Parecon: Life after Capitalism

Parecon: Life after Capitalism

by Michael Albert
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Parecon: Life after Capitalism 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael Albert proposes an interesting alternative to free market economy that emphasizes equality and solidarity. The basic tenets are: - Remuneration according to effort made, not the value of what is produced. A person is basically remunerated according to the hardship of the worker. - Balanced job complexes. No one is allowed to monopolize 'empowering' jobs while relegating some to menial jobs. Everyone is required to perform a wide variety of tasks at a given workplace, thereby balancing one's job to eliminate social class. - Participatory decision making at every level. Decisions as to what to produce and how much, as well as any societal decision for that matter, is made not by market forces nor by central planning, but by systems of committees of the people affected by the decision, voting democratically. The author goes into tremendous detail to elaborate on this, there's no way I can do it justice here. My only comment is that like all utopias, it's idealistic but sadly falls flat when faced by cruel facts. Parecon assumes that people will benevolently do what they have to do for the good of society. It collapses as soon as people start getting selfish. So for instance, Parecon rewards workers according to effort made. The only way to quantify effort is subjectively by one's co-workers. Albert suggests that members of a workplace might grade each other from A to F and divide up the workplace's allocated income accordingly. What happens when 2/3 of the workers decide to band together, rate each other A+ and the others F regardless of effort, thereby monopolizing most of the money and rendering the rating system meaningless? Alliances and plotting would quickly replace honest appraisal. This would have the general effect of depressing a company's productivity. Parecon suggests allocating less money to companies of below average productivity to prevent this, but what do you do when average productivity across different companies starts to sag because everyone's doing it? If you get paid for trying hard instead of being productive, you can expect 'How to look like you're trying when you're not' to be a bestseller. As a rule in life, if there's an easy way for people to get what they want without effort, it will happen. Perhaps not everywhere, but frequently enough that an economic system needs a seamless mechanism to deal with that inevitable fact. Capitalism deals with this as a matter of course: unproductive workers are fired and unproductive companies go bankrupt. But if the rules of the game must be constantly rewritten to force people to play fair, you economic system is in trouble indeed. The committees that are responsible for all decision making are ideally democratic in principle, but are vulnerable in practice. If any group of people are charged with the job of making decisions which directly impact others' interests, you can bet they will be hounded 24/7 by those affected. If you think special interests have corrupted Congress, try extending that model to ALL decisions of economic production and you start to see the problem. Parecon assumes that people will vote with their conscience for the good of society, but even if you could outlaw bribery of any kind, you would still end up with endless nepotism and favoritism, and in practice most committees would be run by an influential minority with the implicit approval of the apathetic majority. Most people would be too busy lobbying other committees whose decisions affect them to pay much attention to the debates of the committees they're on. Unfortunate but true. Market forces allocate rewards to those (inviduals or corporate entities) who are most productive, and does this automatically. Those that get are those who give, which maximizes productivity. As a side effect, some will get more than others, inevitably. Diversity + Freedom = Inequality. But the point is that all this happens without the need to ask wise and well meaning individu