A few thoughts on anarchist economics

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First off, my Proudhon anthology Property is Theft! should be complete and sent to the printers next week. At last! That is over two years of work finally finished -- a big thank you to the people who translated material plus the folks at AK Press in America. I'm hoping it will have an impact on how Proudhon is viewed in the anarchist movement, as well as generally in the radical and academic worlds. Second, before sharing a few thoughts on anarchist economics, I need to go over the articles I've posted. It has been a busy couple of weeks.

There are six, two old ones and four just written. The two old ones are replies to Marxist articles on Bakunin. One is a reply to a review of Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy, which is not too bad, the other, by Louis Proyect, is just terrible -- a classic example of how not to critique anarchism. Really, discussing Bakunin's pre-anarchist work in an article trying to refute his anarchism? I decided to post these because I had already decided to do my own review of Statism and Anarchy (for Freedom) and thought it wise to bring these over from my old web-site. As can be seen, I'm a bit of a Bakunin fan (as I discussed last year in 170 years of anarchism, I rate him highly as an anarchist thinker).

And talking of material from my old webpage, I've been bringing it across in (more or less) the order of how good I think it is. This has the annoying side-effect of having all my favourite works towards the end of a search by author! Still, what I think is good need not be shared by the general public -- for example, I thought that Syndicalism, Anarchism and Marxism was a better and more important piece than a simple book review of The Coming Insurrection but the latter got more hits (at first, anyway).

The next three are related to what I want to talk about, anarchist economics. When I was asked by a while-back to do a talk on "Anarchist economics" by a co-operative group, I had to ask whether they mean an anarchist analysis/critique of the economy (i.e., capitalism) or the economics of a free society. They said the latter, and so The Economics of Anarchy was created (my most popular article by fair). The two are, I think, inter-related as what we think is wrong now will feed into our visions of a better society. In terms of the analysis of capitalism, the article Snow way to run an economy discusses the slow-down in the UK economy and links it with the austerity measures of the Con-Dem government (the great Steve Bell was on form with this cartoon on Osbourne -- and this was good too). This explains (with the aid of a few jokes) why cutting income makes things worse. Such articles are important in the class struggle as they help win the battle of ideas and change the popular perspective on the need to resist.

The other two articles are on visions of socialism. One is about market socialism by Theodore A. Burczak, which as well as showing a shocking ignorance of other schools of socialism than Marxism is also too impressed by the "Austrian" school of economics. Not to mention the somewhat incredulous aim to create a "market Marxism"! Why bother, when what he "teases" from Marx was originally and explicitly argued by Proudhon? But, then, most Marxists assume Marx's comments on Proudhon were accurate... I wasn't actually planning to do this review just now as I aimed to stay away from Proudhon for a while, but the reviews editor of Freedom needed copy so I knocked this together for him! The other review is about a book by Pat Devine, which postulates what could be termed quasi-market socialism. It has market exchange (and competing!) but planned and negotiated investment. As I suggest, while elements of it are useful, overall it just seems like meeting overload -- not to mention that it seems based on representative democracy.

So what of anarchist economics? Well, as I indicated in the discussion of Marx's The Poverty of Philosophy in the Proudhon Reader, Proudhon's vision of a free economy was bound up with his critique of the existing one. Thus he discussed the contradictions caused by applying machinery under capitalism and concluded that to solve these you needed to abolish wage-labour by workers associations, or "organising labour" (see my review of System of Economic Contradictions). This was the focus of my chapter on Proudhon's economics for a new book on anarchist economics called The Accumulation of Freedom: Writings on Anarchist Economics (due out early 2012 from AK Press). These is a panel discussion on the book by Deric Shannon, Chris Spannos, Abbey Willis, and Wayne Price and is interesting. It has been put up on Zspace and You Tube.

Deric Shannon, "An Overview of Anarchist Economics" (part 1):

Deric Shannon, "An Overview of Anarchist Economics" (part 2):

Deric mentions my chapter on Proudhon (called "Laying the Foundations: Proudhon's Contribution to Anarchist Economics") at the start of the second part -- I must point out that is NOT how to pronounce my surname! Unfortunately I have to wait until the book is published before I can put it on-line, which is a shame as I think it is quite good. It is a chronological account of Proudhon's ideas on economics (both in terms of critique and vision), split by sub-headings named after his key works. I like it and I used its summary of System of Economic Contradictions when I revised the appendix on The Poverty of Philosophy in the reader as well as the review I did for Freedom.

I've had a look at the contents page and it does look very impressive. The focus is more the economics of an anarchist society rather than anarchist analysis of economics and capitalism, although my chapter discusses both and makes the point you cannot really separate them -- what we are for feeds into what we are against and what we are against drives what we are for. If the articles match the titles, it should be a very good read. I do hope that its not too pro-Parecon, though, as I wouldn't like anarchist economics reduced to that. There is, unfortunately, a postscript by Micheal Albert -- my instant thought was "why?" as he is not an anarchist, a libertarian of sorts, yes -- a libertarian social democratic? (the SWP think he is an anarchist, so that implies he is not given how well they understand anarchism). There is a chapter by his co-author, Robin Hahnel -- but I've not seen it so I won't speculate. Saying that, if it gets non-anarchists to read it then it may be worth including the likes of Albert -- just as having people like John Pilger at the anarchist bookfair will get more people to attend. But, still, I would have preferred someone like Chomsky -- bigger name and better politics. Anyways, I have asked Deric, and while a few chapters have some pro-Parecon bits in them it is not pro-Parecon in the main. Which is good, as it really is impossible (as subject I will return to shortly).

My chapter links Proudhon's ideas on an anarchist economy with those of later anarchists like Bakunin, Kropotkin and Bakunin, based on a summation of his ideas from What is Property? through to Political Capacity of the Working Classes -- with all quotes from Property is Theft!. I've tried to keep a balance between recounting Proudhon's critique of capitalism and exploring his visions of a just economy. I've made a few slight additions to it, one to include quotes from Justice in the Revolution and the Church (as in the Biographical Sketch). It seeks to link his critique of capitalism with his ideas on the economy of mutualism, showing how the two are bound together and inform each other.

The key problem with an anarchist economics in the sense of "the economics of anarchy" is that it describing something that does not exist (oh, I know that neo-classical economics does that but when economics started the likes of Smith and Ricardo expressed ideas which did, however incompletely, discuss actual economies). As such, you need to get a balance between providing detail and remembering that a free economy will be shaped by the process which created it and its own dynamics. As Proudhon argued in 1846, simply presenting utopian visions is hardly convincing -- you need to place your socialism on developments going on around you. Interestingly, this is what most Marxists seems to think was the contribution of Marx and Engels. From Wikipedia (and this seems to reflect the Marxist position):

"The utopian socialist thinkers did not use the term utopian to refer to their ideas. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels referred to all socialist ideas that were simply a vision and distant goal for society as utopian. Utopian socialists were likened to scientists who drew up elaborate designs and concepts for creating what socialists considered a more equal society. They were contrasted by scientific socialists, likened to engineers, who were defined as an integrated conception of the goal, the means to producing it, and the way that those means will inevitably be produced through examining social and economic phenomena."

Except, Proudhon did precisely this in 1846! Thus we find Proudhon stating: "But here socialism relapses from criticism into utopia, and its incapacity becomes freshly apparent in its contradictions"; "it is enough to say that there is a superior formula which reconciles the socialistic utopias and the mutilated theories of political economy, and that the problem is to discover it"; "As for socialism, that was summed up long since by Plato and Thomas More in a single word, UTOPIA, – that is, no-place, a chimera." As usual, Marx and Engels followed where Proudhon lead... not that many know this. Again, from Wikipedia, we have this gem:

Utopian socialists never actually used this name to describe themselves; the term "Utopian socialism" was introduced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto in 1848, although Marx shortly before the publication of this pamphlet already attacked the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in Das Elend der Philosophie (originally written in French, 1847) . . . Marx criticized the economic and philosophical arguments of Proudhon set forth in The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty. Marx accused Proudhon of wanting to rise above the bourgeoisie. In the history of Marx' thought and marxism, this work is pivotal in the distinction between the concepts of utopian socialism and what Marx and the marxists claimed as scientific socialism.

Really, that is as distorted as Marx's attack on Proudhon! This attack on utopian socialism starts with Proudhon, not Marx and Engels (just as I have noted, according to Engels own definition, "modern workers’ socialism" also starts with the Frenchman not Marx!). Do not believe me? Well, here is Marx himself on the matter from 1846:

“The only point upon which I am in complete agreement with M. Proudhon is the disgust he feels for socialist sentimentalising. I anticipated him in provoking considerable hostility by the ridicule I directed at ovine, sentimental, utopian socialism.” (Marx-Engels Collected Works, vol. 38, p. 104)

Sadly Marx did not say where he "anticipated" Proudhon (it is doubtful that it was in a public work, if it existed at all), but since Proudhon's attacks on utopian socialism (or "community") started in 1840 this seems wishful thinking on Marx's part. But, then, in 1880 he suggested that the “drastic tone of this polemic” (The Poverty of Philosophy) was Proudhon’s fault “as he heaped coarse insults on the utopian socialists and communists whom Marx honoured as the forebears of modern socialism”! (vol. 24, p. 326) Make your mind up! Marx also stated that his 1847 work “contains the seeds of the theory developed after twenty years’ work in Capital.” In a sense, yes, as Marx's theory of exploitation in Capital is similar to Proudhon's in the 1840s! In a sense, no, as there is no theory of exploitation in The Poverty of Philosophy, unlike System of Economic Contradictions!

And it would be remiss of me not to note that it was Proudhon in 1840 raised the notion of a "scientific socialism" in What is Property?. As Proudhon scribbled in his copy of The Poverty of Philosophy: “what Marx’s book really means is that he is sorry that everywhere I have thought the way he does, and said so before he did. Any determined reader can see that it is Marx who, having read me, regrets thinking like me. What a man!”

So a true economics of anarchy will come about when an anarchist society has been created. That seems obvious. Adam Smith did not invent a model of an economy and seek to convert people to it -- he described, analysed and modelled what he saw going on around him. Sure, his analysis influenced how that system developed (just as Milton Friedman's completely wrong Monetarism influenced -- for the worse! -- the economy, and class war, in early the 1980s). That said, we can start building "economics of anarchy" now as long as it is grounded in developments within capitalism -- so if wage-labour causes oppression and exploitation then we can conclude that associated labour is a solution and can point to co-operatives as evidence for this. This was what drove Proudhon's aside on association in his discussion of the contradictions of Monopoly in 1846, for example. As I argue in a footnote to this:

The term “acte de société” literally means “deed of partnership.” Proudhon is referring to the process of creating and joining workplaces, contrasting the forms created within capitalism (with wage-labour as management rights reflect the capital provided) to the socialised, egalitarian, and self-managed ones of mutualism (with management rights granted automatically on joining). It should also be noted that “société” can be translated as “society” as well as “company.”

This flowed from his analysis and critique of the capitalist workplace, based as it is on wage-labour and so hierarchy and exploitation:

Cf. Marx: “[Proudhon’s] whole system rests on the labour commodity, on labour which is trafficked, bought and sold…” (63) Proudhon repeatedly contrasts the associated (self-managed) workplaces of mutualism with capitalist firms with their “hierarchical organisation” (Chapter IV: section II) in which wage-workers toil “under a master” (Chapter XI: section III) after they “parted with their liberty” and “have sold their arms” to a boss who appropriates both the “collective power” (Chapter VI: section II) and the “surplus of labour” they create (Chapter XI: section IV)

As Proudhon put it in 1851: “association, due to the immorality, tyranny and theft suffered, seems to me absolutely necessary and right. The industry to be carried on, the work to be accomplished, are the common and undivided property of all those who take part therein: the granting of franchises for mines and railroads to companies of stockholders, who plunder the bodies and souls of the wage-workers, is a betrayal of power, a violation of the rights of the public, an outrage upon human dignity and personality.” Later anarchists like Varlin and Bakunin argued that trade unions would take over the means of production, going from resistance societies against capitalism to being the associations of workers needed to replace it. It is far from utopian to argue that workers should occupy their workplaces and that these strike assemblies become the means of organising production, organising labour! And, unsurprisingly, anarchists have long been advocates of precisely that (far longer than Marxists).

So, as I said, there is a need for balance in any "economics of anarchy" -- the balance between discussing how it could (and I stress could) work/function and recognising (as Bakunin and Proudhon stressed) that real life has dynamics of its own which cannot be predicted nor limited to what is discussed in books. Any real anarchist economy will be created from below by mass participation and action -- it will not be created by following detailed visions written by people who have not gone through the social struggles which make such a popular creation possible. Which is another reason I dislike Parecon, it simply is a new utopian vision like those produced by Fourier and abstractly compares an ideal vision against the grim realities of capitalism.

The main reason I dislike Parecon is the shear impossibility of it. Its supporters simply fail to recognise the vast amount of information it would need to gather and process in order to create a plan -- actually, multiple plans as the people would vote for a specific one. Then there is the issue of presenting that plan (assuming it were possible to create one). A real economy has millions of final and intermediate products and these would need to be listed, not to mention descriptions of balanced job plans. You cannot just say 5 million tonnes of food as that is meaningless -- and different combinations of "food" imply different inputs and this needs to be reflected in the plan. Who would be able to read such a plan proposal, never mind a few of them! Then there is the issue of informing workplaces what their part of the plan is. Perhaps the people vote for a plan which includes 10 million nails -- how do the production units know what kind of nails are required, who needs them and when? So a detailed plan would need to specify the kinds of nails, who needs them and when they should be delivered -- no point producing 5,000 10cm nails in October if 4,000 12cm nails are needed in July. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. And unless that information is in the plan, the plan ("we will produce 10 million nails") is meaningless.

Hence the pressing need for horizontal links (aka contracts, free agreements) between production units as well as between workplaces and communes. In a mutualist or collectivist economy, this would be achieved by contracts of exchange between co-operatives. In a communist one, such links are needed to make informed decisions on the use-values being produced. That is the flaw in detailed planning (whether Parecon and central planning), it forgets that use-value is a very subjective thing. It depends on specific needs and so saying "we will produce 10 million nails" is not producing use-values as it is not reflecting the fact that workplace A needs 4,000 12cm nails in July. That is the specific use-value which needs to be created, not an abstract use-value somehow independent of real people and their requirements. Moreover, horizontal links allows the communication of relevant information -- the positive (does it meet a need?) and negative (what does it cost to produce? Is it in short supply) use-vales to production units (and in manageable numbers and with the aid of various aids to the mind) in order to make an informed decision. The sort of information detailed planning needs, but finds it difficult to gather and process.

So any anarchist economics would be based on this, on the need for genuine decentralisation and free agreements (horizontal links) between economic agents. That is the only way that real needs can be identified and met. This is not to say planning would be out the window -- far from it. Hell, even capitalist firms plan. The issue is not planning against non-planning, it is who plans and at what level. There is a need for socio-economic federalism (Proudhon's agricultural-industrial federation) to oversee an economy, to discuss public works and major investment projects and such like (and remember, large-scale capitalist firms do such major investment plans and you don't hear pro-capitalism types complaining about those top-down plans!). But that is it, to oversee rather than plan in detail -- at its most basic, the future is unknown and uncertain (and I must note uncertainty can, and must, be used to critique capitalism and defend libertarian communism -- see section I.1.5 of AFAQ)! As I've suggested before, the few scattered remarks on social planning by Marx and Engels have lumbered the left with a fetish for a utopia -- worse, as the Bolsheviks showed, this utopian vision was the justification in dismissing the genuine socialistic experiments of the factory committee movement.

Ultimately, only a "professional revolutionary" who never had a real job could, like Lenin, seriously suggest as a positive vision that "[a]ll citizens are transformed into the salaried employees of the state . . . All citizens become employees and workers of a single national state 'syndicate' . . . The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of work and equality of pay"! Particularly as Engels, in On Authority, had proclaimed the factory to be "a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation"! But, then, Engels was a boss rather than a worker so his perspective and analysis, as I suggest in AFAQ, is flawed. Still, the notion of an economy as "one big workplace" fails to understand the dynamics of a workplace never mind an economy! So, yes, there is a need for federal structures along side the horizontal links but these federations should be focused more on discussing actual problems arising within the economy as well as social and economic priorities (such as major investment projects and public works) rather than producing detailed plans. The actual mix and procedures will be worked out, I am sure, in practice -- and we must be open to the fact that our dreams and hopes may prove to be only partially realised (particularly at first) and, in fact, may not be realisable at all.

This is, I must note, not a call for purely "small-scale" planning. Anarchists reject that just as much as we do purely "small-scale" production. Marxist myths aside, we stand for appropriate levels of production and planning -- in short, a combination of different scales of production and planning (small, medium, large) determined by the actual requirements of the situation. That is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said given how Marxists go on about how anarchist favour "small" production units and how "big" their production units are in comparison (needless to say, such terminology may make cause those familiar with Freud smirk).

Section I of An Anarchist FAQ goes into what an anarchist economy could work in some detail (the article The Economics of Anarchy tries to summarise this!). However, section I.2 addresses the blueprint argument/attack, explaining that while we reject blueprints we can outline our ideas, based on our critique of capitalism and the experiences of the class struggle and other movements within, but against, capitalism. I would particularly point to section I.2.3 which discusses how the framework of a free economy could develop -- from strikes to occupations to associated labour, for example. Once that process starts, then a genuine anarchist economics could start rather than spectulation (however well founded!) on how a free economy could function.

So books like The Accumulation of Freedom are to be welcomed. We need to combine sketches of liberty (to varying degrees of detail) with an awareness that real life is far more complex and dynamic than authors -- or planners or capitalists or facilitation boards -- can comprehend. Socialism, as Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, etc. -- can only be created from below, by the self-activity of working class people, and this will rarely reflect totally the hopes expressed before this starts. We are talking about transforming the lives of millions! Kropotkin covers this well in the last chapter of The State: Its Historic Role, for example.

This leaves the other key aspect of anarchist economics, the analysis and critique of capitalism -- of which another aspect is the critique of bourgeois economics. The latter will come out of the former, as any analysis of the reality of capitalism cannot help expose the ideological and unreal nature of mainstream economics. For example, I happen to like Paul Krugman's work -- he is on the side of the Angels, even if he is a neo-classical Keynesian. He is not a socialist, just simply an economist with more of a grasp of reality than most. I'm aware of the limitations of his work, and criticise him for it -- as a neo-classical Keynesian, he accepts a lot of the baggage that comes with the former. For example:

"The classic Radford paper on the economics of POW camps is still where I start when thinking about what money is and what it does."

That is, a model of money based on the exchange of a given set of pre-existing goods -- that is, one which ignores the production of goods within historical rather than logical time, one which ignores the class divisions of actual economies as there are no means of production to own nor be separated from, one which is not driven by the need to accumulate surplus value, i.e., the unpaid labour of others. I'm sure that the Radford paper does describe the goings on of a POW camp well -- shame that an actual capitalist economy is nothing like it. As Joan Robinson summarised long ago:

"The neo-classical theory . . . pretends to derive a system of prices from the relative scarcity of commodities in relation to the demand for them. I say pretend because this system cannot be applied to capitalist production.

"The Walrasian conception of equilibrium arrived at by higgling and haggling in a market illuminates the account of prisoners of war swapping the contents of their Red Cross parcels.

"It makes sense also, with some modifications, in an economy of artisans and small traders . . .

"Two essential characteristics of industrial capitalism are absent in these economic systems -- the distinction between income from work and income from property and the nature of investments made in the light of uncertain expectations about a long future." [Collected Economic Papers, vol. 5, p. 34]

But, then, as I've noted before Krugman does have a tendency, like all neo-classicals, to ignore time and production. And say what you like about classical economics, at least it focuses on both (as I summarise in an unfinished appendix to AFAQ). Sad to say, any anarchist economics in the sense of the analysis of capitalism will need to start, as did Proudhon and Marx, with classical economics -- the dominance of neo-classical economics has effectively shunted economics into a dead-end for over 100 years.

Obviously, an anarchist economics will need to build on anarchist thinkers like Proudhon and Kropotkin. We have an advantage in that we do not call ourselves after a person, so we are not dependent on squeezing our analysis into the confining position of having to justify every point with a quote from Capital. Proudhon, for example, made mistakes (and was simply wrong!) while certain aspects of his analysis need development. He is, of course, been long dead and capitalism, like economics, have moved on. We need to supplement and develop their insights, utilising other thinkers. As I've suggested before, anarchists I think could gain from reading post-Keynesian economics. It builds on the best of Marx and Keynes, plus the likes of Robinson, Kaldor, Kalecki, and so on. Institutional economics (old-school ones, like Galbraith) would be of use too.

There is much work to be done, both in developing an anarchist economics which analyses capitalism as well as critiquing bourgeois economics. Hopefully section C is a start and indicates what it could look like, plus who to read-up on to help build it -- some of whom, and why, I've indicated in my blog And the Noble Prize for class war goes to....

And talking of economics, here is another instalment of my sadly too regular series -- The system IS working, part n of m (where both n and m are large numbers). Yes, comrades, the system IS working -- the rich are getting richer... Paul Krugman provides graphs on the disconnect between economic growth and median income and median and mean income as well. More graphs can be found on this blog posting by David F. Ruccio (who used to teach in the Department of Economics and Policy Studies at the University of Notre Dame -- until it was dissolved for not being neo-classical enough!). His blog (occasional links & commentary) is worth checking out. Also of note is Dean Baker (who is also an economist worth reading). His The Great British austerity experiment which attack the notion of the "commitment to prosperity through austerity" is worth reading:

"The elite media and the politicians whom they promote would love to see the United States follow the austerity path of the UK's new government. However, if this path takes the UK into dangerous economic waters, it could provide a powerful warning to the public in the United States before we make the same mistake."

As if Ireland were not a warning for the UK's new masters... It is worth stressing that this austerity plan is ideologically driven. Baker spectulates: "Maybe the Liberal Democrats will break away from the coalition and force new elections." And be wiped out in the election? I doubt it. Until the Tories stop getting a benefit from pushing out Lib-Dems to defend their policies (and so take the flack) and are sure they will win an election (maybe if there is an unexpected up-tick in the economy?) then the Lib-Dems will cling to power. I would not be surprised if we see Coalition candidates in the next election, as a reward to Clegg and Co's utter betrayal of their promises, members and voters. Or, as in the recent by-election, a downplaying of Tory campaigning and an nudge to Tory voters to bolster Lib-Dems to keep Labour out?

Baker makes this important point: "Unfortunately, in the land of faith-based economics, evidence does not count for much." Ah, how very true -- economics must be the only "science" which does not reflect reality and considers it as anything other as something to ignore... Another useful economist is Bill Mitchell, aka Billy Blog. For example, The origins of the economic crisis is a good discussion of how the capitalists have been winning the class war for the past three decades and, as a result, why we are in crisis. It is full of useful facts and figures as well as good economic analysis:

"In March 1996, the real wage index was 101.5 while the labour productivity index was 139.0 (Index = 100 at Sept-1978). By September 2008, the real wage index had climbed to 116.7 (that is, around 15 per cent growth in just over 12 years) but the labour productivity index was 179.1."

And:

"The question then arises: if the output per unit of labour input (labour productivity) is rising so strongly yet the capacity to purchase (the real wage) is lagging badly behind – how does economic growth which relies on growth in spending sustain itself? . . . The trick was found in the rise of “financial engineering” which pushed ever increasing debt onto the household sector. The capitalists found that they could sustain purchasing power and receive a bonus along the way in the form of interest payments."

And:

"The rich, however, have got much richer since the 1970s . . . The explanation is simple: while workers' average real wages stayed flat, their productivity rose . . . The employers reaped all the benefits of rising productivity: rising profits, rising salaries and bonuses to managers, rising dividends to shareholders, and rising payments to the professionals who serve employers. . ."

This is also good: When will the workers wake up?. It discusses this article in The Guardian: The myth of 'American exceptionalism' implodes by Richard Wolff.

 

Oh, I'm sure Proudhon (if he were alive today) would be busy muttering about "contradictions" and invoking the word "impossible" -- and he would be right. It is a case where we have a crisis because capital is too strong and yet our economic masters are still haunted by the 1960s and 1970s when we had a crisis when capital was too weak (or, better, labour was too strong and refusing to be reduced to a commodity). Many sections of the ruling elite actually believe their own rhetoric on laissez-faire capitalism, so causing them to oppose actions which will help the system. As Proudhon put it: "Hence it is, finally, that every society declines the moment it falls into the hands of the ideologists." Ultimately, if we do not resist then we will pay the costs for resolving the crisis -- and that may take some time if the "Austerity" muppets win the debate. Hence the need to understand and critique both the economy and bourgeois economics -- to quote Joan Robinson: "The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists."

I should also point to this (which, I think, I may have linked to before) on Billy Blog -- A code of ethics doesn’t go far enough. It sums up what is wrong with economics and what positions an anarchist economics would start from:

"The whole body of mainstream economics needs to be trashed . . . Many of their models are internally inconsistent (for example, all those that deal with income distribution and production) and none really stack up against empirical realities . . ."

As regards distribution, he specifically points to "marginal productivity theory" (see section C.2.4 of AFAQ) and "the Capital Controversies of the 1960s" (see section C.2.5 of AFAQ). I added a comment about over-egging the influence of Marx, pointing to both Proudhon and the British Ricardian socialists as more pressing concerns for the founders of neo-classical economics. But, then, I would... He ends by summarising what a real economics should be:

"I think a call for a code of ethics should be broadened for a major closure of economics programs around the world and a new approach to the study of economics . . . incorporating sociology, psychology, anthropology, and a more reasoned view of firm-based operations in the context of a class-based economy – where workers want to work less and be paid more and bosses want them to do the opposite."

This is spot on. Any real economics would be based on viewing individuals as what they are, social creatures within a specific social and class context rather than the abstract and atomised individuals so beloved of bourgeois economics. It should start with an aware that economies operate in real rather than logical time and that production actually happens (as I noted, neo-classical economics starts with a set number of products and shows how these would be exchanged as a result of a "given" distribution of resources). It would reject equilibrium analysis, recognising that any real economy would be in dis-equilibrium and that moves towards equilibrium in can push the economy as a whole further away from equilibrium (i.e., unlike most "Austrians" economists actually think through the implications of disequilibrium rather than use it as a "just-so" story to justify giving our economic masters free reign not to mention rationalising returns to capitalists). In short, use it as post-Keynesians do! It would recognise, as Proudhon stressed, that capitalism is just the latest economy of many and that its social relationships are not eternal (rather than produce an economic analysis which, by strange co-incidence, proves that the social classes of capitalism produces the most efficient economy there could ever be!). It would be as critical of the information blocks within the (hierarchical, top-down) capitalist company as it would be of those within state bodies! And so on. One where, in a clash between theory and facts, it does not side with the theory (ideology, more like) -- and denounce people for being "irrational" when they do things they wish. This is expressed in, for example, the standard neo-classical model of a co-operative which has little relation to their reality so prompting the conclusion was the co-operative members as "irrational" rather than the model being wrong (interestingly, at least two "Austrian" economists refer uncritically to this model which shows their differences from neo-classical economics are not great). The implication is what people (and society!) must change to reflect the theory, not vice versa. Hence the strong tendency to propose (say) smashing unions -- although rarely big business! -- to make the economy better fit the model! with, as noted in AFAQ less that wonderful results. And, as far as economists do, that does seem to happen:

"Studying economics also seems to make you a nastier person. Psychological studies have shown that economics graduate students are more likely to 'free ride' . . . Economists also are less generous that other academics in charitable giving . . . And on other tests, [economic] students grow less honest . . . after studying economics, but not studying a control subject like astronomy" (Doug Henwood, Wall Street, p, 143)

Needless to say, if we produce the right way of analysing capitalism (i.e., make economics a science rather than self-serving apologectic ideology for that system and its economic masters) we will be in a position to produce not only realistic spectulations of an anarchist economy but also, when the time comes, to start on the actual economics of an actual anarchy.

So the resources for a robust anarchist economics are out there. The question is, will we have the time and energy to create it? Anarchists tend to be activists, and from experience this often makes it hard to find the time to theorise -- hence the tendency for some anarchists to let Marxist academics to do our economic analysis for us! Still, we have a rich tradition to build upon and I hope we do. We can, of course, include insights by the likes of Marx and Keynes -- what matters is whether it is right (right, though, for the right reasons based on realistic analysis rather by accident), not who says it!

Of course, I could have called this a discusion on libertarian economics but thanks to the right stealing that name, such a title could be misconstrued by those ignorant of the history of that term -- which is precisely why I called my recent blog on Proudhon's analysis of capitalism The Libertarian Critique of Capitalism! Sadly, the appropriation of the word "libertarian" by the right is gathering pace in the UK. I hope we can stop it going the way it has in America. Perhaps we should make a point of writing to every paper which lets a right-winger call themselves a "libertarian" get away with? Anyways, I thought this was a great comment from an article in The Guardian and summed up well why we in the UK must fight to save the good name "libertarian" from a fate worse than death:

'When I was one of the "Arlesey Anarchists" in the 1960s we called ourselves Libertarians. Now it seems to mean anyone who believes the poor deserve their faces grinding in the dust!'

And way to go the people in Middle East! Keep at it. And I would love to hear Cameron dismiss a similar protest here -- or have the president of Egypt refer to Blair's ignoring of the anti-war marches in 2003 to explain why it is important he remains in power. I'm sure anarchists in the Middle East will be joining these protests -- and urging them to go beyond mere political change into social and economic change. In short, as anarchists did in Russian in 1917, urge the transformation of a political revolt into a social revolution. For example, by arguing for the general strike into a general occupation of workplaces, by arguing for community assemblies, for federations of workplace and community councils, and so on -- as, for example, I suggested in regards to the revolt against neo-liberalism in Argentina.

Watching the American state flounder between its rhetoric of freedom and its real need for stability and practical backing of these repressive regimes is fun. And at least few people are suggesting these revolts are a product of Bush's imperialist adventures! These revolts clearly show the difference between imposing "freedom" by bombs and a genuine popular struggle for freedom. And the popular nature of these revolts is why the right are not embracing them (plus, of course, racism against Arabs disguised by hatred of Islam). Thus we see that Glen Beck, like many wingnuts, does not hear the chimes of freedom in the Middle East:

"I believe that I can make a case in the end that there are three powers that you will see really emerge. One, a Muslim caliphate that controls the Mideast and parts of Europe. Two, China, that will control Asia, the southern half of Africa, part of the Middle East, Australia, maybe New Zealand, and God only knows what else. And Russia, which will control all of the old former Soviet Union bloc, plus maybe the Netherlands. I'm not really sure. But their strong arm is coming. That leaves us and South America. What happens to us?"

What perplexed me was Russia controlled "all of the old former Soviet Union bloc, plus maybe the Netherlands." plus the Netherlands? why the Netherlands? That just seems tacked on for no reason, making it look like its just made-up mad-talk by a crazy person... :)

And, finally, a very funny cartoon: Carl Sagan and his Fully Armed Spaceship of the Imagination. And this flows into yet another brilliant Stephen Colbert sketch:

Then there ia suthor Philip Pullman on why public libraries are wonderful: Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value. I agree totally, there is nothing like having access to a library -- the wealth of knowledge available! And as Stephen Colbert proved (echoing Kropotkin, unknowningly I am sure!), hot-beds of communistic principles... So after me: Hey, Tories, leave those books alone...

Until I blog again, be seeing you...

Comments

Your (what appears to be) a

Your (what appears to be) a market socialist critique of Parecon was addressed by Albert by similar from Schweickart. And generally appears to come from a stance of someone who has to actually read any book on Parecon!
Also see from 1991 "The Political Economy of
Participatory Economics
"
- http://books.zcommunications.org/books/polpar.htm

You are not engaging in debating on the actual democratically planned model at hand. For instance, the system was designed to minimise meeting time as much as possible - in fact, that's one of the main points of the round-by-round planning process. If you're in favour of democractic planning, then feel free to come up with a non-market alternative which is in any way comparable in that regard.
However, re Albert being an anarchist, - Albert has frequently called himself an Anarchist. this comparison in –

“ Parecon is basically an anarchistic economic vision that eliminates fixed hierarchy and delivers selfmanagement” (Parecon Life After Capitalsim page 263), and,

“..there is no state at all, at least in the traditional sense of that word...” (- Looking Forward, Albert & Hahnel).

In the book, “Realizing Hope: Life beyond Capitalism”, by Albert, there is a chapter on Anarchism, while Hahnel’s “Economic Justice & Democracy” contains a chapter on Spain and libertarian socialism with a postscript by Chomsky.
Hahnel and Albert are part of the libertarian milieu so this is perhaps unsurprising. In interviews Albert calls his proposals “an anarchist economy” and Hahnel says he is a “proud libertarian socialist.”. Any cursory reading of these books would highlight examples of this.

For instance, Realizing Hope’s short Anarchism chapter, contains a good critique of primitivism, individualist anarchism, and an anarchism which discounts the use of technology or institutions. A precursor to this published chapter can be read in the article below,
Anarchism?!
http://www.lucyparsonsproject.org/anarchism/albert_anar....html
"Indeed, I suspect that until there is a widespread component of anarchism that puts forth something positive and worthy regarding political goals, the negative component decrying all political structures and even all institutions will remain highly visible and will greatly reduce potential allegiance to anarchism.”

As regards primitivism, Albert says “ the most visible advocate and exemplar of what I called “not so desirable anarchism” is John Zerzan.”
See the link below for debates and articles on this
http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/zdebateanarchism.htm

Here’s an extract from a 2007 interview of Albert, (http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/qaanarchism.htm )
Q: “When I first read about Parecon, what struck me was that it sounded like an anarchist economic vision. Do you think this is a fair assessment? Why or why not?
A: Yes, I do think it is fair. Anarchism is a very broad and rich approach to understanding social relations and affecting them. Most broadly anarchism says we don’t want hierarchies of wealth and power which enable and even compel some people to dominate while other people, generally far more numerous, are subordinate. Parecon takes that agenda into the economy and proposes a way to accomplish production, allocation, and consumption, that is consistent with not having any one constituency, by virtue of its economic position, dominating any other. Parecon is in this regard a classless economy, an economy without class hierarchy, and is in that sense, I think, very much in the anarchist tradition.
More, I think anarchism has another broad commitment, which is that people should have a say over decisions that affect them. People should be able to participate and to self-manage their conditions and options, of course in concert with one another. Again, parecon is an economy that celebrates self-management—meaning that all people should have a say over decisions in proportion as they are affected by them—as a central aim. Parecon is a solidaritous economy that delivers to all participants the same self managing say as others have, and in this regard too, I think it is anarchist.”
[…]
Q: Some syndicalists (Sam Dolgoff, for instance) have argued that an anarchistic economic arrangement is actually an ideal one for an advanced industrialized society. How does Parecon bear on this notion?
A: It depends on your view of parecon. I think parecon is an ideal economy for an “advanced industrialized society.” I also think parecon is an “anarchistic economic arrangement.” Thus, I guess it follows that I think parecon bears out Dolgoff’s prediction that “an anarchistic economic arrangement is actually an ideal one for an advanced industrialized society.” On the other hand, if Dolgoff’s comment is read as suggesting that anarchistic economy would not work in a less industrialized economy, I don’t think that is the case.
Q: A couple years ago, I asked Noam Chomsky about the fact that anarchists have been divided into various camps, chief among which appear to be anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism. I noted that Murray Bookchin has urged that anarcho-syndicalism is basically inapplicable to the United States, which boasts a post-scarcity, post-industrial economy, and asked Chomsky whether he thought that an emphasis on anarcho-syndicalism is still needed in order to fully wrest the military-industrial complex away from powerful people. He felt the debate was confused, and that in any case the “task is basically the same: try to develop institutional arrangements that maximize worker and community control and other aspects of freedom and justice.”
A: I don’t know what post-scarcity or post-industrial mean but I doubt, depending on meaning, that I would agree these are apt terms to use describing the U.S. or any country. Scarcity means we have to choose among alternative options - we can’t have everything, so to speak. Post-scarcity, to me, would mean the economy can deliver anything anyone wants at no cost. You want it, you get it. There are no limits imposing trade-offs among possibilities. This is nonsense, obviously. There are costs - resources, effort, byproducts, and others, to producing things the populace desires to have, and the supply of these assets, so to speak, is far from unlimited. So there is no such thing, so to speak, as a free lunch, or free dinner, or free violin, or free means of transport, or free clothes, etc. Everything has what economists call an opportunity cost. Producing any one particular thing means that the resources, effort, etc., that went into its production are not available for producing something else. There are therefore decisions about allocation aims and priorities that must be made, some things foregone so other things are had. And likewise there are decisions about how to organize production, about how much of the social product people receive for their labors, and so on. Parecon provides means to accomplish production, consumption, and allocation, with scarcity of any level, in accord with values we favor rather than obliterating values we favor.
Likewise, as with post-scarcity, I also don’t know what post-industrial means - no more industry? Again, that is of course not the case, nor will it ever be the case, depending, I suppose, on how you define the word industry. If you mean workplaces with certain attributes - say wage slaves doing the work, or some particular technique employed, then of course such things can be transcended. But if you mean production by groups working together using tools, resources, effort, and with by-products as well as sought after outcomes, then there is no such thing as transcending that.
As to anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism, again, I don’t really know what these terms mean, in actual substantive terms, and I suspect it probably varies with different people using them. If the latter term implies there are no longer economic limits, no longer choices among options, etc., then it isn’t a real world vision, because it isn’t possible. If it means something else, okay, perhaps I would like it. In any event, I think parecon is a worthy and desirable economy. Can an advocate of either of these schools of anarchism advocate it? I would think so. And if so, I guess there isn’t an issue on that score.
Likewise, of course there is a gigantic military intimately intertwined with many parts of the U.S. economy, but even if there weren’t, we would still need an economy that was classless, an economy that produced not only useful and fulfilling outputs, but also social solidarity, diversity, equity, and self management - rather than producing anti-sociality and even vile greed, homogenization and even crass commercialism, gigantic deviations from just rewards and even abject poverty, and rule of the economy by a relative few and even huge centers of power relegating most people to little more than blind obedience. Capitalism is the problem for which parecon is a proposed solution, and for that matter also what I call coordinatorism (and others call market socialism and centrally planned socialism or 20 th century socialism). Capitalism transcends military industrial complexes even though it often includes them…”

It's pretty ridiculous to

It's pretty ridiculous to call Michael Albert an anarchist. His politics are all over the map, usually clinging to whichever liberal is donating to Znet this week. Albert may have called himself an anarchist here or there, but his anarchist credentials are pretty thin.

I've read Parecon

I've read Parecon books...

Your (what appears to be) a market socialist critique of Parecon was addressed by Albert by similar from Schweickart.

Nope, I'm a communist-anarchist and Albert does not "address" Schweickart's argument at all. He obviously does not comprehend the points Schweickart makes. Fair-dos to Albert, he has placed the debate on the Znet webpage:

http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/zdebatealbertvsschweickart.htm

Have a look for yourselves. It is pretty obvious that Albert just does not comprehend the points being made -- I guess that is unsurprising because if he did then his pet-project would have to be abandoned.

I would also suggest Schweickart's Against Capitalism--vthat has a good, short, discussion of Parecon's flaws.

And generally appears to come from a stance of someone who has to actually read any book on Parecon!

Ah, yes, the sign of a true utopian -- it is possible for someone to read a utopian and NOT be attracted to it, to see its flaws. I think the notion that I have not read anything on Parecon quite funny -- why assume that I would discuss something I know nothing about? You recommend a book ("The Political Economy of Participatory Economics") which I own and have read, along with other Parecon books. It is not convincing.

It reminds me of the debates of the 1930s between the "Austrian" economists and the so-called "market socialists" (Lange and Taylor). Lange argued that the central planners could gather the necessary information and solve the appropriate equations to mimic the market. The neo-classical economists agreed and proclaimed Lange the winner of the debate. In reality, it just showed the poverty of neo-classical economics.

And guess what, Micheal Albert involves both Lange AND neo-classical models:

'About half a century ago, Oscar Lange, Abba Lerner, and Frederick Taylor, responded to an erroneous consensus that public enterprise economies could not operate efficiently by elaborating a model of what they called a "socialist" economy that they argued was capable of yielding Pareto optimal outcomes. While not an end to the "socialist calculation debate," their model served as a powerful challenge to what had become a firmly held "impossibility" conviction among economists regarding the supposed inability of public enterprise systems to yield efficient results. Interestingly, their formal model was derived directly from propositions well known to microeconomists of their day.

'Our formal model of a participatory economy also relies heavily on work well known to microeconomic theorists...'

No wonder Albert does not understand Schweickart's argument!

Albert has frequently called himself an Anarchist.

Yes -- so did Murray Rothbard. Assertion does not make it so... I have never thought that Parecon was anarchist. Yes, it has anarchistic elements in it but the overall model is far from libertarian. So, perhaps Albert thinks he is an anarchist but, personally, I'm not convinced. If he is a libertarian, he seems unaware of the non-anarchist nature of his economic utopia.

Finally, I should note that there is no attempt to actually refute the points I'm making. Instead, I'm referred to Albert's exchange with Schweickart -- which shows that Albert does not understand the points being made. Not impressed...

Hahnel and Albert are part of

Hahnel and Albert are part of the libertarian milieu so this is perhaps unsurprising.

I did suggest he was a libertarian social democrat -- libertarian IS wider than just anarchist.

In interviews Albert calls his proposals “an anarchist economy” and Hahnel says he is a “proud libertarian socialist.”.

You can be a libertarian socialist without being an anarchist. And as I've just suggested, there is a difference between saying something is "an anarchist economy" and being an anarchist yourself (Marx's communism, for example). And, of course, if you are trying to get people interested in your pet-project you will stress that it is the same as what the people in question want. Whether it is or not, well, that is up for debate.

In addition, I am more than willing to be convinced of my wrongness -- if someone provides a source/argument which addresses my concerns, I will read it and if it seems convincing then I will change my mind! Simple. So far, nothing -- although I was once denounced as being a would-be "co-ordinator"! Which was drole, considering Parecon's hosts of facilitation boards...

Any cursory reading of these books would highlight examples of this.

Okay, provide me with a quote where Albert proclaims he is an anarchist. A "cursory reading" should provide a host of them, after all...

As far as I know, Albert's

As far as I know, Albert's been pretty clear that he DOESN'T identify as an anarchist. Beyond that, I don't share the allergy to parecon, though I'm critical of it. It's one possible vision advocated for by some anarchists. Most are critical of it. It should be debated in principled ways along with other visionary arguments.

Yes, in short there is a

Yes, in short there is a difference between proclaiming something is an anarchist model and proclaiming yourself an anarchist.

As far as I know, Albert's been pretty clear that he DOESN'T identify as an anarchist.

Yes, that was what I was thinking. The poster above quotes Albert saying that Parecon was an anarchist model, which is not quite the same as proclaiming oneself an anarchist. After all, in theory, Marx's "higher stage" of communism is an anarchist model but Marx was hardly an anarchist.

Beyond that, I don't share the allergy to parecon, though I'm critical of it. It's one possible vision advocated for by some anarchists. Most are critical of it. It should be debated in principled ways along with other visionary arguments.

I would agree -- it needs to be discussed and critiqued, along with everything else (including communist-anarchism!). In terms of Parecon, I really don't see how it could work. It is fine to be critical and debate, but if you seriously don't think it could ever work then you simply should not hold your tongue! I'm prepared to be convinced otherwise, but Parecon people don't address/comprehend the issues raised. Albert's response to Schweickart shows this, I would argue.

And, of course, any anarchist society would be marked by different economic arrangements (particularly at first). Individualism, mutualism, collectivism, communism and so on would be tried -- depending on the desires of those involves and objective conditions. Also, non-anarchist sysems would be tried as well for those who wish to be ruled.

Yeah, I pretty much agree

Yeah, I pretty much agree with what you're putting forward here, though I still remain agnostic on the question of parecon (actually, I consider myself a libertarian communist, but would advocate for an experimental vision similar to that of Malatesta).

As far as the contents of the book goes, I think it makes perfect sense to include Robin's libertarian socialist analysis of austerity and contemporary capitalism and Michael's afterward. That does include two non-anarchists in a book on anarchist economics--a fair enough criticism, but they are both decent enough additions. Robin gives a libertarian socialist analysis of austerity and contemporary capitalism that is an abridged version of a talk he gave at a huge anarchist festival in Athens--seems perfectly appropriate to me. Michael advances a position in his afterward that actually clarifies that he is not an anarchist (he advocates for electoral strategies)--I think the piece could be a decent discussion document and that having a well-known radical economist write the afterward makes sense.

In terms of vision, there are three pieces in the section dedicated to post-capitalist vision. None of them advocate for parecon and two are critical of it. A couple of people make complimentary asides in their chapters and Chris Spannos does advocate for it. That's it in the book, so folks can expect to see the position advanced and some small critiques, but it is largely ignored in the majority of the text. I think that generally reflects the attitudes of anarchists toward parecon--a few advocate for it, some are critical of it, most are like myself and really have little idea whether or not it's "workable" and prefer to wait and see what forms emerge in a revolutionary situation before we start advocating for this or that narrower position.

To be fair, there are some pieces in the book I'm not fond of, but there were three editors and all of these decisions weren't just up to me. I also think it makes sense to include pieces from diverse perspectives because I realize I don't have all of the answers and that diversity is necessary to start decent discussions and debates with the text.

Sorry for the long-winded reply! Now back to reading Dolgoff's collection on Bakunin....     =)

As far as the contents of the

As far as the contents of the book goes, I think it makes perfect sense to include Robin's libertarian socialist analysis of austerity and contemporary capitalism and Michael's afterward.

I don't have too many objections to including both of them. In terms of analysing capitalism and the crisis, I'm sure there will be much to agree with -- I don't deny they are libertarians. I think I've a bit sick of Albert cropping up in places as some sort of spokeperson for anarchism -- his article on primitivism was included (for obvious reasons, i.e., to make us look bad) in a book by the SWP on tendencies on the anti-globalisation movement.

That does include two non-anarchists in a book on anarchist economics--a fair enough criticism, but they are both decent enough additions . . . I think the piece could be a decent discussion document and that having a well-known radical economist write the afterward makes sense.

As I said, I'm no objections as such -- it depends on what is being said. If it gets people outside the movement to read it, all the better.

I think that generally reflects the attitudes of anarchists toward parecon--a few advocate for it, some are critical of it, most are like myself and really have little idea whether or not it's "workable" and prefer to wait and see what forms emerge in a revolutionary situation before we start advocating for this or that narrower position.

That seems like a fair summation of the situation. I'm in the critical camp (obviously) and while I think Parecon cannot answer my criticisms I would like to be proven wrong.

I also think it makes sense to include pieces from diverse perspectives because I realize I don't have all of the answers and that diversity is necessary to start decent discussions and debates with the text.

Agreed. Diversity is good -- a free society will be diverse!

Sorry for the long-winded reply! Now back to reading Dolgoff's collection on Bakunin....

That is good, but if you can get either Micheal Bakunin: Selected Writings (edited by Arthur Lehning) or The Basic Bakunin (edited by Robert M. Cutler) then do so -- better translations as well as having material not in Dolgoff's book. Suffice to say, a new anthology of Bakunin's works would be a very good idea -- maybe that should be my next project after volume 2 of AFAQ is in print?

To continue on from this

To continue on from this debate, I had a look at the The Political Economy of Participatory Economics webpage that was previously quoted. It is all based upon neoclassical equilibrium economics! What is even more ironic is that Albert and Hahnel continuously critique equilibrium theory throughout the book but in order to model Parecon, they utilize the same theory in order to justify its apparent efficiency. For instance, take a look at the welfare section and the equations they use - one could pull them straight out of a neoclassical journal, the type of abstract non-empirical maths and models that the conventional economics profession uses.

All the theory and modeling building is fine, but it would be wrong to foist this upon anyone unless it was first extensively tested in the real world, which has not been done. This is why I think that Schweickart's vision is implementable, as we are somewhat familiar with disequilibrium economics, uncertainty, non-rationality, etc. in order for socialist markets to be workable.

It is all based upon

It is all based upon neoclassical equilibrium economics!

Yes, it is! And I would say that the rationale for this modelling is flawed. Capitalists did not wait until the neo-classical general equilibrium model was created before creating capitalism! And Smith did not produce abstract models of things which did not exist, rather he described and modelled what he saw around him. Of course, neo-classical economics does not even do that -- it exists to defend capitalism.

All the theory and modeling building is fine, but it would be wrong to foist this upon anyone unless it was first extensively tested in the real world, which has not been done.

Yet even the examples used in the book show its flaws. As usual when someone accuses me of not understanding something, or being ignorant of it, or being wrong, I re-read some of my Parecon books. Looking Forward gave an example of someone creating a plan request and it helpfully explained that people would not be expected to list every item wished to be consumed but would rather group like-items together. As an example, it listed "alcoholic beverages"

Now, I'm not an expert in brewing alcohol but I know enough to know that different drinks involve different inputs. Wine needs grape; Beer, malt and hops; spirits, well, grains, potatoes, fruit, etc.; cider, apples; perry, pears. and so on. Making a request for, say, 50 litres of  "alcoholic beverages" is meaningless. You need to make a detailed list of exactly what you want to drink for any sort of plan to be created -- you need that information to get the appropriate inputs!

And that is not all. How do you want that in? A big 50 litre plastic bottle? Yummy. Or in bottles? If so, what size? I assume that you would like beer bottles in a different size than wine ones. That requires different inputs as well.

Similarly, a workplace proclaiming it will produce 5 million litres of  "alcoholic beverages" adds little. It could be producing 5 million litres of cider while everyone wants 5 million litres of white wine. Still, the plan has been met -- even if everyone gets 50 litres of cider in five 10 litre plastic bottles...

Still, rest assured, at every stage Looking Forward proclaimed that we would have last years plan to work from! So, its plans all the way down...

This is why I think that Schweickart's vision is implementable, as we are somewhat familiar with disequilibrium economics, uncertainty, non-rationality, etc. in order for socialist markets to be workable.

I would agree that Schweickart's system could work -- if any previous revolution is to go by, the next social revolution will probably go through a mutualist phrase. He is right to stress the need for horiztonal links between workplaces/communes/etc -- where he goes wrong is to assume such links have to be based on market exchange.

Still, between something flawed which works (mutualism) and something perfect which cannot work (Parecon), I know what I would choose! But, as a communist-anarchist, I think/hope we can do better.

@ post by anon 20:55 (But

@ post by anon 20:55 (But also to Anarcho)
"It is all based upon neoclassical equilibrium economics!"

Groans. No. it's. not. You mean, the The Political Economy of Participatory Economics? An academic book printed by Princeton Press using mainstream economic models? Look such models can be used with *any* proposed economy, centralised, some form of market socialism, mutualism, etc. It is generally useful to do a cursory reading of things... And if you have read that Hahnel and Albert critique such assumptions, how did you ever skip the lengthy explanations as to why they used the neolibs negative economic modelling to strengthen the case for participatory economics even within unrealistic negative assumptions? Anway...the book in the original post sounds interesting, and I'll include some more links and quotes here to clarify things for you Anarcho.

1) The reasoning behind the usage of the model is explained within the academic book (the link is to the academic book of the same name from 1991, a more mainstream book was http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/lookfor.htm, (Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century, Albert and Hahnel, South End Press, 1991.. You'll be happy to learn, there's not a model in sight in this or any other parecon book). See quotes below*.

2) Hahnel and Albert have rejected the negative assumptions behind neoclassical models and this is explained in the very book I linked to. For instance, Hahnel's "The ABCs of Political Economy" is practically based upon that. The model used is one based upon the negative assumptions behind neoliberal mainstream economic theory. It is not that they are denying empathy and solidarity, but that they're not basing the model in a requirement that every economic actor be a fully-formed saint -- something which as a libertarian socialist and pareconist myself, I would have thought was pretty useful given the economy is a giant school and it currently teaches many of us, all the wrong things...moving into a new economy can only be easier with such 'bad pupils' bad instincts not violating our aims ;...Never mind not having a vacuum which will be filled by others more authoritarian ideas, making the preferences of those who live under them to be ruled or not, as a moot point.

3) Chapter 5 starts with the quote "It is impossible to show that a feasible nonmarket system at least approaches the productivity of the market unless a rather well developed theoretical model of the nonmarket system is available.
-Allen Buchanan"
Pat Devine and other third way market socialists also put forth this tina barrier before even considering a non-market system. I really cannot fathom how it's a bad thing to have an anarchist economic model show a system working even with the worst assumptions of many of our polar opposites. And I realise Anarcho you remain to be convinced...however it has yet to be challenged convincingly from that quarter in terms of its feasibility (and no I don't include Schweikart in that, of which more on that in my next post)

*

See page 105 of "The Political Economy of Participatory Economics"

http://books.zcommunications.org/books/5.htm

"...1. A formal model of participatory planning can attain optimal outcomes under less restrictive assumptions than necessary for formal models of market and centrally planned economies...."

"....We exclude these features [interpersonal empathy solidarity] both because they arc difficult to model formally, and, more important, so we can see what conclusions can be derived even if actors in the economy had no interpersonal empathy. Specifically, we want to demonstrate that convergence and optimality results for participatory planning do not depend on the existence of empathy among participants."

[.....]

"....That is, if the kind of economy we espouse could only function efficiently if actors made choices based on concern for one another, it would only be of value for people who have already achieved a high degree of mutual concern. But we claim to have designed an economy that promotes solidarity by overcoming mistrust and antagonisms based on real historical experiences of exploitation and oppression by building a legacy of equitable, mutually beneficial institutions. That is, we claim individual self-interest coincides with the social interest in PE, and PE's institutions lead people to take the interests of others as seriously as they take their own when making decisions.
So, we reiterate, the conclusions of FMPE are not based on any assumption of empathetic behavior on actors' parts. In FMPE actors are assumed to be the same "homo-economi" as in traditional models-doing the best they can for themselves under the circumstances in which they find themselves. In PE there is additional qualitative information provided that promotes development of solidarity and in PE there are opportunities for granting exceptions to rules concerning effort and consumption based on empathy for others' needs. Thus, to the extent that real human behavior in PE deviates from individual self-interest and incorporates a degree of solidarity, PE will function better than conclusions from FMPE predict.
..."

"...In sum:


1. In the traditional world of abstract formal models, participatory economies deserve to be considered an equally viable alternative to perfectly competitive capitalist and coordinator market and centrally planned economies.
2. Formal models of participatory economies achieve Pareto optimality under far less restrictive and more realistic assumptions than formal models of market and centrally planned economies.

3. Realistic capitalist and coordinator economies differ from their formal representations in ways that magnify their failings, while realistic participatory economies differ from their formal representation in ways that enhance their capacity to attain desirable results in fewer steps and at reduced cost..."

Groans. No. it's. not. You

Groans. No. it's. not. You mean, the The Political Economy of Participatory Economics? An academic book printed by Princeton Press using mainstream economic models?

Exactly, "mainstream economic models" are neo-classical models. They make lots of assumptions and so prove that capitalism is "efficient" and wonderful. Albert creates a similar model, using the same kind of models, and proclaims that Parecon with "work" and be efficient. Just as Lange did in the 1930s, and as Albert explictly acknowledges....

Look such models can be used with *any* proposed economy, centralised, some form of market socialism, mutualism, etc. It is generally useful to do a cursory reading of things...

No, it is not. It is a total dead-end and done only to impress mainstream economists who take neo-classical general equilibrium theory seriously.

And if you have read that Hahnel and Albert critique such assumptions, how did you ever skip the lengthy explanations as to why they used the neolibs negative economic modelling to strengthen the case for participatory economics even within unrealistic negative assumptions?

And how they point to said model in their popular books to show that Parecon will work?

2) Hahnel and Albert have rejected the negative assumptions behind neoclassical models and this is explained in the very book I linked to.

I think you misunderstood the point being made -- it is not that their model is neo-classical in its assumptions but that it uses the techniques and aspirations of neo-classical economics combines it with new assumptions and builds another mathematical model which does not reflect any possible reality -- all in the name of socialism.

3) Chapter 5 starts with the quote "It is impossible to show that a feasible nonmarket system at least approaches the productivity of the market unless a rather well developed theoretical model of the nonmarket system is available. -Allen Buchanan"

And I noted that this is a deep flaw (see one of my previous comments). They have created an abstract model of a socialist economy which could not exist in order to contrast it with an abstract model of a capitalist economic which could not exist. Which is a waste of time -- worse, it breds illusions that Parecon could work.

I really cannot fathom how it's a bad thing to have an anarchist economic model show a system working even with the worst assumptions of many of our polar opposites.

Because, like the models of neo-classical economics, it describes something which does not and could never exist. I'm all for models, realistic ones which reflect a real economy. As such, apeing the models of neo-classical economics is a dead-end.

And I realise Anarcho you remain to be convinced...however it has yet to be challenged convincingly from that quarter in terms of its feasibility (and no I don't include Schweikart in that, of which more on that in my next post)

Schweichart's critique has not been answered, sorry.


1. In the traditional world of abstract formal models, participatory economies deserve to be considered an equally viable alternative to perfectly competitive capitalist and coordinator market and centrally planned economies.

You do realise that the "perfectly competitive capitalist" model is impossible? It does not, and cannot, describe something that could exist. As for central planning, yes, with the appropriate assumptions it works fine -- just as capitalism does. In practice, well, that is the problem... same as with capitalism.

So far, this is an appeal to a model using mainstream economic techniques. As these techniques are used to describe something impossible, I'm afraid I'm not impressed with Parecon invoking them. Lange did it in the 1930s (as Albert himself, ironically, notes). It only convinced neo-classical economists who believed their own models reflected reality...

So, just to stress, I'm not going to be convinced by appeals to models like those presented by neo-classical economics. They don't describe any real economy and any Parecon model will, likewise, will prove wonderful things about something that could not exist.

Regarding the meeting point

Regarding the meeting point and participatory planning issues raised above (and ignoring/parking the ridiculously sectarian points saying Albert is not an anarchist or how parecon's point X disagrees with what my cherished Anarchist saint said in Y....or even at the very least that it is not a vital contribution to libertarian left economic thought!) Anyway, it really doesn't help misconstruing participatory planning as having endless large-scale meetings resulting in chaos and stagnation, particularly if you really have read any of it.

The jibes on the iteration boards (which are, again, of course, balanced jobs complexes and could be automated entirely if a parecon wanted that) are countered in those very same books you own and have read... While when comparing possible economic models we are talking about "long-run" models operating upon previous years plans, meaning most changes are routine and the planning process is largely almost automatic in most decisions taken.

As Robin Hahnel has pointed out - “Many of the procedures we recommended were motivated precisely to avoid pitfalls in the naïve illusion that “the people” can make all economic decisions that affect them in what amounts to “one big meeting”.”
There is no 'One Big Meeting' which in any case, inevitably violates self-management.

(apologies about the length of this but you did ask for examples!) so see Hahnel's talk to the CNT last year (followed by an 'interview' q&a)

Anarchist Planning For Twenty-First Century Economies: A Proposal

http://www.zcommunications.org/anarchist-planning-for-twenty-first-centu...

in particular the section "Dangers to Avoid in Democratic Planning"
"
Participatory planning is designed so worker and consumer councils can decide what they want to do as long as it does not misuse productive resources that belong to all or take unfair advantage of others. It is designed to help worker and consumer councils demonstrate to one another that their proposals are socially responsible by generating the information to form such judgments. And it is designed to avoid unproductive and contentious meetings where representatives from different councils make proposals not only about what those they represent will do, but about what workers in other councils will do as well. The planning procedure may take a number of rounds before proposals are confirmed as fair and not wasteful of social resources, but rounds in the planning procedure are not rounds of increasingly contentious meetings between representatives from different councils to debate the merits of different overall, national production plans without information necessary to make informed decisions. They are simply meetings inside each worker and consumer council and federation to reconsider and revise their own proposal about what they want to do with clear guidelines about what will win approval from others. Unlike other models of democratic planning, councils never have to argue over someone else’s ideas about what they should do, they do not have to plead their case for what they want to do in contentious meetings with others, and there is a clear agenda for any meetings required to adjudicate special appeals.
 
Deliberative democracy has long been valued by anarchists and is slowly gaining wider support in broader circles as well. But deliberation about annual economic plans can take two very different forms. Deliberation can be over competing comprehensive annual plans, and take place at meetings attended by only a few representatives from each council. Or, deliberation can be over what each worker and consumer councils wants to do itself, and take place within each worker and consumer council among all members to formulate and revise their “self-activity” proposal in response to feedback from others and more accurate estimates of opportunity and social costs. The differences between these two different ways to carry out deliberative democracy are crucial.
"

So according to the participatory planning system that a parecon might choose to go with, everyone would still act individually during the majority of the rounds. There is no requirement for any meeting. However you could have in one parecon a 5 round process, where meetings would take place in the final two rounds. In another, you could decide to have virtually no meetings. You simply compare your proposed work load and proposed consumption with the average of others’ proposals. It is also worth pointing out that formulating and revising proposals is all part of the conceptual work of councils and federations. In addressing meetings and time obligations, Albert offers a clarification: “We did not propose a model of democratic planning in which people or their elected representatives, meet face-to-face to endlessly discuss and negotiate how to coordinate all their activities.”  Hahnel goes further saying, “Our participatory planning procedure is one that literally involves no meetings at all.” See the talk above for more on this.

So any meetings to decide on proposals and revisions regarding one’s own activities are meetings *within*, not between councils and federations. All of which is part of your BJC in any case. Instead the proposal is a procedure in which councils and federations submit proposals only for their own activities, receive new information including revised estimates of social costs, and resubmit proposals, again, only for their own activities. There is no meeting.

Councils and federations submit their own proposals and vote thumbs up or down on the proposals of others, based upon social benefit to cost ratios, or whether consumption requests are overly optimistic, infeasible or greedy.

Nor is there meetings of delegates to define different feasible, comprehensive plans to be voted on near the end of a possible parecon. Delegates to particular federations will formulate public good consumption options for those in their federations to vote on, but there are no meetings of delegates from different councils and federations to negotiate changes in the proposals coming from different councils and federations until they are mutually feasible.

Hahnel asserts that the participatory planning procedure, not only eliminates the perverse incentive inherent in central planning to disguise one’s true capabilities, it also provides all worker and consumer councils with sufficient information so that they can easily determine when any work or consumption proposal is socially responsible, i.e. fair and efficient. Because 99% of the votes are “no brainers,” so to speak, this does not need to be a contentious, burdensome, and time-consuming process. While, say, 99% of the voting can be done *automatically*, and 99% of the votes can be taken care of by federations rather than individual councils, (votes only have to be on proposals of councils within their worker and consumer federation), – so all this voting really takes up very little time.
The alternative to such a round-by-round, participatory democratic planning process is essentially a central planning authority deciding.

As Hahnel explains "If a worker council proposal “costs out,” – if its social benefit to social cost ratio is one or higher – then all the rest of us are better off if they are given permission to do what they have proposed, otherwise we are worse off. Only if one believes the numbers lie because there are special circumstances is there reason not to do an automatic default vote, “yea” if SB/SC > 1; “nay” if SB/SC < 1.

There is a similar “no brainer” rule for how to vote on consumer council proposals. So when all those proposals from other councils come in for our approval or disapproval, they all come in with a clear signal as to how we should vote without even thinking about it. All we have to do is tag a few we have doubts about, and for all the rest we just hit the default vote key and we’re done. Only if and when we think there is reason to doubt the numbers do we need to “think” about how to vote, and then possibly vote contrary to the default option.

Nor do we have to do this for millions of different proposals from councils in distant cities and states. If there are 10 neighbourhood consumer councils in a ward federation only the other nine neighbourhood councils in that ward federation need to vote on each of their proposals. If there are 10 ward federations in a city federation, only the other nine wards in that city need to vote on each ward proposal. Wards will need to check on other ward averages, and cities will need to check on other city averages, but this still eliminates 99% of the proposals any single entity must vote on. In other words, most of the voting can be decentralized and taken care of within federations. "

The participatory planning procedure is precisely an alternative to the “big meeting” notion of how to democratically plan a national economy. Hahnel and Albert say they “ agree with critics who think the “big meeting” version of national, democratic, economic planning is impractical, and would prove more a nightmare than a dream—*which is why we proposed the participatory planning procedure instead.”*

It is clear that participatory planning need not be an overburdening process. That was partly, the entire point. However, as Albert and Hahnel suggest, modern computer technology would save time facilitating planning. Also they suggest one time saving procedure that could be used if people in a participatory economy want to. After a number of iterations had already settled the major contours of the plan—without meetings between delegates from different councils – the IFB could define a few feasible plans within those contours for all to vote on *without ever meeting and debating at all.*

For example, if 98% of the plan is settled in the first five iterations, then people could ask the IFB staff to formulate, say, four different ways to settle the remaining 2% of the plan and submit them to a referendum. But only if they felt this was necessary. In any case, this option reduces planning time rather than increases it. It could be used, or not. Again, to re-iterate the IFB is a balanced job complex like any other and people are rotated or not out of it, and furthermore, if people required it, the tasks there could be fully automated.

Furthermore, it bears pointing out again, that Hahnel and Albert did not even propose face-to-face meetings where people from different councils or federations could plead their cases for unusual consumption or production proposals. Instead they proposed that councils submit qualitative information as part of their proposals so that higher-level federations could grant exceptions in unusual cases should they choose to. As mentioned, the proposed procedure for approving or disapproving unusual proposals is a simple up, down vote rather than a rancorous meeting. Indeed, the vast majority of proposals would go straight through based upon their social benefit to cost ratio.

Finally, processing and meeting time is far from zero in capitalist economies -- something which was pointed out in your original post Anarcho. Within corporations you have echelons of managers and staff whose job it is to try to forecast demand and supply, for the absentee capitalists. Large corporations are already planned economies, which use estimations of consumer demand and statistics in terms of fine detail of final products. The market is supplanted for thousands of intermediate products. They coordinate vast amounts of information and intricate flows of goods and materials. They use algorithms to predict consumption. In any complex industrial society, some degrees of planning meetings are required. The advantage of parecon is that the power to plan is no longer exclusive to elites, or, as in a market socialist system, unevenly distributed among elite conceptual and manual workers, but rather open to all.  

i'll just add here that 1)

i'll just add here that
1) i actually talked to hahnel of parecon just after it appeared because i had read a previous book of his, which was pretty basic, but well done. (in a sense it was 'post-anarchist' in the sense that it was not 'vulgarly marxist' (ie reducing life to economics, and materialism---or, in other words, marx minus his essay on alienation, which was not part of the canon of vulgar marxism). he gave me the book; and we discussed me putting it on a computer---doing a model (he finally did get a grad student----i think from china, who later got a tenure track position, though maybe not tenure---to do it).
i suggested an approach, and he talked to m albert about it, and m albert declared my approach essentially 'wack'. (I proposed using a very-up-to-date method (using things like 'genetic algorithms' or 'neural nets'), as opposed to what hahnel wanted (various very old approaches based on kuhn-tucker optimization which is what historically has been done with the kinds of 'equations' in his book on Parecon. (I actually don't consider those 'equations'; they are 'identities' or rather just a rephrasing of essentially commone sense ideas into symbolic (pseudo-mathematical) form. That is quite common---it makes academic careers---e.g. you say 'i want money' and then create an axiomatic system where 'I' is one kind of variable X, 'want' is a function or operation F(Y), and Y is another kind of variable, money. Then
after your introductory paragraph, you write an equation
X=F(Y)
and send a grant proposal to somewhere showing why you need money to study the s0lutions of this equation, which is very difficult and beyond the capabilities of the homies, instead requiring deep PhF thinkers.

my basic view of parecon was a) there is nothing new or deep there (almost obvious by their reference list----almost nonexistant regarding relevant material----i was almost surprised that they didnt have an appendix with a dictionary in it, explainging how they had come up with the 'english language' as a unique discovery owing to noobe but themsleves.).

2) anyway, i decided i wasnt going to waste my time.
also, people like hahnel --- academics who dont really seem to do any work above say, what people write for free on blogs or in comments sections on web sites---who know little math, programming, have done little library research on what they are supposedly talking about (I guess hahnel would say shit man, every month i read the entire issue of Z magazine and the nation, so i AM an Expert and deserve to be a professor---just as in 10 years a bunch of people in 'anarchy' will say 'i read green anarchy' or 'anarchy' so now I have tenure in the anarchism department at harvard training anarchists who will work in advertizing, but like sociology---attempt to anarchize marketing---inersectionalities between metatextualities, eventual inevitabilities, sextualexternalities and greenwashing of the participatiory economics of coca cola workers in columbia: ending the drug war via coca to coca colonization )---and then ask somebody else to do the 'shit work' like computer programming a mathematical model, debugging it, , etc. make me ill. Especially a pretty sh-t model.
(I mentioned 'chinese grad student' because in fact people from other countries will happily do sh-t work for various reasons --- they get finding from their own countries to do it, and it beast assembling products for walmart.)
Tenure is basically a joke in my view (or academia in general----half of them are brilliant, extremely competent, self-made men like George W Bush, who similairly earned his presidency; the others are just loons (eg einstein) who basically ignore the rest of the world and frolic in the images).

it was also most telling that in his 'participatory economics' the possible 'sh-it worker' was not permitted any input into how the job was to be done----rather, its my way or the highway. 'Parecon is a good and true theory---only it aint apply to me'.
"Fuckin a---you can participate in MY economy. As a compassionate philosopher king, i'll hang up at the plantation house while y'all pick the cotton---with balanced job complexes---and bring me tea and whatever else i want'.
equally relevant is the one example Albert always sites of how parecon can exist and is, is Z communincations----basically 3 mutual friends who apparentlty share equally the work and the proceeds---'today i'll check the email, and tomorrow you will...'
And, the whole world can work this way.
you just scale it up. in 10 years, he may have an example of a 4 person parecon business. gradually, you can get 300 million (like the usa) and finally 6 billion, all together now. 'come together'.
'
'Those of us at Z will take turns checking the email, and y'all will take turns digging minerals in the congo so our computers work, and others will take turns building computers and doing long haul truck driving to deliver them to us....'

I think that'd work.

(similarily---or actually better---the lange-lerner model can work (contra hayek). noone thought 'man could fly' until some bicycle mechanics (the wright bros) showed em how; and now there is a computer model implementing the LL dream (cool, j!).
however, unfortunately, perghaps, facebook is more popular than doing a collective decisionmmaing problem (economy, etc.) Or rather, FACEBOOK like capitalism is the solution. Thats anarcho communism.

3) parecon is essentially a dressed up form of stuff like a food co-op, or even worker self-magement, or even a family with several kids you put up a list of chores to do, and then check off what they do by negotiating who does what.

the differences argued here (albert, anarcho, schweijert,l etc) are essentially similar to the various sects who claim priority to the golden rule and the correct way to phrase it.
the old testament, new, talmud, islam, confucian ism, etc all I gather have their variants and claims.

Of course, like Pepsi and Coke, there may be some real essential differences between say 'libertarian communism', libertarian socialism, and anarchocoomunism, social democracy and economic democracy and democratic socialism....

I do know for a fact that 'you cant be a man if you dontsmoke the same cigarette as me'.

(Similarily, propudhon and marx are essemntially dressed up forms of pamphlets written by the diggers and levelers, whicgh themselves are written down forms of what oppressed people could remember or imagine what many forms of indigenous 'tribal' cooperative socieites practiced.)

4) as for schweikert, that is sort of the flip side (i guess). he also has little or nothing to say. but sh-t if you are a wonk you gotta say something to get paid.
as a shallow lazy philosopher who also has never (it appears) worked a day (or maybe he has---spent so much time working a cash register to pay for college he didnt have time to read or learn how to think) he can't imagine a 'balanced job complex' nor planning his list of what he may need.

'shit----how can we say that me writing 'philosophy' (eg having a gabfest with m albert) is comparable to the electrician who is laying cable so we can do this. No F-g way. I do philosophy, others wash my dishes and clean the bathroom, and grow the food. There is no way to balance this. Of course, in the long run we believe in equality, but in the short run the people who pick my food and clean my house get 10$/hr, whikle I get $40/hr.

(I also agree with this job----my own job is being Famous, Rich and Envied ; its very difficult to compare what it takes for this job with others---others are, for example, not Famous or Rich---if one was to balance being Rich and Poor then the world would collapse because these jobs would dissapear like philosophy and the rest of the garbage mentioned here.)

Also---hiow can I know whether given that I ate 26 avocadoes last year, that I will know how many i want this yeasr. Also, times change. I may want 26 seperate second homes next year ----say, 13 on the beach, and 13 in the mountains. How can i come to a community meeting and submit this list of my needs to the community, when it may change----i might want 10 in the mountains, and 16 on the beach.

This proves balanced job complexes and participatory planning are imposible. f-k off my paycheck dude, and dont tell me what i need, or that i must count, or be accountable.

instead, in the future under market socialism we will achieve equality. after i'm dead, the slaves can go free.
free at last, no money down.

5) evidently i'm part of this dynamic, otherwise i wouldnt be posting here or even interested.
but i guess trying to stop the straw men from fighting each other is easier than, say the sht going down in egypt.
(interestingly, i got caught making a fire where it was prohibited when it was 11 degrees out---the field was essentially straw at that time. I saw it burining up, and then i saw car lights...ran, fell, got all cut up, some guy picked up on his machine and drove me to the edge of the field and let me off---and then i relaxed, wandered home, still had a beer in my pocket, sipped on it, and then suddenly---uh oh. a bit embarrasing getting handcuffed on my street. 'we're gonna tase you'. now i have a date (in court).

Understandably, discussion

Understandably, discussion can become more than a little disjointed in the time my posts above got through the mod filter.
The posts ( post at Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:11 — Anonymous
Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:54 — Anonymous ) were actually posted well before Anarcho's latest post. However, just a brief additional picking up on the repetitious Schweickart point in the post concerning er, alcohol!

I hope the cost/benefit ratio comparisons above (and the links to Hahnel's interview and talk) show how providing the benefit cost ratio simply means a production group are fulfilling the preferences of consumers for, say wine over beer. If another group fails in this regard, then the group or workers council (wc) must explain why, or could face disbandment. Unlike in Schwieckart's market socialism, the beer "sold" will not generate increased income based upon output increasing their wages.

Likewise, if consumers still stick with their requests despite indications that there is increasing social demand for that (reflected in indicative prices), we know as a production group that this is important to them, because it says they are willing to use up a larger part of their budget to get it.

If the first production group, seeing an increasing demand for what they produce (wine), could propose an increased level of social investment in their production group, to increase output. And so on. Unlike in a market this is more like a negotiation process, where a social plan is arrived at.

Unlike in market socialism, the system is designed to prevent the emergence of a managerial elite, as bargaining power, wages, working conditions, worker talent, luck, regional effects are essentially taken out of competition. Of course disbandment does not equate to what happens in capitalism or market socialism, and means being moved to other more suitable activities, or being trained by the industrial federation of similar wcs which the two groups are part of etc.

The planning that occurs over a set period of time, say, at the beginning of the year is a process of social self-management of the resources to produce X. What firms producing what products should we "invest" in and how much? Having input ahead of time from consumers provides additional information that a market system doesn't have. But investment is not the same thing as ordering the particular socket set you want for Christmas.

Of course the above beer and wine, is just a simplified example, and is not actually dependent on having two production groups or just upon an experimental production proposal which doesn't work out. That doesn't mean people shouldn't be remunerated for doing the work.

So basically if a production group's cost/benefit ratio falls far enough below the social average, it is up to them to explain why they shouldn't be disbanded.

It's also worth remembering that Schweickart's frequent defense of the privileges and power of the professional managerial (coordinator) class is *not* separable from his defense of the market. The two are intertwined.

Schweikart just recites tedious capitalist doctrine about how resource allocation outside the market must be impossible. It really isn't that hard for individuals, as part of collectives, to plan ahead what they need and can produce for a certain time period, for collectives, as part of federations, to do the same, and so on. In fact it's done all the time in normal business...

A non market system is possible.

---
And maybe I'm being a non-sectarian philistine in saying this, but parecon, platformism, syndicalism all seem to mesh into the same left-libertarian pre-figurative politics for me. I'm in favour of having a multitude of well thought out visionary alternatives that we can borrow from, before, during and after any revolutionary moment, and Parecon rightly borrows a lot from the history of libertarian socialism (as much as I'm aware of it, there's a lot of similarity with 30s Spain in some respects), but it's not as if this is not pointed out in the books.

 PLEASE DON'T RESUBMIT POSTS

 PLEASE DON'T RESUBMIT POSTS AWAITING MODERATION - THIS IS BEING DONE MANUALLY BY ONE (ALREADY VERY BUSY) PERSON AND ITS A PAIN IN THE ASS ALREADY AS WE GET LOTS OF SPAM - MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS ADD SIGNIFICANTLY TO THE WORKLOAD.  

I hope the cost/benefit ratio

I hope the cost/benefit ratio comparisons above (and the links to Hahnel's interview and talk) show how providing the benefit cost ratio simply means a production group are fulfilling the preferences of consumers for, say wine over beer.

How do they know it is wine over beer? The requests from the consumer states "Alcohol" -- it does not, as the books make clear, specify what kind it is. The iteration boards get, according to the books, requests for "Alcohol" (in litres, I assume). How do they know that equals so-much wine, so-much cider? They don't.

If another group fails in this regard, then the group or workers council (wc) must explain why, or could face disbandment.

The plan lists X litres of alcohol is to be produced. How do the workers council know what this refers to? Who asked for it? When should it be delivered? Does the plan give all this information? In that case, it is a big plan. But how can it, when people are asked to provide information grouping all types of alcohol into one group? So how do we know that we need X tonnes of potatoes for vodka, when the iteration boards know is that consumers what X litres of alcohol?

Likewise, if consumers still stick with their requests...

That is the point, people request "alcohol" but they will need to get specific kinds of alcohol in specific containers at specific times. The iteration boards knows nothing of this.

If the first production group, seeing an increasing demand for what they produce (wine), could propose an increased level of social investment in their production group, to increase output. And so on.

But they do not know its an increasing demand for wine -- consumers have, according to Looking Forward, provided a request for X litres of "alcohol." You seem to assume that the producers know that X litres of "alcohol" means in terms of specific forms of alcohol. But they don't, that information has not been provided!

And if that information is provided, then the amount of data to gather and process increases massively. If a plan (never mind five) was created, it would be huge. I think Soviet planners gave a ball-park figure of 12 millions goods in their economy. That, I am sure, was too low at the time and much too low now. We would need to go through 5 plans of millions of lines before we voted on one. Would we be able to do that? Assuming a plan could be created in the first place, of course.

Unlike in a market this is more like a negotiation process, where a social plan is arrived at.

I've sketched above why the notion of creating a plan is nowhere near as easy as Parecon suggests. And I've not even got onto job complexes and ensuring that people are in the right workplaces doing the right jobs at the right time...

Unlike in market socialism, the system is designed to prevent the emergence of a managerial elite, as bargaining power, wages, working conditions, worker talent, luck, regional effects are essentially taken out of competition.

Well, as I said, whatever its other issues at least market socialism could work. Better something flawed which works than something which, while sounding better, could not. But as I'm not a market socialist, I'll leave it there.

The planning that occurs over a set period of time, say, at the beginning of the year is a process of social self-management of the resources to produce X.

Except that, according to the book, X is unknown. Alcohol does not exist, specific forms of alcoholic drink exists. Asking people to say how much "alcohol" they want to consumer does not provide enough information to produce X, where X is so many bottles of a specific kind of beer/wine/spirit/cider/whatever.

Having input ahead of time from consumers provides additional information that a market system doesn't have.

And that input in Parecon, as noted above, does not provide additional information -- it provides no real information at all.

Of course the above beer and wine, is just a simplified example, and is not actually dependent on having two production groups or just upon an experimental production proposal which doesn't work out.

This is what gets me. Looking Forward states that people would not  provide information on beer and wine. It explicitly states that they would group all kinds of drinks under one category -- yet our Parecon supporter seems to know what X litres of alcohol requested means in terms of specific kinds of drinks -- wine and beer (and even these are groupings and specific kinds of beer/wine will have different inputs, but let us ignore that!).

Where does that information come from? It is not in the consumption requests -- Looking Forward has explicitly stated that. How do we know that a request for an extra litre of "alcohol" from a person means 3 bottles of wine rather than 10 bottles of beer? What if they have tried a new drink (like Southern Comfort) and want some of that? How does the iteration board know that if the person submits a request for "alcohol"? It does not. It cannot.

It's also worth remembering that Schweickart's frequent defense of the privileges and power of the professional managerial (coordinator) class is *not* separable from his defense of the market. The two are intertwined.

Oh, right, Schweickart calls for workplace democracy is just a ploy so that he can become a coordinator? Right... And this is irrelevant to his critique.

Schweikart just recites tedious capitalist doctrine about how resource allocation outside the market must be impossible.

While he does confuse the need for horizontal links with market exchange, his basic point is sound. I've sketched it above. Parecon has two options:

  • Group products by type -- which means there is not enough information to make decisions.
  • Have detailed item by item inputs -- which means that the amount of information to be gathered, processed and reconciled explodes.

The sad thing is, Parecon supporters do not see this at all. As this exchange sounds, they assume the iteration board will know approximate amounts of wine/beer to plan for -- while the books make it clear that they will not.

It really isn't that hard for individuals, as part of collectives, to plan ahead what they need and can produce for a certain time period, for collectives, as part of federations, to do the same, and so on. In fact it's done all the time in normal business...

Except, of course, they don't try and make detailed plans for millions of people and products...

A non market system is possible.

Oh, I agree but Parecon is not it.

And maybe I'm being a

And maybe I'm being a non-sectarian philistine in saying this, but parecon, platformism, syndicalism all seem to mesh into the same left-libertarian pre-figurative politics for me. I'm in favour of having a multitude of well thought out visionary alternatives that we can borrow from, before, during and after any revolutionary moment, and Parecon rightly borrows a lot from the history of libertarian socialism (as much as I'm aware of it, there's a lot of similarity with 30s Spain in some respects), but it's not as if this is not pointed out in the books.

 

Hear hear, anonymous! But never underestimate the power of anarchists to allow disagreement over fairly nuanced theoretical jib jab to appear as unbridgeable chasms of difference!

(apologies about the double

(apologies about the double post Andrew. Some posts were put up *after* my post so I thought mine got lost in the system...I'm also very busy myself, and working whilst doing this, so it's annoying seeing a post you've worked on, seemingly getting 'lost'...)

"
Anon: I hope the cost/benefit ratio comparisons above (and the links to Hahnel's interview and talk) show how providing the benefit cost ratio simply means a production group are fulfilling the preferences of consumers for, say wine over beer.


Anarcho: How do they know it is wine over beer? The requests from the consumer states "Alcohol" -- it does not, as the books make clear, specify what kind it is. The iteration boards get, according to the books, requests for "Alcohol" (in litres, I assume). How do they know that equals so-much wine, so-much cider? They don't.
…Would we be able to do that? Assuming a plan could be created in the first place, of course.
"

It's quite simple, and I have to say I think you're emulating Schweickart's purposefully obtuse and derisory tone in all of this…but anyway. If a Parecon wishes for them to be separated and there's the demand there to be separated, then, it is separated into wine and beer. Your whole post is addressing something that is simply -- not there. And I'm really suprised you don't know this, having read the replies by Albert to Schweickart (see links below) and the parecon books and texts? Because this must surely go without saying as Albert says as much in his response... The point here is that there is no one way of doing things in such an economy -- outside the basic institutions and not violating aims which we would surely all agree with --, as is repeated time and again in the parecon literature.

So to go with more examples, in areas such as different styles, or colours, or fashions, etc then this can be done using statistics. For instance, one example is people's sizes conform to bell curve and statistics can be used (and is used today) in fashion and clothing. People can consume every day within market capitalism using credit cards and every little purchase is logged and recorded using a (value neutral) technology. The servers fail to break down and the system pretty much relies upon it. Many people are familiar with "just in time" production, with supermarket and warehouse planning in modern capitalism and how all of this information processing is routine. The changes in demand on these products can be observed and automated. Or other finer detail, ideas, are where people might decide to have shopping centres having show-rooms of new products proposing ideas for people to consider, similar to convention centres today.

Your reference in Looking Forward:Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century is, I presume, to the informal q&a postcript below*? It looks like this was added to the book, from an informal discussion (perhaps online) in 1991, here's the exact quote out of context (full quote *) "PE: Exactly. If we group products so that similar items are considered under one label-alcoholic beverages, beef, shirts (dress, heavy, and light), cars (large and small), trips (by time and distance), records, books-and if we eliminate all products that have little use value, and if goods aren't made to wear out so we don't replace everything so often; is there really too much to assess? Do you realize that right now, in our society, four or five credit companies have files on upward of 50 million people and use those files actively? Hard as it may be to believe, moving and managing information, summarizing it, averaging it, and otherwise shaping it into useful formats that people can relate to won't be a big deal."

The mechanics of all of this is explained in the abstract in the parecon books and texts most of which are online, and I think the issue may be that Albert and Hahnel abstract a lot, and this might create confusion. (Although I'm increasing loathe to accept it on your side as it's almost word-for-word Schweickart's misreading strawmen... )
However, this is a bit of a catch22 as one of the reasons Albert and Hahnel have said they do this, is that they're loathe to blueprint (for which Anarchists would rightly criticise ).

This would give the feeling of a blueprint rather than a model, of a straightjacket rather than a flexible vision that is under the control of the people living in it. Which is not the case, as parecon is a broad model that can have many variations in design and implementation, between countries, and between regions in countries, (developing/developed, periphery etc) and between industries in economies and regions, and between workplaces and communities as well.
Btw, I actually very much agree with this broad level approach as it is only by people putting ideas into practice over time, that these finer details can be worked out, in their variations.

The broad explanation of a Parecon can be very simple (1) jobs are balanced for empowerment and desirability in balanced job complexes, (2) remuneration according to effort and sacrifice tempered by need, (3) participatory self management via round-by-round participatory planning through democratic workers and consumer councils.

*
(apologies about the quote below but I think it's best to include it and show the context)
http://books.zcommunications.org/ParEcon/lookingforward/lf6_9.htm#ist


"We have now presented a description of the basic structure of participatory economics. To get more of a feel for how the system will actually work, in the following three chapters we present descriptions of the behavior of hypothetical actors developing plans in different contexts. As a conclusion for this chapter, however, we would like to present a final discussion that took place between our usual protagonists shortly after PE described participatory planning, much as you have just read.....
....
.......MARK: There is something to what you say-in fact, examining it without prejudice, all you've done is replace markets with a primitive barter system. And in some respects you've come closer to the "ideal" sought in free market exchange than free marketeers because you've eliminated monopoly, monopsony, cartels, and various technical problems associated with markets...
 
PE: ... More important, the new system eliminates the antisocial bias of markets...
 
MARK: ... But we're not talking about establishing a system to work on some tiny island or for a group of friends going on a two-month outing. It doesn't mean much that you've overcome difficult problems present in realistic models by proposing an alternative only applicable to tiny economies where everyone can know everything. What about allocating goods and services for an economy with millions of actors and hundreds of thousands of products? What is the information burden in that context? Do you seriously believe we are all going to carefully choose among all available product options?
 
PE: Exactly. If we group products so that similar items are considered under one label-alcoholic beverages, beef, shirts (dress, heavy, and light), cars (large and small), trips (by time and distance), records, books-and if we eliminate all products that have little use value, and if goods aren't made to wear out so we don't replace everything so often; is there really too much to assess? Do you realize that right now, in our society, four or five credit companies have files on upward of 50 million people and use those files actively? Hard as it may be to believe, moving and managing
 
information, summarizing it, averaging it, and otherwise shaping it into useful formats that people can relate to won't be a big deal.
 
And regarding assessing purchases in advance, actually much of what is produced in modem economies is bought by companies and other institutions that already pass judgment on alternative possibilities well in advance, as, for example, when General Motors estimates car production and puts in orders for rubber, steel, etc. As far as time and energy is concerned, this not only can be done, it is done, though, particularly in market economies, often using the wrong data. I ought to also mention that as a bonus there will be no question of different brand names since whole industries will be internally coordinated to use the best available techniques and create a diversity of products of the highest quality. Instead of competition breeding innovation, special workplaces and teams in each, workplace will have this responsibility.
 
CENT: But who can sit down and list everything he or she wants for a whole year? And who would want to?
 
PE: You will sit at a computer console and go over a list of your consumption for last year and consider expected changes in society's total product and indicative prices for this year. In addition, you'll access some information about what is entailed in making products, and what their advantages and disadvantages may be. You'll punch out a personal consumption plan, alter it some, and then make it your first proposal. And yes, you will be able to go to showrooms to see new products and to try out ones you are unfamiliar with, choosing models with different refinements, even though you don't bother with such details at the planning stage.
 
CAP: He's raving...
 
PE: Nonsense. Shopping around might take time, but that's true now, too. Settling on a first proposal after shopping around might take as little as a few sessions of a few hours each or, in any event, less than thirty hours spread over the course of three weeks. For most people it won't take as long as filling out income tax forms now, or as the time spent dealing now with loans and bills over a few months, none of which delightful pastimes will exist in participatory economies.
 
No more driving to 3 stores looking for bargains. No more clipping coupons and licking green stamps. And Cent, no more standing in lines that you have not figured out how to get rid of in 70 years of vying. Consider how much time people spend shopping now-not just pleasantly browsing, but trying to find bargains, getting food each week in crowded supermarkets, or waiting on line for service. Think about a whole year's worth of that and then think about the time it would take to work on your participatory proposal and how much more interesting the latter project would be.
 
Yes, you would also have to update your proposal during iterations, 10 hours max, each time. Certainly some of the council meetings where you consume or work would be lengthy and exasperating. But for consumption planning, in any case, you can not attend or leave whenever you choose. Once a plan was set, subsequent shopping would be infrequent and subsequent workplace decision making would be without the hassles of catering to bosses. Much of what we seek to consume will be delivered to council outlets or even communities. Imagine the time that will save.
 
MARK: But what we want each week will continually change. Even if your slack and update techniques allow plans to accommodate the whole population, regarding weekly deliveries I certainly won't be able to decide in advance what I want every week unless I know when I'm going to have guests, when I'm going to eat out, and so on, a whole year in advance. Nobody knows that.
 
PE: That's true, so in our society we will put in orders for food deliveries on a monthly or weekly basis, whatever makes sense. And even though your order may fluctuate each week, it is averaged with the orders of everyone else in your neighborhood, so shippers are less likely to be surprised by bulk orders. The whole idea of averages allowing localized fluctuations with minimal inconvenience to producers works rather similarly in market and centrally planned economies.
 
For example, imagine that in a market economy everyone unpredictably decides they want twice as much milk, or shoes, or whatever. They would encounter delays probably worse than in participatory economies because the participatory model has much better communicative facilities. But if I were to offer this as a weakness of markets, Mark and Cap would just laugh it off. These things don't happen any more than other freak events of low probability. So why bring them up only when criticizing participatory planning? It wastes time and obscures truth. We would only have a problem if we had no means for updating plans in light of changed circumstances, tastes, etc. But we do have such means in the participatory system.
 

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Yes, another huge chunk of

Yes, another huge chunk of text which I have read and which does not address the issues raised...

It's quite simple, and I have to say I think you're emulating Schweickart's purposefully obtuse and derisory tone in all of this…but anyway.

I get frustrated at the utter lack of response. I get "Albert has addressed this" when he has not. I get chunks of text which don't address the point being made. I get pointed to debates which I have read, linked to, and noted that Albert does not address the points being made -- probably because he does not understand the issue.

For example, I have already noted that asking for "X million litres of alcohol" does NOT provide iteration boards with any real information, particularly the information required to bring supply and demand together. Why? Because they don't know what the demand is! Requests for alcohol are meaningless -- as is obvious, surely? We are informed that iteration boards will know what this kind of request means. How do they know? That is a simple question.

If a Parecon wishes for them to be separated and there's the demand there to be separated, then, it is separated into wine and beer.

And the information load automatically increases. It goes from 1 item in the plan to, well, let me think: Beer, lager, cider, perry, red wine, white wine, rose, vodka, whiskey, Southern Comfort, and so on. That is 10+ individual items when there was previously 1. Do that for all the items and, well, it gets long.

Why did Albert group them together in the first place? Because the time and energy (costs) of gathering, processing, reconciling, presenting such disaggregated data becomes huge. The more items, the harder it becomes.

Your whole post is addressing something that is simply -- not there.

It is there. I've sketched a simple example and I'm waiting to get it explained how "X million litres of alcohol" gets turned into an accurate picture of actual demand from actual people.

And I'm really suprised you don't know this, having read the replies by Albert to Schweickart (see links below) and the parecon books and texts? Because this must surely go without saying as Albert says as much in his response...

As here, he simply does not comprehend the issues involved.

The point here is that there is no one way of doing things in such an economy...

So, you are going to have different plans with different criteria? How are plans going to mesh if they record different things? How do you combine one area which lists "X million litres of alcohol" with another which is more detailed? If there is not even a standard format for information to be gathered, then the whole creation of a social plan is going to be even harder. Unless, of course, all that detailed information is aggregated into the plan with the lowest common denominator.

I have to say, the more Parecon is defended the more impossible it seems to get.

Suffice to say, I will (yet again) re-read the books and debates. I'll start with the debate I've linked to above and see if re-reading it for the tenth time makes me change my mind.

"Anon:Unlike in a market this

"Anon:Unlike in a market this is more like a negotiation process, where a social plan is arrived at.

Anarcho: I've sketched above why the notion of creating a plan is nowhere near as easy as Parecon suggests. And I've not even got onto job complexes and ensuring that people are in the right workplaces doing the right jobs at the right time...""

I'm afraid beyond reheating old arguments, you have not shown that. You've tried to paint an example of how one parecon could approach things for one class of good (which we could always split into more than one, -- there is no blueprint on that front remember,) and as being the same as for all parecons across regions and countries. You have failed to show how it is not possible, and certainly not with a misread false restriction which is not in Looking Forward beyond the informal q&a Looking Forward(1991) reply I have mentioned above.

In other words, you really need to re-read both the replies and the books, because you seem to be failing to comprehend an awful lot here and misconstruing things into false arguments against. It's hard to argue against that tactic, I'll admit, without almost quoting entire books....but I'll persist.

I mean even in Albert's reply to Schweickart, he points this out, see two paragraphs below
http://zcommunications.org/critique-without-comprehension-by-michael-albert

"Schweickart says, "What would I like to consume this coming year? I've been thinking about giving up meat, so that gives me some options. I can compare what I spent on bacon with what I might spend on . . . what? Maybe soybeans." Actually, it is not such a dumb task, but Schweickart ignores that it is rather easy to do all this at different levels of category, if one so chooses. One can operate at the level of chicken, duck, etc., or at the level of poultry. One can operate at the level of chicken, pork, beef, etc. or at the level of meat, and likewise for all other categories. Statistically, producers can easily move from demand for whole categories to demand for components within a category, and for planning purposes each person can be priced at average rates for the overall category. Is this viable? Only trying would tell for sure, but I think it would be. Updating preferences occurs during the whole year, as well. I can't present here everything Schweickart leaves out that both makes participatory planning itself more streamlined and less time consuming, but that also explains all the offsetting gains, not only in time spent, but in equity, solidarity, diversity, self management, and classlessness. But I have put it in the book, at least as well as I could perceive it in the evolving model."

[....]

Schweickart says, "How will the producers know what kind of skirt [buyers] want or the kind of sweater I'd like to give my wife if we don't specify these details on our consumption-preference list?" The answer is, of course, that in a parecon they don't explicitly know, rather they do their best to provide quality items that people will like. If people don't like some, they don't provide more of that. And so on. Markets are somewhat like that, though in markets there is the constraint that profits have to be maximized and the workforce has to be kept subordinate. If parecon producers offer up skirts or sweaters people don't like, despite their testing them with control groups, and so on, people won't purchase them at distribution centers, and styles will be changed."

link to Albert's 2nd reply
http://zcommunications.org/still-uncomprehending-by-michael-albert

As regards balanced job complexes, -- a job in capitalist corporation is essentially a collection of tasks which are unbalanced. Collecting empowering and disempowering equivalent tasks into BJCs is perfectly feasible and indeed, compatible with people's preferences for thier desirability, and your previous examples are not in any way applicable. It is entirely incentive compatible for people to respond to disempowering or not, tasks and roles and adjusting the average within the economy. And to circumvent further strawmen appearing on the horizon, this is not an anal form of analysis of each task, or each bjc being balanced at each exact moment of time. As I said above, the mechanics of all of this is explained in the books -- and while I sort of find it hard to believe in this instance.... I think the issue may be that Albert and Hahnel are abstracting a lot, -- to highlight the flexibility of each parecon beyond the few institutions and prevent blueprinting -- and this causes some to fail to conceptualise how perfectly possible such an economy is.

Furthermore, the balanced job complex is, I feel, the strongest part of participatory economics, and I really can't see how we can do better with respect to preventing the re-emergence of a professional and managerial elite. I'm sure we can improve upon it, but I see bjcs, or at least something like them, as the starting point. Having no real alternative to breaking the monopoly on empowering labour is just not good enough.

For that and other reasons, I think it's best to deal in any critique of participatory economics, in as honest a fashion as possible without resorting to a universally negative derisive tone. Is there anything of value to a round-by-round participatory process? What are your ideas on preventing class division and how would you balanced tasks and roles?

I think almost exact mimicking of a reactionary market adherent, who favours returning us (briefly) to market socialist Yugoslavia, and has said some interesting things on China... is the negativity we need to leave behind.
I mean, I can understand Schweickart who is not in favour of a non-market model which leaves class division aside, acting like that....

===
"Anon: A non market system is possible.
Anarcho : Oh, I agree but Parecon is not it."

I think parecon is the best described, most robust example of a non-market democratically planned system which is not centrally planned, and can achieve classlessness. I can only ask that you read it again, but I think you're just looking at it through Schweickart's prism and some of this is weirdly sectarian perhaps? And you really have yet to prove the opposite and using Schweickart's old derisory points on the planning process, whilst ignoring replies, and the same with BJCs, is not a viable rebuttal. Many of the points above could have been answered with Albert's replies never mind reading the books.

And don't take it the wrong way, but using that very same unconstructive 'debating' method -- whilst saying one is in favour of a system which brings classlessness, solidarity, selfmanagement and the all the things we'd all like to see, -- well, it's kinda curious really... If you believe it's not possible, fine, but throwing your hands up without any constructive alternative is not helpful.

It all boils down to a, (now assured) belief on my part, that Anarcho has even failed to read the replies by Albert, never mind the books.

Finally I agree with Albert's point in the second reply, on the potential effects of, concrete, positive vision in building a movement for a viable market abolitionist Anarchist alternative like parecon. "I even think it may be easier to win a parecon then to win some variant of market socialism because I think building a powerful movement for parecon may be easier than building a powerful movement for market socialism, the relevant insight being that workers in industrialized societies are unlikely to engage in mass movement struggle to trade in one boss for another."

---
"A great many activists and concerned people ask, quite rightly, what alternative form of social organization can be imagined that might overcome the grave flaws -- often real crimes -- of contemporary society in more far-reaching ways than short-term reform. Parecon is the most serious effort I know to provide a very detailed possible answer to some of these questions, crucial ones, based on serious thought and careful analysis."
-- Noam Chomsky

I'm afraid beyond reheating

I'm afraid beyond reheating old arguments, you have not shown that. You've tried to paint an example of how one parecon could approach things for one class of good (which we could always split into more than one, -- there is no blueprint on that front remember,) and as being the same as for all parecons across regions and countries.

I have indicated, using a standard Parecon book on the subject, a massive flaw in it. The book explicitly states that items will be classed together but, apparently, the iteration boards will somehow know what is meant! How is that done? No comment, except saying I am "reheating old arguments"! It is a pretty fundamental aspect of Parecon.

Now, the alternative of not knowing specifics is to be specific. This means that we are expected to fill in requests breaking everything down into specific items. So rather than provide a request of "50 litres of alcohol" (which is meaningless), it is suggested that people provide detailed requests of every item they want to consume. Your list gets far longer, the aggregate of the lists gets even longer and the iteration boards need to gather, process and present even bigger lists, then we need to go through these massive lists (5 times for each different plan!) and vote on them...

But no problem! It is apparently simply to do that for millions of people and millions of products.... and that is before trying to make inputs and outputs match...

You have failed to show how it is not possible, and certainly not with a misread false restriction which is not in Looking Forward beyond the informal q&a Looking Forward(1991) reply I have mentioned above.

You obviously missed the bit when I said I read Looking Forward and noted the grouping of items. I even used an example from that book! How did I "misread" what was clearly stated?

In other words, you really need to re-read both the replies and the books, because you seem to be failing to comprehend an awful lot here and misconstruing things into false arguments against.

It is not a "false argument." It was stated that production units would know what was being asked for. I pointed out that by grouping items together -- as stated in the book! -- that they would not. It is impossible to go from a request of "X litres of alcohol" to a plan listing specific kinds of drinks and required bottles. The information simply is not there. Perhaps you can explain how "X litres of alcohol" gets turned into specific forms of drink and how the iteration boards know that these are what people want?

It's hard to argue against that tactic, I'll admit, without almost quoting entire books....but I'll persist.

Easy, give me a few page numbers and I'll look it up. Looking Forward explicitly states items will be grouped in consumption requests. How does a request for X litres of alcohol become turned into a production plan for specific drinks? How does the iteration board know which drinks to produce?

One can operate at the level of chicken, pork, beef, etc. or at the level of meat, and likewise for all other categories.

At the level of "meat"? That says a lot...

Statistically, producers can easily move from demand for whole categories to demand for components within a category, and for planning purposes each person can be priced at average rates for the overall category.

How? It is "easily" done, but how? "Statistically" -- what does that mean? How does X litres of alcohol get turned into requests for specific drinks? By looking at the last plan? How does that take into account changes? The aim is to plan future production, so past statistics are not complete. Say the amount of alcohol requested changes from 50 million litres to 55 million. How do we decide what that extra 5 million is made up of? Just assume that each drink gets an increase of 10%? That may be right, if you are lucky, but it is not planning to meet consumer requests -- it is guess work. 

Is this viable? Only trying would tell for sure, but I think it would be. Updating preferences occurs during the whole year, as well.

Oh, right, we need to go through our consumption plan creation, iterations, etc. all the time... will we time to do anything else?

I can't present here everything Schweickart leaves out that both makes participatory planning itself more streamlined and less time consuming...

I hate to say this, but less time consuming seems an extremely optimistic thing to state given that people will be having to constantly keep a track of what they are consuming, resubmitting plans, getting them back, changing and resubmitting them and so on.

The answer is, of course, that in a parecon they don't explicitly know, rather they do their best to provide quality items that people will like. If people don't like some, they don't provide more of that. And so on.

That was precisely my point -- "they don't explicitly know"! How can you create plans when you don't know what is to be produced? Sure, provide the best quality items but if they produce the "best quality" cider but if I wanted wine then I would not be impressed. And how would they know I wanted wine when I asked for 50 litres of alcohol for next year?

Markets are somewhat like that, though in markets there is the constraint that profits have to be maximized and the workforce has to be kept subordinate.

Except there are horizontal links be specific firms asking for specific things. They don't ask for X litres of alcohol from firms. They look at current demand and try to predict what will be demanded next year. As such, they will ask for more red wine if they see their stocks of red wine dropping. Of course, the need for profits adds more uncertainty to this process but at least actual demand (admittedly, effective demand) plays its part. There is no requests for "alcohol" being made, rather specific requests for specific things.

If parecon producers offer up skirts or sweaters people don't like, despite their testing them with control groups, and so on, people won't purchase them at distribution centers, and styles will be changed."

Which implies massive waste -- kind of the thing planning is meant to stop. Yes, of course, if the plan calls for "55 million litres of alcohol" and people get, say, 5 million litres of extra wine rather than the beer desired then the wine will just sit there. The next planning request for "X million litres of alcohol" will cut back on wine and instead, well, guess that more cider will be produced, and so on, year in, year out...

As regards balanced job complexes, -- a job in capitalist corporation is essentially a collection of tasks which are unbalanced. Collecting empowering and disempowering equivalent tasks into BJCs is perfectly feasible ...

In my work we went through the process of describing each job's tasks. It took months. It also became pretty out-of-date pretty quickly. No attempt was made to balance these tasks, of course, but I would guess that would have taken months as well. And that is for one workplace with around 8,000 people. And Parecon argues that this will be done across an economy...

Even assuming that it could be done, I'm not sure that I could do certain tasks -- I'm just not qualified to do certain things. I don't have the expertise either. I could gain some, over time, I think -- just as the person doing my job would eventually learn the ins-and-outs of programming code. It will not be quick so we would be left with teams having people who are spending their working day learning to do things. That would cause problems, as would ensuring that the right people turn up at the right places at the right time.

Now, I'm all for breaking down artifical divisions and empowering people -- I just think that the Parecon balanced job complex is nowhere near as easy as the books make out. From my own experience, I would say that it has significant overheads.

As I said above, the mechanics of all of this is explained in the books -- and while I sort of find it hard to believe in this instance.... I think the issue may be that Albert and Hahnel are abstracting a lot,...

As I said, my experience of documenting specific jobs proved to be time consuming in the extreme. It was no easy task. Many people had to revisit their descriptions time and time again to get them right. It was not an easy task.

Furthermore, the balanced job complex is, I feel, the strongest part of participatory economics, and I really can't see how we can do better with respect to preventing the re-emergence of a professional and managerial elite.

Having people chop-and-change jobs may not be the best way of doing that. To be honest, it may increase the power of elites as people get sick of a neverending array of people coming in and learning jobs for short periods of time.

For that and other reasons, I think it's best to deal in any critique of participatory economics, in as honest a fashion as possible without resorting to a universally negative derisive tone.

Look, if you think something is obviously wrong you simply cannot sugar-coat it. I have stated that elements of Parecon are right, but I have indicated the main areas where it seems flawed beyond repair. If the books say group items together, then they are ignoring obvious problems when they present that as unproblematic. To point this out is not a "negative derisive tone", it is in hope of someone recognising the problem and addressing it. So far, all we get is Albert saying it will be easy. Why? "Statistically" it is! Nice to know, but why?

I think almost exact mimicking of a reactionary market adherent, who favours returning us (briefly) to market socialist Yugoslavia, and has said some interesting things on China... is the negativity we need to leave behind.

Ah, yes, Schweickart has said some silly thinks about China and Yugoslavia but that does not mean his critique of Parecon is wrong!

I mean, I can understand Schweickart who is not in favour of a non-market model which leaves class division aside, acting like that....

His point is valid, even if he confuses horizontal links with market exchange.

I think parecon is the best described, most robust example of a non-market democratically planned system which is not centrally planned, and can achieve classlessness.

Why? It has serious flaws which point to it being anything but. It is not "an example", it is a model -- a model which, when pressed, uses the same kind of unrealistic modelling favoured by neo-classical economics. And, moreover, seems proud of that and proud to link to Lange's similar flawed models of the 1930s.

I can only ask that you read it again, but I think you're just looking at it through Schweickart's prism and some of this is weirdly sectarian perhaps?

I read it and re-read, but the flaws are still there... as for being "sectarian", well, criticism is hardly sectarian -- I guess it would be best for critics of Parecon just to shut up then?

And you really have yet to prove the opposite and using Schweickart's old derisory points on the planning process, whilst ignoring replies, and the same with BJCs, is not a viable rebuttal.

That assumes the replies are actually valid -- as they don't understand the criticism, how can they provide valid replies?

Many of the points above could have been answered with Albert's replies never mind reading the books.

Except, they have not. The obvious issues of grouping items together is answered by saying that "statistically" it would be easy -- that is an assertion of faith, not an answer.  How do iteration boards know what an increase in requests for alcohol mean in terms of specific drinks? The production units will say they want to produce Y more, but what combination of those meets the requirement of X million extra litres? How do you know?

If you believe it's not possible, fine, but throwing your hands up without any constructive alternative is not helpful.

Except, of course, I pointed to section I of An Anarchist FAQ for a series of suggestions....

It all boils down to a, (now assured) belief on my part, that Anarcho has even failed to read the replies by Albert, never mind the books.

Ah, right. I linked to a debate -- which I did not read apparently. Why would I do that? I quoted an example from a book -- which I did not read apparently. How did I know that example was there?  I have also quoted Parecon books in AFAQ -- how did I manage to do that given that I have, apparently, "failed to read" them? Look, please, I've read the books. I've re-read them. I'm not convinced. It is nice to know that people are "assured" of things even when they are demonstrably false!

Finally I agree with Albert's point in the second reply, on the potential effects of, concrete, positive vision in building a movement for a viable market abolitionist Anarchist alternative like parecon. "I even think it may be easier to win a parecon then to win some variant of market socialism because I think building a powerful movement for parecon may be easier than building a powerful movement for market socialism, the relevant insight being that workers in industrialized societies are unlikely to engage in mass movement struggle to trade in one boss for another."

Okay, I'm a worker in an industrialised society. I've read the books, I've read the articles, I've read the debates and replies. I'm not convinced. Parecon has been around for 20 years now (Looking Forward was published in 1991). Where is the mass movement of workers asking for Parecon? I guess it must be done to people like me and our influence...

And as for market socialism, well, I repeatedly stated I was opposed to it and that I think we can do better. I did suggest that it could work, unlike Parecon. I guess that means I favour it and, presumably, want to have a new boss! Perhaps it will be claimed, as has been before by a Parecon supporter when I disagreed with him, I want to be part of the co-ordinator class like Schweickart. Well, wrong. I just don't think it will work.

As can be seen from the grouping items together issue, there is still a long way to go before criticism is understood never mind addressed!

(anarcho: This is in

(anarcho: This is in reference to your two replies, in order to simplify)

We are informed that iteration boards will know what this kind of request means. How do they know? That is a simple question.

Eh, by the demand staying the same, despite price changes, like I said above and linked and quoted from Hahnel? You have completely ignored that. Time and again.
I'm really not sure what point you're making here if you're unaware of the price changes in the 'round-by-round' participatory planning process. Or the effect of social benefit and cost ratios.
Pricing in a parecon comes from the 'round-by-round' cooperative negotiation of participatory planning. 'Pricing' is based upon supply and demand, and the social benefit to cost ratio of production. Value in a participatory economy is the measurement of human evaluation of social benefit or cost, or the use-value or utility.

Actually pollution might be a good example to understand for you….In "Economic Justice and Democracy" Hahnel discusses how pollution reduction would be addressed like other public goods through geographic organisations - the neighborhood assemblies, federations of same. The social opportunity costs of the ecological impacts of pollution would be determined by the demand for avoiding such impacts.
See the longer version below,
http://www.greens.org/s-r/34/34-18.html
http://vanparecon.resist.ca/pareconenvironmentone.html

In particular the efficiency of finding the correct price in comparison to markets ---"Since, unlike participatory planning, market systems generate no “objective” estimates that could serve as arbiters, debates over the size of pollution taxes in market economies invariably devolve into a cacophony of “he says, she says.” The participatory planning procedure described above, on the other hand, provides credible estimates of the damage done by pollution because the above procedure makes it in the interest of pollution victims to reveal the extent of the damage they suffer truthfully as a byproduct of simply participating in the planning procedure."

( and to answere another anon poster above, there are more examples of pareconish workplaces out there than just South End Press. a simple look at the wiki would show that, as would znet's parecon link)

Do that for all the items and, well, it gets long

No really. See my explanation above of how credit card server systems work with just as much calculations and computerised planning etc today. Nothing here is overly complex and the technology is all there.

Also, note how Anarcho has completely ignored the meeting points I posted above. How the system is designed to be a very efficient democractically planned economy in this regard.

Furthermore, any such progression in this area will be, in my opinion -- very similar. Such participatory planning ideas started in the 70s and will progress. This is why I get exasperated at anarchists with no really positive alternative when 'debating' in this manner and fail to even look at long answered points.

It is there.

I have already pointed to examples where Hahnel and Albert have used different groupings and explained the reticence to blueprint finer details. Again. ignored by Anarcho.

"One can operate at the level of chicken, pork, beef, etc. or at the level of meat, and likewise for all other categories.
At the level of "meat"? That says a lot…

Your response says a lot about, what appears to be, your comprehension of how such a system works. You have ignored my points on the level of choice as to what is, and what is not, classed as a good. There is no blueprint on participatory planning and we can choose many methods.

Preference collection amongst and within each class is also quite simple and you seem to ignore my comparisons with such within capitalist stock planning, and credit card systems. Remember Looking Forward was published in 1991 and such communications and networking are much more advanced
The main points are, 1) it most certainly can work, and many similar planning mechanisms are used today and 2) reheating Schweickart is not a good tactic when I firmly believe any similar non-market anarchist alternative will borrow an *awful lot* from parecon. And finally 3), for anyone else reading this, the best thing to do is to read the books to understand the round-by-round participatory planning system.

"constantly keep a track of what they are consuming, resubmitting plans, getting them back, changing and resubmitting them and so on."

They do not need to do that. Any cursory reading of any of the books and response to this critique would show that. Albert's reply on slack planning etc etc, what you have termed "horizontal links", all go through all of this. I find it all more than curious you have not read any of this and this resulted in "chunks of text" responses.
I'm just not qualified to do certain things. I don't have the expertise either. I could gain some, over time, I think -- just as the person doing my job would eventually learn the ins-and-outs of programming code.

This sentence indicates a lot on the comprehension here. There is, of course, specialisation! How you could think otherwise is absolutely puzzling?
There are programmers, professors etc within a parecon. What would not be the case, is that a professional managerial elite will be formed from skilled or managerial workers as it the case in a non-balanced economy. What is balanced is separate disempowering and empowering tasks not requiring specialised skill which empowers within meetings. Now there may be a need for more training within the system as it requires each to work less than under capitalism but I don't see this as an issue, as now everyone is to included as opposed to a top 20 percent. Again, this is answered many times online over the last twenty years. Balanced job complexes are one of the most robust ideas and can and would work to create classlessness.

Also see the long answered points on what all this critique of democratic planning amounts to "cybernetic overload"

http://instructionals.zcommunications.org/EconVision/id86_m.htm

"But, we think critics have failed to appreciate an important feature of participatory planning when criticizing the amount of “meeting time” our “social, iterative planning process” would require. For the most part people and their delegated representatives do not meet face to fact to discuss and negotiate how to coordinate their activities, as critics seem to assume. Instead, individuals and councils submit proposals for their own activities, receive new estimates of social costs, and summit revised proposals. Moreover, rather than have delegates from federations meet to hammer out the “end game” of the planning process, we proposed that after a number of iterations had defined the basic contours of the plan, the professsional staffs of iteration facilitation boards would define a few feasible plans within those contours for constituents to vote on without ever meeting and debating. We also did not propose face-to-face meetings where different groups plead their cases for consumption or production proposals that did not meet normal quantitative standards. Instead we proposed that councils submit qualitative information as part of their proposals, so that higher level federations could grant exceptions should they choose to. And the procedure for disapproving proposals is a simple up/down vote of federation members, rather than a rancorous meeting."

http://instructionals.zcommunications.org/EconVision/id87.htm

Eh, by the demand staying the

Eh, by the demand staying the same, despite price changes, like I said above and linked and quoted from Hahnel? You have completely ignored that.

The demand staying the same? What, in the consumption request? But that information is not provided -- something you completely ignore. Asking for "X litres of alcohol" does not mean a demand for specific forms of drink. Or does that mean after the plan is made and so demand equals actually people buying it? In which case, it is not detailed planning.

Time and again.

It is very, very simple. I'm pointing out a very basic flaw in Parecon which it defenders simply fail to comprehend. Making a request of "X litres of alcohol" (as stated in Looking Forward) does not provide iteration boards with enough information to make a plan. I've explained the (obvious) reasons many times, and at best I get comment that the consumption requests will be more detailed. This leads to massive information overload.

Okay, let us assume that there are 10 million (10,000,000) individual products to be planned. That is, I should point out, probably too low as Soviet economists suggested their economies had 12,000,000.  Now, how does that convert into standard A4 spreadsheet pages:

  • Assuming 56 lines per page of A4 Portrait, that equals 178,571 pages.
  • Assuming 36 lines per page of A4 Landscape, that equals 277,778 pages.

Which is a lot of reading. And don't forget there are 5 possible plans. Will people be able to read so much? Will they comprehend it? Will they bother? Doubtful.

Ah, but in the Parecon books it is argued that items will be grouped together so 10 million would be too high. Let us assume 100 items, on average, are grouped together. So that is a mere 100,000 items to list. Now, how does that convert into standard A4 spreadsheet pages:

  • Assuming 56 lines per page of A4 Portrait, that equals 1,786 pages.
  • Assuming 36 lines per page of A4 Landscape, that equals 2,778 pages.

That seems somewhat more manageable, but still a bit of reading. The problem is that this list is pretty meaningless. It could say "X litres of alcohol", "Y nails", and so on. How do production units decide which specific drinks to make? It is not in the plan. How do consumers know that the plan will produce the type of alcohol they like? It is not in  the plan

Which raises the question, how do the iteration boards know what the request for "X litres of alcohol" actually means? Statistical analysis, apparently. Which means that they would need to get specific data from production units -- which means iteration boards are working with a mass of dis-aggregated on the inputs side and aggregated data on the outputs side. And do not forget that production units are consumers as well, so would their consumption items be grouped together as well?

How they reconcile this is not explained, other than that they are making guesses -- hopefully informed guesses...

Ultimately, though, with aggregated data you simply don't know what a plan would mean in practice. Voting on "50 million litres of alcohol" rather than "45 million litres of alcohol" does not mean much -- what does it mean in terms of what is in the shops and their prices? And assuming that last years plan was "40 million litres of alcohol", what does the extra alcohol requested actually mean?

Interestingly, when "Looking Forward" ponders whether the requests all converge they point to their model. Their model proudly proclaims it  is using the same techniques used to show that neo-classical model for general equilibrium converges. It also proudly notes this is the same as Lange's model for "socialism" in the 1930s.

I should point out that the assumptions required for neo-classical general equilibrium
models are unreal, impossible. In effect, they are replacing the fictional Auctioneer of  Walras with iteration boards -- just as Lange replaced him with central planners. Here is Walras on the role of the iteration board, opps, sorry, the fictional auctioneer:

“Once the prices … have been cried at random…, each party … will offer … those goods or services of which he thinks he has relatively too much, and he will demand those articles of which he thinks he has relatively too little … the prices of those things for which the demand exceeds the offer will rise, and the prices of those things of which the offer exceeds the demand will fall. New prices now having been cried, each party to the exchange will offer and demand new quantities. And again prices will rise or fall until the demand and the offer of each good and each service are equal…” (Walras 1874)

True, Parecon does not describe a market economy. That is because the neo-classical general equilibrium model does not describe a market economy either...

I'm really not sure what point you're making here if you're unaware of the price changes in the 'round-by-round' participatory planning process. Or the effect of social benefit and cost ratios.

That is the problem. Parecon supporters do not understand the issue being made. Asking for grouped items does not provide enough information. Asking for individual items leads to massive information gathering, processing, reconciling and presenting issues. And the Parecon books are extremely blase on this...

'Pricing' is based upon supply and demand, and the social benefit to cost ratio of production.

Except there is no "demand" as items are grouped together into meaningless generic descriptions. This obviously impacts on inputs, as these could not be specified by generic groupings of items -- wine has different inputs than beer, which is not specified by asking for "X litres of alcohol."

Do that for all the items and, well, it gets long

No really. See my explanation above of how credit card server systems work with just as much calculations and computerised planning etc today. Nothing here is overly complex and the technology is all there.

Credit cards are based on what people actually consume, not what they plan to consume. I am sure that you can track what people actually consume and adjust production based on that in a decentralised system based on horizontal links. However, this is not Parecon -- which is premised on creating a plan for the next year.

This is why I get exasperated at anarchists with no really positive alternative when 'debating' in this manner and fail to even look at long answered points.

And so section I of An Anarchist FAQ is ignored, again...

I have already pointed to examples where Hahnel and Albert have used different groupings and explained the reticence to blueprint finer details. Again. ignored by Anarcho.

Ah, right, so if I actually use examples from Parecon books then this can be dismissed as they are not blueprints... interesting. Albert did the same thing when Schweickart discussed one of his suggestions from a Parecon book. Seems Parecon-ists get to have it both ways. If you don't address something Albert states then we are ignoring them. If you do address something Albert states and point out obvious problems then it is dismissed because his words are not blueprints!

"One can operate at the level of chicken, pork, beef, etc. or at the level of meat, and likewise for all other categories.
At the level of "meat"? That says a lot…

Your response says a lot about, what appears to be, your comprehension of how such a system works.

Ah, right, a Pareconist states that consumption demands could be submitted at the "level of meat" and so reproduces all the aggregation issues already discussed, then I do not "comprehend" how the system works! In fact, making the suggestion that consumption can be demanded in terms of "meat" shows that the problems of providing appropriate information simply are not comprehended.

You have ignored my points on the level of choice as to what is, and what is not, classed as a good.

Choice implies picking between produced items. Parecon is premised on planning production so that people's choices are meet. I've noted that requesting "X litres of alcohol" does not provide iteration boards with the necessary information to reconcile production to this demand. I'm not sure how else I can express this blindly obvious point...

Sure, people can do to the shops and buy specific forms of alcohol. But if the plan assumed you meant 10 litres of beer rather than 10 litres of wine then you will soon have problems choosing what you really want. Sure, the iteration boards are meant to adjust the plans based on actual developments -- but the net effect of the process described is that the plan is continually adjusted and so no longer is a plan for the next year!

There is no blueprint on participatory planning and we can choose many methods.

Ah, right. I quote from Albert and my critique it gets dismissed because the books are not blueprints -- on the other hand, the books are invoked as answering all my points! So why are the bits which allegedly answer my points written in stone while the bits that I point the flaws in are not?

Preference collection amongst and within each class is also quite simple and you seem to ignore my comparisons with such within capitalist stock planning, and credit card systems.

Ah, yes, "quite simple" -- really? And that is it. It will be "quite simple". Nice to know. For reasons sketched above, I doubt it. As for stock planning, well, that is based on bilateral contracts. Parecon is based on collating information from ALL economic agents. That increases the number of variables to be processed and, consequently, the gathering, processing and reconcilation overload.

The main points are, 1) it most certainly can work, and many similar planning mechanisms are used today and

Yes, I know -- apparently it is "quite simple." Just like balanced job complexes across an economy. Nothing to worry about, it is simple. How do we know? Oh, there is a mathematical model which proves it... And there are no planning mechanisms remotely similar to Parecon used today. There is planning but not involving anywhere near the number of agents, products and qualitative information Parecon argues for.

2) reheating Schweickart is not a good tactic when I firmly believe any similar non-market anarchist alternative will borrow an *awful lot* from parecon.

No, far from it -- and, anyway, much of Parecon (the better bits) are taken from anarchist alternatives in the first place...

And finally 3), for anyone else reading this, the best thing to do is to read the books to understand the round-by-round participatory planning system.

Good luck. But please do -- but remember, if you notice any issues you will be informed that the books are not blueprints and so that bit of the book should be ignored...

"constantly keep a track of what they are consuming, resubmitting plans, getting them back, changing and resubmitting them and so on."

They do not need to do that. Any cursory reading of any of the books and response to this critique would show that.

Oh, right -- so when the books state that the plans would be adjusted during the year based on developments is another example of something which can be ignored because it is not a "blueprint"?

And as for keeping a track of what you are consuming, hell, Parecon assumes this -- you will, apparently, have a record of what you have consumed in the last year and you list what you want to consume next year. Still, helpfully the books assume you have your last years plans on hand (so its plans all the way down!). Then the iteration boards adjust prices and then you do it again. And again. Until a feasible plan is achieved.

It's in the books! Oh, I forgot, the books are not to be taken literally, unless they are....

Albert's reply on slack planning etc etc, what you have termed "horizontal links", all go through all of this.

Ah, yes, makes you wonder why you bother getting a year plan done in the first place...

I'm just not qualified to do certain things. I don't have the expertise either. I could gain some, over time, I think -- just as the person doing my job would eventually learn the ins-and-outs of programming code.

This sentence indicates a lot on the comprehension here. There is, of course, specialisation! How you could think otherwise is absolutely puzzling?

Oh, right -- there I was thinking that balanced job complexes meant that people would be going a multitude of tasks. Silly me! How could I have come to that crazy notion?

There are programmers, professors etc within a parecon. What would not be the case, is that a professional managerial elite will be formed from skilled or managerial workers as it the case in a non-balanced economy.

Oh, right. So "balanced job complexes" mean that we all take turns being managers? Hardly a notion we are indebted to Parecon for -- anarchists have long argued for self-management. And skilled workers? But, wait a minute, there would be specialisation so people would be expected to learn these skilled jobs, as I indicated?

What is balanced is separate disempowering and empowering tasks not requiring specialised skill which empowers within meetings.

Yes, across every workplace and across the economy. That means the iteration boards need to ensure that people know where to go and when. Over a whole year. Assuming you could gather and process all that information to begin with. But, I forgot, getting millions of people's work plans and balancing them for a year will be quite simple...

Now there may be a need for more training within the system as it requires each to work less than under capitalism but I don't see this as an issue, as now everyone is to included as opposed to a top 20 percent.

Well, I'm sure that eventually someone will gain the necessary skills to do my job -- overtime. But it will takes time -- and believe me, even learning how a similar application written in the same computer language can take time for an expert in the technology. I'm sure that non-experts will have no problem picking it. And would the same person replace me for the periods I'm off somewhere else doing less empowering tasks in a year? I hope so, because otherwise the learning curve will be constantly having to be followed.

Again, this is answered many times online over the last twenty years. Balanced job complexes are one of the most robust ideas and can and would work to create classlessness.

That is it. It is "robust"! I'm sure that it can work in small/emdium workplaces. Even in teams within bigger ones. The problems start to accumulate when you start to balance over bigger and bigger groups. Balancing job plans of 10 people is fine. 10 million, well, much, much harder. And the books do state that the jobs will be balanced over the whole economy -- oh, I guess that can be dismissed because the books are not blueprints?

Also see the long answered points on what all this critique of democratic planning amounts to "cybernetic overload"

http://instructionals.zcommunications.org/EconVision/id86_m.htm

You do realise that link does not address the overload argument at all? Weisskopf raises the issue, but it is not answered. The question of people providing honest information is answered, but not the gathering, processing and presenting of that massive amount of data.

So what have we learned? Parecon will be "quite simple". Why? Because it will be. Read the books, but remember that while they answer all questions any specific comment can be dismissed by Parecon supporters as the books are not blueprints. Which is handy.

Suffice to say, I've started reading the books again (The Political Economy of Participatory Economics is so indebted to neo-classical models it is staggering!) -- and the links provided. Again, the issues I raised are not answered but I will continue.

(sorry, posting this again as

(sorry, posting this again as 1) it's not up yet after a few days, and 2) final paragraph got clipped. i think)

Only just noticed this long reply where, essentially, you repeat Schweickart faux uncomprehending attitude and points again. Hopefully I'll add some blueprinted clarity for you here! But feel free to answer my points at the end of this post, as you must disagree with the faq (heaven forfend to disagree with the faq!) on blueprinting.

This'll be short. Ish.

"Sure, the iteration boards are meant to adjust the plans based on actual developments -- but the net effect of the process described is that the plan is continually adjusted and so no longer is a plan for the next year!"

in your quote above, you have (partially) answered your own query and again highlighted your lack of understanding. Yes, a feasible example of an anarchist democratically planned economy, such as a parecon, is flexible and is adjusted throughout the period that is to be planned. Participatory consumption would have to welcome regular updates of plans based upon change in the groups of products to be purchased, while similarly differing products within those groups can be communicated based upon consumption feedback.

It is repeated many times in the books, that the initial plan incorporates a * level of slack *, to accommodate this. I also briefly mentioned this slack in my last post, to be dismmissed, naturally.

Now of course, some of these consumption changes will be cancelled out by other changes made by other members of a consumer council, or otherwise by the slack (which would actually have to be there in any form of democratically planned alternative folks...lack of any blueprint whatsoever in those alternatives notwithstanding!).

But if this does not cancel out, then demand from consumer councils could be fed to the Iteration Facilitation Board (IFB) (again, another bjc, or an automated function if paranoid) that in turn could feed this information to the workers councils where renegotiations can take place between the relevant worker and consumer federations. All of this is part of ones work and is included in bjc.

Information on the specifics of each type of product within each class grouping and variability and diversity of same can be easily communicated and adjusted. If you want to call that "horizontal links" go right ahead. But please document, in clear blue print, your alternative otherwise and why that is less or more efficient.
And I see no problem in any of this dynamic changing of use values through prices. I work in IT and with servers and your fog of complexity on the feasibility of all of this is extraordinary.

Now to head off the flippant reply, I'll imagine that you'd consider this as being inefficient. One important point I would like to make is that this renegotiation only involves those products and consumers who are affected by the changes – the rest of the annual plan remains the same. The point is that any changes to the annual plan do not require participation from everyone, but * can by dynamically changed overtime *. Also, note, and to repeat, that within the participatory planning system, there is no rancourous big meetings as with other post-capitalist, market abolitionist alternatives, and the system is designed to minimise these.

Nearly finally, I have to find it strange this failure to understand the reticent to blueprint catch 22. I don't generally refer to the faq as much as yourself but ,
http://www.infoshop.org/page/AnarchistFAQSectionI2
"There can be no such thing as a "blueprint" for a free society. All we can do here is indicate those general features that we believe a free society must have in order to qualify as truly libertarian."

....
"So, this discussion of what an anarchist society might look like is not a drawing up of blueprints, nor is it an attempt to force the future into the shapes created in past revolts."

Proudhon and Bakunin never produce anything approaching a blueprint.

Well, I'm sure that eventually someone will gain the necessary skills to do my job -- overtime. But it will takes time -- and believe me, even learning how a similar application written in the same computer language can take time for an expert in the technology.

This is a complete failure to understand here. So regarding these BJC points on further training and specialisation. Again, in some of the books, Albert answers this point. (most of the books have q&as in the back that answer most of this and I can't for the life of me understand myself how Anarcho, who has read these, is missing them...)

I can't recall which books to be honest and there's no point in finding it for you I feel, but the answer is interesting, if not actually original, – I've read the same elsewhere.

(btw, now might be a good time to add, I've never said the entirety of parecon is original, that's another puzzling sectarian chip on your shoulder which only you seemed to have added against the model)

It's quite simple and while I work in a specialised IT field myself, I don't presume that the , say, 80% of the population lacking in the skills I have are eminently untrainable in an imperious manner. Now Albert, goes much further, and finds the query repugnant on behalf of those raising it and comparable to similar when black people, or women were refused from the professions.

But again, if one were to assume most of the work force having no socially useful, trainable talents, then I suppose the conclusion follows. But this dark assumption is false and people asked questions with a similar assumption, about the abilities of those with different coloured skin, culture or nationality, of gender etc, in their exclusion from further education, from certain professions and in the lack of universal suffrage....

The same was the case with the expansion of, say, public healthcare and demand for doctors, or education and teachers. I can understand a Schweickart or a pro-capitalist using this argument, but coming from someone who says they want to genuinely work towards removing a professional managerial elite and build towards classlessness.....then I hope that there's not, underlying this question, a feeling that amongst the 80 percent or so of the non-coordinator working class, a lack of the latent talent to make up for the lost worktime hours of the coordinator class?

Now while it is true not everyone has the talent to become a brain surgeon, and there are social costs to training brain surgeons, most people have some socially useful talent whose development entails some social costs. An efficient economy would identify and develop everyone's most socially useful talent. If we don’t, then there's a * significant opportunity cost * involved.

But to be more specific, in a parecon, yes you would need more, say, doctors than in a capitalist, or centrally planned hospital. There is of course a division of labour (not everyone can be a doctor, or a physicist) and self-managed decision making, defined as decision making input in proportion to the degree one is affected by the outcome, does not mean there is no role for experts. Instead it means confining experts to their proper role and keeping them from usurping a role that it is neither fair, democratic, nor efficient for them to assume. I don't think there’s any reason as to why this is an issue given the increase and different focus, of education, development and training implicit in a parecon and the effects of a balanced job complex.

Not forgetting that we are all our own best expert on our preferences and we know best whether we prefer one outcome to another. So, while efficiency requires an important role for experts in determining complicated consequences, efficiency also requires that those who will be affected determine which consequences they prefer. This means it is just as inefficient to keep those affected by decisions from making them (after experts have analyzed and debated consequences) as it is to prevent experts from explaining and debating consequences of complicated choices before those affected register their desires.
We can take such testimony from experts, but everyone has a say in proportion to how they're affected, in normal circumstances.

Furthermore, whilst a parecon's Beethoven may have to spend some time not writing music, it goes without saying that there are likely to be many more hidden Beethovens and Einsteins amongst that 80 – 85 percent to more than make up for the deficit.

Just think of all that untapped talent which goes to waste in capitalist economies, or for that matter in a market coordinator or centrally-planned coordinator economies?

The supposition here is that the entirety of a professional’s time today is spent at their speciality. But, how many top surgeons and consultants, professors of medieval history, etc finish early to play a round of golf? In reality, the interest and power of the professional managerial class ensures an inaccurate measurement of real work-time.

also see below (much of those instuctionals and 90s debates are re-edited and included in the book "Thinking Forward" by the way)

http://www.zcommunications.org/zmi/zinstruc6.htm
"Self-managed decision making, defined as decision making input in proportion to the degree one is affected by the outcome, does not mean there is no role for experts. Instead it means confining experts to their proper role and keeping them from usurping a role that it is neither fair, democratic, nor efficient for them to assume."

indebted to neo-classical models it is staggering

That's more than a little misleading. Several posts up-thread I've answered why mathematical models are used in that academic book and even quoted and referred to pages. It shows that even under the most negative assumptions of human behaviour (homo-economus say, or at least a large cohort trained by the economy we're leaving), a participatory economy is plausible and efficient. No economist has really challenged that assumption. I'm not going to repeat the detail of it again, only to point this out to other readers.

------
As you're not a mutualist and I'm interested in libertarian communism and as you're in favour of a blueprint so much, I would really like to see a blueprint of how, say, use-value 'prices' of goods would work without a market and just with fabled 'horizontal links' or, forfend, the dreaded associated producers and consumers? I look forward to learning more about how your system for allocation in a post-capitalist economy actually functions and hope it won't be vague in any areas, or inefficient in others.

For instance, how would the plan and price come together? Through meetings, or a series of one big meetings? Specifics will help.
Could you answer those points for me in your next post?

Or for instance, how would I know what is appropriate to consume or to produce? And, for that matter, how does the economy determine what is appropriate? Is it that we assume people responsibly going over and under social averages only when warranted?...

Or does a central authority determine this through democratic mandate for every consumption plan or variation of same? Have you looked at how the price of pollution and externalities are determined in the link I gave above? How would we correctly find the level of this, as people are affected, in your anarchism?

I know many committed environmentalists, who, when you actually look at their consumption and carbon output, well, they're just fooling themselves. What's more, they know it. This is why they ask for societal action. How would you find the social opportunity cost to ensure that wouldn't happen or efficient production and supply and demand match up?
Find the social opportunity cost of making the product X so that we give up every other possibility of making another thing from the same finite resources?thing that could have been made by those workers using those resources to make product X?

How are you going to find the 'price' information for every product, intermediate product and primary input in your non-market alternative economy? Then easily communicate this to each affected party and negotiate proposals? I wonder would you group goods and services together into categories according to the interchaneability of the resources, intermediate goods and labour required to make them, as well as some of the easily predicted variation of optional features?...And perhaps, do this, in a round-by-round fashion, perhaps finishing with a series of similar proposals to vote on?

by the way, the latter is one example of a finished parecon, another parecon might choose to not bother with a final vote when 99percent is already decided upon. Eitherway, you're talking about, two weeks or so work, part-time and as a part of your work.

This was an excellent post.

This was an excellent post. In the past, anarchist were always fighting with Marxist but things have changed since the introduction of "anarcho" capitalist - at least here in the US. This has caused the actual debate to shift towards an alternative economic system. As far as I know, there isn't anything called "anarchist economics" the way there is "Austrian economics" with very specific details about how things work or might work. Furthermore, there is no anarchist equivalent to the Lugwig von Mises Institute that's constantly working on these philosophical/technical problems and propagating information so even a first grader could understand what they are saying. It would be nice to see if anarchist could pull together Post Keynesian, Marxisms, Institutionalism (Old) and other heterodox schools of thought into one whole. However, due to the complexity of economics (and the world!), it might be better to not stress any coherence. Of course, then you create a separate problem. Is someone suppose to take years and years to study all these subjects and then somehow morph them into something coherent while also working, going to school, raising family, and being an activist? It's a real catch-22.

In my opinion, anarchist should at least propose what the future might look like. It seems like the whole Venus Project has been successful for this reason. While not anarchist in nature, they are showing what the world might look like and people are responding. Of course, like many, it's not the world I would personally want to inhabit. Perhaps it would be better for anarchist to propose multiple types of possible futures while stressing that the future is unknown. In any case, it seems like another catch-22.

I did have a question for you. You keep saying that Collectivism and Mutualism are market based. I consider myself a collectivist but I must be using a different definition for a market. I consider myself to be against markets altogether. I agree with you that Parecon is not anarchist and totally unrealistic. I'm just curious to see how you are defining the word "market." From what I'm seeing, you are using the "wage labor" to differentiate yourself from Collectivism and Mutualism. But you still have to work in a moneyless society... You may not call a person a wage worker, but they are pretty much the same thing. In both cases, they work to survive. Sorry for the long post and thank you for your time.

on mutualism/collectivism I

on mutualism/collectivism

I did have a question for you. You keep saying that Collectivism and Mutualism are market based. I consider myself a collectivist but I must be using a different definition for a market. I consider myself to be against markets altogether.

Essentially, a market would involve the buying and selling of products of some kind. Reading, say, William Guillaume's essay in Bakunin on Anarchism collectivism saw some need for selling products at least initially.

 From what I'm seeing, you are using the "wage labor" to differentiate yourself from Collectivism and Mutualism. But you still have to work in a moneyless society...

No, both are opposed to wage-labour (i.e., selling your liberty/labour to a boss). They are not against the wages-system, namely distribution according to work done rather than need. Thus goods produced by co-operatives would have a price tag.

You may not call a person a wage worker, but they are pretty much the same thing. In both cases, they work to survive.

I hope that makes it clear, so at the best least clearer!

I would agree that some kind of anarchist economics think-tank would be good -- unfortunately, unlike the "Austrians", we don't have wealthy elites giving us money in buckets to do that sort of thing!

I would agree with the above

I would agree with the above post, it would be good if anarchists or left-libertarians broadly had their own equivalent of the von Mises website. That institute is dedicated to capitalist propaganda, with many believing that it promotes "libertarianism" while it actually promotes total private tyranny e.g. control of society and the economy by property owners. The AFAQ is great, though perhaps this website could be promoted by the construction of a new website, along with a forum? I find it difficult to follow through reading others posts on this website. Having a forum and new articles directly promoted on the front page could attract new readers and more importantly keep them returning.

Currently there is no real outlet for left-libertarianism, though I would consider this website to be at the forefront. As the above poster noted, it would be great to have a website and people bring together the best of real-world economics e.g. post-Keynesianism, libertarian Marxism, perhaps even econophysics!

Despite how some may defend Parecon, at the moment it is like neoclassical theory: a beautiful edifice of theory that is likely to come crashing down when actually exposed to the real world. As Schweickart pointed out, the only firm that utilizes Parecon is the small South End Press. Running Parecon inside one firm would be difficult enough, but the complexity increases substantially between firms. It is difficult to place any faith in such an extensive system without it been tested properly in the real world e.g. empirically. Perhaps if it wasn't just South End Press others would notice but this is not the case. As I've mentioned, this is why Schweickart's market socialist model is very likely to work: in the US, there are at least 11,000 firms which have some sort of workers' ownership and control in place and everyone is familiar with markets to some extent.

I really like one point---'at

I really like one point---'at least market socialism' (advocated by such as scweikart) works.

Reminds me of 'at least the trains ran on time' under nazism. Similarily under Saddam Hussein there wasnt alot of sectarian violence within iraq.

Under capitalism, where i stay, we only lost power once this winter. Stores were usually open, and roads plowed pretty quick.

Another point I liked was the fact that under parecon, one lumps 'alcohol' together----so, for example, someone like me (a tea-totaler (being in the tea party country) ---i make a cheap speedball (used to be crack plus heron) of malt liquor and black tea) would likely die, since i could not get my high gravity, just 'alcohol'.
(Under capitalism, there is 2 kinds of 8% here, and 2 kinds of 12%. 4 more items for the parecon list. I am sure in the vision provided by anarchist economics, there would be more (unless the crimethinc faction wins, in which case there wont be none ,)

But maybe, if one fixes that one line in Parecon---and add another item on the list (8%-12% malt liquor) then though the information requirements might increase (beyond even those required to cite by memory the Western Canon of bakunin, malatesta, goldman, goodman, proudhon...plus maybe Hegel, the Bible, and Wikipedia) we all could be happy ever after. (But I guess then maybe winos and such might also want to add an item. Stalinists might want that siberian vodka.)

I wonder if Parecon also left out the choice between potato chips with sour cream and onion, and barbecue style. If so, it may really be irrevocably flawed. Who would want to live in such a society? Might as just go to the grocery store until under a working preferable alternative such as Market Socialism or whatever else is desired can get the workers what they want, through non-market based self-organization and self-mnanagement. I am sure we'll get all the varieties, since the People know what they want.

'give em what they want tony blunt'. (local song) tony blunt is on youtube .

These debates seem more relevant to anarchism, mostly as negative evidence. (Similar to Lange-Lerner vs Mises/Hayek. Both sides lost).

I have a couple of questions

I have a couple of questions about anarcho-communism. I've read Section I of the FAQ yet I still don't see anarcho-communism (the moneyless part) as being practical. On large macro issues, it seems to have very convincing arguments. My issues are micro in nature. I hate to say this but it was an Austrian economist that has led to my doubts. Okay, so this Austrian relates a story of his son's school which decides to make all the basket ball games free to all students. To do this, they have a raffle. Of course, since it's free, almost everybody puts their name in the raffle. But when game time comes, this usually packed out stadium of enthusiastic fans, is only half filled with a bunch of people who really aren't into the game. Plus, people are leaving during half time because they just aren't that into it. At the same time, the kids who are fans are stuck at home since they didn't win the raffle.

Well, if you take this concepts and apply it to other parts of the economy it seems that you would get massive waste throughout the whole economy. Resources aren't being used efficiently or effectively.

Anyway, the school decided to charge a small fee instead. So the people who weren't fans didn't see it as being worthwhile even with such a small price. Soon, the stadium filled up and this guy's kid could go back to the game. His (the Austrian) argument seems to be pretty valid as far as I can see. I guess my questions is, how could a moneyless society deal with such an issue while also not creating waste?

My second issue - which is very much linked with the first - is that I could very well see myself being wasteful. For instance, I might go to the store and pick up things I wouldn't normally pick up. I might take perishable products knowing that there is a chance I might not use them. Or I might have a sudden urge to eat something exotic(like Squid), pick it up, and then get home and wonder what the fuck I was thinking and throw it away. However, with a price system it's doubtful I would have done something like picking up exotic products in the first place. The price tag would have given me the incentive to stop and think first.

I have to say that environmental politics is not my first issue. Therefore, I'm not the activist I should be when it comes to this serous problem. For instance, I hate doing dishes. I just absolutely fucking hate it! So even though I do care about the environment (maybe not as much as I should), I buy paper plate (OUCH!). Yes, yes, I am a horrible person! However, during economic hard times I stop buying the plates since they are expensive. Again, the price mechanism seems to give an incentive on my part not to waste. Apply that to an entire population and you have a problem. You can't exactly expect everyone in society to act like environmental activist all the time.

Again, on macro level I can see the entire economy working without the use of money. It's on a small scale that I am not convinced, I see it as the fatal flaw of communism (the same way you see the iteration boards in Parecon).

Anyway, I would like to hear your answer to these (fatal) problems because this is the one issue that's keeping me from going commie. Also, do you know of any books on a moneyless society, how it would work, addressing major issues like those mentioned above, and specifically deals with the problems of money itself?

Hey, poster above me. If you

Hey, poster above me. If you like, there is a forum thread on libcom.org I just started a little while ago that has a bunch of great links and responses to a lot of the questions you just asked.

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/calculation-kind-18022011

check it out, hopefully that helps.

-John

Thanks John, I spent quite a

Thanks John, I spent quite a bit of time reading over the material. However, the link doesn't answers my questions. What I'm trying to figure out is how waste wouldn't be created in a moneyless society on a micro scale. I understand the calculation argument and how it can be dealt with. This is actually covered in the (A) FAQ. What I'm speaking about are individual consumers. Money, even a small amount, can create disincentives not to waste. Charging as little as a dollar for a basketball game will disincentivize people from going to the game unless they really want to see it and thereby fill up the stadium (and not create waste). This also applies to my example of paper plates and exotic foods. A money fee will make it so people don't waste their cash in a spur of the moment decision. This problem applied to an entire economy renders communism as wasteful which means we have to work harder and more hours. Most individual consumers do not consider the ramifications of what they are doing. When I buy paper plates I don't think, "Gee this means I and others have to work more hours because I'm too lazy to wash my own dishes." Even after consider these facts, I still don't act on them because I consider my contribution as so tiny as to not really make any difference.

Anarcho mentioned above that Parecon fails because it creates waste (which Parecon is not suppose to do making it self defeating). However, I don't see how this doesn't apply to a moneyless society. Anyway, John, thanks for the link. I don't think I'm going to get my questions answered. I'm thinking this is because there isn't one. I'm all for a moneyless society but it just doesn't seem feasible. Perhaps I'm wrong. Anyone reading this, feel free to answer my questions. I love the idea of a moneyless society so I'm will to listen. Thanks again.

Hi Anarcho Any chance of the

Hi Anarcho

Any chance of the tech implementing some sort of viewer-friendly forum? I'm having trouble following the posts here.

Philip

Hi. I'm a supporter of

Hi. I'm a supporter of parecon. Not JUST parecon, mind you -- I also support other types of anarchist economies which are fully communist (don't involve remuneration/payment) and which don't require such detailed planning.

Your critique seemed good to me so I emailed the authors to see if they had a solution to what seemed a legitimate problem. Robin Hahnel's reply made it clear that this "problem" is actually based on a misinterpretation of parecon. Here's what he wrote:

REGARDING THE CONCERN OVER A COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL PLAN REQUIRING TOO MUCH INFORMATION:

IN MORE COMMON CONCEPTIONS OF DEMOCRATIC PLANNING – WHICH I HAVE TAKEN TO CALLING THE “ONE BIG MEETING” VISION -- DELEGATES WOULD HAVE TO COME TO AGREEMENT ON AN OVERALL, COMPREHENSIVE, DETAILED PLAN. I BELIEVE CONCERNS ABOUT THE FEASIBILITY OF THIS ARE WELL FOUNDED – WHICH IS WHY WE HAVE NOT PROPOSED TO DO NATIONAL ECONOMIC PLANNING THE WAY MOST PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS ENVISIONED IT! SO THE FIRST THING TO TELL YOUR FRIEND IS THAT I AGREE WITH THEIR CONCERN IF WE ARE TALKING ABOUT DOING DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL PLANNING THE WAY MOST SUPPORTERS HAVE SKETCHED IT OUT.

WHAT SAVES THE PARTICIPATORY PLANNING PROCESS FROM DROWNING IN THIS SWAMP ARE:

(1) EACH UNIT MUST ONLY PREPARE DETAILED PROPOSALS ABOUT ITS OWN ACTIVITY – WHICH ANY PRODUCTION UNIT MUST DO IN ANY ECONOMY IN ANY CASE. A CAPITALIST FIRM CANNOT DECIDE TO PRODUCE 1000 PAIRS OF SHOES A MONTH. IT MUST DECIDED TO PRODUCE 300 PAIRS OF SIZE 6 SHOES, 400 PAIRS OF SIZE 7 SHOES, AND 300 PARIS OF SIZE 8 SHOES A MONTH, AND DESIGNATE HOW MUCH OF EACH SIZE MUST BE BLACK LEATHER OR BROWN LEATHER.

(2) ESTIMATES OF OPPORTUNITY AND SOCIAL COSTS ALLOW ALL UNITS TO MAKE EASY DECISIONS ABOUT WHETHER TO VOTE TO APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE THE PROPOSALS OF OTHER UNITS IN THE ECONOMY. THERE IS NO NEED FOR WORKERS IN A SHIRT FACTORY TO LOOK AT THE DETAILS OF THE PROPOSAL FROM WORKERS IN THE ABOVE SHOE FACTORY. THEY ONLY NEED TO SEE IF THE SOCIAL BENEFIT TO COST RATIO OF THE SHOE FACTORY PRPOSAL IS ABOVE OR BELOW THE NATIONAL AVERAGE. AND IF ANY GROUPS OF WORKERS OR FEDERATIONS WANT TO LOOK INTO THE SHOE FACTORY PROPOSAL IN MORE DETAIL WHAT THEY SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN IS NON-QUANTITATIVE INFORMATION THE SHOE FACTORY MAKES AVAILABLE ABOUT SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES THEY MAY FACE, NOT MORE DETAILS ABOUT THEIR PROPOSAL.

SO YES…. YOUR FRIEND IS CORRECT THAT IN THE END THE FEASIBLE PLAN MUST MATCH UP SHOE SUPPLY TO SHOE DEMAND…. DOWN TO SIZES AND COLORS. BUT THE ITERATIONS ALLOW EVERYONE TO IGNORE THE KIND OF DETAILS YOUR FRIEND IS CONCERNED WITH ABOUT ALL PRPOSALS OTHER THAN THEIR OWN, AND EACH UNIT MUST DEAL WITH THE DETAILS ABOUT WHAT IT WILL DO IN ANY CASE. MUCH OF THE DETAIL SORTING CAN ALSO BE DONE WITHIN FEDERATIONS RATHER THAN INVOLVING EVERY UNIT IN THE ENTIRE ECONOMY.

Except, of course, the

Except, of course, the Parecon books state that there will be multiple national plans which we all vote on. At some stage, as Hahnel acknowledges, there will be a "FEASIBLE PLAN MUST MATCH UP SHOE SUPPLY TO SHOE DEMAND…. DOWN TO SIZES AND COLORS." That information cannot be ignored when deciding on which plan -- voting on a plan which states 5 million shoes will involve different inputs depending on size, colour, etc. and these are produced by workplaces and so would need to be in the plan.

So I still think there will be a swamping of people in information. Sorry. Perhaps more details will be provided?

Hi, Like the second previous

Hi,
Like the second previous poster, I'm also an anarchist and a supporter of parecon and having read this thread, I think it's clear that the issues raised are just ill-informed misrepresentations of parecon.

I forwarded on the thread and post, to Michael Albert, and here is his emailed response below: *

*
http://www.zcommunications.org/addressing-more-concerns-by-michael-albert

I recently received an email pointing me to a web page about anarchist economics that had attracted many comments - almost all of which were about me, parecon, or both. The person who directed me to it asked if I would reply, and I wrote what follows and sent it to him for his use, but also saying that he could post it to the page if he wished. The material on the page was largely from many months ago, and involved many people both critical of and supporting parecon. I can't go through item by item usefully, I think, so I thought I would reply to a few of the most self-contained concerns that seemed to weigh heavily on some people and about which a quick reply, albeit not timely, might clear the air a bit.

So, the first comment I could deal with succinctly, was: "It's pretty ridiculous to call Michael Albert an anarchist. His politics are all over the map, usually clinging to whichever liberal is donating to ZNet this week. Albert may have called himself an anarchist here or there, but his anarchist credentials are pretty thin."

I have no idea what "credentials" are meant here. Is there some text or diploma that conveys legitimacy as an anarchist that I don't know about? Maybe I am just missing something, but what can I make of this word "credentials"? If this commenter said Albert isn't an anarchist because being an anarchist requires x, and Albert doesn't believe or do x, that would be different. Nonetheless, "credentials aside," am I, or am I not an anarchist?

If being an anarchist means wanting to reduce hierarchy to a minimum in all realms of life, then yes, I am an anarchist. If it means wanting to eliminate racism, sexism, authoritarianism, and classism, then yes, I am an anarchist. If it means rejecting having a political apparatus that operates above and is divorced from the bulk of the population, merely imposing on them, then yes, I am an anarchist. If it means seeking a classless economy, participatory polity, feminist kinship, and intercommunalist culture, each of which deliver by their very operations solidarity among actors, diversity of options and outcomes, equitable and just distribution of claims on the social product and of life circumstances at work and otherwise, as well as self management, then yes, I am an anarchist.

However, if being an anarchist means fulfilling someone's litmus test - then maybe not - it depends on whose test, I guess. And if being an anarchist means rejecting political, economic, kin, or cultural institutions per se, then certainly not. I consider that kind of blanket stance to be mere rhetoric and provocation, at best. And if being an anarchist means treating others with disdain whenever they have different views than mine and trying to ridicule them into silence - a trait that a few who call themselves anarchists sadly share with many who call themselves leninists - then no, I would have to reject the label "anarchist," even while retaining all the associated worthy views - which are, in any event, far more important than the label.

If there is something else that bears on the question, "am i an anarchist," then I guess I would need to know what that something else is, to be able to answer.

We also have in this first comment an assertion that my views change each week to accommodate liberal donors. First, taking this at face value as being sincerely meant, I am unaware of any liberal donors to Z's projects. I am also unaware of my views changing weekly, or of my deepest views changing significantly, even over decades, much less of my views changing to appease donors. This type of wide brushstroke defamation, sad to say, some people find witty, or clever, or itself making a point. I find it not particularly witty or clever, and it only asserts a fictitious point - rather like saying of someone, that person molests kids with no basis in fact, at all. To seriously make such a defamatory claim, it should be based on ample verified evidence. Nowadays all too easily people think they can say defamatory things about other people with zero evidence, zero reason, and certainly nothing remotely verified - and that that is just fine to do. It is fine, folks think, even to write such things, someplace. This approach to debate, or gossip, or whatever one ought to call it, is not planting the seeds of the future in the present. It is instead planting weeds from the past in the present. Such behavior is generally sad, but this "wide brushstroke defamation" is particularly strange because  in the past forty years very few folks who routinely need to raise funds for projects, or even who don't, have been as repeatedly, publicly, and militantly critical of donors and the entire funding process as I have - in my case, at the expense of virtually all large donor access we had. It wasn't just that I didn't cater to donors, it was that I routinely criticized the entire donor process, and the power that donors wield, and, not least, what the left approach to donations causes donors and donation recipients to have to do. In fact, I even teach a class on just this, at ZMI. But, okay, maybe this dismissive comment was made sincerely, perhaps due to some wrong information passed on by someone else who was trusted but shouldn't have been.

Another comment in the flow was: "I'm a communist-anarchist and Albert does not "address" Schweickart's argument at all. He obviously does not comprehend the points Schweickart makes. Fair-dos to Albert, he has placed the debate on the Znet webpage:

http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/zdebatealbertvsschweickart.htm Have a look for yourselves. It is pretty obvious that Albert just does not comprehend the points being made -- I guess that is unsurprising because if he did then his pet-project would have to be abandoned."

I second the commenter's advice, though not his assessment. Indeed, anyone who wonders about this should have a look for yourselves. Schweickart's points, are quite consistent with mainstream attitudes toward self management and allocation, and market socialist attitudes toward economic allocation, and not even a little unfamiliar or innovative - and think I comprehend not only his points, but his politics and aims which as I have heard them enunciated by him are market socialist, overwhelmingly, and arguably to some extent somewhat social democratic. It is quite striking indeed to have some anarchists so hostile toward parecon that they would at least seem to be drawn into the "my enemy's enemy is my friend" logic, but that does seem to be what has happened here. Schweickart is a nice guy, a philosopher, albeit with a rather nasty approach to debating, and I would wager dollars to donuts that there are very few anarchists on the planet, particularly among those who really don't like parecon, who would find his formulations even a little attractive, other than when looking for something, indeed for anything at all, with which to bludgeon parecon for reasons I admit, I continue to not understand. Again, anyone interested can read the exchanges and decide for themselves whether (a) the parecon case is compelling, (b) the market socialist stance has anything to warrant it for people seeking classlessness, much less for anarchists.

But what I really wonder about, regarding this particular comment, not least because this point can be addressed succinctly, is why would a communist anarchist - and I guess this fellow, whose name I don't know, gets to decide what he is even if I don't get to decide what I am - use a phrase like "pet project" to refer to another person's beliefs regarding economic vision?

Some readers may just jump right over that phrase, "pet project," but I think it deserves attention. Is it just that people thoughtlessly bludgeon one another thusly without realizing how off putting it may be to other people looking on and wondering about the tone leftists take with each other? Or is the use of the phrase "pet project" intentionally nasty? I spend time on this because whatever anarchism is, this way of communicating doesn't help.

Much of the exchange I saw on the site I visited is about whether Parecon and I are somehow neoclassical. This is very odd, too, since again, it is hard to find people more critical of both markets and neoclassical economics, in a more sustained and more militant fashion - who are actually trained in economics - than I. The commenter's confusion seems to arise because in a book written about twenty years ago, for an audience of professional economists, and published by Princeton University Press, we labored to use mainstream language so as to be understood by mainstream economists, not least, hoping to see what their criticisms would be. Anyone reading the book, who actually knows something about mainstream economics - and there is no reason anyone on the left should - ought to be able to see our work as the opposite of accepting that school of thought. Indeed, at the same time at the book people commenting refer to, we published, also with Princeton, a book that closely addresses - and rejects and tries to replace - mainstream economic theory. Interestingly, at the time, we simultaneously released a book from South End Press also on Parecon. That book not only doesn't have any of the professional economics terminology, it is completely plain spoken and relates not at all to professional economic norms - but, as I was continually at pains to explain, nonetheless it was a superset of the Princeton book, not a subset. In other words, there are only two ways to come away thinking Hahnel and I are typical mainstream economists. To ignore what we write, or to take someone else's saying that we are mainstream economists as gospel.

Third Comment: "I have never thought that Parecon was anarchist. Yes, it has anarchistic elements in it but the overall model is far from libertarian. So, perhaps Albert thinks he is an anarchist but, personally, I'm not convinced. If he is a libertarian, he seems unaware of the non-anarchist nature of his economic utopia."

It is again hard to reply to this, without having some kind of indication of the "non anarchist nature" mentioned. Parecon delivers self management, eliminates classes, and as far as I can tell, is an economic vision singularly true to serious anarchist aspirations. But at least in this comment, while I am allowed to think parecon is anarchistic, I am woefully wrong about that… though there is actually no reason given, just the assertion. Maybe someone can list some reasons, and we can see. The reasons would have to reside in our choice of guiding values for a desirable economy, or in our choice of defining institutions for that economy. That is all parecon is.

So here, I will make this very easy. Is favoring solidarity, diversity, equity, or self management - including, of course, classlessness - somehow non anarchist? Which value, in what ways? Perhaps the values are not non anarchist - but their implementation is. Okay, if so, are workers and consumers self managing councils, equitable remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, balanced job complexes, or participatory planning, non anarchist? Which institutional commitment, in what ways?

I more than welcome anyone clarifying what is non anarchist about parecon. I claim parecon was conceived to and does fulfill anarchist desires to foster mutual aid, eliminate class division and class rule, convey to people self managing say over their economic lives, and generally meet needs and develop potentials without inducing hierarchies of wealth or power. And I might add, I would argue, as well, that corporate divisions of labor and market or central planning allocation, implicitly or explicitly favored by some anarchists, are both intrinsically antithetical to anarchist desires - while another oft favored aim among anarchists, consumption according to need and work according to ability, is both impossible and, even more important, incoherent and contrary to attaining actually anarchistic results, as an economic guide or commitment, and a final sometimes advocated aim - an end to industry, workplaces, work, etc. - is just plain horrific in its casual dismissal of human life and desires.

Another commenter, I think Anarchos, wrote "In addition, I am more than willing to be convinced of my wrongness -- if someone provides a source/argument which addresses my concerns, I will read it and if it seems convincing then I will change my mind! Simple. So far, nothing -- although I was once denounced as being a would-be "co-ordinator"! Which was drole, considering Parecon's hosts of facilitation boards…"

Okay, I have no idea what this person has read or not read and how much he gets or doesn't get. In the exchange a number of people tried offering views, all pretty summarily dismissed. But the last phrase suggests perhaps he doesn't no too much about parecon, since having what we call facilitation boards in no way introduces the slightest coordinatorist aspect to parecon, but maybe I am wrong about a lack of familiarity. So here we are. Now what? He/you (if you read this) has concerns. That is fair enough. I would wager they are addressed in lots of places online already, since Parecon has been around for awhile now, and it is rare that anyone raises a concern someone else had not already raised before. However, to just tell this concerned anarchist to go read more - would probably not he helpful, I think. So how about this. You could pose your concerns to me as questions - strong ones, of course - in an email interview. Ask a question, I will answer, you can follow up, I will reply, and so on. We can go through your concerns. We will both hope you find my replies convincing, but, if not, perhaps it the exchange will be productive for others to read.

Someone wrote: "Okay, provide me with a quote where Albert proclaims he is an anarchist. A "cursory reading" should provide a host of them, after all…"

I would guess there aren't too many such phrases since I don't often define myself as in some school or other, though there probably are plenty saying I think parecon is an anarchist economic vision, and parpolity, for that matter, is an anarchist political vision. My not saying - I am an Anarchist - often is because, depending on the context, (a) it means so many different things to people, some of which I definitely do not agree with, and (b) I think what one is, so to speak, ought to be determined based on what one does, writes, etc. However, this one time, in response here, I hope the above commenter will agree I did a bit better, above, than providing a brief statement. But of course, there are those for whom what I say I am, or think I am, won't matter. They know better - which is fair enough, if they have good reasons. So, repeating a point made earlier, I would simply ask them to please let me know what is it that is required for someone to rightly consider him or herself anarchist, which I don't have any reason to think is true of myself. I admit to also being curious if people who run around saying they think we should return to the stone age, and who then also say "I am anarchist" - are true to the tenets you have in mind, or people who favor markets, say.

Someone else wrote: "I think I've become a bit sick of Albert cropping up in places as some sort of spokesperson for anarchism -- his article on primitivism was included (for obvious reasons, i.e., to make us look bad) in a book by the SWP on tendencies on the anti-globalisation movement."

I am curious where I appear with such a role - spokesperson for anarchism? Certainly, it isn't my doing. I don't even know about the SWP book and haven't seen it, but my closest interaction with them was speaking at their yearly large London gathering. They invited me, had me speak in numerous venues, including the largest, debating, presenting, etc., and in all cases I savaged Leninist and Trotskyist and to a degree Marxist concepts, aims, and methods. They listened, some were moved, some not. No one was nasty, all were cordial. At the time, I was quite struck, and even saddened, by realizing that while they were willing to have a staunch critic debate their key advocates in front of a gathering of their members and supporters, i didn't think any large anarchist gathering would give a similarly prominent place and hearing to, say, a major critic of anarchism. I admit to worrying considerably about that and I hope it isn't true. But back to the essay mentioned in the comment, of course the problem with primitivism is not that I critiqued it but that it is grotesque, and many serious young people regard it as insightful, more so back when I wrote the piece. Primitivism hurts anarchism, but I think indicating its faults - helps rather than hurts.

Another commenter writes (and of course there were many commenters advocating for parecon but I am ignoring those): "To continue on from this debate, I had a look at the The Political Economy of Participatory Economics webpage that was previously quoted. It is all based upon neoclassical equilibrium economics! What is even more ironic is that Albert and Hahnel continuously critique equilibrium theory throughout the book but in order to model Parecon, they utilize the same theory in order to justify its apparent efficiency. For instance, take a look at the welfare section and the equations they use - one could pull them straight out of a neoclassical journal, the type of abstract non-empirical maths and models that the conventional economics profession uses."

What we did was to show that EVEN using their tools and their assumptions - other than a centrally important couple that we very carefully disposed of - parecon comes out as well or better than what they claim is required of a good economy. Then, with the minor change in assumptions we offered, which anyone sane would admit the truth of, we showed that while parecon retains its virtues the same does not hold for the market models mainstream economists favor. Other than that, once again, you would have a hard time finding people as disparaging of neoclassical economics, in a serious and careful manner, as myself. It feels like some anarchists, for some reason, want to dismiss parecon and so, without looking too closely, grab whatever comes along that might be marshaled to the cause and just throw it out there, hoping it makes debating points. They see some equations of a sort they ordinarily don't like. They deduce, parecon must be somehow neoclassical.

There are other points raised in the exchange, meant to be more substantive - mainly about allocation - but I thought they were not presented as well or as clearly as someone having the concerns would want in a serious evaluation of them. Thus, I welcome someone presenting additional concerns more carefully. One thing might be to take a look at the q/a sessions that are on line, or perhaps at the interview with Barbara Ehrenreich who had, I think, similar concerns. But if someone just wants to ask without further ado, that would be fine too.

An economic system based on

An economic system based on political principles of the direct democracy

http://www.neomarketing.fav.cc/

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