the impact it has on all actors and on production, allocation, and consumption, and via its impact on the economys institutions, furthers these values or not.
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Now the values behind parecon (and someone might prefer some other ones, of course) are solidarity, equity (material and circumstantial), participatory self-management, and diversity. So the question becomes, does adding rule (4) or (4a) give us better results for one or more of these values via its impact on distribution, consumption, decision making, or the make up of the social product? And does it have any deleterious effects that offset these gains? And which weighs more?
I will tell you that when I think about this, I still think the answer is no, this kind of change not only doesnt make things better, it makes things worse, on numerous counts. The implications of (4) or (4a) on equity are to reduce it by rewarding sloth, The implications for solidarity are to reduce it, by creating resentment. The implications for participatory self-management are to diminish it, by giving non-workers more say than they should have. And the implications for diversity are not clear, at least to me. These assessments become evident the minute we pay attention not only to obvious immediate implicationsthat some people dont do work they prefer to avoid but get some income for it anyhowbut also its impact on the broader relations among actors.
Finally, one more point. We can think about adding a rule like (4a) at the outset, or we can think about doing it after a parecon has been in existence, without the rule, for a few generations. This is not the same, by a long shot. In the former case, we have to ask what the implications of adding the rule are for the way that different existent constituencies/classes (in present society) would view the goal, and would try to adapt it as it is being created. In the latter case, these constituencies/classes no longer exist.
In a capitalist economy the owner of each firm is pressured by their need to maximize profits to reduce payments to the workforce as much as possible, while extracting as much labor as they can from that same workforce. There are endless variations on how they do thislengthening the work day, speeding up the pace of work, reducing the cost of conditions by spending less on comfort, safety, etc., fragmenting workers to make all the above possible, and also bypassing costs for health care, paid vacation, and other benefits whenever they can. One trick for accomplishing all this is to hire workers part time or in other reduced capacities to escape norms and laws that protect full time employees.
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In a parecon, of course, none of this exists. There is no owner of a firm. No one seeks profits. There is no market-based or other pressure to exploit labor directly or indirectlybut, to see this we have to get a fuller picture of the whole system, in coming chapters.