ParEcon Again

William S. Lear rael at
Fri Oct 30 17:29:55 PST 1998

On Fri, October 30, 1998 at 14:53:06 (-0800) Dennis R Redmond writes:
>On Fri, 30 Oct 1998, William S. Lear wrote:
>> But, of course, unions exist as a defensive mechanism
>> to protect workers from capital, so presumably, we wouldn't need them
>> per se in a fully participatory society.
>But the problem is, ParEcon assumes what needed to be proved in the first
>place -- that if we all were nice to one another and looked out for one
>another, things would be fully participatory. ...

This is a big distortion. They do not assume that people will all "just be nice" to one another. Their contention is that once you start tearing down hierarchies, once you give people the right to participate in these decisions, other values can begin to surface in a, well if you want to be Marxist about it, dialectical fashion.

Precisely how these hierarchies will be torn down is not spelled out, for perfectly obvious reasons: they don't have a crystal ball to consult. Presumably, teaching, organizing, protest and vision of a better future (all done in the name of both improving current circumstances and paving the way for the future) will help to tear down walls.

> .... But you don't organize
>unions by telling people, "Unions are only a limited tool and can't really
>change anything and will disappear someday like dinosaurs, but you should
>really help out and join anyway". ...

Of course you don't, and nobody was talking about organizing unions. In my opinion, telling someone that unions are *crucial* today and that *hopefully* later will be unnecessary is a truthful addition to the story. I see no reason why anyone would be frightened by this.

> .... I respect ParEcon's attempt to make
>economic democracy a real issue, that's cool and all, but it's not really
>linked to what Marx called the "ruthless critique of what exists", that
>is, an analysis of what makes global capitalism tick.

Do we really need to know anything other than that the system sucks in order to try to conceive a better way to order our affairs? The transition to this system obviously depends on a good understanding of capitalism, and ParEcon does nothing to hinder that understanding. To criticize ParEcon for not giving a detailed criticism of capitalism (which, incidentally, the two authors have done separately and together in other publications) is tantamount to criticizing Tiger Woods for not beating Mark McGuire in the home run race.

>> >So if my salary is currently $9000 a year, and I want $18000 worth of
>> >goods next year, how would the system handle this? *Everyone* is going to
>> >want a bigger piece of the pie, right? (Including -- and especially --
>> >firms). ...
>> Then, since you are judged to have put out an effort worth $9000 by
>> your peers, unless you can give a good argument why you should get
>> more, you'll be $9,000 short of your dreams.
>Again, this begs the question of how every single person is supposed to
>judge every single other person's effort, and how all those decisions
>feed back into production. ...

Every person is *not* supposed to judge every other person's effort. You are judged by your immediate peers, presumably those more distant from you have no interest, nor relevant information on your effort.

> .... It might work for very small institutions
>or collectives of highly-motivated people (like the folks who
>came up with Linux, praised be their usernames!). But the global end of
>the analysis -- i.e. the harsh realities of global accumulation, class
>struggle, and monster multinationals ("Corporasaurus Rex") rampaging up
>and down the planet -- gets left out. ...

What the hell does the behavior of "monster multinationals" have to do with it? We won't have such creatures. Large firms, and small firms, would follow the same principle: the folks who deal with you on a day-to-day basis will provide effort ratings.

> .... Participation is not enough;
>we also need to imagine and innovate a new political *content* for these
>democratic forms. And I'll be the first to admit that I do not have all
>the answers or any prefab agendas, but the question needs to be asked.

Participation is *essential*. It is necessary, but of course not sufficient for a decent society. Nobody claimed that it was. And what does "political content" for democratic forms mean?


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