Answering a Comment

In general, I cannot pledge I will relate to all comments, even all questions, posted to the blogs. There is only so much time available. However….

One of the comments I found said I “seem to start with a basic split between Producers and Consumers which requires an economic system to relate the two.” Actually, I think production and consumption are not really different things, abstractly. They both take inputs and yield outputs. We usefully call one production because the outputs are generally for others. We call the other consumption, because the outputs (increased pleasure, or whatever) are generally for ourselves. This differentiation has relevance to us, as people, regarding our choices, etc.

Yes, we have to match up what is produced and what is consumed — any economy does. This is a truism. you can’t consume what isn’t there. You shouldn’t produce what no one wants.

The questioner says, “There seems little recognition that consumers and producers are the same people and that a fundamental quality of life decision is how much we should split off productive work from the rest of our lives as well as what we need and desire to consume.”

Well, this isn’t the case. In fact, in parecon one of the major decisions is how much work versus how much leisure, and each person is making this decision in light of their feelings about income/work and about consumption/leisure and about the relative impact of each on the other for socieyt and for themselves. The connection is obvious in that our income for consuming is determined by our duration and intensity of work at a balanced job complex.

Then the person says: “Should we not think in terms of ‘balanced living complexes’and use your democratic principles and paritcipative planning in living units and community groups which can decide to produce an appropriate proportion of ‘goods’i n integrated living and working groups?”

I do think the ideas and values of parecon translate pretty well, though not as the only ones needed, to thinking about community life, polity, family, etc. etc. But no, I do not think it makes sense to conceive of economy as people only producing for themselves, and doing so in relatively small numbers. My community is where what I consume is produced is an extremely impoverishing goal with no offsetting benefits that I can see. Production is often for other people than those doing the producing…of course…who in turn consume things produced by people other than themselves.

Then the person writes: “Although you show considerable awareness of ecological issues, you do not seem to apply the principle of proportionality in decision making to the non human world.” True enough. That is, I do not expect squirrels or parrots (I am partial to the latter) to have a say in decisions. In this case, people will have to exhibit what is called, I think, stewardship…speaking for the others. One type choice will be about impact on people of acts bearing on other species. PArecon incorporates that directly. Another type choice will be about impact on other species regardless of effects on people. That comes from outside parecon but can be accommodated by it.

The person writes: “In reality, non human species are most affected by our economic decisions and therefore should have a proportionate voice.” Well, again, they can have no voice since they have no means to express a preference, leaving us no choice but to do it for them. But, also, I for one don’t believe in proportionality here, though I have no interest in debating that issue — others might wish to. So, when humanity advocates getting rid of smallpox it is certainly the case that small pox organisms are dramatically affected. This doesn’t bother me.

The commentator writes: “I wonder if you are familiar with John Seed and the Council of all beings? The voice of the non human world needs to be part of participatory planning.” No, I am not familiar. Again, other organisms have no means to impact decisions, to express a preference, and in most cases to even have a preference — leaving it for humans to act o their behalf, or not. Parecon is perfectly capable of abiding decisions made ina political arena that, for example, we should not harm turtles or we should obliterate smallpox, and the decsions are beyond economic…

And the commenter says…”I find it very difficult to imagine appropriate transitional structures when moving to a ‘parecon’ society unless we start from grass roots local living communities who are relatively self sufficient and therefore can resist the corrupting influences of having to participate in our present market system to survive. You are fairly dismissive of bioregionalism, but it seems to me that bioregional communities which then network with each other are the best hope for a transition to a pareconish society?”

Well, I have nothing against people trying to form and develop pareconish institutions, whether communities or workpalces. Indeed, I think it is a very good thing to do, and have worked on it myself, as a learning experience, as a model, perhaps as a base of power, and so on. But it is also the case that most of the population works and lives in different contexts and that struggles there are key to raising consciousness as well as building infrastructure that melts into the new society in all its aspects. If creating South End Press as a pareconish workplace is good — with a handful of employees — why isn’t winning changes in the strucutre of GM good, building workplace councils there, and so on, also good. It is, in my view.

I don’t think any of this has anything to do with bioregionalism per se…

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