Parecon: hope after capitalism after all

Discussion in 'Politics & Current Events' started by Mel Brennan, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. GringoTex

    GringoTex Member

    Aug 22, 2001
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    This is ridiculous. If someone wants to put forth a revolutionary economic model, that's fine, but this reads like a template for some kind of satirical "feel good business camp." It's obvious that the author has no clue or experience when it comes to running a business or managing a workforce. The theory also operates under the very condescending, elitist presumption that sweeping floors for a living lacks dignity. The janitor isn't beaten down because he sweeps floors for a living. He's beaten down because sweeping floors does not guarantee good healthcare for his family, good education for his kids, and a safe neighborhood to live in.
     
  2. entropy

    entropy Member

    Aug 31, 2000
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    Holy crap, I had Hahnel for an economics prof as an undergrad. He tried to pimp this "participatory economics" garbage on a bunch of unsuspecting freshmen in a macroeconomics class. Thankfully, it didn't seemed to catch on with most.
     
  3. Karl K

    Karl K Member

    Oct 25, 1999
    Suburban Chicago
    "We have explained why markets are incompatible with equity and systematically destructive of solidarity. We have explained why market economies will continue to destroy the environment, and why a radical view of social life implies that external effects are the rule rather than the exception, which means markets generally misestimate social costs and benefits and misallocate scarce productive resources.

    What a load of dung!

    There's a reason why economists from the Univ. of Chicago school win Nobel prizes, and guys like these never do, and never will. At the U of C, they study what happens in the real world.

    In contrast, these guys live in fantasy-land. This is meaningless theoretical claptrap, that has no bearing on the reality of economic systems in the 21st century. It is intellectual masturbation of the lowest kind.
     
  4. mannyfreshstunna

    mannyfreshstunna New Member

    Feb 7, 2003
    Naperville, no less
    Boulderdash even.
     
  5. champmanager

    champmanager Member

    Dec 13, 2001
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    Hmm. And what, exactly, is fantasylandish about capitalism destroying the environment, underestimating social costs, or misallocating resources? I'm sure there are plenty of fantastic elements in the rest of the essay, but if there are, you missed 'em.
    If the 11 million dollar bra I saw on tv last night isn't a gross misallocation of resources, I don't know what is, and I don't think it was made in Cuba.
     
  6. Norsk Troll

    Norsk Troll Member+

    Sep 7, 2000
    Central NJ
    I'm sorry, entropy. Did you say something? I was ... um ... distracted by something else in your post. [​IMG]
     
  7. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

    Paris Saint Germain
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    I know it was you, ModFather (gives kiss of death)...you broke my heart...

    You don't have a history of "style over substance" arguments; indeed, your submission of the discourse as "feel good" is, to me, irrelevant. The question is, "is it right?" Is it an option? Well, that's two questions, but you get my meanin'...

    Additionally, the quote you provide doesn't come anywhere near an elitist presumption. The point encompassed might be obvious, or even trite, but it is neither elite nor presumptive of anything. Indeed, IMHO it would not be arguable - i.e., it would be plain fact to all but the Ians, alex-es, and freshfishes of the world - that "If some people sweep floors all week, year in and year out, while others review new technological options and attend planning meetings all week, year in and year out," it is entirely reasonable to submit that the people engaged in reviewing technologies an attending the planning would have a functional participation that is more robust than those who only swept floors. The pejorative connotation of a floor sweeper is yours, not the authors...

    When you read the following:
    "do we want an economy that implements the maxim “to each according to the value of his or her personal contribution” or an economy that obeys the maxim “to each according to his or her effort?”

    Do we want a few to conceive and coordinate the work of the many? Or do we want everyone to have the opportunity to participate in economic decision making to the degree they are affected by the outcome? In other words, do we want to continue to organize work hierarchically, or do we want job complexes balanced for empowerment?

    Do we want a structure for expressing preferences that is biased in favor of individual consumption over social consumption? Or do we want to it to be as easy to register preferences for social as individual consumption? In other words, do we want markets or nested federations of consumer councils?

    Do we want economic decisions to be determined by competition between groups pitted against one another for their well being and survival? Or do we want to plan our joint endeavors democratically, equitably, and efficiently? In other words, do we want to abdicate economic decision making to the market place or do we want to embrace the possibility of participatory planning?"


    to me, that's authentically discussable...iy may not be Univ. of Chicago economics, but then, where has Univ. of Chicago economics theory gotten us? Here? Here is not a good place to be even IF you are fully engaged in the media-consumerism-industrial complex...if you are not, then its a little like Hell, brought to you by Budweiser and Mattel.
     
  8. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

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    lol; indeed.
     
  9. GringoTex

    GringoTex Member

    Aug 22, 2001
    1301 miles de Texas
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    Tottenham Hotspur FC
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    No, it's not: "In hierarchical economies most jobs, contain a number of similar, relatively undesirable, and relatively unempowering tasks."

    The authors make the assumption that sweeping floors is undesirable, because the authors themselves can't bear the idea of sweeping floors. This isn't economic theory; it's psychological projection.

    I don't disagree with this. But now we're talking about business management models, not economic models. And what concerns me most is not that the floor sweeper is satisifed with his job. That's his own problem. What concerns me is that he is fairly compensated for his job. And that's the beauty of labor unions.
     
  10. GringoTex

    GringoTex Member

    Aug 22, 2001
    1301 miles de Texas
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    That's my job. I'm the Arch Angel of liberal realism.
     
  11. BenReilly

    BenReilly New Member

    Apr 8, 2002


    Perhaps, but should these ideas gain currency, we can thank the modern Republican party and their extremist form of crony capitalism. Republicans would be wise to remember that the pendulum swings.
     
  12. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

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    Fair enough.
     
  13. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

    Paris Saint Germain
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    Parecon Query and Reply

    by Michael Albert; November 07, 2003


    Below are ten frequently asked questions that I try to succinctly answer.

    1. Why do we need vision at all? Why should we worry about the shape of a future society? Isn't it sufficient to reject current injustice?

    People throughout society know that activists want to escape contemporary oppressions. They know we seek short run aims like higher wages or an end to a war or the IMF. But they think that short of fundamental change what all our fighting yields will be quickly unraveled. People doubt that activism will lead somewhere desirable and ask us our long term vision because without a destination they find our calls to action unconvincing. They don't want to blow against the wind.

    I like Lewis Carroll's answer to your question in Alice in Wonderland. "One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don't know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn't matter."

    We need vision for hope, for insight, and for direction.


    2. But doesn't proposing social vision overstep our possible knowledge? And doesn't social vision have to emerge from broad constituencies with lots of experience? What sense can it make for an individual or even a bunch of folks to be pursuing creating vision?

    Trying to foresee every detail of a future society would be seeking useless, pointless, and unattainable knowledge, I agree. But we don't need to know contingent future details. We just need to know what key institutions we like and why they would work well for us.

    Yes, social vision has to incorporate the ideas of many people with many backgrounds and much experience. Thus we need to have ever wider constituencies test and refine social vision. If lone individuals or small groups initially offer some vision, the aim is that larger groups take it up, and then whole movements.

    Is it too soon to undertake, or reinvigorate, vision building? Not at all. We have centuries of highly relevant experiences by diverse constituencies to consult. Why can't people call upon all that, and on their own personal histories as well, to propose vision that is in turn publicly refined and improved? It isn't too soon to do any of that.


    3. But won't having vision close us off to new possibilities and make us sectarian? Won't we advocate what we propose so tenaciously that we then miss new insights? Isn't a blueprint more than we need?

    You are right that we can become tied dyed or blue jean-ed puppets to political lines scarcely less regimented than gray flannel corporate puppets mindlessly pursuing market shares. But the solution to having sectarian vision isn't to have no vision- just like the solution to having callous sex or unhealthy food isn't having no sex or no food.

    The solution to being sectarian is to have our attitude to a favored vision be flexible and learning-oriented. The problem of mindlessly defending views unto death arises when we feel that being flexible about our views denies our integrity. We should instead see our integrity as residing in our openness.

    Analyzing capitalist economics, or parliamentary democracy, or racism, or sexism as they are now doesn't mean detailing and explaining every nook and cranny of these realms. It means identifying broad defining features and explaining their properties and implications. Vision is similar. We don't need nor can we remotely enumerate every detail that could come into being. A blueprint of a new society is absurd. But we can describe possible defining institutions and investigate their broad implications and compare these implications to our aspirations to decide which to advocate.


    4. Why economics? What about everything else? Doesn't pursuit of economic vision slight the rest?

    We need economic hope, orientation, and direction, so we should produce economic vision. But other aspects of society such as polity, culture, family life and kin relations are also important, and we should produce vision for these as well.

    I work on economics. Someone else might work on kinship, another person on culture, and another person on polity. Pursuing economic vision no more slights pursuing cultural, political, or kinship vision than pursuing any of those would slight economics.


    5. What's so bad about capitalism?

    Capitalism produces Herculean disparities of income and wealth. It pits people against one another rather than producing mutual accord. It relegates most people to obedience rather than facilitating people controlling their own lives.

    Capitalism isolates and alienates rather than generating respect and sympathy. It causes war, rather than producing peace.

    In capitalism, even where there is great abundance many people live in cardboard boxes. Citizens roam streets with their limbs smashed and minds corralled.

    Capitalism creates subservience and indignity, damage and death. All that is good in people's lives arises against the logic of market madness. What is bad is business as usual. Love, comradeship, artistry, and dignity become profit opportunities. Nothing is sacred. Everything is commercialized. People starve. Money doesn't talk, it swears.

    Evaluated by humane standards not only is almost everything broken, we all know it is broken, and we have to get on with our lives anyhow. Capitalism is a thug's economy, a heartless economy, a base and vile and largely boring economy. It is the antithesis of human fulfillment and development. It mocks equity and justice. It enshrines greed.

    Capitalism sucks. Does anyone seriously want to contest that?


    6. But why not advocate an economic vision we already have? Why not social democracy? Why not socialism? Why not Anarchism? Why not bioregionalism? Why do we need a whole new logic, a new name?

    It would be easier to advocate a familiar model, but I find them seriously flawed.

    Social democracy is capitalism with workers and what I call coordinators, including managers, professionals, etc., made more powerful compared to capitalists. This realignment of bargaining power tempers many of the worst flaws of the system, yes, but it doesn't eliminate those flaws, and the flaws, even reduced in impact, are quite horrible.

    Social democracy not only doesn't arrive at entirely new relations, its modest gains are highly unstable, dissipating whenever capitalists regain lost power. Unless we seek only stopgap reductions of horrors, we shouldn't advocate social democracy.

    Socialism is obscure. For some people socialism just means "good economy," or "classless economy," or "economy with justice and equity," or "economy with self management." Okay, that's fine. I want those virtues in a vision, of course. But I believe using the label socialism this way confuses reality because every instance of socialism that has ever existed, and virtually every formulation of socialism as a vision, has attributes that trample these desired virtues.

    In actual practice, and as a seriously specified model, socialism means public or state ownership of productive property, plus markets or central planning, plus corporate divisions of labor. No one who proposes a model called socialism significantly deviates from these features, so socialism, as it is actually specified and enacted, is a class divided economy that has inequality and subordination for most of its actors.

    The group that I call the coordinator class rises to ruling status in socialism. Some of the ills of capitalism are transcended, but new flaws emerge and they are far too damning for me to advocate this aim. Socialism says that institutions a, b, and c are central, and I reject institutions b, and c and have a markedly different approach to a, as well. What sense would it make for me to use the label socialist for what I advocate?

    Many socialists will say, however -- wait a minute, we think parecon is socialism. We too reject those vile systems that have existed historically and that are touted in dingy old textbooks. Okay, if such people agree that markets and central planning and corporate divisions of labor, and remuneration for output are all violations of our aspirations and favor pareconish alternatives, then we agree on substance and I only add that I don't think we should use terms that needlessly confuse virtually everyone else.

    Anarchism is fine when it is confined to meaning people running their own lives or enjoying classlessness. But beyond that I think there is no anarchist proposed system of institutions to accomplish production, consumption, and especially allocation in accord with anti authoritarian aspirations. There is a sense, indeed, in which participatory economics is arguably an anarchist economic vision, but if anarchists come to agree on this, I think using the more indicative label is important to add clarity that there is something new proposed.

    Bioregionalism seems to me to be a kind of injunction that different locales should be as economically self sufficient as possible - as a virtue unto itself. I don't understand the logic behind this injunction or what its virtue is. It intends to combat violations of ecology - I realize -- which is important to do, of course. But while sometimes it makes sense from the point of view of minimizing pollution and preserving non-renewable resources to produce locally for local use - other times it is better to have larger scale production and then ship the results to diverse places, even regarding pollution and frugal use of resources, much less regarding equitable access to desirable outputs.

    A good economy, a Green economy, should make the choice about what scale firms should be, and whether there should be local, regional, or even national production, not in some fixed and unyielding way, but as conditions and accurate assessments warrant. I think this impetus of ecological activists worried about self sufficiency and scale is in fact implemented properly by parecon and not by bioregionalism.


    7. Okay, so what are the institutional features of participatory economics?

    There is no ownership of means of production. Or, if you prefer, in the U.S. for example, we all would own roughly one three hundred millionth of each factory, mine, etc., but our ownership would have no implications for our influence or our income at all.

    In other words, in a parecon, I own my shirt, my bicycle, etc., but I don't own the place where I work. The right to influence decisions about the place where I work derives from being affected by those decisions, not via ownership.

    Beyond new property relations, workers and consumers are organized into councils for direct input into economic life, and these councils apportion decision making influence over choices in proportion as the choices impact people. If you will be more affected, you will get more say. If you will be less affected, you will get less say. This holds across the whole economy.

    The division of labor inside and among workplaces is changed to what are called balanced job complexes. Each job has a mix of tasks and responsibilities that in sum convey average empowerment and quality of life implications. Instead of 20% of the working populace monopolizing all the empowering tasks and 80% having only rote and obedient tasks, in a parecon all who work have a mix of tasks that, on average, leaves each person equally empowered by their work.

    There is still surgery and other skilled and knowledge-based and otherwise empowering work in a parecon, of course, and people still learn to do these complex labors. But surgeons clean or answer phones, as well doing operations. There is still drudge work, dangerous work, boring work, just as there is still complex and empowering and enervating work. People do the nasty labors and the empowering labors in a mix with an overall quality of life and empowerment balance.

    Parecon's norm of remuneration, or payment, is for effort and sacrifice at socially valued work. In parecon there is no income for owning property, or for bargaining power, or for output. If a person works longer he gets more. If a person works harder she gets more. If a person happened to do, for some reason, more onerous or otherwise harsh labor, he or she would get more to offset that sacrifice.

    Allocation determines what is produced, in what quantities, distributed to whom, and with what valuations. In a parecon it is accomplished by what is called participatory planning. This is a system of decentralized cooperative negotiation that arrives at relative valuations (or prices) that reflect true social costs and benefits which in turn inform decisions about actual inputs and outputs. Influence from each actor is in proportion as he or she is affected by the choices.

    Naturally the above is a ridiculously succinct sketch. The point is, however, that the key institutions of parecon are designed so that there is no capitalist class and no coordinator class, but, instead, there are people who work and consume and who all enjoy the same opportunities and same broad conditions, even as they each do their own special labors - all without class division or class rule.


    8. Do these new institutions have new properties?

    The new institutions produce solidarity among actors. Each actor, to get ahead, has to actually pay attention to the well being of others, rather than seeking to trample others well being. Instead of nice guys finishing last, even nasty guys have to worry about the social good as a means to attain private advance.

    The new institutions produce equity. Each actor receives a share of the social output in accord with the effort and sacrifice he or she expends to help produce that output. There are no huge nor even dramatic differentials in income and wealth. You earn more only if you work longer, or harder, or at more onerous labors. And the average quality of each person's job improves only as the average balanced job complex improves for everyone.

    The new institutions produce diversity. They honor and seek varied solutions and options by abiding the wills of the whole populace rather than only elite sectors.

    The new institutions produce self management. They accord to each actor, whether in workplaces, in consumer units, or via the allocation system, appropriate influences over each decision, from the smallest personal choices to the largest collective projects - and everything in between.

    The new institutions generate classlessness, sustainability, and efficient use of assets - both human and material - to meet needs and develop potentials. Each actor is free to pursue and fulfill their economic needs consistently with every other actor being able to do likewise.


    9. Why should we believe parecon would actually work as you claim? What should people be doing about it, on hearing of this vision?

    You shouldn't believe claims about parecon just on my say so, of course. You would need to look at the descriptions and associated arguments in more detail and make assessments based on evidence offered and also based on your own experiences and understandings.

    If someone claims there is a cure for cancer, you should hope it is true. If the claim seems coherent, if it comes from sources who are serious and sober, if it begins to be challenged and debated and it holds up well, if it has some tests that seem to bear it out - you should start to assess the claim more thoroughly.

    The claim about a new type economy is different than a claim about a cancer cure, however, in that a cancer cure will be very highly technical. To personally investigate its merits will require intense familiarity with all kinds of scientific methods, concepts, and evidence. Most of us will have to rely largely on highly trained people who focus very intently on microbiology and report their findings to us.

    But with economic vision the visionary claim is about conditions we daily experience. We may initially hear claims from individuals who have spent more time on the topic, sure, but there is no huge learning curve to ourselves attaining valid and insightful opinions. Understanding parecon doesn't require massive training, nor does understanding it require extreme focus. If the parecon vision is presented in plain language, anyone interested in comprehending its properties and assessing their merits should with some modest effort be able to do so.

    I think people who hear about the model - via interviews or short articles or whatever -- should hope that parecon is a real, viable, and worthy alternative to capitalism and to market and centrally planned socialism. Some will hopefully already feel like, hey, I am going to examine the full presentation and its claims more fully myself. I am going to assess them and perhaps debate them and refine them. If the first folks doing all that become advocates, more folks will participate as well.


    10. Supposing we thought parecon would work, what difference would it make? We can't win a whole new economy anytime soon - so what difference does it make if we advocate parecon or not?

    First, it would give us a positive orientation and provide us a means to overcome cynicism, not only in the broad public, but in ourselves as well. But I think you are asking how it would impact our work.

    Our activist choices need to not only oppose what is, but to build the consciousness, commitment, and infrastructure of what we desire to attain. In that light, supporting parecon would engender endless implications for how we talk about injustices and how we describe what we favor, as well as for how we organize ourselves.

    For example, there would no longer be tooth and nail arguments about consensus versus fifty percent rule, etc. Rather, leftists would see that the guiding principle for decision making is self management, and that the different modalities of decision making and communication that people can choose among are just tools for attaining self management - and that we should use different tools in different contexts.

    Having parecon as a shared economic goal would point us toward demands that increase participation in allocation, and toward income demands that move toward remunerating effort and sacrifice. It would propel us toward building worker and consumer councils.

    In time, we would no more tolerate movement organizations that embodied corporate and market oriented norms than ones that tolerate sexist or racist norms. Our organizations would come to have remuneration for effort and sacrifice not for the relative power or credentials that activists have, nor for their productivity. And our organizations would come to have self managed decision making methods and, in particular, balanced job complexes rather than divisions of labor typically found in corporations. These would be immense changes in our values and behaviors, even just regarding these few quick examples. So, as noted earlier, the reason we need vision is not just to overcome cynicism, though that is very important, but also to provide insights that inform our choices now.

    There must be some way out of here -but it is very important that the way out of here that we choose doesn't lead us in a circle back to where we started, or lead us to a new system that is still a dungeon, even if it has new jailers. Parecon will help on all these counts, I hope.
     
  14. Michael Russ

    Michael Russ Member

    Jun 11, 2002
    Buffalo, NY
    Even if true, so what?

    Some people choose to dedicate more of their time and energy and take the risks necessary to create economic enrichment, wile others may not feel so inclined. Those are choices they make, and I would argue that many "rich" people are very unhappy and many "poor" people are very happy.

    Bolgna. Succesfull capitalists must run their business based on mutual accord within their company or they are destined to failure. In addition, competition between capitalists guarantees that capitalists continue to become more productive, thus enriching the entire society.

    More Bologna. It gives people complete control over their lives, as opposed to some planned economy, where bureaucrats decide everything.

    What tripe. Succesfull capitalists realize that they have to understand both their employees and their customers in order to be succesfull.

    This is such crap it doesn't even merit a response.

    Yes better the state force these people into state sponsored "medical" facilities.

    With capitalism comes freedom. Unfortunately all people are not prepared to handle such freedom. that is why most people agree their is also a roll for the government to care for those who are incapable of caring for themselves.

    Yes, if it weren't for capitalism, we would all live forever!

    Why are market's madness? Do you know of any better way to determine the real desires of the population than free markets?

    This is just plane tripe. It has nothing to do with the real world. It just basically assumes capitalist are "bad" people. there is absolutely no reason that these things that you hold dear could not continue to be held dear by capitalists.

    It is not. It Enshrines Freedom. And when you allow freedom, some people are free to be greedy. Others are free to follow their love for art or poetry and others will support them in that endeavor if they share that love.

    Yes.

    Capitalism is flawed, but what really sucks is anything that would completely replace it.
     
  15. Smiley321

    Smiley321 Member

    Apr 21, 2002
    Concord, Ca
    Back in the good old days, nuts like this would just go off and start a commune and stop bothering the rest of us.

    The problem is, these guys are probably aging hippies who have been there, done that, and instead of learning that it's stupid they just try, try again.

    They go on interminably, it's analogous to writing book after book on why Joe Max Moore is better than Ronaldo.
     
  16. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

    Paris Saint Germain
    United States
    Apr 8, 2002
    Baltimore
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    This is the biggest lie of all. I have no idea where you've worked, but having worked for Sega, Universal Studios, DreamWorks SKG, DIsney, and WW Entertainment, there is no single question in my experience that capitalist manager's of shareholder interest absolutely ave not created "mutual accord." They take advantage of slimmed work options to manifest slave wage adherance, and create no relationship with their workers except that of the "at will" one, which ensures that they can take a *#*#*#*#ing hike anytime they don't like it...of course, their families can not eat for a while as well...your arguments are utter foolishness, or wanna-be ownership language, or onwership language, in hopes of manitenance of the status-quo...In addition, you're competition argument might be true, but not in the "real world" you claim to embrace...in the real world, there is not competition, but natural collusion; for example, here in Stirling at the Thsitle Centre, Virgin, Woolworth's and (just opened) HMV all sell DVD's...competition lowers price, right? Wrong. What they've done (yes, I asked!) is go to each other's stores and mimic the sale deals, the spin...but looking at the fine print (i.e., "Buy one DVD, get one free, but the first DVD is priced higher than normal, nearly twice the normal amount...such lies), there's no savings, just the appearance of such...now extrapolate the calculus involved in ferreting out every sales spin and deriving the actual value in every capitalist transaction, and tell me how folks working all the damn time to have more than a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of can possibly engage all these companies to get the "best deal?"

    There's only one answer: they can't, and capitalist owners know this...that's why they ensure it by creating pseudo-speak in their invoices; like doctors and lawyers, they want to have control over the vey language of the discussion...so that when I call SPrint to talk about my phone bill, I have to spend time (MORE time than just twaiting on hold) to immerse myself in the language of this licence fee or that level of "local long distance" (what the hell does that mean, anyway...?)

    The fact that you lambaste, with a sweeping brush, ay alternative to greed-based interaction that can hardly be differentiated from one person exhibiting a passive hatred for another (what is the difference, anyway?), means that you, who are obviously intelligent, either have not thought long and hard enough, or are using the "There's NOTHING better!" argument to hide the fact that you really are an owner (or wannabe owner), and currently enjoy (or hope to enjoy) a position on the top of the pyramid, looking down on others...period.


    Let's make it easier for you than Michael...this is a view articulated by a regular "Joe"...maybe this'll get through better than Michael...

    FLAWS OF CAPITALISM:

    1. Waste, Waste, Waste
    Let me give you two examples that just "make my blood boil". Texans periodically get to see flames shooting into the sky near oil drills. This is the natural gas being wasted, all of that potential fuel being discarded like garbage because it is too costly to refine and distribute to make a decent profit.
    And of course we are all familiar with farms forced to leave food in the fields to rot because overproduction would decrease their profits. When we are in a world with masses dying from starvation, such a sight should enrage any caring person.

    2. Hinderance to True Advancement
    I have two words for you...light bulbs. Did you know that a light bulb has been invented that very rarely needs replaced. And did you know the owner of the patent is also a manufacturer of light bulbs. Don't expect these bulbs to ever show up in the market.
    And if there were a car that never needed replacing or repairing...do you honestly think it would be produced in a capitalist society? There would be no profit in it, even though it would advance mankind tremendously. And what about the car that runs on power-cells? This car is an electric car that runs on hydrogen and its only pollutant is water. No fossil fuels required. You can be assured that this project has the full support of the oil industry :).
    And if there were precious resources on the moon, we'd have a base there by now. The point is, there is a negative side to the profit factor.

    3. Environmental Destruction
    I want you to ask yourself why we are not using recycled paper. There is a greater supply of post-consummer paper than there is demand for slightly more expensive recycled paper. Because recycled paper is difficult to mass produce, it is more expensive to produce because each unit has to share a higher percentage of the fixed costs of production. So, instead of doing what is ecologically prudent, we continue to ravage our forests and send our post-consummer resources to the landfill to take up room that could be used for true wastes.
    And what about air and water pollution? If pollution-controls did not adversely affect profits, we know that industries would automatically comply. I do not wish to present manufacturers as the "spawn of Satan", but the bottom line is that protecting the environment is a liability in a capitalist-like system.
    Environmental issues are just one example of how a capitalist-like market can force us to make the wrong choices.

    4. A Society of Wage Slaves
    To keep prices low, and to compete, management must prey upon labor, keeping wages low, automating jobs out of existence, and exporting jobs to other nations which still have slave-wage labor. This leads to poor products from disgruntled labor who realize that management only cares about their output, not their humanity. I realize that corporations have to do such things to "stay in business" in a capitalist-like society, but that still does not justify the human costs.
    People deserve more from a full-time job than just the necessities of survival. And, in many places in America, even having a full-time job does not guarantee the essentials. Some homeless people DO have jobs, but one cannot survive on a single, minimum-wage job.
    A person who makes the effort to contribute to a society should be truly rewarded for that effort. Every worker should have a certain percentage of their wages that can be considered "expendible". They should also have the time to do things they want to do; people who "live for the weekend" are only enjoying 2/7 of their life. If we were to efficiently allocate our labor resources, there would be no need for people to spend so much of their life working/preparing for work.

    5. Growing Inequality in Income/Wealth
    "Between 1978 and 1987, the poorest fifth of American families became 8% poorer, and the richest fifth became 13% richer. That means the poorest fifth now have less than 5% of the nation's income, while the richest fifth have more than 40%...The American economy now exhibits a wider gap between rich and poor than it has at any other time since World War II." (Reich, Robert B. "Why The Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor Poorer", The New Republic, May 1, 1989.)
    Reich gives a convincing argument that the reason for the vanishing middle class is because of economic changes...we are now living in a global economy. US workers now must compete with workers from "developing countries" who are willing to work for very little pay. Another way of saying this, is that the culprit is a capitalist economy.
    Of course, there is nothing wrong with being economically rewarded for hard work or service, and very few want an equal distribution of wealth. The problem is, how many of those in the top fifth honestly earned their money? Those who sit around playing with money all day, producing nothing of value, and yet becoming richer is not the idea behind reward for labor and innovation.
    Just what is the true gap between the value of someone's efforts? Is there EVER a situation where someone should earn in a day what it takes someone else a year to earn? Is there truly that much of a gap in the value of the services the two hypothetical people provide?

    6. Wealthy Have More Political Power
    Ross Perot is single-handedly trying to form a third political party.
    "At least a third of all senators are millionaires...More than 50 House members are millionaires." (Davidson, Roger H. and Walter J. Oleszek. Congress and Its Members. 1994. p 122.)
    For several thousand dollars, you can have lunch with the leaders of one of the political parties and "rub elbows" with the representatives.


    Any questions?
     
  17. Michael Russ

    Michael Russ Member

    Jun 11, 2002
    Buffalo, NY
    Actually, I had an interesting experience when I first entered the work force, that kind of realates to what you are proposing.

    When I first graduated from Engineering school in Buffalo, I had a difficult time finding a job. I ended up moving to Cleveland for my first job. It was for a company that manufactured industrial pipe fittings.

    The company used screw machines to machine the parts. The operation of these machines was rather tedious, and dirty work because of the cutting oil that was being squirted onto the parts.

    Anyway, when I first started with the company, even though I was hired as an engineer, I had to operate different machines for several months in order to understand the operations. I would think you would believe that this is a good policy.

    The only thing is, the owner of the company was a fierce capitalist. In fact he was a huge contributer to the Reagan campaign. In the company mission statement, he specifically listed one of the company's goals as remaining Union free.

    OTOH while I was in college, I worked for General Mills in a cereal manufacturing plant that was unionized. I was working on developing a maintanece and stocking program and I often had to inspect equipment in order to get part numbers off of items like belts and bearings. Unfortunately a union member saw me with a screwdriver on the plant floor one day and filed a greivance against me, preventing me from doing my work.

    So in my mind, I have seen no interest in true cooperation from a labor organization, and a true spirit of cooperation from a capitalist.
     
  18. christopher d

    christopher d New Member

    Jun 11, 2002
    Weehawken, NJ
    Random musings on this interesting essay

    In that in its spirit the idea of this system is to reduce economic inequality, I can't help but applaud their efforts, but...

    "Too many meetings". The authors' words, not mine. God help us if the CPCs are mandated to come to consensus...

    I can't help but think that personality traits such as charisma would become the "currency" of this system, as opposed to raw intelligence and ingenuity.

    While capitalism as practiced here in the US certainly has more of its share of bathwater, this solution, along with similar centrally-planned solutions, throws out the babies of innovation and healthy, non-exploitative competition that can exist in more liberal market-based economies. Note that neither innovation nor healthy competition are working too terribly well right now, but the article's suggested solution would impede progress towards those ends further.

    I certainly understand and share much of the authors' frustrations with capitalism as practiced here. The authors state (prphrsing) that socialism has never really been tried as it was concieved, and that this has led to the downfall of its practice in its purest form. Let me counter that Capitalism, for all of its problems, need not necessarily be a zero-sum game. Thinking of markets as a way to unite a society or even a planet toward a common good might be a more efficient method of acheiving this systems goals of reducing economic inequality. If you don't like that a company advertises cigarettes to 10 year old Indian children, don't purchase its cheese, don't purchase equity shares or debt. You don't like the way a company pays its employees dirt, gives them little by way of bennies, etc.? Don't do business with them, either as supplier, shipper, consumer, or investor. Is a firm taking advantage of market position to exercise monopolistic power, or engaging in collusive behavior with a close second-place player in your jurisdiction? Throw the @#$%ing book at them. Make it hurt so good. Making social stewardship the economically advantageous way to do business will, IMHO, go further toward the essayists' aims of a more equal society, while continuing to provide a proving ground for those who would seek to build (and market) the better mousetrap.

    An interesting read on this is ch. 5 (the business chapter) of Robert Greenleaf's 1977 book Servant Leadership. He's a bit more utopian than I care to be, but his idea that a leading product, market, or firm leads most effectively when it seeks first to serve its stakeholders (& use a broad definition of stakeholders) is intriguing.
     
  19. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

    Paris Saint Germain
    United States
    Apr 8, 2002
    Baltimore
    Club:
    Paris Saint Germain FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Random musings on this interesting essay

    Alot of fair points here. While I don't think that capitalism works like that (i.e., my argument - again - that the individual hasn't the time to manage all of his/her relationships with capitalist corporates, by definition of his/her meaningful participation in the means of production and comsumption in a capitalist economy), I'm certainly willing to concede that most "isms," in their purest form provide the clearest benefits...Parecon is certainly being propagated in this "pure" form...
     

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