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Part One of my Reply to Joseph: Central Planning vs. Moneyless Economy

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  • Alex G.
    Joseph Green asked me to give my thoughts on his reply to Ben. So I did. This is part one, which deals with economics. It s basically a culmination of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 11, 2008
      Joseph Green asked me to give my thoughts on his reply to Ben. So I
      did. This is part one, which deals with economics. It's basically a
      culmination of the arguments presented in the debate Jacob Richter
      and I had along with the discussion between Ben and myself before he
      wrote his latest polemic. Here is what I sent to Joseph this morning:

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------


      Hi Joseph,

      My reply today must be somewhat limited.


      Communist Economy and the "Withering Away" of the State
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------

      In various debates, I often use this quote:

      "[…] Only communism makes the state absolutely unnecessary, for there
      is nobody to be suppressed -- "nobody" in the sense of a class, in
      the sense of a systematic struggle against a definite section of the
      population. We are not utopians, and do not deny the possibility and
      inevitability of excesses on the part of individual persons, or the
      need to suppress such excesses. But, in the first place, no special
      apparatus of suppression is needed for this; this will be done by the
      armed people itself […]"

      "[…] And secondly, we know that the fundamental social cause of
      excesses, which consist in the violation of the rules of social
      intercourse, is the exploitation of the masses, their want and their
      poverty. With the removal of this chief cause, excesses will
      inevitably begin to `wither away' […] With their withering away the
      state will also wither away."

      -- Lenin, from `State and Revolution'

      When I brought this up in my debate with Frank, he wrote, "What
      Marxist would disagree with that?" And indeed, most Marxists will, on
      the surface, readily claim that they take this passage to heart. But
      as soon as someone puts forward an idea of what society might look
      like when the state has withered away, it is suddenly "anarchism." So
      you have to ask yourself: do you really believe that the state can
      wither away, and if so, how will it?

      The reason for Ben writing the Self-Organizing Moneyless economy was
      primarily this one: central planning (or "conscious social planning"
      if you will) alone does not solve the problem of commodity production
      and the ills that it brings. State-capitalist and/or "socialist"
      economy can exist indefinitely if there is no "way out." It will be
      important for the workers under workers' rule to begin to experiment
      with how run an economy without money, wages, or exchange of any
      kind, because this is the only way to "achieve escape velocity." In
      short, it must be made clear that central planning, while it may be a
      useful tool, does not solve all of the problems of capitalism and the
      laws of commodity production will still exist until the workers
      successfully learn how to run an economy without exchange. And this
      will not happen spontaneously; the workers will have to experiment.

      Ben felt it was important to paint a general picture of what a
      moneyless economy might look like because for many today, it is
      impossible to even fathom an economy that does not use exchange and
      does not have a formal authority. It is impossible for many to even
      think about a world where workers make decisions and carry out tasks
      on the basis of self-organization (i.e. a world where things will
      be "done by the armed people itself").

      One of the problems I have with your argument is that you do not call
      Lenin an anarchist, but when Ben proposes the same thing but in
      greater detail, he is an anarchist.

      I believe the problem is that you have a fetish with central planning
      (or "conscious social planning"). The basis of your argument appears
      to be that the reason why capitalism is so bad is because there is no
      guiding force from above directing decisions. This is not the case.
      The "iron hand" action you described is a result of the laws of
      commodity production. The laws of commodity production lead wealth to
      be apportioned into a smaller and smaller percentage of the
      population so the few control the means of production and
      distribution. The "anarchy of production" is a result of the
      limitations of the price system (i.e. the "invisible hand")

      The problem with central planning_alone_is that it does not fully
      eliminate these problems because it does not eliminate the laws of
      commodity production. The development of an economy without exchange
      (a gift economy) is necessary to solve these issues. But how will
      this economy emerge? It will start small, obviously, but as workers
      gain more experience, seize more of the means of production, etc.
      their experimental moneyless economy will become stronger and larger
      until it becomes the basis of the entire economy.

      Further, as will be shown now, central planning comes with its own
      limitations that make it inefficient, and it (in our opinion) has no
      place in a moneyless economy.


      Central Planning and the "von Neumann Bottleneck"
      ------------------------------------------------------------------

      The problem that central planning faces is analogous to CPUs in
      computers. In a computer, all information has to be sent through the
      Central Processing Unit (Central Committee), where it is dealt with
      using an algorithm (big central plan). However, since so much
      information from so many different locations inside the computer
      (economy) have to be filtered through this central unit before
      anything can be done, the computer (economy) slows down, or
      bottlenecks. This problem in computers is known as the "von Neumann
      Bottleneck," and many attempts have been made to correct it over the
      years.

      Because of the needs of supercomputers that have to take in extremely
      vast amounts of information Massively Parallel Processing was
      invented. Instead of all information being sent through a CPU, there
      are_many_processing units that deal with all of the information
      simultaneously, in chunks, so that it all gets done faster. Further,
      if something goes wrong with unit A, information can be rerouted to
      unit B without too much trouble, which means that the system is
      extremely adaptive.

      So let's look at how a real-world economy might work. Let's say the
      central planning body makes a decision that sounds like a good idea
      from above, but is really a shit idea in practice (sure, in a perfect
      world, that would never happen, but let's say that it did). When it
      was put into practice, the workers would either have to a) deal with
      it be stuck with a crappy idea, or b) take their complaint_back_to
      the planning body and have them sort it out and make a new decision.
      It doesn't matter how democratic this process is; it is still
      extremely slow.

      On the other hand, let's say there's an economy that takes advantage
      of parallelism. Two groups of workers (for the sake of simplicity)
      have two different ideas about how best to do something. Often, the
      best way to find out which one is better is to test them, so they set
      up two parallel production units. Let's set up two scenarios: In the
      first, option A ends up sucking, but instead of going to the central
      committee to complain, workers just "re-route" to option B. In the
      second scenario, both option A and option B look to be both good
      ideas, but some kind of terrible catastrophe happens at option A.
      Workers, instead of waiting for a central committee to react, can
      just "re-route" to option B.

      So this type of economy operates in a very similar way to Massively
      Parallel Processing in computers. Information is dealt with by
      parallel units and if something goes wrong with one, information
      is "re-routed" to the other(s).

      Do we call this competition? I don't know. I call it parallelism.

      But in short, in an advanced moneyless economy, workers will not have
      to operate through a central unit to make economic decision, they
      will make decisions based on local conditions and on the principle of
      self-organization.


      Moneyless economy is Moneyless
      --------------------------------------------

      Just to clarify, you used the word "buy" when describing Ben's
      Moneyless Economy. Moneyless economy does not make use of buying,
      selling, or exchange of any kind. It makes use of gift economy, where
      goods and services are given away for free. This is also the final
      stage of economy that has emerged over many, many decades of
      transitional economy.


      Where Central Planning Finds its Place
      -------------------------------------------------

      Central planning finds its place in the State-Capitalist and what you
      might call "socialist" sectors of the economy. The purpose of central
      planning will be to direct a largely capitalist economy (i.e. one
      that makes use of commodity production) to benefit the working class
      while they experiment with how to create a moneyless economy that
      does_not_make use of commodity production.

      I will have more to say in a couple of days,; for now, I must go.

      -- Alex
    • Ben Seattle
      Hi Alex, This was an excellent response. I will have more to say in the next few days. All the best, Ben ... From: Alex G. Sent: Monday, February 11, 2008 9:12
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 13, 2008
        Hi Alex,

        This was an excellent response.

        I will have more to say in the next few days.

        All the best,
        Ben

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Alex G.
        Sent: Monday, February 11, 2008 9:12 AM
        To: pof-300@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [pof-300] Part One of my Reply to Joseph: Central Planning vs.
        Moneyless Economy


        Joseph Green asked me to give my thoughts on his reply to Ben. So I
        did. This is part one, which deals with economics. It's basically a
        culmination of the arguments presented in the debate Jacob Richter
        and I had along with the discussion between Ben and myself before he
        wrote his latest polemic. Here is what I sent to Joseph this morning:

        ----------------------------------------------------------

        Hi Joseph,

        My reply today must be somewhat limited.

        Communist Economy and the "Withering Away" of the State
        ----------------------------------------------------------

        In various debates, I often use this quote:

        "[.] Only communism makes the state absolutely unnecessary, for there
        is nobody to be suppressed -- "nobody" in the sense of a class, in
        the sense of a systematic struggle against a definite section of the
        population. We are not utopians, and do not deny the possibility and
        inevitability of excesses on the part of individual persons, or the
        need to suppress such excesses. But, in the first place, no special
        apparatus of suppression is needed for this; this will be done by the
        armed people itself [.]"

        "[.] And secondly, we know that the fundamental social cause of
        excesses, which consist in the violation of the rules of social
        intercourse, is the exploitation of the masses, their want and their
        poverty. With the removal of this chief cause, excesses will
        inevitably begin to `wither away' [.] With their withering away the
        state will also wither away."

        -- Lenin, from `State and Revolution'

        When I brought this up in my debate with Frank, he wrote, "What
        Marxist would disagree with that?" And indeed, most Marxists will, on
        the surface, readily claim that they take this passage to heart. But
        as soon as someone puts forward an idea of what society might look
        like when the state has withered away, it is suddenly "anarchism." So
        you have to ask yourself: do you really believe that the state can
        wither away, and if so, how will it?

        The reason for Ben writing the Self-Organizing Moneyless economy was
        primarily this one: central planning (or "conscious social planning"
        if you will) alone does not solve the problem of commodity production
        and the ills that it brings. State-capitalist and/or "socialist"
        economy can exist indefinitely if there is no "way out." It will be
        important for the workers under workers' rule to begin to experiment
        with how run an economy without money, wages, or exchange of any
        kind, because this is the only way to "achieve escape velocity." In
        short, it must be made clear that central planning, while it may be a
        useful tool, does not solve all of the problems of capitalism and the
        laws of commodity production will still exist until the workers
        successfully learn how to run an economy without exchange. And this
        will not happen spontaneously; the workers will have to experiment.

        Ben felt it was important to paint a general picture of what a
        moneyless economy might look like because for many today, it is
        impossible to even fathom an economy that does not use exchange and
        does not have a formal authority. It is impossible for many to even
        think about a world where workers make decisions and carry out tasks
        on the basis of self-organization (i.e. a world where things will
        be "done by the armed people itself").

        One of the problems I have with your argument is that you do not call
        Lenin an anarchist, but when Ben proposes the same thing but in
        greater detail, he is an anarchist.

        I believe the problem is that you have a fetish with central planning
        (or "conscious social planning"). The basis of your argument appears
        to be that the reason why capitalism is so bad is because there is no
        guiding force from above directing decisions. This is not the case.
        The "iron hand" action you described is a result of the laws of
        commodity production. The laws of commodity production lead wealth to
        be apportioned into a smaller and smaller percentage of the
        population so the few control the means of production and
        distribution. The "anarchy of production" is a result of the
        limitations of the price system (i.e. the "invisible hand")

        The problem with central planning_alone_is that it does not fully
        eliminate these problems because it does not eliminate the laws of
        commodity production. The development of an economy without exchange
        (a gift economy) is necessary to solve these issues. But how will
        this economy emerge? It will start small, obviously, but as workers
        gain more experience, seize more of the means of production, etc.
        their experimental moneyless economy will become stronger and larger
        until it becomes the basis of the entire economy.

        Further, as will be shown now, central planning comes with its own
        limitations that make it inefficient, and it (in our opinion) has no
        place in a moneyless economy.

        Central Planning and the "von Neumann Bottleneck"
        ----------------------------------------------------------

        The problem that central planning faces is analogous to CPUs in
        computers. In a computer, all information has to be sent through the
        Central Processing Unit (Central Committee), where it is dealt with
        using an algorithm (big central plan). However, since so much
        information from so many different locations inside the computer
        (economy) have to be filtered through this central unit before
        anything can be done, the computer (economy) slows down, or
        bottlenecks. This problem in computers is known as the "von Neumann
        Bottleneck," and many attempts have been made to correct it over the
        years.

        Because of the needs of supercomputers that have to take in extremely
        vast amounts of information Massively Parallel Processing was
        invented. Instead of all information being sent through a CPU, there
        are_many_processing units that deal with all of the information
        simultaneously, in chunks, so that it all gets done faster. Further,
        if something goes wrong with unit A, information can be rerouted to
        unit B without too much trouble, which means that the system is
        extremely adaptive.

        So let's look at how a real-world economy might work. Let's say the
        central planning body makes a decision that sounds like a good idea
        from above, but is really a shit idea in practice (sure, in a perfect
        world, that would never happen, but let's say that it did). When it
        was put into practice, the workers would either have to a) deal with
        it be stuck with a crappy idea, or b) take their complaint_back_to
        the planning body and have them sort it out and make a new decision.
        It doesn't matter how democratic this process is; it is still
        extremely slow.

        On the other hand, let's say there's an economy that takes advantage
        of parallelism. Two groups of workers (for the sake of simplicity)
        have two different ideas about how best to do something. Often, the
        best way to find out which one is better is to test them, so they set
        up two parallel production units. Let's set up two scenarios: In the
        first, option A ends up sucking, but instead of going to the central
        committee to complain, workers just "re-route" to option B. In the
        second scenario, both option A and option B look to be both good
        ideas, but some kind of terrible catastrophe happens at option A.
        Workers, instead of waiting for a central committee to react, can
        just "re-route" to option B.

        So this type of economy operates in a very similar way to Massively
        Parallel Processing in computers. Information is dealt with by
        parallel units and if something goes wrong with one, information
        is "re-routed" to the other(s).

        Do we call this competition? I don't know. I call it parallelism.

        But in short, in an advanced moneyless economy, workers will not have
        to operate through a central unit to make economic decision, they
        will make decisions based on local conditions and on the principle of
        self-organization.

        Moneyless economy is Moneyless
        --------------------------------------------

        Just to clarify, you used the word "buy" when describing Ben's
        Moneyless Economy. Moneyless economy does not make use of buying,
        selling, or exchange of any kind. It makes use of gift economy, where
        goods and services are given away for free. This is also the final
        stage of economy that has emerged over many, many decades of
        transitional economy.

        Where Central Planning Finds its Place
        -------------------------------------------------

        Central planning finds its place in the State-Capitalist and what you
        might call "socialist" sectors of the economy. The purpose of central
        planning will be to direct a largely capitalist economy (i.e. one
        that makes use of commodity production) to benefit the working class
        while they experiment with how to create a moneyless economy that
        does_not_make use of commodity production.

        I will have more to say in a couple of days,; for now, I must go.

        -- Alex
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