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.
-Bertrand Russell 

Remuneration according to effort and sacrifice (and in some cases need) is rather different than the usual left precept—which 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 doesn’t 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. 


Criticisms among progressives and leftists of paying according to effort and sacrifice are rarely that it is unjust, but that it doesn’t 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 worker’s 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 this—there is no single right way. They might all carefully be given a rating—like 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, we’ll see that it also has the convenient side-effect of making it much easier to measure effort and sacrifice.) 


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. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that two councils produce the same product—organic rolled oats. If the productive resources—unrolled 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 council’s 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 what’s left—effort—and each worker’s 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 pay—the 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 council’s 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 best—the workers themselves or their chosen representatives—then 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 economy—such as balanced job complexes, council democracy, self management, etc. 


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 do—from walks on the beach to swimming, to playing games, taking a nap, etc. Someone says, hold on, I don’t want to prepare meals, or to deal with maintaining shelters, or to do anything else even a little onerous. Should the rest of the island’s 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 can’t work. Do we want to feed that person? Of course we do. These are the norms of parecon, trivially obvious human norms, it seems.