Lost Opportunity

June 5th, 2013

Published on ZNet, by Michael Albert, June 03, 2013.

(This is Albert’s brief conclusion to the Peercommony/Parecon discussion/debate found here. Siefkes didn’t feel a need to add one. Albert thought it might be useful). I had hoped we might arrive at unity in this exchange. My optimism ran like this: Parecon and peercommony – Suppose we assume that they both seek: 

  • all people having appropriate say over economic decisions
  • all people sharing just circumstances and means of attaining well being
  • all people collectively enhancing and celebrating the creativity and diversity of whole populations while enjoying mutual aid
  • and all people accounting responsibly for the environment.

Then the differences between peercommony and parecon would be overwhelmingly about means and not ends unless we differed about the meaning of appropriate say, or just circumstances, I guess, which i did not expect.

Peercommony as Siefkes presented it claims that technological innovations will soon create a context in which people having fair, diverse, and solidaritous results, appropriate say, and ecological sustainability, will be virtually automatic. In this better future, we will all do as we please. Institutions won’t mediate difficult issues of incentives, fairness, and information, because economic tasks and responsibilities become so fulfilling we can just do what comes naturally There are no difficult issues of incentives, fairness, and information. We won’t need overarching norms and limits to propel wonderful results. Indeed, to propose methods of allocation, norms for remuneration, means for decision making, or a desired organization of work, would be superfluous. Economic relations will take care of themselves. We will just need to remove all decision encumbrances that restrict people from taking what they want from a commons and doing whatever they choose for work.

Parecon, in contrast, claims that attaining solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, and ecological stewardship depends on having institutions that provide needed information and suitable contexts so that people will benefit from choices that accord with these favored values and lose from choices that violate them. For advocates of parecon, it is critically important to institutionally address the difficult issues of incentives, fairness, and information because people doing what comes naturally is only consistent with people’s highest aspirations and potentials in a context that makes that the case. We don’t need infinitely blueprinted societies for future people to live worthy and mutually beneficial lives, but we do need basic institutions which make such behavior possible and which preclude contrary behavior as being outside the logic of sensible living. With that in mind, parecon seeks self managing workers and consumers councils, equitable remuneration, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning because these institutions are needed and cannot spontaneously pop into and out of existence as dictated by people’s free daily choices. Rather they will have to be created and maintained if we are to have free daily choices at all.

Why did I think these two markedly different viewpoints could unify? … //

… One thing someone examining this debate might do is check out the International Organization for a Participatory Society – an organization that I suspect includes far more pareconists than any other organization in the world – and look at its breadth of commitments and aims. Then find some similar grouping of most peercommony advocates, and contrast its breath of commitments and aims to those of IOPS.

I think parecon’s advocates – and participatory society’s advocates – are about attaining the same overall benefits for all people. But I am wondering about whether that is true for peercommony. Is its specific constellation of commitments inadvertently skewed by arising from the experience of well off programmers – or is it skewed due to a classist misperception of a large proportion of the population who, it is assumed, will be happy doing the work that is left and having a level of say that is left after those who are assumed to be more into creative work make their self fulfilling choices? Or maybe it isn’t skewed at all. I don’t know.

What I do know is, if we desire that each person’s freedom should not restrict other people being just as free, and if we desire that each person’s combined balance of consumption and of effort in creating social product shouldn’t restrict each other person’s combined share of output and effort in creating social product, and if we desire that each person’s access to empowering tasks shouldn’t exceed other people’s access to empowering tasks, then we will arrive at a classless economy with just allocations of circumstances, influence, and material and social benefits. I think parecon would attain this. I think peercommony, even if it was possible to establish – which, due to its lack of allocative means I think it is not -  would not attain this. If that is correct, does peercommony miss the aim due to mere error, a misunderstanding, or is peercommony not about that aim in the first place, or perhaps not even about a full economy at all?
(full text).

Links:

Bangladesh’s Exploitation Economy, on Znet (first on english.Le Monde Diplomatique)), by Olivier Cyran, June 03, 2013;

National Socialist Underground: Related articles, background features and opinions about this topic, on Spiegel Online International.

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