Parecon Planning -- (Was ZMI Report Forward)

Gar W. Lipow lipowg at
Wed Jun 24 16:43:44 PDT 1998

Justin has four objections to Parecon (He may have others, but these are the ones he has voiced on this list.)

1) Listing your consumption (by category, not in detail) at the beginning of the year is impossible and too burdensome.

Answer)As a consumer, you have the hours you expect to work. You have a projected income based upon those hours, and prices of consumer goods. You thus project your consumption based on your desires, your projected income and the prices assigned to goods.

If productions plans and consumption plans do not add up to a planned production of surplus, prices of goods in excess demand are adjusted upwards. People plan their consumption again based upon these new prices. (Production is being planned at the same time also adjusting to these price signals.) The process continues until a plan with a little slack in it is reach (production exceeding consumption slightly to cover errors and emergencies.)

Now the process may be burdensome. (I will deal with that in a moment.) But surely there is nothing impossible about it. Computers are not doing the planning. Computers are simply adding up the numbers. The planning is done in the same way markets do it -- by people responding to price signals in an iterative process.

And if part way through the year, aggregate consumption differs drastically from the plan there is no reason price signal could be adjusted in response.

2) Lack of privacy. Answer) This is simply a misunderstanding. Consumption request below that earned by work are made anonymously. Only if you want to consume more than you earned (and thus live at other peoples expense) need you explain your needs publicly. (No this does not apply to medical needs, retirement, involuntary unemployment, or people with disabilities. This is paid out of collective consumption.)

3)Listing your consumption at the beginning of the year is too burdensome.

Answer) Two points here. As a practical matter, going through this process is not a lot more complicated than going through a complex income tax. Anyone who has to pay quarter income tax goes through a more equally burdensome process. If it proves too extreme then we will end up with the profession of personal consumption planner.)

And unless your income is a lot higher than mine, you have to do a certain amount of consumption planning to get through the month now without running out of grocery money, or something to pay the utility bills.

But it is true that under such a system you have to pay more attention to your consumption than you do in ours. Is this bad? Consumption affects society. To actually have to think about your role as consumer, to treat your consumption seriously would also give you a certain immunity from the type of manipulation of demand that advertisers depend so heavily on in our society.

3) Too many meetings, too much time wasted on planning

ANSWER) Our present society is not exactly free of such meetings. Time spent in meetings and planning is not increased intolerably over that in our current system. It is simply that in a Parecon some people no longer spend half their lives waiting impatiently for meetings to end, while others spend half their lives implementing stupid decisions made by people waiting impatiently for meetings to end.

4) Too much power to the facilitation boards

The processes performed by facilitation boards are essentially mechanical and do not include framing. They could in fact be delegated to computers -- at the cost of a certain inefficiency that always occurs when you remove the possibility of applying human common sense to a problem.

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