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Re: Parecon debate...

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  • foolingu11
    Hi All; I apologize if these postings are already known or answered or commented on and I ve missed this, but here s the last reply from M. Albert; Ideology
    Message 1 of 27 , Jun 13, 2008
      Hi All;

      I apologize if these postings are already known or answered or
      commented on and I've missed this, but here's the last reply from
      M. Albert;

      "Ideology Over Reality
      By Michael Albert at Jun 7, 2008

      This is the final piece, at least for now, in the debate about parecon
      that is largely contained in my immediately prior post.

      I have to admit that the experience of interacting with leftists
      wedded to particular ideologies is, every time, a daunting one, even
      for a leftist who is also quite strongly attached to a particular set
      of views, such as myself.

      For people trying to change the world, holding some shared concepts,
      goals, etc., is essential and not per se a problem. But beyond holding
      shared views, when encountering views contradicting ours perhaps we
      can agree that our attitude ought to be:

      1. first, we want to seriously understand those different views on
      their own terms
      2. second, we want to see how those different views are contrary to
      the ones we hold
      3. third, we want to see if the different views are better in some
      ways, rather than reflexively rejecting them with a stored up barrage
      of rhetoric born of entirely different circumstances, and then,
      4. fourth, if we do find that the different views embody
      improvements, we should happily adopt them, since the goal is not to
      be right, but to attain a better world, and better ideas mean more
      likelihood of doing so. And finally,
      5. fifth, if we decide the different views are instead flawed, we
      should try to explain why they are based on evidence and logic, not
      simply repeating that we believe differently.


      Now I suspect that the editors and/or reviewer engaging with me in
      this exchange think the above has been, in fact, their approach to the
      different ideas found in the book Parecon...but I would have to say
      otherwise, that they instead didn't take it even a little seriously,
      didn't try to understand what was being said, didn't ever even
      contemplate the possibility that it has valuable insights, and didn't
      try to actually explain, since they thought it was the case, why its
      specific views and proposals were flawed.

      Readers will have to judge, I guess, remembering that the topic is
      parecon...as presented in the book, Parecon, and as begun in the
      original review.

      In any case, here is my reply to the last editors comment...



      ===

      The editors start their final reply in the debate, the last entry in
      the prior post, with what I guess they think is their knockout blow
      for parecon: "It is only under capitalism that the social surplus
      takes the form of a monetary surplus value and, as you admit, this is
      what will exist in parecon."

      My reaction is that they are knocking themselves out, not parecon.

      Why is anything true only under capitalism, and no where else, one
      wonders - is it because that is rule written somewhere? And what is it
      that I admit, in any case - we have to wonder.

      The editors have a set of concepts - value, surplus value, prices, and
      apparently money, among others. More, they have a set of expected
      relations among the real world referents of those concepts that they
      take for granted will exist in every conceivable system other than,
      perhaps, a very vague one that they favor, identifiable mainly by
      their favoring it. In my reading of their words, at least, they simply
      don't seem to be able to see anything other than what they already
      believe, and they make what at least seems to me to be no discernible
      effort to do so.

      I am sorry that this is harsh, but I should be honest about my take,
      even at the risk of offending. In short, it is hard for me to
      understand how someone highly trained in left thought, editors of a
      Socialist periodical, could read Parecon, or even just this exchange,
      and then say what they do, other than if they are functioning rather
      reflexively and routinely and repeatedly imposing on my words meanings
      that not only aren't there, but are explicitly denied.

      It isn't, of course, that I don't think anyone could sensibly dislike
      the book or disagree with the model, etc. It is that I think the
      editors are doing these things without more than superficial reference
      to what is being said in the book or the model, but instead only in
      accord with doctrine that is already in their heads.

      Again, I am sorry for being harsh, but...well, let's see. (By the way,
      I have no problem continuing this in the pages of their periodical, as
      well as here on ZCom, if they wish to.)

      When the editors say "monetary surplus value," well, okay, what is in
      their minds? I admit that I am not entirely sure because this is the
      kind of technical phrase (to be kind) or obscurantist jargon (to be
      not so kind) that people use, though in this case I think it may be a
      bit idiosyncratic, each user molding it in accord with their other
      views, so that communication becomes quite difficult, like talking
      with Humpty Dumpty, I think it was, in Lewis Carroll's parable,
      changing meanings as he wishes.

      I think, judging from context, that most likely "monetary surplus
      value" they have in mind a sum of money, or what that is the same
      thing - claims on social output, also called income - that is going to
      someone at the expense of someone else - thereby being exploitative.

      Why this could only occur under capitalism, or put differently, why
      any system it occurs in is for that reason usefully called capitalism,
      isn't explained. If a system has exploitation in this broad sense, but
      has no private ownership and no markets, for the editors it is
      capitalist. For me, this is humpty dumpty word play with a vengeance,
      but it isn't germane to parecon which doesn't have this kind of
      exploitation, and it arises again below, anyhow...

      So what is germane regarding economic surpluses and parecon? A parecon
      firm produces. I covers its costs (hopefully all of them, costs of
      production and byproduct costs, etc.). The value of the outputs exceed
      the value of costs. That surplus is converted, I assume the editors
      are thinking, into cash (income, claims on consumption) and then goes
      to someone - and here is the crucial part - at the expense of someone
      else.

      Okay, if that last part were true, that would certainly be bad, I
      agree with the editors about that. Saying that if it were true it
      would imply the economy is capitalist I however find ludicrous. It
      makes the word capitalist and the word exploitative synonymous so that
      feudalism suddenly is capitalist, so is pharaonic Egypt, so is the
      "socialist" Soviet Union, etc. Still, if the benefits of production
      were going to people based on owning the means of production of the
      workplace, then it would rightfully be called profits, in the Marxist
      terminology and in the mainstream too, and that would be bad. If the
      benefits were going to people based on their having more bargaining
      power and being able to grab it away from others, then that too would
      be bad, I agree, though it would not be profits in the sense any
      marxist or other economists use the term. Rather, the second kind of
      exploitative allocation occurs in many economic systems, but perhaps
      most important it occurs in what has been called socialism heretofore
      - both market and centrally planned. And it is still bad, yes.

      However, parecon doesn't have either of those bad results. So far from
      admitting what I think the editors have in mind, I explicitly say it
      is false, the book's presentation says it is false, and the above
      replies say it is false, and at least in the longer formulations, it
      isn't just said but demonstrated. Thus, people get income for how long
      they work, how hard they work, and the onerousness of the conditions
      under which they work. They do not, and even cannot, in a parecon, get
      more than that - not due to property relations, not due to bargaining
      power - it is even quite hard to do it by theft.

      So why do the editors say I agree with them in their portrayal of
      parecon embodying exploitation? I think they deduce parecon must be
      exploitative because because parecon tracks relative values (prices)
      and has income shares as well. I say it is not exploitative because in
      parecon the income you get is for how long, how hard, and the
      onerousness of the conditions under which you do useful work, which is
      equitable remuneration, and has nothing to do with property ownership
      or bargaining power. They say prices and income based on what you do
      means exploitation. I say that is utter nonsense... You judge who is
      right. But, regardless of who is right, you might wonder, how can the
      editors possibly interpret my words as saying I agree. Well, my guess
      is that this is how.

      I say that pareconist firms produce more value than the sum of all
      associated costs. I say that in parecon there are prices and income,
      as well, thus in some sense money, or exchange values, and there is a
      way to track our rightful claims on social product via budgets based
      on income. The editors in turn KNOW, however, without even looking and
      because their concepts tell them so (and of course in my view
      wrongly), that if firms produce more value than the associated costs,
      and if there is income in any way correlated to work, and there are
      relative prices, and there tracking of all that, and budgets, even if
      all these things are very different than in other systems, then the
      surplus will inevitably become what they call "monetary surplus" by
      which they mean to imply, I think, a surplus accruing to some instead
      of others. This claim, that x implies y, is never remotely explained
      but is, instead, an axiom or unchallengeable belief. It simply must be
      true. The editors don't have to think about it, or look closely at
      parecon, for that matter. They KNOW x implies y for all possible
      visions that might be offered. So why look closely? All they have to
      do is look at my words and find that there are prices and income and
      then that's the end of it, they at most only feel a need to make the
      claim they know is true that connects those features to exploitation.

      First, it is important to see how peculiar what they are saying is. Of
      course anyone sane wants workplaces to produce items and services and
      other outcomes that are more socially valued than all that is used up
      in that production or otherwise incurred as costs, whether material,
      personal, social, or ecological. So we want all want there to be
      economic surplus, in that sense. The editors must, too.

      The editors now add, however, that if we have surplus,a good thing,
      but we also have prices and income that is in any way correlated to
      people's activities, then we will inevitably have exploitation. No
      need to demonstrate exploitation, to say who gets more and who gets
      less than they ought to since we simply know exploitation must be there.

      Now, if we do take that leap, they argue, then if we want to avoid
      exploitation we must forego prices, income in the sense of earned
      rights to a share of the social output, and anything remotely
      resembling money. When I tell them that this means they have not only
      jettisoned prices, income, etc., but they have done away with all
      possibility of sensible allocation because they have no way to decide
      between options based on valuations, they simply ignore it. When I
      tell them they have also done away with all possibility of attaining
      just distribution because, again, there is no way to say to a
      consumer, or for a consumer to even know that some amount is more (or
      less) than he or she should have, or to say to a worker, or for a
      worker to even know, some level of work is more (or less) than you
      should be doing - the editors think they don't need to answer. They
      feel it is compelling to just repeat without reference to what parecon
      actually embodies, their doctrine - surplus plus income plus prices
      means exploitation. Then, since they in my view quite rightly want an
      end to any kind of elites accruing disproportionate wealth by property
      or power or any other means, and since they KNOW (wrongly) that if
      there is a surplus, which of course there needs to be, and if there is
      also money, prices, budgets, etc., then there will be exploitation -
      they deduce there simply must not be money, prices, budgets, etc.

      It is important to add that this reasoning is not nonsensical in the
      abstract. For example, I am following a somewhat similar pattern, I
      believe quite reasonably, when I say I want classlessness and see
      where that leads me. That is, I believe, based on a whole set of
      evidence and logic carefully presented in plain language, that private
      ownership and also the familiar corporate division of labor in which
      about 20% of producers monopolize virtually all empowering tasks (as
      well as markets and central planning) all singly and together
      inevitably produce class division and class rule. Proceeding on that
      belief, I then deduce that to have classlessness we must reject these
      other features - supposing that we can do so and still have a viable
      and worthy economy, that is. Then I try to carefully show how we can
      accomplish that, with balanced job complexes, participatory planning, etc.

      The editors and I are both claiming that feature x (we are pointing to
      different features, of course) obstructs outcomes that we want. To get
      the outcomes, then, we each deduce that we must therefore do away with
      feature x. X for me is markets, central planning, corporate divisions
      of labor, top down decision making, private ownership of means of
      production, and remuneration for property, power, or output. X for the
      editors is private ownership and, well, money and perhaps even
      relative prices, and perhaps other things too. We both find some
      features objectionable, inevitably, and we both say that therefore to
      have a good economy we must conceive it without those features.

      Here is a difference, however. I work very hard to make a compelling
      case by examining their properties and dynamics that the x that I
      reject - private ownership of means of production, the monopolization
      of empowering tasks in few hands, remuneration for property, power, or
      output, authoritarian decision making, and allocation by markets or
      central planning, each produce class division and class rule. The book
      they reviewed does that, for example. And I very carefully present an
      alternative way of organizing economics that doesn't have those
      features and then also carefully make a case that that new type of
      economic arrangement, with new defining features, can get economic
      functions achieved in ways we desire, rather than avoiding some ills
      while generating new ones in their place. The editors, I think, in
      contrast, don't make a connection between pricing and income per se
      and exploitation or class difference. They simply assert it/ Likewise,
      they don't offer a serious set of institutions without those features
      and show their viability - though perhaps somewhere else they do and I
      am just unaware of it - though I very much doubt it. They debate based
      on doctrine, not on reason and evidence. They reject a new model
      without even bothering to examine it, or so it seems to me.

      There was a famous exchange that is purported to have occured in a
      restaurant between an exceptional economist, Joan Robinson, and some
      table mates whose names I don't know, decades back. One table mate
      said to Robinson (who was one of the more knowledgeable people in
      marxist economics in the world) how come you aren't a Marxist. And
      Robinson replied, well, the difference is that if you ask a Marxist
      some question about wages and prices, for example, he or she will
      think for a moment and then say, oh yes, okay, well on page xxx of
      volume two of Capital it says.... In contrast, Robinson added, if you
      ask me the same question, even if I would in some case happen to have
      essentially the same substance for my answer, I would pull out a
      napkin and work it out, rather than simply quoting as if from a bible.
      (I admit, I added some words to what I remember of this). It is a very
      instructive story, I think even if the doctrinal approach isn't always
      so utterly obvious as when quoting sources in place of offering
      evidence and logic.

      Okay, so if what the editors KNOW to be true - that having prices,
      budgets, etc., implies exploitation - is in fact not true, or if I
      claim it isn't true, then what do I think is the case regarding the
      main issues at hand and parecon?

      In a firm in parecon it is quite true, as the editors notice, or one
      hopes it is true, at any rate, that the firm produces a volume of
      outputs whose worth to society is greater than all the incurred
      resource, labor, environmental, and social costs as well. Okay, so
      let's say the food plant, or bicycle plant, or whatever else, succeeds
      in that respect. Now what?

      Well, that doesn't inexorably mean that some group thereby unjustly
      accrues the greater income, whether by virtue of owning the factory -
      or by virtue of having great bargaining power due to their situation
      in the economy which lets them take more. The ownership is eliminated
      in parecon. So too are the differentials in economic circumstance that
      convey different bargaining power. So too, in any case, is even the
      possibility of remuneration in accord with power.

      Yes, the items and services in the economy have prices in a parecon -
      exchange values - though those prices emerge from self managed
      cooperative negotiation of inputs and outputs, which, oddly, I
      suspect, is exactly what the editors want, they just don't want it to
      include, as information, relative valuations. And yes, people have
      incomes, or said differently, have budgets, which limit how much of
      the social product they are entitled to. And yes, allocation decisions
      about what to produce using resources and labor, etc. and about who
      winds up producing it or getting it, use valuations and are impacted
      by budgets. Not only does all this happen in a parecon, but more, I
      claim if it didn't the system would be utterly incapable of
      functioning intelligently, or even at all, much less functioning
      equitably and with self management. That ought to be trivially
      apparent. You can't make sound judgements about producing one item
      instead of some other, or vice versa, without knowing how much cost
      and benefit the item and its production involve - relative valuations.
      In any case, But, that an economy has prices, budgets, etc., which are
      both essential and desirable if done consistent with other
      aspirations, does not imply, and I have seen zero words designed to
      show that it implies, that there is exploitation, much less who
      benefits, or how much. I should perhaps add that it is incredible to
      me, I admit, that someone would be discussing parecon, focusing on
      exploitation, and never once discuss parecon's norm of
      remuneration...but, given that the argument is from doctrine, not
      based on the actual model, I suppose it is predictable.

      There is another side to the coin, however, and to the editors'
      objection as well. Let's say, instead of the situation of surplus
      discussed above, that the bicycle or food workplace produces output
      that is less valuable than the costs associated with production. The
      editors seem to think that paying attention to this is tantamount to
      operating according to profit and not peoples needs and desires. In
      fact, the actual situation is the opposite.

      Consider the firm that has no surplus of benefits over costs. What do
      we do about it? Well, if society is rational, and if it is operating
      in accord with needs and not profits, it will be desirable for there
      to be changes so the workplace does a better job of creating the
      outputs without incurring so many costs. Or, if that doesn't occur and
      people don't want the bicycles or food coming out of these particular
      workplaces more than they want well being for the workers there, or
      sustainability for the neighborhoods, or other products (including
      food or bicycles made differently in other firms with less costs) the
      firm should no longer produce. It is not serving needs but instead
      diminishing fulfillment relative to better choices.

      And here is an irony - but one the editors should, and would, I think,
      immediately understand if they were using a napkin to work things out
      instead of using doctrine to claim things. What occurs in capitalism,
      in this case of not producing more value in outputs than the costs
      incurred? Well, sometimes the firm will shut down - as it ought to if
      it can't be refitted - but other times it won't. For example, if the
      firm is generating big profits for owners because lots of the costs
      are going unpaid by the owners but instead hitting others than the
      owners - being paid through taxpayer funds, say, or just going
      unaddressed as in ecological impacts, so, think, for example, of
      idiotic products that destroy the environment but don't include those
      costs in the prices - or of weapons manufacture - then the production
      will continue. Ironically, in other words, the situation is opposite,
      in this case, on all counts, to what the editors' doctrine proposes.
      Paying attention to full social costs and benefits and closing down
      operations that don't generate surpluses is the thing to do to abide
      need of all concerned, if done in a pareconish way, while keeping
      such a firm open (in some cases) is the thing to do and that will be
      done, to abide the will of capitalist owners.

      The editors write to me in their reply: "The institutional changes you
      advocate (no legal individual ownership of means of production,
      self-management, etc.) are inadequate reasons for claiming that
      capitalism has been overthrown."

      How to begin. Well, if what they present was the actual list of
      changes that I advocated, the editors would be part right. In that
      (fictitious) case, what I was proposing could then be, for example,
      market socialism or centrally planned socialism - both of which are
      still exploitative and class divided, though calling them capitalist
      is ridiculously misleading. But in fact what they offer isn't the list
      of changes I advocate, and I think most interestingly, the editors
      feel no need, it seems, to acknowledge or probably even to notice that
      it isn't the list of changes I advocate.

      Instead, the list I advocate, put negatively or simply in ethical
      terms, as they did (not least, I think, because they have no positive
      institutional proposals) includes no private ownership of productive
      assets (not just some formal law but none), no markets, no central
      planning, no remuneration for property, power, or output, no top down
      decision making, and no corporate division of labor (that allots
      empowering tasks overwhelmingly to about 20% of the workforce who I
      call the coordinator class and who easily dominate the economy and
      exploit, and allots rote and repetitive and otherwise disempowering
      tasks overwhelmingly to 80% of the workforce, who I call the working
      class, and who are for want of information, credentials, access, and
      skills and knowledge, dominated and exploited. In ethical terms the
      list is self management, equitable remuneration, diversity,
      solidarity, and efficiency in meeting needs and developing potentials
      of both workers and consumers. And finally, the list, put positively
      in institutional terms, since parecon isn't just a list of things
      rejected or ethical aims, but is an actual vision - includes, workers
      and consumers self managing councils, remuneration for duration,
      intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, balanced job
      complexes, and participatory planning.

      Now, to say, as the editors do, that an economy which has replaced the
      way work is organized with a classless approach, the way decisions are
      made with a self managing approach, the way consumption occurs with an
      unalienated approach, the way allocation is accomplished with a
      cooperative, negotiated approach, and the way people earn and utilize
      income with an equitable approach is, nonetheless, still capitalist,
      because it has something they call monetarized surplus, is quite
      something, but, I think, actually explicable, in an odd way that we
      will see in a second.

      The editors say, "We agree that the former Soviet Union did have a
      ruling class, but not that there were no markets there. Even the
      regime's ideologists admitted that there was `commodity-production,'
      i.e. production for sale, and that buying and selling relationships
      existed between state enterprises. While there was no individual legal
      ownership of the main means of production (though there was of some
      things: dachas, works of art, state bonds, bank accounts), these means
      of production were not owned by society as a whole but effectively by
      a class which monopolised them, via the state, and which lived a
      privileged life from the surplus value extracted from the wage-labour
      of the workers. That is why we think the best description of that and
      similar societies was state capitalist."

      The Soviet allocation system was central planning. Markets did not set
      prices and existed far far less, for example, than planning exists in
      the U.S., which I bet the authors would call a market economy, quite
      reasonably. But we could have been talking about Yugoslavia, and then,
      indeed, there would have been markets, which is why it was called
      market socialism. Intoning the phrase "commodity production" brings us
      back to the humpty dumpty dynamic. What does it mean?

      Do the editors have in mind that things produced are consumed? Well
      then there would always be that feature and there would be nothing bad
      about it. Do they have in mind that the consumption occurs limited by
      budgets? Again, that will always be true and there is nothing wrong
      with that. What it means technically, and this may be what they intend
      to connote in using it, is that the production occurs driven by profit
      motives with the profit accruing to owners, who have overwhelming
      power, etc. But all this was absent in the Soviet and Yugoslav cases.

      People own dachas? Yes. And they owned the shirts they wore too. So?
      Saying there should be no private onwership of productive assets
      doesn't imply there is no ownership of anything. This was not the key
      problem with the Soviet or Yugoslav economies. If bank accounts
      conveyed interest based on profits earned by firms, that would be a
      real thing to point to, but swamped by everything else. However, yes,
      there was a ruling class - but it was an economic phenomenon - footed
      in, and here is the key economic problem with these economies, the
      existence of a class monopolizing empowering tasks and thus dominating
      workers below. (Was there a statist political aspect? Yes, but even if
      there had been a multi party democracy, the economy would sitll have
      been class ruled not classless.) Did the ruling class live much better
      than working people due to taking an exploitative share of the social
      product. Yes, that is quite true. But that was also true under
      feudalism, should we call that capitalism, too? Perhaps royal
      capitalism? Humpty can choose to use the words whatever way he wishes,
      but then if we actually want to communicate usefully, we just need
      more words.

      Here is the crux. The editors want to reject the Soviet system (I hope
      for good reasons rather than only because Trotsky did, in the end.)
      Okay. They do not want to say, however, that there can be anything
      other than capitalism and socialism, after feudalism. There are two
      reasons for this. Adherence to doctrine - marxist and leninist - and
      because once you admit this possibility you have admitted that
      eliminating capitalist economics means more than eliminating private
      productive property and profits - entailing, also, getting rid of the
      economic source (not just authoritarian politics) of the power and
      wealth of the ruling class in the Soviet system, which opens the door
      to the absolutely verboten possibility - that even the most
      aggressively anticapitalist leninism is not a framework seeking
      classlessness but is, instead, a framework seeking rule by the
      coordinator class.

      The editors say "Your attitude towards the former Soviet Union is
      revealing in that it shows that you had nothing against the continued
      existence there of the key features of capitalism that are production
      for sale, money, wages, profits, etc but only to the fact that the
      economic system involving these was controlled by a privileged ruling
      class and not democratically by the workers."

      This is rather amazing - again, not only because parecon eliminates
      profit seeking and profits per se, but because Parecon also has no
      production for sale - meaning for profits - at all. But it does have
      production for use, and the users do have budgets and therefore buy
      what they choose. And it does have numeric prices and budgets, which
      is what they are calling money, and it does have income, which they
      are calling wages to make it sound like it is something dolled out
      miserly by bosses. But the pejorative connotations are all merely
      assumed, asserted, and imposed on the words I have offered, because
      doctrine says it must be.

      And then incredibly the editors say - "Parecon is thus revealed to be
      the idea of the economic system that existed in Russia `self-managed'
      by the workers. A sort of `self-managed capitalism' that could only
      exist on paper."

      What is going on is simple. There is the system the editors want -
      true socialism, I guess they would call it - with whatever features
      they have in mind, but I think, probably, nothing coherent, nothing
      specified sufficiently to assess. Then, other than that system the
      editors like, there must only be, well, capitalism, though in lots of
      forms. There is a sense in which "capitalism" is the editors synonym
      for "we don't want it."

      So, the U.S. is capitalist, Russia was, and now parecon is too, and
      apparently is more like Russia, no less, despite dumping central
      planning, all private ownership, etc. etc. And all this is so, note,
      just by decree, by definition, by the authority of humpty dumpty, in
      my view, and I guess Trotsky, or whoever, in the editors' view.

      You think I am being harsh? Look through the whole exchange and see if
      you can find anyplace where the editors are doing anything other than
      repeating their beliefs, as gospel - remember they are reviewing
      parecon, not presenting their claims. See if they explain what it is
      about balanced job complexes, or pareconish remuneration, or
      participatory planning, or self managed decision making, that is
      insufficient or bad. In fact, see if they even say what these things
      are, what they entail, anything about them there defining features of
      the system they are rejecting. See if they explain how it is, which is
      to say by what dynamic, in what form, and benefitting whom, profits or
      if they prefer monetarized surpluses accrue, or any kind of economic
      injustice in power or income occurs, for that matter. None of that
      appears, because there is no need, in the editors view, to address
      parecon as it is described and conceived. Rather one only needs to
      say, it isn't what we favor, so it must be capitalism, and now we will
      dig around and find a few words we can mishandle and then use to
      evidence the point.

      It may sound differently to others, but I think it is honest and
      perhaps useful for me to admit this is the way their formulations
      sound to me. Plus, honestly, they also sound incredibly ignorant, for
      people claiming to be experts on capitalism and on its rejection, of
      even the most simple economic insights. This is quite sad I think, not
      a matter of blame, but of depression over the state of the left, or
      this left's, comprehension of economics.

      If you can't work with a napkin to derive and justify your thoughts,
      without taking a doctrine as given, and if the doctrine is way
      outdated and flawed, you find yourself in a whole lot of difficulty.

      The editors end, "Socialism will break free from the financial
      bureaucracy of capitalist calculation. It will treat people as ends in
      themselves. It will produce directly for human needs. It will break
      the link between individual effort and individual consumption. That's
      what all those who consider themselves to be anti-capitalist should be
      aiming at."

      Actually, with the exception of breaking the link between individual
      effort and individual consumption, which, for able bodied people would
      be a disaster for rationally trying to meet anyone's needs equitably,
      as well as for discerning desirable directions for economic
      development, the above list is precisely what parecon attains, though
      only a small part of what it attains. I hope at some point folks with
      views like the editors, and the editors, and advocates of parecon, can
      have a discussion that arises from a napkin mentality, not a volume
      two doctrinal mentality."

      Cheers, Rebecca
    • wsm_mod
      ... Here is the book review in question: And the ensuing debate with Albert is here:
      Message 2 of 27 , Jun 13, 2008
        Rebecca quoted Michael Albert:

        > "Parecon: post capitalist capitalism?
        > By Michael Albert at Jun 7, 2008
        >
        > I was just today sent a critical review of the book Parecon, that
        > appeared, and that I replied to, some time ago. I thought I would
        > make it available here...with the ensuing debate....of course.

        > I don't have the author's name, it wasn't included in the recent
        > mailing - and actually I don't think it was included in the original
        > review either as I don't mention it in my reply, below...

        Here is the book review in question:

        <http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/feb06/page16.html>

        And the ensuing debate with Albert is here:

        <http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/apr06/page10.html>

        --
        Lew
      • foolingu11
        Thanks Lew! Cheers, Rebecca
        Message 3 of 27 , Jun 13, 2008
          Thanks Lew!

          Cheers, Rebecca
        • alan johnstone
          I have no problem continuing this in the pages of their periodical, as well as here on ZCom, if they wish to challenges Michael Albert --Shall we take up the
          Message 4 of 27 , Jun 14, 2008
            "I have no problem continuing this in the pages of their periodical, as
            well as here on ZCom, if they wish to" challenges Michael Albert --Shall we take up the gauntlet ?
             
            His acusations :-
             
            we employ "obscurantist jargon" - and of course Parecon doesn't .
             
             But as someone who can judge that Joan Robinson  "as one of the more knowledgeable people in marxist economics in the world" he fails to recognise Marxist terminology and concepts and we all know that Robinson was simply a Keynsian .
             
            Once again it is allocation of resources the old Von MISES er  

            alan johnstone

            --- On Fri, 13/6/08, foolingu11 <foolingu11@...> wrote:

            From: foolingu11 <foolingu11@...>
            Subject: [WSM_Forum] Re: Parecon debate...
            To: WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Friday, 13 June, 2008, 3:47 PM






            Hi All;

            I apologize if these postings are already known or answered or
            commented on and I've missed this, but here's the last reply from
            M. Albert;

            "Ideology Over Reality
            By Michael Albert at Jun 7, 2008

            This is the final piece, at least for now, in the debate about parecon
            that is largely contained in my immediately prior post.

            I have to admit that the experience of interacting with leftists
            wedded to particular ideologies is, every time, a daunting one, even
            for a leftist who is also quite strongly attached to a particular set
            of views, such as myself.

            For people trying to change the world, holding some shared concepts,
            goals, etc., is essential and not per se a problem. But beyond holding
            shared views, when encountering views contradicting ours perhaps we
            can agree that our attitude ought to be:

            1. first, we want to seriously understand those different views on
            their own terms
            2. second, we want to see how those different views are contrary to
            the ones we hold
            3. third, we want to see if the different views are better in some
            ways, rather than reflexively rejecting them with a stored up barrage
            of rhetoric born of entirely different circumstances, and then,
            4. fourth, if we do find that the different views embody
            improvements, we should happily adopt them, since the goal is not to
            be right, but to attain a better world, and better ideas mean more
            likelihood of doing so. And finally,
            5. fifth, if we decide the different views are instead flawed, we
            should try to explain why they are based on evidence and logic, not
            simply repeating that we believe differently.

            Now I suspect that the editors and/or reviewer engaging with me in
            this exchange think the above has been, in fact, their approach to the
            different ideas found in the book Parecon...but I would have to say
            otherwise, that they instead didn't take it even a little seriously,
            didn't try to understand what was being said, didn't ever even
            contemplate the possibility that it has valuable insights, and didn't
            try to actually explain, since they thought it was the case, why its
            specific views and proposals were flawed.

            Readers will have to judge, I guess, remembering that the topic is
            parecon...as presented in the book, Parecon, and as begun in the
            original review.

            In any case, here is my reply to the last editors comment...

            ===

            The editors start their final reply in the debate, the last entry in
            the prior post, with what I guess they think is their knockout blow
            for parecon: "It is only under capitalism that the social surplus
            takes the form of a monetary surplus value and, as you admit, this is
            what will exist in parecon."

            My reaction is that they are knocking themselves out, not parecon.

            Why is anything true only under capitalism, and no where else, one
            wonders - is it because that is rule written somewhere? And what is it
            that I admit, in any case - we have to wonder.

            The editors have a set of concepts - value, surplus value, prices, and
            apparently money, among others. More, they have a set of expected
            relations among the real world referents of those concepts that they
            take for granted will exist in every conceivable system other than,
            perhaps, a very vague one that they favor, identifiable mainly by
            their favoring it. In my reading of their words, at least, they simply
            don't seem to be able to see anything other than what they already
            believe, and they make what at least seems to me to be no discernible
            effort to do so.

            I am sorry that this is harsh, but I should be honest about my take,
            even at the risk of offending. In short, it is hard for me to
            understand how someone highly trained in left thought, editors of a
            Socialist periodical, could read Parecon, or even just this exchange,
            and then say what they do, other than if they are functioning rather
            reflexively and routinely and repeatedly imposing on my words meanings
            that not only aren't there, but are explicitly denied.

            It isn't, of course, that I don't think anyone could sensibly dislike
            the book or disagree with the model, etc. It is that I think the
            editors are doing these things without more than superficial reference
            to what is being said in the book or the model, but instead only in
            accord with doctrine that is already in their heads.

            Again, I am sorry for being harsh, but...well, let's see. (By the way,
            I have no problem continuing this in the pages of their periodical, as
            well as here on ZCom, if they wish to.)

            When the editors say "monetary surplus value," well, okay, what is in
            their minds? I admit that I am not entirely sure because this is the
            kind of technical phrase (to be kind) or obscurantist jargon (to be
            not so kind) that people use, though in this case I think it may be a
            bit idiosyncratic, each user molding it in accord with their other
            views, so that communication becomes quite difficult, like talking
            with Humpty Dumpty, I think it was, in Lewis Carroll's parable,
            changing meanings as he wishes.

            I think, judging from context, that most likely "monetary surplus
            value" they have in mind a sum of money, or what that is the same
            thing - claims on social output, also called income - that is going to
            someone at the expense of someone else - thereby being exploitative.

            Why this could only occur under capitalism, or put differently, why
            any system it occurs in is for that reason usefully called capitalism,
            isn't explained. If a system has exploitation in this broad sense, but
            has no private ownership and no markets, for the editors it is
            capitalist. For me, this is humpty dumpty word play with a vengeance,
            but it isn't germane to parecon which doesn't have this kind of
            exploitation, and it arises again below, anyhow...

            So what is germane regarding economic surpluses and parecon? A parecon
            firm produces. I covers its costs (hopefully all of them, costs of
            production and byproduct costs, etc.). The value of the outputs exceed
            the value of costs. That surplus is converted, I assume the editors
            are thinking, into cash (income, claims on consumption) and then goes
            to someone - and here is the crucial part - at the expense of someone
            else.

            Okay, if that last part were true, that would certainly be bad, I
            agree with the editors about that. Saying that if it were true it
            would imply the economy is capitalist I however find ludicrous. It
            makes the word capitalist and the word exploitative synonymous so that
            feudalism suddenly is capitalist, so is pharaonic Egypt, so is the
            "socialist" Soviet Union, etc. Still, if the benefits of production
            were going to people based on owning the means of production of the
            workplace, then it would rightfully be called profits, in the Marxist
            terminology and in the mainstream too, and that would be bad. If the
            benefits were going to people based on their having more bargaining
            power and being able to grab it away from others, then that too would
            be bad, I agree, though it would not be profits in the sense any
            marxist or other economists use the term. Rather, the second kind of
            exploitative allocation occurs in many economic systems, but perhaps
            most important it occurs in what has been called socialism heretofore
            - both market and centrally planned. And it is still bad, yes.

            However, parecon doesn't have either of those bad results. So far from
            admitting what I think the editors have in mind, I explicitly say it
            is false, the book's presentation says it is false, and the above
            replies say it is false, and at least in the longer formulations, it
            isn't just said but demonstrated. Thus, people get income for how long
            they work, how hard they work, and the onerousness of the conditions
            under which they work. They do not, and even cannot, in a parecon, get
            more than that - not due to property relations, not due to bargaining
            power - it is even quite hard to do it by theft.

            So why do the editors say I agree with them in their portrayal of
            parecon embodying exploitation? I think they deduce parecon must be
            exploitative because because parecon tracks relative values (prices)
            and has income shares as well. I say it is not exploitative because in
            parecon the income you get is for how long, how hard, and the
            onerousness of the conditions under which you do useful work, which is
            equitable remuneration, and has nothing to do with property ownership
            or bargaining power. They say prices and income based on what you do
            means exploitation. I say that is utter nonsense... You judge who is
            right. But, regardless of who is right, you might wonder, how can the
            editors possibly interpret my words as saying I agree. Well, my guess
            is that this is how.

            I say that pareconist firms produce more value than the sum of all
            associated costs. I say that in parecon there are prices and income,
            as well, thus in some sense money, or exchange values, and there is a
            way to track our rightful claims on social product via budgets based
            on income. The editors in turn KNOW, however, without even looking and
            because their concepts tell them so (and of course in my view
            wrongly), that if firms produce more value than the associated costs,
            and if there is income in any way correlated to work, and there are
            relative prices, and there tracking of all that, and budgets, even if
            all these things are very different than in other systems, then the
            surplus will inevitably become what they call "monetary surplus" by
            which they mean to imply, I think, a surplus accruing to some instead
            of others. This claim, that x implies y, is never remotely explained
            but is, instead, an axiom or unchallengeable belief. It simply must be
            true. The editors don't have to think about it, or look closely at
            parecon, for that matter. They KNOW x implies y for all possible
            visions that might be offered. So why look closely? All they have to
            do is look at my words and find that there are prices and income and
            then that's the end of it, they at most only feel a need to make the
            claim they know is true that connects those features to exploitation.

            First, it is important to see how peculiar what they are saying is. Of
            course anyone sane wants workplaces to produce items and services and
            other outcomes that are more socially valued than all that is used up
            in that production or otherwise incurred as costs, whether material,
            personal, social, or ecological. So we want all want there to be
            economic surplus, in that sense. The editors must, too.

            The editors now add, however, that if we have surplus,a good thing,
            but we also have prices and income that is in any way correlated to
            people's activities, then we will inevitably have exploitation. No
            need to demonstrate exploitation, to say who gets more and who gets
            less than they ought to since we simply know exploitation must be there.

            Now, if we do take that leap, they argue, then if we want to avoid
            exploitation we must forego prices, income in the sense of earned
            rights to a share of the social output, and anything remotely
            resembling money. When I tell them that this means they have not only
            jettisoned prices, income, etc., but they have done away with all
            possibility of sensible allocation because they have no way to decide
            between options based on valuations, they simply ignore it. When I
            tell them they have also done away with all possibility of attaining
            just distribution because, again, there is no way to say to a
            consumer, or for a consumer to even know that some amount is more (or
            less) than he or she should have, or to say to a worker, or for a
            worker to even know, some level of work is more (or less) than you
            should be doing - the editors think they don't need to answer. They
            feel it is compelling to just repeat without reference to what parecon
            actually embodies, their doctrine - surplus plus income plus prices
            means exploitation. Then, since they in my view quite rightly want an
            end to any kind of elites accruing disproportionate wealth by property
            or power or any other means, and since they KNOW (wrongly) that if
            there is a surplus, which of course there needs to be, and if there is
            also money, prices, budgets, etc., then there will be exploitation -
            they deduce there simply must not be money, prices, budgets, etc.

            It is important to add that this reasoning is not nonsensical in the
            abstract. For example, I am following a somewhat similar pattern, I
            believe quite reasonably, when I say I want classlessness and see
            where that leads me. That is, I believe, based on a whole set of
            evidence and logic carefully presented in plain language, that private
            ownership and also the familiar corporate division of labor in which
            about 20% of producers monopolize virtually all empowering tasks (as
            well as markets and central planning) all singly and together
            inevitably produce class division and class rule. Proceeding on that
            belief, I then deduce that to have classlessness we must reject these
            other features - supposing that we can do so and still have a viable
            and worthy economy, that is. Then I try to carefully show how we can
            accomplish that, with balanced job complexes, participatory planning, etc.

            The editors and I are both claiming that feature x (we are pointing to
            different features, of course) obstructs outcomes that we want. To get
            the outcomes, then, we each deduce that we must therefore do away with
            feature x. X for me is markets, central planning, corporate divisions
            of labor, top down decision making, private ownership of means of
            production, and remuneration for property, power, or output. X for the
            editors is private ownership and, well, money and perhaps even
            relative prices, and perhaps other things too. We both find some
            features objectionable, inevitably, and we both say that therefore to
            have a good economy we must conceive it without those features.

            Here is a difference, however. I work very hard to make a compelling
            case by examining their properties and dynamics that the x that I
            reject - private ownership of means of production, the monopolization
            of empowering tasks in few hands, remuneration for property, power, or
            output, authoritarian decision making, and allocation by markets or
            central planning, each produce class division and class rule. The book
            they reviewed does that, for example. And I very carefully present an
            alternative way of organizing economics that doesn't have those
            features and then also carefully make a case that that new type of
            economic arrangement, with new defining features, can get economic
            functions achieved in ways we desire, rather than avoiding some ills
            while generating new ones in their place. The editors, I think, in
            contrast, don't make a connection between pricing and income per se
            and exploitation or class difference. They simply assert it/ Likewise,
            they don't offer a serious set of institutions without those features
            and show their viability - though perhaps somewhere else they do and I
            am just unaware of it - though I very much doubt it. They debate based
            on doctrine, not on reason and evidence. They reject a new model
            without even bothering to examine it, or so it seems to me.

            There was a famous exchange that is purported to have occured in a
            restaurant between an exceptional economist, Joan Robinson, and some
            table mates whose names I don't know, decades back. One table mate
            said to Robinson (who was one of the more knowledgeable people in
            marxist economics in the world) how come you aren't a Marxist. And
            Robinson replied, well, the difference is that if you ask a Marxist
            some question about wages and prices, for example, he or she will
            think for a moment and then say, oh yes, okay, well on page xxx of
            volume two of Capital it says.... In contrast, Robinson added, if you
            ask me the same question, even if I would in some case happen to have
            essentially the same substance for my answer, I would pull out a
            napkin and work it out, rather than simply quoting as if from a bible.
            (I admit, I added some words to what I remember of this). It is a very
            instructive story, I think even if the doctrinal approach isn't always
            so utterly obvious as when quoting sources in place of offering
            evidence and logic.

            Okay, so if what the editors KNOW to be true - that having prices,
            budgets, etc., implies exploitation - is in fact not true, or if I
            claim it isn't true, then what do I think is the case regarding the
            main issues at hand and parecon?

            In a firm in parecon it is quite true, as the editors notice, or one
            hopes it is true, at any rate, that the firm produces a volume of
            outputs whose worth to society is greater than all the incurred
            resource, labor, environmental, and social costs as well. Okay, so
            let's say the food plant, or bicycle plant, or whatever else, succeeds
            in that respect. Now what?

            Well, that doesn't inexorably mean that some group thereby unjustly
            accrues the greater income, whether by virtue of owning the factory -
            or by virtue of having great bargaining power due to their situation
            in the economy which lets them take more. The ownership is eliminated
            in parecon. So too are the differentials in economic circumstance that
            convey different bargaining power. So too, in any case, is even the
            possibility of remuneration in accord with power.

            Yes, the items and services in the economy have prices in a parecon -
            exchange values - though those prices emerge from self managed
            cooperative negotiation of inputs and outputs, which, oddly, I
            suspect, is exactly what the editors want, they just don't want it to
            include, as information, relative valuations. And yes, people have
            incomes, or said differently, have budgets, which limit how much of
            the social product they are entitled to. And yes, allocation decisions
            about what to produce using resources and labor, etc. and about who
            winds up producing it or getting it, use valuations and are impacted
            by budgets. Not only does all this happen in a parecon, but more, I
            claim if it didn't the system would be utterly incapable of
            functioning intelligently, or even at all, much less functioning
            equitably and with self management. That ought to be trivially
            apparent. You can't make sound judgements about producing one item
            instead of some other, or vice versa, without knowing how much cost
            and benefit the item and its production involve - relative valuations.
            In any case, But, that an economy has prices, budgets, etc., which are
            both essential and desirable if done consistent with other
            aspirations, does not imply, and I have seen zero words designed to
            show that it implies, that there is exploitation, much less who
            benefits, or how much. I should perhaps add that it is incredible to
            me, I admit, that someone would be discussing parecon, focusing on
            exploitation, and never once discuss parecon's norm of
            remuneration. ..but, given that the argument is from doctrine, not
            based on the actual model, I suppose it is predictable.

            There is another side to the coin, however, and to the editors'
            objection as well. Let's say, instead of the situation of surplus
            discussed above, that the bicycle or food workplace produces output
            that is less valuable than the costs associated with production. The
            editors seem to think that paying attention to this is tantamount to
            operating according to profit and not peoples needs and desires. In
            fact, the actual situation is the opposite.

            Consider the firm that has no surplus of benefits over costs. What do
            we do about it? Well, if society is rational, and if it is operating
            in accord with needs and not profits, it will be desirable for there
            to be changes so the workplace does a better job of creating the
            outputs without incurring so many costs. Or, if that doesn't occur and
            people don't want the bicycles or food coming out of these particular
            workplaces more than they want well being for the workers there, or
            sustainability for the neighborhoods, or other products (including
            food or bicycles made differently in other firms with less costs) the
            firm should no longer produce. It is not serving needs but instead
            diminishing fulfillment relative to better choices.

            And here is an irony - but one the editors should, and would, I think,
            immediately understand if they were using a napkin to work things out
            instead of using doctrine to claim things. What occurs in capitalism,
            in this case of not producing more value in outputs than the costs
            incurred? Well, sometimes the firm will shut down - as it ought to if
            it can't be refitted - but other times it won't. For example, if the
            firm is generating big profits for owners because lots of the costs
            are going unpaid by the owners but instead hitting others than the
            owners - being paid through taxpayer funds, say, or just going
            unaddressed as in ecological impacts, so, think, for example, of
            idiotic products that destroy the environment but don't include those
            costs in the prices - or of weapons manufacture - then the production
            will continue. Ironically, in other words, the situation is opposite,
            in this case, on all counts, to what the editors' doctrine proposes.
            Paying attention to full social costs and benefits and closing down
            operations that don't generate surpluses is the thing to do to abide
            need of all concerned, if done in a pareconish way, while keeping
            such a firm open (in some cases) is the thing to do and that will be
            done, to abide the will of capitalist owners.

            The editors write to me in their reply: "The institutional changes you
            advocate (no legal individual ownership of means of production,
            self-management, etc.) are inadequate reasons for claiming that
            capitalism has been overthrown."

            How to begin. Well, if what they present was the actual list of
            changes that I advocated, the editors would be part right. In that
            (fictitious) case, what I was proposing could then be, for example,
            market socialism or centrally planned socialism - both of which are
            still exploitative and class divided, though calling them capitalist
            is ridiculously misleading. But in fact what they offer isn't the list
            of changes I advocate, and I think most interestingly, the editors
            feel no need, it seems, to acknowledge or probably even to notice that
            it isn't the list of changes I advocate.

            Instead, the list I advocate, put negatively or simply in ethical
            terms, as they did (not least, I think, because they have no positive
            institutional proposals) includes no private ownership of productive
            assets (not just some formal law but none), no markets, no central
            planning, no remuneration for property, power, or output, no top down
            decision making, and no corporate division of labor (that allots
            empowering tasks overwhelmingly to about 20% of the workforce who I
            call the coordinator class and who easily dominate the economy and
            exploit, and allots rote and repetitive and otherwise disempowering
            tasks overwhelmingly to 80% of the workforce, who I call the working
            class, and who are for want of information, credentials, access, and
            skills and knowledge, dominated and exploited. In ethical terms the
            list is self management, equitable remuneration, diversity,
            solidarity, and efficiency in meeting needs and developing potentials
            of both workers and consumers. And finally, the list, put positively
            in institutional terms, since parecon isn't just a list of things
            rejected or ethical aims, but is an actual vision - includes, workers
            and consumers self managing councils, remuneration for duration,
            intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, balanced job
            complexes, and participatory planning.

            Now, to say, as the editors do, that an economy which has replaced the
            way work is organized with a classless approach, the way decisions are
            made with a self managing approach, the way consumption occurs with an
            unalienated approach, the way allocation is accomplished with a
            cooperative, negotiated approach, and the way people earn and utilize
            income with an equitable approach is, nonetheless, still capitalist,
            because it has something they call monetarized surplus, is quite
            something, but, I think, actually explicable, in an odd way that we
            will see in a second.

            The editors say, "We agree that the former Soviet Union did have a
            ruling class, but not that there were no markets there. Even the
            regime's ideologists admitted that there was `commodity-producti on,'
            i.e. production for sale, and that buying and selling relationships
            existed between state enterprises. While there was no individual legal
            ownership of the main means of production (though there was of some
            things: dachas, works of art, state bonds, bank accounts), these means
            of production were not owned by society as a whole but effectively by
            a class which monopolised them, via the state, and which lived a
            privileged life from the surplus value extracted from the wage-labour
            of the workers. That is why we think the best description of that and
            similar societies was state capitalist."

            The Soviet allocation system was central planning. Markets did not set
            prices and existed far far less, for example, than planning exists in
            the U.S., which I bet the authors would call a market economy, quite
            reasonably. But we could have been talking about Yugoslavia, and then,
            indeed, there would have been markets, which is why it was called
            market socialism. Intoning the phrase "commodity production" brings us
            back to the humpty dumpty dynamic. What does it mean?

            Do the editors have in mind that things produced are consumed? Well
            then there would always be that feature and there would be nothing bad
            about it. Do they have in mind that the consumption occurs limited by
            budgets? Again, that will always be true and there is nothing wrong
            with that. What it means technically, and this may be what they intend
            to connote in using it, is that the production occurs driven by profit
            motives with the profit accruing to owners, who have overwhelming
            power, etc. But all this was absent in the Soviet and Yugoslav cases.

            People own dachas? Yes. And they owned the shirts they wore too. So?
            Saying there should be no private onwership of productive assets
            doesn't imply there is no ownership of anything. This was not the key
            problem with the Soviet or Yugoslav economies. If bank accounts
            conveyed interest based on profits earned by firms, that would be a
            real thing to point to, but swamped by everything else. However, yes,
            there was a ruling class - but it was an economic phenomenon - footed
            in, and here is the key economic problem with these economies, the
            existence of a class monopolizing empowering tasks and thus dominating
            workers below. (Was there a statist political aspect? Yes, but even if
            there had been a multi party democracy, the economy would sitll have
            been class ruled not classless.) Did the ruling class live much better
            than working people due to taking an exploitative share of the social
            product. Yes, that is quite true. But that was also true under
            feudalism, should we call that capitalism, too? Perhaps royal
            capitalism? Humpty can choose to use the words whatever way he wishes,
            but then if we actually want to communicate usefully, we just need
            more words.

            Here is the crux. The editors want to reject the Soviet system (I hope
            for good reasons rather than only because Trotsky did, in the end.)
            Okay. They do not want to say, however, that there can be anything
            other than capitalism and socialism, after feudalism. There are two
            reasons for this. Adherence to doctrine - marxist and leninist - and
            because once you admit this possibility you have admitted that
            eliminating capitalist economics means more than eliminating private
            productive property and profits - entailing, also, getting rid of the
            economic source (not just authoritarian politics) of the power and
            wealth of the ruling class in the Soviet system, which opens the door
            to the absolutely verboten possibility - that even the most
            aggressively anticapitalist leninism is not a framework seeking
            classlessness but is, instead, a framework seeking rule by the
            coordinator class.

            The editors say "Your attitude towards the former Soviet Union is
            revealing in that it shows that you had nothing against the continued
            existence there of the key features of capitalism that are production
            for sale, money, wages, profits, etc but only to the fact that the
            economic system involving these was controlled by a privileged ruling
            class and not democratically by the workers."

            This is rather amazing - again, not only because parecon eliminates
            profit seeking and profits per se, but because Parecon also has no
            production for sale - meaning for profits - at all. But it does have
            production for use, and the users do have budgets and therefore buy
            what they choose. And it does have numeric prices and budgets, which
            is what they are calling money, and it does have income, which they
            are calling wages to make it sound like it is something dolled out
            miserly by bosses. But the pejorative connotations are all merely
            assumed, asserted, and imposed on the words I have offered, because
            doctrine says it must be.

            And then incredibly the editors say - "Parecon is thus revealed to be
            the idea of the economic system that existed in Russia `self-managed'
            by the workers. A sort of `self-managed capitalism' that could only
            exist on paper."

            What is going on is simple. There is the system the editors want -
            true socialism, I guess they would call it - with whatever features
            they have in mind, but I think, probably, nothing coherent, nothing
            specified sufficiently to assess. Then, other than that system the
            editors like, there must only be, well, capitalism, though in lots of
            forms. There is a sense in which "capitalism" is the editors synonym
            for "we don't want it."

            So, the U.S. is capitalist, Russia was, and now parecon is too, and
            apparently is more like Russia, no less, despite dumping central
            planning, all private ownership, etc. etc. And all this is so, note,
            just by decree, by definition, by the authority of humpty dumpty, in
            my view, and I guess Trotsky, or whoever, in the editors' view.

            You think I am being harsh? Look through the whole exchange and see if
            you can find anyplace where the editors are doing anything other than
            repeating their beliefs, as gospel - remember they are reviewing
            parecon, not presenting their claims. See if they explain what it is
            about balanced job complexes, or pareconish remuneration, or
            participatory planning, or self managed decision making, that is
            insufficient or bad. In fact, see if they even say what these things
            are, what they entail, anything about them there defining features of
            the system they are rejecting. See if they explain how it is, which is
            to say by what dynamic, in what form, and benefitting whom, profits or
            if they prefer monetarized surpluses accrue, or any kind of economic
            injustice in power or income occurs, for that matter. None of that
            appears, because there is no need, in the editors view, to address
            parecon as it is described and conceived. Rather one only needs to
            say, it isn't what we favor, so it must be capitalism, and now we will
            dig around and find a few words we can mishandle and then use to
            evidence the point.

            It may sound differently to others, but I think it is honest and
            perhaps useful for me to admit this is the way their formulations
            sound to me. Plus, honestly, they also sound incredibly ignorant, for
            people claiming to be experts on capitalism and on its rejection, of
            even the most simple economic insights. This is quite sad I think, not
            a matter of blame, but of depression over the state of the left, or
            this left's, comprehension of economics.

            If you can't work with a napkin to derive and justify your thoughts,
            without taking a doctrine as given, and if the doctrine is way
            outdated and flawed, you find yourself in a whole lot of difficulty.

            The editors end, "Socialism will break free from the financial
            bureaucracy of capitalist calculation. It will treat people as ends in
            themselves. It will produce directly for human needs. It will break
            the link between individual effort and individual consumption. That's
            what all those who consider themselves to be anti-capitalist should be
            aiming at."

            Actually, with the exception of breaking the link between individual
            effort and individual consumption, which, for able bodied people would
            be a disaster for rationally trying to meet anyone's needs equitably,
            as well as for discerning desirable directions for economic
            development, the above list is precisely what parecon attains, though
            only a small part of what it attains. I hope at some point folks with
            views like the editors, and the editors, and advocates of parecon, can
            have a discussion that arises from a napkin mentality, not a volume
            two doctrinal mentality."

            Cheers, Rebecca
















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          • alan johnstone
            DAMN INTERNET CAFES WITH THEIR DARN PCS ....THATS AN UNFINISHED POSTING AND SHOULD BE IGNORED ...GRRRRRRRRR alan johnstone ... From: alan johnstone
            Message 5 of 27 , Jun 14, 2008
              DAMN INTERNET CAFES WITH THEIR DARN PCS ....THATS AN UNFINISHED POSTING AND SHOULD BE IGNORED ...GRRRRRRRRR

              alan johnstone

              --- On Sat, 14/6/08, alan johnstone <alanjjohnstone@...> wrote:

              From: alan johnstone <alanjjohnstone@...>
              Subject: Re: [WSM_Forum] Re: Parecon debate...
              To: WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:55 PM






              "I have no problem continuing this in the pages of their periodical, as
              well as here on ZCom, if they wish to" challenges Michael Albert --Shall we take up the gauntlet ?
               
              His acusations :-
               
              we employ "obscurantist jargon" - and of course Parecon doesn't .
               
               But as someone who can judge that Joan Robinson  "as one of the more knowledgeable people in marxist economics in the world" he fails to recognise Marxist terminology and concepts and we all know that Robinson was simply a Keynsian .
               
              Once again it is allocation of resources the old Von MISES er  

              alan johnstone

              --- On Fri, 13/6/08, foolingu11 <foolingu11@yahoo. com> wrote:

              From: foolingu11 <foolingu11@yahoo. com>
              Subject: [WSM_Forum] Re: Parecon debate...
              To: WSM_Forum@yahoogrou ps.com
              Date: Friday, 13 June, 2008, 3:47 PM

              Hi All;

              I apologize if these postings are already known or answered or
              commented on and I've missed this, but here's the last reply from
              M. Albert;

              "Ideology Over Reality
              By Michael Albert at Jun 7, 2008

              This is the final piece, at least for now, in the debate about parecon
              that is largely contained in my immediately prior post.

              I have to admit that the experience of interacting with leftists
              wedded to particular ideologies is, every time, a daunting one, even
              for a leftist who is also quite strongly attached to a particular set
              of views, such as myself.

              For people trying to change the world, holding some shared concepts,
              goals, etc., is essential and not per se a problem. But beyond holding
              shared views, when encountering views contradicting ours perhaps we
              can agree that our attitude ought to be:

              1. first, we want to seriously understand those different views on
              their own terms
              2. second, we want to see how those different views are contrary to
              the ones we hold
              3. third, we want to see if the different views are better in some
              ways, rather than reflexively rejecting them with a stored up barrage
              of rhetoric born of entirely different circumstances, and then,
              4. fourth, if we do find that the different views embody
              improvements, we should happily adopt them, since the goal is not to
              be right, but to attain a better world, and better ideas mean more
              likelihood of doing so. And finally,
              5. fifth, if we decide the different views are instead flawed, we
              should try to explain why they are based on evidence and logic, not
              simply repeating that we believe differently.

              Now I suspect that the editors and/or reviewer engaging with me in
              this exchange think the above has been, in fact, their approach to the
              different ideas found in the book Parecon...but I would have to say
              otherwise, that they instead didn't take it even a little seriously,
              didn't try to understand what was being said, didn't ever even
              contemplate the possibility that it has valuable insights, and didn't
              try to actually explain, since they thought it was the case, why its
              specific views and proposals were flawed.

              Readers will have to judge, I guess, remembering that the topic is
              parecon...as presented in the book, Parecon, and as begun in the
              original review.

              In any case, here is my reply to the last editors comment...

              ===

              The editors start their final reply in the debate, the last entry in
              the prior post, with what I guess they think is their knockout blow
              for parecon: "It is only under capitalism that the social surplus
              takes the form of a monetary surplus value and, as you admit, this is
              what will exist in parecon."

              My reaction is that they are knocking themselves out, not parecon.

              Why is anything true only under capitalism, and no where else, one
              wonders - is it because that is rule written somewhere? And what is it
              that I admit, in any case - we have to wonder.

              The editors have a set of concepts - value, surplus value, prices, and
              apparently money, among others. More, they have a set of expected
              relations among the real world referents of those concepts that they
              take for granted will exist in every conceivable system other than,
              perhaps, a very vague one that they favor, identifiable mainly by
              their favoring it. In my reading of their words, at least, they simply
              don't seem to be able to see anything other than what they already
              believe, and they make what at least seems to me to be no discernible
              effort to do so.

              I am sorry that this is harsh, but I should be honest about my take,
              even at the risk of offending. In short, it is hard for me to
              understand how someone highly trained in left thought, editors of a
              Socialist periodical, could read Parecon, or even just this exchange,
              and then say what they do, other than if they are functioning rather
              reflexively and routinely and repeatedly imposing on my words meanings
              that not only aren't there, but are explicitly denied.

              It isn't, of course, that I don't think anyone could sensibly dislike
              the book or disagree with the model, etc. It is that I think the
              editors are doing these things without more than superficial reference
              to what is being said in the book or the model, but instead only in
              accord with doctrine that is already in their heads.

              Again, I am sorry for being harsh, but...well, let's see. (By the way,
              I have no problem continuing this in the pages of their periodical, as
              well as here on ZCom, if they wish to.)

              When the editors say "monetary surplus value," well, okay, what is in
              their minds? I admit that I am not entirely sure because this is the
              kind of technical phrase (to be kind) or obscurantist jargon (to be
              not so kind) that people use, though in this case I think it may be a
              bit idiosyncratic, each user molding it in accord with their other
              views, so that communication becomes quite difficult, like talking
              with Humpty Dumpty, I think it was, in Lewis Carroll's parable,
              changing meanings as he wishes.

              I think, judging from context, that most likely "monetary surplus
              value" they have in mind a sum of money, or what that is the same
              thing - claims on social output, also called income - that is going to
              someone at the expense of someone else - thereby being exploitative.

              Why this could only occur under capitalism, or put differently, why
              any system it occurs in is for that reason usefully called capitalism,
              isn't explained. If a system has exploitation in this broad sense, but
              has no private ownership and no markets, for the editors it is
              capitalist. For me, this is humpty dumpty word play with a vengeance,
              but it isn't germane to parecon which doesn't have this kind of
              exploitation, and it arises again below, anyhow...

              So what is germane regarding economic surpluses and parecon? A parecon
              firm produces. I covers its costs (hopefully all of them, costs of
              production and byproduct costs, etc.). The value of the outputs exceed
              the value of costs. That surplus is converted, I assume the editors
              are thinking, into cash (income, claims on consumption) and then goes
              to someone - and here is the crucial part - at the expense of someone
              else.

              Okay, if that last part were true, that would certainly be bad, I
              agree with the editors about that. Saying that if it were true it
              would imply the economy is capitalist I however find ludicrous. It
              makes the word capitalist and the word exploitative synonymous so that
              feudalism suddenly is capitalist, so is pharaonic Egypt, so is the
              "socialist" Soviet Union, etc. Still, if the benefits of production
              were going to people based on owning the means of production of the
              workplace, then it would rightfully be called profits, in the Marxist
              terminology and in the mainstream too, and that would be bad. If the
              benefits were going to people based on their having more bargaining
              power and being able to grab it away from others, then that too would
              be bad, I agree, though it would not be profits in the sense any
              marxist or other economists use the term. Rather, the second kind of
              exploitative allocation occurs in many economic systems, but perhaps
              most important it occurs in what has been called socialism heretofore
              - both market and centrally planned. And it is still bad, yes.

              However, parecon doesn't have either of those bad results. So far from
              admitting what I think the editors have in mind, I explicitly say it
              is false, the book's presentation says it is false, and the above
              replies say it is false, and at least in the longer formulations, it
              isn't just said but demonstrated. Thus, people get income for how long
              they work, how hard they work, and the onerousness of the conditions
              under which they work. They do not, and even cannot, in a parecon, get
              more than that - not due to property relations, not due to bargaining
              power - it is even quite hard to do it by theft.

              So why do the editors say I agree with them in their portrayal of
              parecon embodying exploitation? I think they deduce parecon must be
              exploitative because because parecon tracks relative values (prices)
              and has income shares as well. I say it is not exploitative because in
              parecon the income you get is for how long, how hard, and the
              onerousness of the conditions under which you do useful work, which is
              equitable remuneration, and has nothing to do with property ownership
              or bargaining power. They say prices and income based on what you do
              means exploitation. I say that is utter nonsense... You judge who is
              right. But, regardless of who is right, you might wonder, how can the
              editors possibly interpret my words as saying I agree. Well, my guess
              is that this is how.

              I say that pareconist firms produce more value than the sum of all
              associated costs. I say that in parecon there are prices and income,
              as well, thus in some sense money, or exchange values, and there is a
              way to track our rightful claims on social product via budgets based
              on income. The editors in turn KNOW, however, without even looking and
              because their concepts tell them so (and of course in my view
              wrongly), that if firms produce more value than the associated costs,
              and if there is income in any way correlated to work, and there are
              relative prices, and there tracking of all that, and budgets, even if
              all these things are very different than in other systems, then the
              surplus will inevitably become what they call "monetary surplus" by
              which they mean to imply, I think, a surplus accruing to some instead
              of others. This claim, that x implies y, is never remotely explained
              but is, instead, an axiom or unchallengeable belief. It simply must be
              true. The editors don't have to think about it, or look closely at
              parecon, for that matter. They KNOW x implies y for all possible
              visions that might be offered. So why look closely? All they have to
              do is look at my words and find that there are prices and income and
              then that's the end of it, they at most only feel a need to make the
              claim they know is true that connects those features to exploitation.

              First, it is important to see how peculiar what they are saying is. Of
              course anyone sane wants workplaces to produce items and services and
              other outcomes that are more socially valued than all that is used up
              in that production or otherwise incurred as costs, whether material,
              personal, social, or ecological. So we want all want there to be
              economic surplus, in that sense. The editors must, too.

              The editors now add, however, that if we have surplus,a good thing,
              but we also have prices and income that is in any way correlated to
              people's activities, then we will inevitably have exploitation. No
              need to demonstrate exploitation, to say who gets more and who gets
              less than they ought to since we simply know exploitation must be there.

              Now, if we do take that leap, they argue, then if we want to avoid
              exploitation we must forego prices, income in the sense of earned
              rights to a share of the social output, and anything remotely
              resembling money. When I tell them that this means they have not only
              jettisoned prices, income, etc., but they have done away with all
              possibility of sensible allocation because they have no way to decide
              between options based on valuations, they simply ignore it. When I
              tell them they have also done away with all possibility of attaining
              just distribution because, again, there is no way to say to a
              consumer, or for a consumer to even know that some amount is more (or
              less) than he or she should have, or to say to a worker, or for a
              worker to even know, some level of work is more (or less) than you
              should be doing - the editors think they don't need to answer. They
              feel it is compelling to just repeat without reference to what parecon
              actually embodies, their doctrine - surplus plus income plus prices
              means exploitation. Then, since they in my view quite rightly want an
              end to any kind of elites accruing disproportionate wealth by property
              or power or any other means, and since they KNOW (wrongly) that if
              there is a surplus, which of course there needs to be, and if there is
              also money, prices, budgets, etc., then there will be exploitation -
              they deduce there simply must not be money, prices, budgets, etc.

              It is important to add that this reasoning is not nonsensical in the
              abstract. For example, I am following a somewhat similar pattern, I
              believe quite reasonably, when I say I want classlessness and see
              where that leads me. That is, I believe, based on a whole set of
              evidence and logic carefully presented in plain language, that private
              ownership and also the familiar corporate division of labor in which
              about 20% of producers monopolize virtually all empowering tasks (as
              well as markets and central planning) all singly and together
              inevitably produce class division and class rule. Proceeding on that
              belief, I then deduce that to have classlessness we must reject these
              other features - supposing that we can do so and still have a viable
              and worthy economy, that is. Then I try to carefully show how we can
              accomplish that, with balanced job complexes, participatory planning, etc.

              The editors and I are both claiming that feature x (we are pointing to
              different features, of course) obstructs outcomes that we want. To get
              the outcomes, then, we each deduce that we must therefore do away with
              feature x. X for me is markets, central planning, corporate divisions
              of labor, top down decision making, private ownership of means of
              production, and remuneration for property, power, or output. X for the
              editors is private ownership and, well, money and perhaps even
              relative prices, and perhaps other things too. We both find some
              features objectionable, inevitably, and we both say that therefore to
              have a good economy we must conceive it without those features.

              Here is a difference, however. I work very hard to make a compelling
              case by examining their properties and dynamics that the x that I
              reject - private ownership of means of production, the monopolization
              of empowering tasks in few hands, remuneration for property, power, or
              output, authoritarian decision making, and allocation by markets or
              central planning, each produce class division and class rule. The book
              they reviewed does that, for example. And I very carefully present an
              alternative way of organizing economics that doesn't have those
              features and then also carefully make a case that that new type of
              economic arrangement, with new defining features, can get economic
              functions achieved in ways we desire, rather than avoiding some ills
              while generating new ones in their place. The editors, I think, in
              contrast, don't make a connection between pricing and income per se
              and exploitation or class difference. They simply assert it/ Likewise,
              they don't offer a serious set of institutions without those features
              and show their viability - though perhaps somewhere else they do and I
              am just unaware of it - though I very much doubt it. They debate based
              on doctrine, not on reason and evidence. They reject a new model
              without even bothering to examine it, or so it seems to me.

              There was a famous exchange that is purported to have occured in a
              restaurant between an exceptional economist, Joan Robinson, and some
              table mates whose names I don't know, decades back. One table mate
              said to Robinson (who was one of the more knowledgeable people in
              marxist economics in the world) how come you aren't a Marxist. And
              Robinson replied, well, the difference is that if you ask a Marxist
              some question about wages and prices, for example, he or she will
              think for a moment and then say, oh yes, okay, well on page xxx of
              volume two of Capital it says.... In contrast, Robinson added, if you
              ask me the same question, even if I would in some case happen to have
              essentially the same substance for my answer, I would pull out a
              napkin and work it out, rather than simply quoting as if from a bible.
              (I admit, I added some words to what I remember of this). It is a very
              instructive story, I think even if the doctrinal approach isn't always
              so utterly obvious as when quoting sources in place of offering
              evidence and logic.

              Okay, so if what the editors KNOW to be true - that having prices,
              budgets, etc., implies exploitation - is in fact not true, or if I
              claim it isn't true, then what do I think is the case regarding the
              main issues at hand and parecon?

              In a firm in parecon it is quite true, as the editors notice, or one
              hopes it is true, at any rate, that the firm produces a volume of
              outputs whose worth to society is greater than all the incurred
              resource, labor, environmental, and social costs as well. Okay, so
              let's say the food plant, or bicycle plant, or whatever else, succeeds
              in that respect. Now what?

              Well, that doesn't inexorably mean that some group thereby unjustly
              accrues the greater income, whether by virtue of owning the factory -
              or by virtue of having great bargaining power due to their situation
              in the economy which lets them take more. The ownership is eliminated
              in parecon. So too are the differentials in economic circumstance that
              convey different bargaining power. So too, in any case, is even the
              possibility of remuneration in accord with power.

              Yes, the items and services in the economy have prices in a parecon -
              exchange values - though those prices emerge from self managed
              cooperative negotiation of inputs and outputs, which, oddly, I
              suspect, is exactly what the editors want, they just don't want it to
              include, as information, relative valuations. And yes, people have
              incomes, or said differently, have budgets, which limit how much of
              the social product they are entitled to. And yes, allocation decisions
              about what to produce using resources and labor, etc. and about who
              winds up producing it or getting it, use valuations and are impacted
              by budgets. Not only does all this happen in a parecon, but more, I
              claim if it didn't the system would be utterly incapable of
              functioning intelligently, or even at all, much less functioning
              equitably and with self management. That ought to be trivially
              apparent. You can't make sound judgements about producing one item
              instead of some other, or vice versa, without knowing how much cost
              and benefit the item and its production involve - relative valuations.
              In any case, But, that an economy has prices, budgets, etc., which are
              both essential and desirable if done consistent with other
              aspirations, does not imply, and I have seen zero words designed to
              show that it implies, that there is exploitation, much less who
              benefits, or how much. I should perhaps add that it is incredible to
              me, I admit, that someone would be discussing parecon, focusing on
              exploitation, and never once discuss parecon's norm of
              remuneration. ..but, given that the argument is from doctrine, not
              based on the actual model, I suppose it is predictable.

              There is another side to the coin, however, and to the editors'
              objection as well. Let's say, instead of the situation of surplus
              discussed above, that the bicycle or food workplace produces output
              that is less valuable than the costs associated with production. The
              editors seem to think that paying attention to this is tantamount to
              operating according to profit and not peoples needs and desires. In
              fact, the actual situation is the opposite.

              Consider the firm that has no surplus of benefits over costs. What do
              we do about it? Well, if society is rational, and if it is operating
              in accord with needs and not profits, it will be desirable for there
              to be changes so the workplace does a better job of creating the
              outputs without incurring so many costs. Or, if that doesn't occur and
              people don't want the bicycles or food coming out of these particular
              workplaces more than they want well being for the workers there, or
              sustainability for the neighborhoods, or other products (including
              food or bicycles made differently in other firms with less costs) the
              firm should no longer produce. It is not serving needs but instead
              diminishing fulfillment relative to better choices.

              And here is an irony - but one the editors should, and would, I think,
              immediately understand if they were using a napkin to work things out
              instead of using doctrine to claim things. What occurs in capitalism,
              in this case of not producing more value in outputs than the costs
              incurred? Well, sometimes the firm will shut down - as it ought to if
              it can't be refitted - but other times it won't. For example, if the
              firm is generating big profits for owners because lots of the costs
              are going unpaid by the owners but instead hitting others than the
              owners - being paid through taxpayer funds, say, or just going
              unaddressed as in ecological impacts, so, think, for example, of
              idiotic products that destroy the environment but don't include those
              costs in the prices - or of weapons manufacture - then the production
              will continue. Ironically, in other words, the situation is opposite,
              in this case, on all counts, to what the editors' doctrine proposes.
              Paying attention to full social costs and benefits and closing down
              operations that don't generate surpluses is the thing to do to abide
              need of all concerned, if done in a pareconish way, while keeping
              such a firm open (in some cases) is the thing to do and that will be
              done, to abide the will of capitalist owners.

              The editors write to me in their reply: "The institutional changes you
              advocate (no legal individual ownership of means of production,
              self-management, etc.) are inadequate reasons for claiming that
              capitalism has been overthrown."

              How to begin. Well, if what they present was the actual list of
              changes that I advocated, the editors would be part right. In that
              (fictitious) case, what I was proposing could then be, for example,
              market socialism or centrally planned socialism - both of which are
              still exploitative and class divided, though calling them capitalist
              is ridiculously misleading. But in fact what they offer isn't the list
              of changes I advocate, and I think most interestingly, the editors
              feel no need, it seems, to acknowledge or probably even to notice that
              it isn't the list of changes I advocate.

              Instead, the list I advocate, put negatively or simply in ethical
              terms, as they did (not least, I think, because they have no positive
              institutional proposals) includes no private ownership of productive
              assets (not just some formal law but none), no markets, no central
              planning, no remuneration for property, power, or output, no top down
              decision making, and no corporate division of labor (that allots
              empowering tasks overwhelmingly to about 20% of the workforce who I
              call the coordinator class and who easily dominate the economy and
              exploit, and allots rote and repetitive and otherwise disempowering
              tasks overwhelmingly to 80% of the workforce, who I call the working
              class, and who are for want of information, credentials, access, and
              skills and knowledge, dominated and exploited. In ethical terms the
              list is self management, equitable remuneration, diversity,
              solidarity, and efficiency in meeting needs and developing potentials
              of both workers and consumers. And finally, the list, put positively
              in institutional terms, since parecon isn't just a list of things
              rejected or ethical aims, but is an actual vision - includes, workers
              and consumers self managing councils, remuneration for duration,
              intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, balanced job
              complexes, and participatory planning.

              Now, to say, as the editors do, that an economy which has replaced the
              way work is organized with a classless approach, the way decisions are
              made with a self managing approach, the way consumption occurs with an
              unalienated approach, the way allocation is accomplished with a
              cooperative, negotiated approach, and the way people earn and utilize
              income with an equitable approach is, nonetheless, still capitalist,
              because it has something they call monetarized surplus, is quite
              something, but, I think, actually explicable, in an odd way that we
              will see in a second.

              The editors say, "We agree that the former Soviet Union did have a
              ruling class, but not that there were no markets there. Even the
              regime's ideologists admitted that there was `commodity-producti on,'
              i.e. production for sale, and that buying and selling relationships
              existed between state enterprises. While there was no individual legal
              ownership of the main means of production (though there was of some
              things: dachas, works of art, state bonds, bank accounts), these means
              of production were not owned by society as a whole but effectively by
              a class which monopolised them, via the state, and which lived a
              privileged life from the surplus value extracted from the wage-labour
              of the workers. That is why we think the best description of that and
              similar societies was state capitalist."

              The Soviet allocation system was central planning. Markets did not set
              prices and existed far far less, for example, than planning exists in
              the U.S., which I bet the authors would call a market economy, quite
              reasonably. But we could have been talking about Yugoslavia, and then,
              indeed, there would have been markets, which is why it was called
              market socialism. Intoning the phrase "commodity production" brings us
              back to the humpty dumpty dynamic. What does it mean?

              Do the editors have in mind that things produced are consumed? Well
              then there would always be that feature and there would be nothing bad
              about it. Do they have in mind that the consumption occurs limited by
              budgets? Again, that will always be true and there is nothing wrong
              with that. What it means technically, and this may be what they intend
              to connote in using it, is that the production occurs driven by profit
              motives with the profit accruing to owners, who have overwhelming
              power, etc. But all this was absent in the Soviet and Yugoslav cases.

              People own dachas? Yes. And they owned the shirts they wore too. So?
              Saying there should be no private onwership of productive assets
              doesn't imply there is no ownership of anything. This was not the key
              problem with the Soviet or Yugoslav economies. If bank accounts
              conveyed interest based on profits earned by firms, that would be a
              real thing to point to, but swamped by everything else. However, yes,
              there was a ruling class - but it was an economic phenomenon - footed
              in, and here is the key economic problem with these economies, the
              existence of a class monopolizing empowering tasks and thus dominating
              workers below. (Was there a statist political aspect? Yes, but even if
              there had been a multi party democracy, the economy would sitll have
              been class ruled not classless.) Did the ruling class live much better
              than working people due to taking an exploitative share of the social
              product. Yes, that is quite true. But that was also true under
              feudalism, should we call that capitalism, too? Perhaps royal
              capitalism? Humpty can choose to use the words whatever way he wishes,
              but then if we actually want to communicate usefully, we just need
              more words.

              Here is the crux. The editors want to reject the Soviet system (I hope
              for good reasons rather than only because Trotsky did, in the end.)
              Okay. They do not want to say, however, that there can be anything
              other than capitalism and socialism, after feudalism. There are two
              reasons for this. Adherence to doctrine - marxist and leninist - and
              because once you admit this possibility you have admitted that
              eliminating capitalist economics means more than eliminating private
              productive property and profits - entailing, also, getting rid of the
              economic source (not just authoritarian politics) of the power and
              wealth of the ruling class in the Soviet system, which opens the door
              to the absolutely verboten possibility - that even the most
              aggressively anticapitalist leninism is not a framework seeking
              classlessness but is, instead, a framework seeking rule by the
              coordinator class.

              The editors say "Your attitude towards the former Soviet Union is
              revealing in that it shows that you had nothing against the continued
              existence there of the key features of capitalism that are production
              for sale, money, wages, profits, etc but only to the fact that the
              economic system involving these was controlled by a privileged ruling
              class and not democratically by the workers."

              This is rather amazing - again, not only because parecon eliminates
              profit seeking and profits per se, but because Parecon also has no
              production for sale - meaning for profits - at all. But it does have
              production for use, and the users do have budgets and therefore buy
              what they choose. And it does have numeric prices and budgets, which
              is what they are calling money, and it does have income, which they
              are calling wages to make it sound like it is something dolled out
              miserly by bosses. But the pejorative connotations are all merely
              assumed, asserted, and imposed on the words I have offered, because
              doctrine says it must be.

              And then incredibly the editors say - "Parecon is thus revealed to be
              the idea of the economic system that existed in Russia `self-managed'
              by the workers. A sort of `self-managed capitalism' that could only
              exist on paper."

              What is going on is simple. There is the system the editors want -
              true socialism, I guess they would call it - with whatever features
              they have in mind, but I think, probably, nothing coherent, nothing
              specified sufficiently to assess. Then, other than that system the
              editors like, there must only be, well, capitalism, though in lots of
              forms. There is a sense in which "capitalism" is the editors synonym
              for "we don't want it."

              So, the U.S. is capitalist, Russia was, and now parecon is too, and
              apparently is more like Russia, no less, despite dumping central
              planning, all private ownership, etc. etc. And all this is so, note,
              just by decree, by definition, by the authority of humpty dumpty, in
              my view, and I guess Trotsky, or whoever, in the editors' view.

              You think I am being harsh? Look through the whole exchange and see if
              you can find anyplace where the editors are doing anything other than
              repeating their beliefs, as gospel - remember they are reviewing
              parecon, not presenting their claims. See if they explain what it is
              about balanced job complexes, or pareconish remuneration, or
              participatory planning, or self managed decision making, that is
              insufficient or bad. In fact, see if they even say what these things
              are, what they entail, anything about them there defining features of
              the system they are rejecting. See if they explain how it is, which is
              to say by what dynamic, in what form, and benefitting whom, profits or
              if they prefer monetarized surpluses accrue, or any kind of economic
              injustice in power or income occurs, for that matter. None of that
              appears, because there is no need, in the editors view, to address
              parecon as it is described and conceived. Rather one only needs to
              say, it isn't what we favor, so it must be capitalism, and now we will
              dig around and find a few words we can mishandle and then use to
              evidence the point.

              It may sound differently to others, but I think it is honest and
              perhaps useful for me to admit this is the way their formulations
              sound to me. Plus, honestly, they also sound incredibly ignorant, for
              people claiming to be experts on capitalism and on its rejection, of
              even the most simple economic insights. This is quite sad I think, not
              a matter of blame, but of depression over the state of the left, or
              this left's, comprehension of economics.

              If you can't work with a napkin to derive and justify your thoughts,
              without taking a doctrine as given, and if the doctrine is way
              outdated and flawed, you find yourself in a whole lot of difficulty.

              The editors end, "Socialism will break free from the financial
              bureaucracy of capitalist calculation. It will treat people as ends in
              themselves. It will produce directly for human needs. It will break
              the link between individual effort and individual consumption. That's
              what all those who consider themselves to be anti-capitalist should be
              aiming at."

              Actually, with the exception of breaking the link between individual
              effort and individual consumption, which, for able bodied people would
              be a disaster for rationally trying to meet anyone's needs equitably,
              as well as for discerning desirable directions for economic
              development, the above list is precisely what parecon attains, though
              only a small part of what it attains. I hope at some point folks with
              views like the editors, and the editors, and advocates of parecon, can
              have a discussion that arises from a napkin mentality, not a volume
              two doctrinal mentality."

              Cheers, Rebecca

              ____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
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            • foolingu11
              Hi Alan; I haven t finished reading the entire thread and comments yet. In total it was almost 300 pages I printed out. yikes! It s a book! I went over to znet
              Message 6 of 27 , Jun 14, 2008
                Hi Alan;

                I haven't finished reading the entire thread and comments yet. In
                total it was almost 300 pages I printed out. yikes! It's a book! I
                went over to znet and to all the links and I've printed out everything
                I could find from the links you and Dave provided. I haven't even
                finished printing out all of Dave's postings over here ...lol.

                I'll tell'ya though.. There's a page and an half of Albert
                complaining about the Reviewer from the Socialist Standard before you
                get to his final rebuttal. Seemed a bit over the top there I think.

                Joan Robinson teamed up with Sraffa in the CC wars and was a
                Keynesian leaning economist. She knew Marx's work well and
                sympathized, but stuck to the refutation of the LTofV by Sraffa.

                Ah.. but if anyone does take up the challenge, please give a post
                to the effect so that I can add it to my print out list and can read
                it. I'm trying not to repeat criticisms unless they were left unanswered.

                Cheers, Rebecca
              • foolingu11
                Hi All; Here are some questions I have about the rebuttal from Albert and any comments would be appreciated. Albert admits to surplus value being created by
                Message 7 of 27 , Jun 16, 2008
                  Hi All;

                  Here are some questions I have about the rebuttal from Albert and
                  any comments would be appreciated.

                  Albert admits to surplus value being created by production;

                  "In a firm in parecon it is quite true, as the editors notice, or one
                  hopes it is true, at any rate, that the firm produces a volume of
                  outputs whose worth to society is greater than all the incurred
                  resource, labor, environmental, and social costs as well. Okay, so
                  let's say the food plant, or bicycle plant, or whatever else, succeeds
                  in that respect. Now what?

                  Well, that doesn't inexorably mean that some group thereby unjustly
                  accrues the greater income, whether by virtue of owning the factory -
                  or by virtue of having great bargaining power due to their situation
                  in the economy which lets them take more. The ownership is eliminated
                  in parecon. So too are the differentials in economic circumstance that
                  convey different bargaining power. So too, in any case, is even the
                  possibility of remuneration in accord with power."

                  Okay, so where does this 'volume' of surplus go? Albert denies that
                  this is profit and refrains from using the term surplus value, but he
                  doesn't state where the excess value goes? Did I miss something?
                  Presumably this excess would be democratically decided upon, or
                  perhaps just divided up between the workers of the factory producing
                  such surplus according to the job performed and the entitlement from
                  the type of labor?

                  My first thought however is how do you distinguish between
                  individual entitlement to remuneration for labor and the socially
                  created capacity to labor? Perhaps we don't need to make such a
                  distinction and this is just my own particular folly. However, I
                  readily admit that I don't overly empathize the individual
                  contribution over the socially realized collective capacity to
                  contribute. Be that as it may, my original question still stands...
                  Where does the surplus value go according to Albert?

                  I'm going to be sending off a couple of posts with some more
                  questions I have on Albert's comments, and any comments would be
                  most helpful.

                  Thanks in advance!

                  Cheers, Rebecca
                • balmer_dave
                  Hi Rebecca, on surplus value I think with this kind of thing it is best to just to reduce it to its basic level to try and understand what goes on. I am going
                  Message 8 of 27 , Jun 16, 2008
                    Hi Rebecca, on surplus value


                    I think with this kind of thing it is best to just to reduce it to
                    its basic level to try and understand what goes on.

                    I am going to assume for simplicity that capitalism has reached
                    a `steady state' stage and is not expanding into peasant type
                    economies, as it still is of course.

                    Then look at capitalism on a macroscopic level as an alien from outer
                    space might do.

                    In this idealised capitalist system what actually happens is that the
                    total of what is produced can be split into three portions, each
                    portion represents actually different kinds of products and things.
                    So if we separated them out into these three portions then each
                    portion would be composed of different types of artefacts.

                    Potion one, would be immediately recognisable to the workers as the
                    kinds of things they come to possess as in the things they need to
                    live.

                    Portion two would be composed of the kind of things the capitalists
                    consume themselves like gold toilet seats and 30ft yatchts etc.
                    Although there would probably be a bit of a cross over on this as
                    some of the things the workers need or consume would be the same as
                    what capitalists consume.

                    Portion three would consist of new means of production, ie more
                    efficient machines or more capital etc.

                    Portions two and three or capitalist personal consumption and the
                    accumulation of more means of production, factories and machines etc
                    or the accumulation of capital both come out of or is surplus value
                    and surplus labour.

                    We could actually for simplicity assume that the capitalists live
                    like misers and Scrooge and reduce it to just two portions.

                    Thus one portion goes towards the upkeep of the workers and the
                    other, surplus value and surplus labour, goes to the expansion of the
                    means of production and the accumulation of capital.

                    Thus surplus value, surplus labour, dead labour or the surplus
                    product would be new capital or means of production.

                    Taking an overall or net view you could see it in terms of the famous
                    flawed Luxembourg/Marx two departments of capital type thing. Where
                    the workers would produce in one department the things that they
                    needed for themselves and in the process produce `extra'. That extra
                    ends up being passed onto and consumed by other workers that are
                    producing more means of production and machines etc.

                    These new means of production would then of course be used in both
                    departments as you need machines to produce machines as much as you
                    do to produce what workers need to consume.

                    In order for our aliens to discover the way or manner in which the
                    new means of production, new machines or accumulated capital were
                    then distributed between the two departments they would have to
                    consult volume two of capital.

                    It is not actually important at this point, what the essential issue
                    is that the surplus value of society or extra work becomes embodied
                    in things or new machines that are used to make more stuff.

                    There is an underlying reason for this in that new machines, as
                    labour saving devices, reduce the amount of time it takes to make a
                    commodity.

                    The capitalist can thus not stand still and is driven by competition
                    to convert the bulk his surplus value into the new technology if you
                    like for more efficient labour saving devices.

                    However although the overall incidental effect to society is
                    beneficial as it has the effect of setting aside a portion of
                    societies effort to making labour more efficient or productive in the
                    future. The process is anarchic in that it is unplanned and driven by
                    a market. And the ownership and control of the expanding means of
                    production and capital is concentrated in the hands of the capitalist
                    class.

                    The capitalist as he acts as a miser and sets aside the bulk of his
                    surplus value towards the accumulation and ownership of more working
                    capital and craves after power through ownership and control of the
                    means of production.

                    As opposed to just profligate consumption.

                    In socialism we probably would set aside in a planned and democratic
                    way a portion of our collective labour to make labour saving devices
                    for the future. Either to free up time to make more use values or
                    just to provide us with more free leisure time.

                    I can only presume that Michael Albert's surplus value could only
                    likewise be put to this purpose.


                    It is ironic I suppose that there is an aspect to the Marxist WSM
                    and free access position that is autonomist `anarchist'
                    individualism. That is that part of our position which says from each
                    according to their ability and to each according to their need.

                    To the extent that we believe that that is self determined
                    individually and not imposed by any outside force or compulsion we
                    are `anarchists' in the sense that there will be no rules or coercion
                    as to what as individuals we voluntarily contribute and consume.

                    On this level at least we do have common ground with traditional
                    European Anarchism as in eg The Wage System by Peter Kropotkin.

                    http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-
                    peter/1920/wage.htm


                    The American neo-Anarchists like Albert and representatives from the
                    WSA seemed to have drifted away from this idea even though there is
                    nothing more essential to how we organise society than production and
                    consumption. In our Marxist free access society we will not have the
                    potential of property crime, theft and the coercion of store
                    detectives etc. Nor any economically determined compulsion to work by
                    a parecon like democratic tyranny of the majority.

                    We however accept that it is necessary if you wish to participate in
                    producing things co-operatively in a co-ordinated fashion you need a
                    pre-determined plan that has to be decided upon democratically and on
                    a global scale.

                    Michael Albert and his Pareconists are closer to Trotsky than they
                    think

                    "He who works not, neither shall he eat." And as all must eat, all
                    are obliged to work. Compulsory labor service is sketched in our
                    Constitution and in our Labor Code. But hitherto it has always
                    remained a mere principle. Its application has always had an
                    accidental, impartial, episodic character. Only now, when along the
                    whole line we have reached the question of the economic re-birth of
                    the country, have problems of compulsory labor service arisen before
                    us in the most concrete way possible.

                    The only solution of economic difficulties that is correct from the
                    point of view both of principle and of practice is to treat the
                    population of the whole country as the reservoir of the necessary
                    labor power—an almost inexhaustible reservoir—and to introduce strict
                    order into the work of its registration, mobilization, and
                    utilization."

                    From Leon Trotsky; Terrorism or Communism,The Soviet Government And
                    Industry,

                    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch08.htm



                    and St of Paul the Apostle, The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,
                    3;10






                    --- In WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "foolingu11" <foolingu11@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Hi All;
                    >
                    > Here are some questions I have about the rebuttal from Albert and
                    > any comments would be appreciated.
                    >
                    > Albert admits to surplus value being created by production;
                    >
                    > "In a firm in parecon it is quite true, as the editors notice, or
                    one
                    > hopes it is true, at any rate, that the firm produces a volume of
                    > outputs whose worth to society is greater than all the incurred
                    > resource, labor, environmental, and social costs as well. Okay, so
                    > let's say the food plant, or bicycle plant, or whatever else,
                    succeeds
                    > in that respect. Now what?
                    >
                    > Well, that doesn't inexorably mean that some group thereby
                    unjustly
                    > accrues the greater income, whether by virtue of owning the
                    factory -
                    > or by virtue of having great bargaining power due to their situation
                    > in the economy which lets them take more. The ownership is
                    eliminated
                    > in parecon. So too are the differentials in economic circumstance
                    that
                    > convey different bargaining power. So too, in any case, is even the
                    > possibility of remuneration in accord with power."
                    >
                    > Okay, so where does this 'volume' of surplus go? Albert denies
                    that
                    > this is profit and refrains from using the term surplus value, but
                    he
                    > doesn't state where the excess value goes? Did I miss something?
                    > Presumably this excess would be democratically decided upon, or
                    > perhaps just divided up between the workers of the factory producing
                    > such surplus according to the job performed and the entitlement from
                    > the type of labor?
                    >
                    > My first thought however is how do you distinguish between
                    > individual entitlement to remuneration for labor and the socially
                    > created capacity to labor? Perhaps we don't need to make such a
                    > distinction and this is just my own particular folly. However, I
                    > readily admit that I don't overly empathize the individual
                    > contribution over the socially realized collective capacity to
                    > contribute. Be that as it may, my original question still stands...
                    > Where does the surplus value go according to Albert?
                    >
                    > I'm going to be sending off a couple of posts with some more
                    > questions I have on Albert's comments, and any comments would be
                    > most helpful.
                    >
                    > Thanks in advance!
                    >
                    > Cheers, Rebecca
                    >
                  • hud955
                    ... Hi Rebecca, Dave and all the Paracon squad Don t forget, we re talking about his baby here. Big emotional involvement. Life s work. It must have cost him
                    Message 9 of 27 , Jun 16, 2008
                      --- In WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "foolingu11" <foolingu11@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Hi Alan;

                      >
                      > I'll tell'ya though.. There's a page and an half of Albert
                      > complaining about the Reviewer from the Socialist Standard before you
                      > get to his final rebuttal. Seemed a bit over the top there I think.
                      >
                      >
                      > Cheers, Rebecca
                      >

                      Hi Rebecca, Dave and all the Paracon squad

                      Don't forget, we're talking about his baby here. Big emotional
                      involvement. Life's work. It must have cost him a hell of a lot of
                      trouble. He will fight for it to the last point and comma - mother
                      hen defending her chick - and frankly, who can blame him for that.
                      Besides, he's been floating for a couple of years on a lot of plaudits
                      from anarchist admirers at znet. A focussed attack (even if he doesn't
                      understand it) will not be recieved well.

                      His response sounded very pained, to my ears.

                      I attempted to read his book when it first arrived several years ago.
                      Very hard going. I never managed to finish it. It is still on the
                      shelves in my bedroom glaring at me with 'one day' written all over the
                      cover.

                      I don't envy anyone taking this one on. But I think it is an important
                      debate.

                      Cheers

                      Richard
                    • foolingu11
                      Hi Dave and Richard; Dave thanks ever so much for your detailed posting. I m going to read it carefully. Richard, yeah, it is his baby and he has to try to
                      Message 10 of 27 , Jun 17, 2008
                        Hi Dave and Richard;

                        Dave thanks ever so much for your detailed posting.
                        I'm going to read it carefully.

                        Richard, yeah, it is his baby and he has to try to
                        save face on his own site to boot eh?

                        Since I've started my research on this, I think besides,
                        Dave, Alan and someone named Ilan Shalif, the best critique
                        I've come across has been;

                        Nonsense on Stilts: Michael Albert's Parecon

                        By David Schweickart, who also wrote, 'Against Capitalism'.

                        And I found this link to some good comments and criticisms
                        as well for anyone who might be interested.

                        http://www.nefac.net/parecon

                        Well, there are certainly enough criticisms of Parecon economics
                        to be found and it would seem Albert has his plate full as it
                        were.

                        There's a few things which I agree with Albert on actually.
                        One of these things is that a review/appraisal isn't where you
                        insert your own favorite world views, unless called upon. You're
                        not there to give your pet alternatives, but to critique/review
                        the book-someone else's work. I agree with this. In fact, I just
                        had to call McD on that very tactic, on another discussion group.

                        With that said.. I think we should stick to critiquing and
                        appraising Albert's work and his last rebuttal comments...a
                        little sly smile.., However, those rebuttal comments do include
                        comments on a free access, moneyless society, which deserve to
                        be answered. More importantly, should and can be answered.

                        Cheers, Rebecca
                      • foolingu11
                        Hi Dave and Richard; I should have included the link to Schweickart s critique; Nonsense on Stilts: Michael Albert s Parecon By David Schweickart, who also
                        Message 11 of 27 , Jun 17, 2008
                          Hi Dave and Richard;

                          I should have included the link to Schweickart's critique;

                          Nonsense on Stilts: Michael Albert's Parecon
                          By David Schweickart, who also wrote, 'Against Capitalism'.

                          http://homepages.luc.edu/~dschwei/parecon.htm


                          Cheers, Rebecca
                        • hud955
                          Thanks for this Rebecca. I m glad to have it. It looks interesting. I ll take it to bed with me tonight. LOL. A little light reading! Regards Richard
                          Message 12 of 27 , Jun 17, 2008
                            Thanks for this Rebecca. I'm glad to have it. It looks interesting.
                            I'll take it to bed with me tonight. LOL. A little light reading!

                            Regards

                            Richard

                            --- In WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "foolingu11" <foolingu11@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hi Dave and Richard;
                            >
                            > I should have included the link to Schweickart's critique;
                            >
                            > Nonsense on Stilts: Michael Albert's Parecon
                            > By David Schweickart, who also wrote, 'Against Capitalism'.
                            >
                            > http://homepages.luc.edu/~dschwei/parecon.htm
                            >
                            >
                            > Cheers, Rebecca
                            >
                          • foolingu11
                            Richard, You re more than welcome. Happy Reading. Cheers, Rebecca
                            Message 13 of 27 , Jun 17, 2008
                              Richard,

                              You're more than welcome. Happy Reading.

                              Cheers, Rebecca
                            • alan johnstone
                              I have done a partial reply to Michael Alberrt on my blog , a collation of previous comments in exchanges and plagiarised articles by other comrades ( you
                              Message 14 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                I have done a partial reply to Michael Alberrt on my blog , a collation of previous comments in exchanges and plagiarised articles by other comrades ( you will know who you are )
                                 
                                http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/
                                 
                                Just how do i get it onto MA's parecon  znet blog article ?

                                alan johnstone

                                --- On Wed, 18/6/08, foolingu11 <foolingu11@...> wrote:

                                From: foolingu11 <foolingu11@...>
                                Subject: [WSM_Forum] Re: Parecon debate...
                                To: WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com
                                Date: Wednesday, 18 June, 2008, 6:26 AM






                                Richard,

                                You're more than welcome. Happy Reading.

                                Cheers, Rebecca
















                                __________________________________________________________
                                Sent from Yahoo! Mail.
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                              • foolingu11
                                Hi Alan; You might have to become a substainer-to get to read the zblogs. However, I am a member of znet so if you d like anything put up over there maybe I
                                Message 15 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                  Hi Alan;

                                  You might have to become a substainer-to get to read the zblogs.
                                  However, I am a member of znet so if you'd like anything put up over
                                  there maybe I could add it onto the comments or whatever... if you
                                  don't want to join. But here's the link to the first blog and then
                                  the second and final blog;

                                  http://www.zmag.org/blog/view/1694

                                  http://www.zmag.org/blog/view/1695

                                  I'll be reading your blog comments as well Alan!

                                  Thanks, Rebecca
                                • Matt Culbert
                                  ... You can access some of his stuff here, http://zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/17931 Then either use the links on right side to access article,then
                                  Message 16 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                    alan johnstone wrote:
                                    >
                                    > I have done a partial reply to Michael Alberrt on my blog , a
                                    > collation of previous comments in exchanges and plagiarised articles
                                    > by other comrades ( you will know who you are )
                                    >
                                    > http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/ <http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/>
                                    >
                                    > Just how do i get it onto MA's parecon znet blog article ?
                                    >
                                    > alan johnstone
                                    >
                                    You can access some of his stuff here,
                                    http://zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/17931
                                    Then either use the links on right side to access article,then scrol to
                                    bottom and comment.
                                    Worth a try.
                                    Matt
                                  • balmer_dave
                                    Hi Rebecca, Alan Richard et al That was a great link and one of the best explanations and (critique) of Parecon that I have read. I am glad Richard finds the
                                    Message 17 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                      Hi Rebecca, Alan Richard et al

                                      That was a great link and one of the best explanations and (critique)
                                      of Parecon that I have read. I am glad Richard finds the Parecon
                                      stuff hard to follow as so do I. So much for radical transparency,
                                      maybe you need to be like Marvin the robot with brain the size of a
                                      planet to understand it fully.

                                      I think I will leave the details to Alan as I suspect he has gone
                                      into it more deeply than I have.

                                      There is a link below on DAVID SCHWEICKART's own position and the
                                      Yugoslavia argument raises its head again just to muddy the waters
                                      some more.


                                      http://homepages.luc.edu/~dschwei/economicdemocracy.htm





                                      --- In WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "foolingu11" <foolingu11@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > Hi Dave and Richard;
                                      >
                                      > I should have included the link to Schweickart's critique;
                                      >
                                      > Nonsense on Stilts: Michael Albert's Parecon
                                      > By David Schweickart, who also wrote, 'Against Capitalism'.
                                      >
                                      > http://homepages.luc.edu/~dschwei/parecon.htm
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Cheers, Rebecca
                                      >
                                    • foolingu11
                                      Hi All; Here s an objection I have to Albert and literally all others that make the same claims. Albert writes; Now, if we do take that leap, they argue, then
                                      Message 18 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                        Hi All;

                                        Here's an objection I have to Albert and literally all others that
                                        make the same claims.

                                        Albert writes;

                                        "Now, if we do take that leap, they argue, then if we want to avoid
                                        exploitation we must forego prices, income in the sense of earned
                                        rights to a share of the social output, and anything remotely
                                        resembling money. When I tell them that this means they have not only
                                        jettisoned prices, income, etc., but they have done away with all
                                        possibility of sensible allocation because they have no way to decide
                                        between options based on valuations, they simply ignore it. When I
                                        tell them they have also done away with all possibility of attaining
                                        just distribution because, again, there is no way to say to a
                                        consumer, or for a consumer to even know that some amount is more (or
                                        less) than he or she should have, or to say to a worker, or for a
                                        worker to even know, some level of work is more (or less) than you
                                        should be doing - the editors think they don't need to answer."

                                        In the first place we 'never' not answer this. We did answer this,
                                        but as is usual it is either ignored or denied that we did, or else
                                        opponents simply fall back onto some von Mises notion of the eca.
                                        Albert especially seems to take to the notion of opportunity costs
                                        in particular.

                                        The link to Robin Cox's article found in the Common Voice Journal,

                                        ‘The “Economic Calculation” controversy: unravelling of a myth’
                                        by Robin Cox (8 June 2005)

                                        was provided at one point in one of the threads of discussion, yet
                                        I saw no evidence that the opponents read it or acknowledged it. Has
                                        anyone but McD given us a critique against Robin's piece? If so, and
                                        anyone has a resource or link to such, I'd appreciate having it.

                                        Just reading Albert's comments which state that there must be some
                                        mechanism for calculation of what he deems is a, "sense of earned
                                        rights to a share of the social output", following his moral
                                        justification for a "just distribution", or his idea of, "sensible
                                        allocation", because he thinks we have, "no way to decide between
                                        options based on valuations", and that we 'must' have a methodology
                                        for a consumer to even know that some amount is more (or less) than he
                                        or she should have, or to say to a worker, or for a worker to even
                                        know, some level of work is more (or less) than you should be doing".

                                        For goodness sake's... 'earned rights'?, 'just distribution'?, what
                                        consumers 'should have'?, are entitled to? ... I don't have to go into
                                        the problems associated with evaluating the effort exerted by labor,
                                        so as to determine who gets what and how much of it they get, just
                                        yet. First, I'd like to agree with Albert on the fact that we do need
                                        to consider 'sensible allocation'; that we need to know where labor in
                                        production should be put to task, and that we need a mechanism to
                                        decide between available options.

                                        Now, I see him doing a lot of projection in his comments. He states
                                        that we ignore his solutions to these types of economic problems, but
                                        then he himself dismisses out of hand our solutions by simply stating
                                        that we need money or else we can't have a solution to the said
                                        problems. It's as simple as that. No money, no rational economic
                                        calculation is possible. What, am I suppose to take his word for it?
                                        He doesn't bother to refute, other than by assertion what we state are
                                        our solutions and claims that we are in fact the ones who recite from
                                        doctrine. Even, if he were right on this matter, he is just as guilty.

                                        What I do see him doing is giving us a summary description of his
                                        system and I think some fair questioning of what 'exploitation'
                                        actually represents. If, all the 'surplus value' which he admits will
                                        be created is given to society in the form of a social fund for the
                                        general welfare of society-say along the lines to reinvest in R&D,
                                        innovation, or automation and machinery, etc., and this has been
                                        democratically decided upon by all of society, then I think I'd agree
                                        with him in that there isn't any exploitation simply because there is
                                        surplus value created. I am assuming this is something that he might
                                        aspire to in his schema and as Dave has already pointed out.

                                        I'd like to post a link to Robin's piece over at znet and see if
                                        Albert will comment and critique it. If this is permissible and
                                        approved by Robin, then I shall. Hopefully, Albert can demonstrate
                                        how money is necessary and show us precisely why we have failed to
                                        understand this economic fact.

                                        So, Robin... is it okay? Or, has this already been done? Or, should
                                        I just butt out altogether and leave it alone?

                                        Cheers, Rebecca
                                      • foolingu11
                                        Hi Dave; It is extremely hard to follow Dave. It is such a massive undertaking that I can t understand why anyone would want to give up a market mechanism! I
                                        Message 19 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                          Hi Dave;

                                          It is extremely hard to follow Dave. It is such a massive
                                          undertaking that I can't understand why anyone would want to give up a
                                          market mechanism! I certainly don't want to have to produce a year's
                                          list of inventory items for personal consumption even with the
                                          assistance of last year's past record and computers, only to
                                          re-evaluate that list what...five times.. before the final decision is
                                          made! It's a redtape social nightmare!

                                          David Schweickart's works, 'Against Capitalism' and 'After
                                          Capitalism' describes his vision of Economic Democracy and is a much
                                          saner proposal than Albert's.

                                          Thanks for the link... I'll print it out and read it.

                                          Cheers, Rebecca
                                        • balmer_dave
                                          Hi Rebecca If I understand Albert correctly, and I am never quite sure that I do, the point that I think he is talking about I at least have raised before, as
                                          Message 20 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                            Hi Rebecca


                                            If I understand Albert correctly, and I am never quite sure that I
                                            do, the point that I think he is talking about I at least have raised
                                            before, as did Fred in fact in Anti-Duhring. But I am sure I could
                                            have managed it without him, Fred that is.

                                            This was at the time a bit of a hostile battle that I was having with
                                            my comrades on this forum about whether or not we would have value in
                                            a free access society. In other words would we have value in a
                                            society that had no buying or selling, and what would that mean.
                                            Which is the obvious question as it would appear to be a
                                            contradiction in terms.

                                            I believe that in socialism and a free access society it would be
                                            useful to have some understanding of the amount of human effort that
                                            has gone into a commodity as part of your decision as to whether or
                                            not to consume it or take it off the shelf.

                                            So to choose a trivial illustrative example;

                                            Lets suppose my favourite wine, which I quite like, is industrially
                                            produced grape skin flavoured fermented Vimto. Pretty much the stuff
                                            that I buy now at £10 for a 3 litre bag in box from Walmart/Asda. The
                                            wine snobs can piss off, it is great.

                                            And then I go to a friend's house and they offer me some of `their'
                                            Canadian ice wine which they have taken also from the free access
                                            communal store. It is quite possible that I might think that this
                                            Canadian ice wine is slightly better than my normal stuff.

                                            Without realising all the extra effort that may have gone into
                                            producing it etc hanging around in British Columbia and waiting for
                                            the first frost of the year before picking the grapes etc I might
                                            decide to select it instead on my next visit to the communal store.

                                            Now some people might think that the difference and the pleasure and
                                            use value to themselves that they get from such a thing was worth the
                                            extra effort, of someone else or social labour. Indeed the producers
                                            of Canadian ice wine would equally expect that their effort would be
                                            appreciated and would be horrified at the thought of someone like
                                            myself consuming it. It would be a bit like a chef spending hours
                                            preparing a delicately prepared filet mignot meal only to have
                                            someone come in, taste it, and ask if there is any tomato ketchup to
                                            put on it.

                                            Equally I personally would be horrified at the idea of all the extra
                                            effort that would be socially put in, pissing about picking grapes at
                                            midnight and consumed by me for a marginal amount of pleasure to
                                            myself.

                                            I don't think there is anything particularly peculiar about this line
                                            of argument as it goes on in normal personal transactions. When a
                                            friend asks you for a `favour' to be freely given, and when what is
                                            involved it is not obviously transparent to both parties there is a
                                            kind of negotiation, in non-dysfunctional relationships.

                                            You balance the inconvenience to yourself of providing the favour
                                            with the benefit or use value it provides to the recipient.

                                            In that sense I think it would be useful in socialism to have things
                                            valued according to the amount of effort that has gone into making
                                            them, as Robinson Cruseo in his society of one did in Volume one.

                                            You may also wish to balance out what you think you are consuming and
                                            what you are contributing but that would be personal and voluntary.

                                            Anyway I will call Fred to my defence;

                                            "15 As long ago as 1844 I stated that the above-mentioned balancing
                                            of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions
                                            concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist
                                            society, of the politico-economic concept of value. (Deutsch-
                                            Französische Jahrbücher, p. 95) The scientific justification for this
                                            statement, however, as can be seen, was made possible only by Marx's
                                            Capital."

                                            http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-
                                            duhring/notes.htm#n*15

                                            Just to show I have done this before;

                                            http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/WSM_Forum/message/31019

                                            http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/WSM_Forum/message/29420


                                            who is McD





                                            --- In WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "foolingu11" <foolingu11@...> wrote:
                                            >
                                            > Hi All;
                                            >
                                            > Here's an objection I have to Albert and literally all others that
                                            > make the same claims.
                                            >
                                            > Albert writes;
                                            >
                                            > "Now, if we do take that leap, they argue, then if we want to avoid
                                            > exploitation we must forego prices, income in the sense of earned
                                            > rights to a share of the social output, and anything remotely
                                            > resembling money. When I tell them that this means they have not
                                            only
                                            > jettisoned prices, income, etc., but they have done away with all
                                            > possibility of sensible allocation because they have no way to
                                            decide
                                            > between options based on valuations, they simply ignore it. When I
                                            > tell them they have also done away with all possibility of attaining
                                            > just distribution because, again, there is no way to say to a
                                            > consumer, or for a consumer to even know that some amount is more
                                            (or
                                            >
                                          • foolingu11
                                            Hi Dave; I agree. I don t see any reason why we can t have labor content information added to labels. In fact, I don t only agree, but I ve always felt that we
                                            Message 21 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                              Hi Dave;

                                              I agree. I don't see any reason why we can't have labor content
                                              information added to labels. In fact, I don't only agree, but I've
                                              always felt that we should take advantage of tools of measurement.
                                              This is of course obvious in many cases where we do need to take an
                                              accounting, but also for the very reason you mention, even though that
                                              reason is more subtle. People want to know how much effort goes into
                                              the production of products. I know I do. All we're talking about is
                                              better informing people so that they can make rational decisions about
                                              their personal consumption.

                                              I had a discussion, many years ago, with another Dave in another
                                              group. He gave an example of how a moneyless, free access society
                                              would be entirely wasteful and not capable of rational allocation
                                              of resources. His example went something like this; with free access
                                              people just take what they want and use what they want and nobody
                                              cares really. But what if the main water line to my home had a small
                                              leak. In a society that requires I pay for usage I would notice that
                                              my water bill had increased and would investigate why, thus discover
                                              the problem before too long, with minimal loss. However, in a free
                                              access society the leak would go unnoticed for years, maybe never
                                              being discovered, and the waste would be huge.

                                              I asked him why would he assume we wouldn't take advantage of the
                                              means of measurement? If a socialist society is to be economically
                                              efficient, and effective in not only production, but consumption then
                                              of course we're still going to have meters and readers of meters and
                                              means of measurement.

                                              I don't see anything different about this example as with measuring
                                              the efforts of labor and production to the products we produce. I do
                                              see it as placing a sense of subjective value on our personal
                                              consumption however, and I do think that this is an important aspect
                                              for rational decision making.

                                              Cheers, Rebecca
                                            • foolingu11
                                              Hi Dave; Sorry, I thought everyone knew of McD! lol... He s a Libertarian Anarcho-Capitalist who has been debating us for years and years now. Well, more
                                              Message 22 of 27 , Jun 18, 2008
                                                Hi Dave;

                                                Sorry, I thought everyone knew of McD! lol...

                                                He's a Libertarian Anarcho-Capitalist who has been debating
                                                us for years and years now. Well, more accurately, we've been
                                                debating him while he has been parroting his pet theories.

                                                Anywho... I forgot to answer that.

                                                Cheers, Rebecca
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