“I’m not trying to [tear down the Western economic system and replace it with socialist redistribution of wealth]. You know, I turned 18 when the Berlin wall fell, so I have never had any temptation with communism, I am just trying to see how we can ensure that everyone benefits from globalization.” –Thomas Piketty on The Colbert Report
Despite the various theoretical problems with Piketty’s work (see Harvey’s critique for example), we still have to discuss the significant practical issues, associated with the tactics and strategies of our struggle. Piketty’s overall solution to our problems is nothing but the contemporary social democratic response of trying to better manage capitalism; to humanize capitalism, as the picture bellow illustrates:
For a more detailed discussion on the contemporary debates regarding tactics and strategies between anarchists, revolutionary socialists, and social democrats, see this article; but it is useful to briefly go over something economist Paul Sweezy has been arguing since 1942, which basically foresaw the failure of what was to become the social democratic project.
Sweezy argued in his Theory of Capitalist Development (1942: 349), “the state in capitalist society has always been first and foremost the guarantor of capitalist property relations” and has unmistakably been “the instrument of capitalist class rule.” Sweezy concludes that for it to be possible to use the state to manage capitalism, and/or impose higher, more substantial taxes on capital, as Piketty suggests, a certain combination of requirements must be met. The political actor must be a mass party that 1) is strictly free of capitalist interest, 2) has acquired state power and eliminated capitalists and their representatives from key positions, and 3) establishes a firm position so it would be overwhelmingly plain that any resistance by capitalists would be futile. If experience shows that these are the necessary conditions for such a project to work, “it also indicates no less clearly the impossibility of their fulfillment” (350-1). While it is conceivable in the abstract, in reality “capital holds the strategic positions.” “Money, social prestige, the bureaucracy and the armed forces of the state, the channels of public communications,” are all controlled by capital and “will continue to be used to the utmost to maintain the position of capital.” Sweezy concludes it is a law of capitalist politics that the outcome of these strategies will merely be the bankruptcy of reform (351-2).
In fact, Sweezy (351) also argues that this liberal reform, due to these requirements, is no less a task than a gradual transition into socialism. Thus, we may ask ourselves, if we ever actually have sufficient political power to truly manage capitalism, why not transcend it? If we ever have the political will and power to impose Piketty’s global tax on capital, we will most likely have the will and power to engage on a transition into a new economic system, superior in every way. We will most likely have the means to build a new system, where a return to our current predicament is not as simple as eliminating Piketty’s tax and re-allowing capital free reign.
If/when we finally have the means to slay the beast, why put a smiley face on it?
In this pdf, you will find the readings Prologue to Tempest in the Andes, The Indigenous Question in Latin America, The Latin American Socialist Revolution, and The Anti-Imperialist Point of View by José Carlos Mariátegui. They were retrieved from an anthology titled Marxism in Latin America 1909 to the Present edited by Michael Lowy. Click here to download the pdf file
“José Carlos Mariátegui La Chira (14 June 1894 – 16 April 1930) was a Peruvian journalist, political philosopher, and activist. A prolific writer before his early death at age 35, he is considered one of the most influential Latin American socialists of the 20th century. Mariátegui’s most famous work, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (1928), is still widely read in South America. An avowed, self-taught Marxist, he insisted that a socialist revolution should evolve organically in Latin America on the basis of local conditions and practices, not the result of mechanically applying a European formula.” (Wikipedia)
Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno is definitely a page-turner. You will not drop it until your done. Like all of Robert Langdon’s adventures, there are various recurring themes and elements. However, this does not make the book repetitive or unoriginal respect to Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, or The Lost Symbol. On the contrary, there are sufficient new elements that make the book wonderful in its own right. The recurring elements from his previous books just give it the flare and addictive nature of all of Langdon’s adventures. The only element I found problematic was a certain twist of events at the end of the book. Twist and turns are part of Brown’s style, but in Inferno, two of our characters (Langdon and Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey) develop a strong disdain toward one particular character (Bertrand Zobrist), only for it to be unrealistically switched to understanding and even a bit of admiration at the end. The shift was so sudden that it was borderline plain bad story telling. Other than that, the book is all we have learned to love of Brown’s work. His previous books definitely had implications on current debates (the best example being the complex and ever changing relationship between science and religion), but they were always focused on particular historical elements that captured the reader’s interest, such as the Illuminati or the Holy Grail/Mary Magdalene story. In this case, the historical element isn’t a secret organization or a bible conspiracy theory, it’s Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, especially the canticle on Hell: Inferno. Personally, I found Dan Brown’s historical “did you knows” or “fun facts” less mind boggling compared to previous books. To be fair, readers more interested in world literature, instead of secret organizations or conspiracy theories, might enjoy Inferno more than the previous Robert Langdon books. In terms of the implications on the current debates, the issue is overpopulation and sustainability. Here is where Dan Brown really messes up, and becomes an advocate of a Neo-Malthusian, bourgeois, reactionary understanding of a whole array of topics. The novel has implicit views on population growth as the fundamental cause behind economic and environmental sustainability issues. The book’s tone supports conservative arguments that criminalize and attack the “poor and overpopulating masses” as the culprits, while ignoring the role of large corporations with truly unsustainable production techniques. I personally don’t think he intended to do so, but he definitely did, so it is worthwhile discussing this vision.
The upside is that he is nudging readers to reflect and react to the fact that humanity is currently facing a survival threatening sustainability problem. The problem has two elements, fundamentally linked, that of environmental sustainability and that of economic development. Humanity is consuming Earth to its oblivion, while simultaneously goods and resources seem insufficient to satisfy all our needs. The problem with Dan Brown’s rhetoric is that it promotes the idea that the fundamental variable is population growth. Hunger, sickness, pollution, melting ice caps, are all explained with overpopulation. According to this vision, Malthus was right; population grew exponentially while our means of subsistence lagged behind. The vision ignores the fact that science and technology have also been developed exponentially in the last centuries. World population grew more in the last 200 years than it grew in the previous 200,000 years. However, science and technology have also been developed much more in the last 200 years than in the previous 200,000 years. Therefore, we most likely have the technological capacity to satisfy our needs and wants in a sustainable manner even with population growth. This isn’t a novel idea that should have escaped Dan Brown’s preparatory readings. It’s been around as early as merely 10 years after Malthus’ death. In 1844, Engels wrote in his Outline of a Critique of Political Economy:
Yet, so as to deprive the universal fear of overpopulation of any possible basis, let us once more return to the relationship of productive power to population. Malthus establishes a formula on which he bases his entire system: population is said to increase in a geometrical progression – 1+2+4+8+16+32, etc.; the productive power of the land in an arithmetical progression – 1+2+3+4+5+6. The difference is obvious, is terrifying; but is it correct? Where has it been proved that the productivity of the land increases in an arithmetical progression? The extent of land is limited. All right! The labour-power to be employed on this land-surface increases with population. Even if we assume that the increase in yield due to increase in labour does not always rise in proportion to the labour, there still remains a third element which, admittedly, never means anything to the economist – science – whose progress is as unlimited and at least as rapid as that of population. What progress does the agriculture of this century owe to chemistry alone – indeed, to two men alone, Sir Humphry Davy and Justus Liebig! But science increases at least as much as population. The latter increases in proportion to the size of the previous generation, science advances in proportion to the knowledge bequeathed to it by the previous generation, and thus under the most ordinary conditions also in a geometrical progression. And what is impossible to science?
Overpopulation (or lack of technology adequate for our growing numbers) is not the issue behind hunger, sickness, pollution, or melting ice caps. The problem lies within our economic system, our mode of production. How can we say that goods and resources are scarce, when we have, simultaneously, hungry people and surplus food being thrown away, empty houses with no tenants and homeless people, and pharmaceuticals stocked in warehouses while there are sick? In assessing the causes of pollution and global warming, how can we reduce it to population growth, without mentioning the millions of tons of waste and contaminants that come from unsustainable industrial production methods? The roots of our problems lie within the unequal distribution of resources and the unplanned character of our economy. With a more sensible distribution of goods and resources, along with replacing market forces and profit seeking behavior with social planning, we just might escape a Dante-like apocalypse. However, as Dan Brown presents the issue, it’s not only ignoring the actual roots of the problem, it’s a borderline (and for some an openly) racist argument. To say we are overpopulated is to say someone shouldn’t be here. Who? Well, population isn’t actually rising in the First World. Every single country with a population growth rate above 1% is a Third World country. In other words, the world’s problems are a result of the uneducated poor who simply cannot stop having babies (according to this Neo-Malthusian discourse). Dan Brown does right by bringing the sustainability issue to focus. If we do not do something, humanity, sooner than later, might actually face a species-threatening crisis. In fact, evidence points to the fact that we already are in this crisis. Where Dan Brown fails is in pointing the reader into actual solutions. We shouldn’t be focusing on population growth. We should be focusing on the system as a whole; on how, what, and for whom we produce goods and services. In other words, capitalism is the problem! The solution: socialism (or if this is a bad word, then economic democracy, participatory economics, or any other euphemism). In the spirit of Dante’s work, the most treacherous beings on Earth are the members of capitalist class, as their existence actually threatens the survival of our species. Therefore, the deepest corners of Hell are saved for them. Our job is to make their Hell on Earth, by making our Paradise on Earth.
The major obstacle for broad front politics
Wikipedia defines determinism as a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. It aptly describes the philosophy behind a great part of the Puerto Rican Left. You might be thinking I’m going to talk about the economic determinism of orthodox Marxists, or something of the sort. Actually, it’s the other way around. It is in the nationalist Left where we are finding determinism; specifically, status determinism! Let me explain.
As Puerto Rico is still a United States territory in a classical colonial fashion, most of the island’s politics revolve around the future status of the island. On the table, Puerto Ricans have four options: become the 51st state of the union and fully annex to the United States, sign a free association compact with the United States as a sovereign nation, declare complete independence from the United States, or stay in the current colonial territorial status. The Left has historically supported independence, although now a large number of activists have supported the free association compact with the United States as an acceptable alternative also.
Now, the largest progressive organization on the island is the Puerto Rican Independence Party, which recognizes itself as a social-democratic party. In practice however, they seem to base most of their campaigning on nationalist sentiments instead of the issues one would usually associate with social democrats. Their nationalism has also become an obstacle for the development of broad front politics as they are developing in other parts of the world. The main issue is that broad front politics, for these leaders, only make sense in independent nations. They argue that while Puerto Rico is a US colony, any type of broad front progressive politics is reformist, if not colonialist and pro-status quo.
In other words, a front that encompasses unions, marginalized communities, LGBT activists, along with socialists and independence activists, for the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), should only be constructed if and only if it is also advocating in favor of total independence (and by the way, if it openly calls for voting for them would be nice too). 95% of Puerto Ricans openly declare themselves against independence. So, basically, according to the Independence Party, we can’t seem to do any kind of electoral politics with 95% of the working class and other oppressed sectors simply because they are still not in favor of independence. Sure! We will piquet with them! Sure! We will send press releases supporting them! And sure, if you vote for us, we will write progressive bills in favor of them (although they will not be passed anyway). But!! Any kind of broad electoral politics that unites these sectors under a front that is not openly for independence (and voting for us), that’s unacceptable! That’s basically the idea.
Obviously independence is indispensable for any kind of radical transformation in Puerto Rico. Therefore, any type of broad front must eventually become a national liberation movement, as well as a socialist movement, for it to truly be revolutionary. However, the Independence Party is putting the cart before the horse.
How in the world are Puerto Ricans going to develop a National Liberation movement that unites most of the working class and other oppressed sectors, if they are opposing actually working with these sectors until they are convinced of independence? As Rosa Luxemburg said, “Those who don’t move do not feel their chains.” Socialists are obviously aware that they can’t presume a worker’s movement will be openly and unquestionably for socialism from day one. That’s part of the struggle. Radicalizing and organizing workers has to be the starting point, even if at that starting point they are not yet totally convinced for socialism. Nationalist independence activists seem to be unable to grasp this dynamic. From day one, they require workers, gays, lesbians, community activists, etc to be totally in favor of independence; otherwise, we can work together sometimes but not organically in a movement.
In this sense, it is with great sorrow, that we have to conclude the Puerto Rican Independence Party is actually becoming a reactionary force. Their conservatism has certainly affected their support. From more than 100,000 votes in the 2000 elections (5%) they have decreased to below 40,000 votes in 2008 (less than 3%).
Meanwhile, the recently founded Working People’s Party, which originated from the socialist movement, is seeking to fill the void the Independence Party has created. The Working People’s Party is not openly for independence or for socialism. Why? Because it is trying to develop precisely the broad front politics we have been talking about. It wants to unite in practice, workers and all other oppressed sectors to struggle against neoliberalism. These sectors are mostly not yet in favor of independence or socialism. But, as Rosa Luxemburg says, once they start moving, they will hopefully feel their chains. In any case, organizing workers and oppressed sectors is a precondition for revolutionary struggle. So, even if they are not from day one, in favor of total independence and socialism, organizing these sectors, empowering these sectors, is without a doubt, a stepping-stone toward revolution.
Venezuelan News Agency. – President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that on January 10, 2013 he will deliver the second Socialist Plan of the Nation to the National Assembly, during the ceremony of his inauguration as President for the period of 2013-2019.
He recalled that the Constitution provides that in the first year the Head of State must submit to the National Assembly his government plan, to be discussed, approved or rejected.
“I aspire to deliver the plan, without missing a single day, the first day,” he said in a press conference at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas.
He also mentioned that from that moment the government will initiate the creation of the different mechanisms of consultation, participation and design through which the proposals of the people in the social, economic and political spheres will be recollected. Chavez invited Venezuelan opposition to join in this task.
He stated that criticism will also be received. “To review all of that and go on preparing, with coherence and feasibility, the second Socialist Plan of the Nation (…) To begin, at once, with the new year, progressing in the economic, in the social. To move forward, improving, renovating, relaunching many projects. ”
Venezuela will have a ministry with power for follow-up and control
Moreover, President Chavez said that in the coming days the Ministry of the Office of the Secretariat will be transformed into a ministry with power to follow up and control in government management, on a national and local level.
He indicated that this initiative is a result of the fact that one of the major flaws in his government was the lack of follow-up on plans and programs.
“I have great faith that a ministry, a system of follow-up and control, will allow us to achieve one of the most urgent goals of the new cycle: increasing efficiency in the management of government,” he said.
Chavez claimed victory in elections this Sunday, October 7 with the support of 8,062,056 voters, i.e 55.14%, while his main opponent, Henrique Capriles, reached 6,468,450 votes (44.24 %). The new president will assume the Presidency, for the period 2013-2019, on 10 January next year.
Retrieved 10/09/12 from http://www.psuv.org.ve/portada/presidente-entregara-10-enero-segundo-plan-socialista-nacion/ and translated by thepointistochangeit.org
Unofficial Economics of Star Trek
by Matt Grinder of the Vancouver Parecon Collective.
(Retrieved from http://vanparecon.resist.ca)
As far as I know, the creators and owners of Star Trek have never made specific the economic system that is used in the Star Trek universe. I doubt they have much of an idea, other than it’s not capitalism, doesn’t use “free” markets, and is probably quite just. From various quotes from movies and the TV shows, we know that they don’t use money (Star Trek IV), they use “credits” (Deep Space Nine), that the encouraged point to life is self improvement, not aggrandizement by wealth (The Next Generation), and that other species outside the Federation (like the Ferengi) use something called “Gold Pressed Latinum” for interstellar trading, but this is not used by the Federation for internal trading.
Amazingly enough, there does exist a proposed economic system that seems to fit quite well with these clues. It’s calledParticipatory Economics (or “parecon” for short). For the vast majority of people that have never heard about it, it was developed mainly by two people, Micheal Albert and Robin Hahnel in the 1980’s to early 1990’s, when the first books came out on it (see Looking Forward and The Political Economy of Participatory Economics and very recently seeParecon:Life after Capitalism). The people interested in learning about it and promoting it are people that want to change the world for the better, and think that we need to overhaul the entire economic/political/community/kinship system that we have today in order to do this. You know, anti-capitalist lefties who are NOT communists.
So I wrote up this website, giving both a pseudo-history of the installment of the Federation economic system, and a description of the system, barely modified from what you find in any of the books on participatory economics, though I have endeavored (sort of) to give the description a Star Trek feel. Hope it’s interesting to read.
For those people who read this website further and do not agree that parecon is consistent with the tiny clues we have about the Federation Economic system. Please consider this question, “Would Gene Rodenberry (creator of Star Trek) like this idea?” I think the answer is yes. For more arguments about this, see my Author’s notes. Also, after reading this site, please VOTE on whether or not you think Star Trek should be the official economic system of the Federation.
|NOTE: The following are excerpts from the “Recent Timetraveller’s Guide to Life in the United Federation of Planets”, written primarily for terrans from pre-warp societies that have found themselves stranded in the 24th century. Such instances are surprisingly common, so much so that an entire guide was written up for these (un?)fortunate time travelers. Since, for some reason, these visitors are usually from earth, it may seem a little terrocentric…|
(1) History of the Federation Economic System
(a) Early history
The economic system currently enjoyed by the United Federation of Planets was most heavily influenced (for terrans) by the economic vision first presented by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel in the early 1990’s, which they called “Participatory Economics” or “parecon”. An incarnation of the original, primitive “website” to promote participatory economics is available here , as are the ancient works Looking Forward and Parecon:Life after Capitalism. Paper bound texts of these ancient works are available for viewing in the Smithsonian Museum.
“Participatory Economics” was the culmination of a century-long effort by a small community of Earth economists seeking a democratic alternative to the horrors perpetuated by both “capitalism” and “communism.” “Parecon” at first gained only minor interest among people already challenging the capitalist system, and virtually no interest from the academic community of the time. Given the regular nightmares humanity had been inflicting on itself since the dawn of recorded history, it was unfortunately assumed by most that these horrors were inevitable, and there was no viable alternative to “capitalism” or “communism” (though of course, as is generally accepted today, neither of these systems was ever fully achieved). The “parecon” system was of course not unique to Earth, but was invented and put into practice on other worlds as well, including Vulcan, QUIXX’IA and Thanos Morgul, in the latter case it had been established for 3500 years before its inception on Earth.
Fortunately, despite the chaos of the early and mid 21st century, a group of die-hard adherents of participatory economics preserved the old works and central ideas, and tried to expand their numbers, despite the repression of the times.
Paradoxically, the lawlessness of the mid 21st century allowed for the first actual implementation and experimentation of parecon ideals in two small villages in entirely separate countries, Kenowago in South Africa, and New Haverbrook in the American mid-west (which was coincidentally only 130 kilometers from Zephram Cochrane’s warp development base, though the famed physicist had no idea of it’s existence until later). Both communities of less than 100 people (ranging from 50-60 in New Haverbrook and 70-80 in Kenowago until 2063) were basically subsistence farmers with limited trade to other towns. Despite their limited numbers in, both communities managed to achieve many of the marks of participatory economics, including “balanced job complexes” and partial implementation of the “participatory planning process.” This was with very limited computing power, (in one year, North Haverbrook was without computer technology for two months, and the participatory planning process was actually accomplished with the aid of an abacus) and with the constant threat of violence from the warring factions of the time.
Several historic figures originated from these villages that were influential in the monumental events which followed first contact. Mary Gerhard, Gerrard Havewell, Lousie Diamant (from North Haverbrook) and Hanzier and Shelly Mobutu (from Kenowago) were to play key roles in the Vulcan sponsored free talks of 2063.
(b) The Velvet Revolution of 2063
|As is generally known, the shock of first contact had a profound effect on the terran world view. As word quickly spread of the existence of Vulcans and other races in the galaxy, many viewed this as a chance to end the chaos of the past years and work towards a more peaceful future. Seeing effects of first contact, Louise Diament and Gerrard Havewell rushed to find Zephram Cochrane and the Vulcan emissaries to suggest that the time was right for a global conference on economics and politics that would hopefully be binding for the global community. Citizens of North Haverbrook and Kenowago also started to tell people about their “parecon” system, whereas both communities had kept it secret for fear of repression.
Dament and Havewell met with Cochrane only two weeks after his maiden warp flight and his first contact with the Vulcan emissaries. Chocrane’s journals indicate he was starting to think of a conference a few days before, but the insistence of Dament and Havewell (reportedly, they actually shoved the head of the Southern alliance aside to talk to Cochrane, an incident that nearly led to their immediate execution) cemented the idea and got the proverbial ball rolling. With the Vulcan emissaries as mediators, the conference was set for two weeks time. It was agreed by most planners that the free talks should be as soon as possible to capitalize on the amazement of first contact, and the hope that a lasting peace could be bought out of it.
During a “recent” trip through time, the logbooks of famed starship captain Jean-Luc Picard reveal that he could not find an easy way to describe the Federation Economy to an engineer of 2063 named Lily. Instead he simply told her “the economics of the future are different”.
Cochrane listened to Dament and Havewell’s description of their “parecon” system with a doubtful but open ear, as his journals reveal. To his credit, he influenced the conference agenda to put a high priority on it’s discussion, despite his misgivings that it was not a viable system.
The conference was mostly organized by Swiss delegates, and all major discussion was mediated by the Vulcans. Nearly all politically powerful groups on earth for cities and countries were represented by not only ambassadors, but also by heads of state or factions themselves. By most accounts a very moving affair, it was televised to all who still had televisions, and was inundated by electronic commentary from communities around the world. Throughout its three week duration, Dament, Havewell, and Gerhard, soon joined by the Mobutu’s, gave a combined 140 lectures to personal and televised audiences about participatory economics, and answered countless questions and challenges in the open debates at the end of each day. The endurance of the pareconists was even commented upon by the Vulcan emissaries, who had not known that terrans could still be coherent with so little sleep.
The spirit of the Vulcan free talks was such that, by the middle of the second week, adherents to capitalism and “free-markets” were finding themselves challenged not only by the original core group of “pareconists” but also by more than half of the other delegates in the main debating room. At the beginning of the third conference week, a vote was taken on whether the conference would endorse the parecon rules and plan, (drawn up in provisional detail (in four days) by the Mobutu’s, with assistance from many residents of Kenowago) which passed with an astounding 80% majority.
Few Federation citizens today fully grasp what an amazing achievement this vote was, as most of the voting delegates at the conference were members of the former elite, who did not have any intention of giving up their power at the beginning of the conference. The provisional “parecon” rules and regulations was then further endorsed by the vast majority of worldwide communities in votes taken in the next few weeks. Those unwilling found themselves having to participate in the restructuring or not get the needed resources to live with, and soon fell into line. There were a few minor violent incidents, instigated by elites about to be deposed and their loyal bodyguard. These were met with large demonstrations of people, which showed the collective will for change.
There are several accepted reasons today as to why the basic constituents (only slightly modified from the original vision put forth by Hahnel and Albert) of participatory economics were so readily adopted by the citizens of earth. (1) It was a unique opportunity to implement what many could see was a more just and efficient system. (2) Though the Vulcan emissaries were truly mediators of the discussion, they were truthful when asked what their opinion of this proposed system was. They replied that it bore some similarity to economic systems they were aware of on other planets, including their own, thus they were confident it would work with Terrans, despite their “immaturity”. This simple statement was extremely influential in silencing those who argued the system would never work. (3) Many people were tired of war, being ruled by oppressive regimes, and angry at doing work that mostly aggrandized the owners of the means of production, who did little or no work. (4) The shock of finding out that Earth was part of a Galactic community created a realization from many that, to be a part of it, the people of Earth needed to try to be a responsible and contributing member. Also, many were unsure what the Vulcans would do if Earth did not try for peace. (5) The “common” people pressured the elite elements in a very severe manner, such that many elites at the conference were afraid not to endorse the participatory economic plan.
(c) Technological Innovations and Subsequent Changes
The original participatory planning process had six iterations, which was reduced over the years by technological innovations (notably replicators), to only three. The advent of fast warp drives in cargo vessels and friendly relations between federation worlds has made the planning process not just planetary, but interplanetary as well.
On Earth, the first year of implementation of the participatory system, there was an average of a 40 hour work week (due to needed restructuring) which was reduced to 32 hours the next year, and was down to 25 in ten years. Currently, Federation citizens working on earth typically need to work 5 hours a week, but most opt for 20 to 25, reflecting the enjoyable work life many enjoy.
Even during wartime, the Federation economic system has proven itself efficient and just, with a proven impetus towards technological innovation, and has contributed greatly to peace and happiness on earth.
(2) The Federation Economic system
(a) Work in the United Federation of Planets
Everyone in the federation enjoys what Albert and Hahnel first called a “balanced job complex”. The name has stuck. In order to combat the dangers of a permanent hierarchy in the workplace, and the inherent unfairness of having a minority of workers monopolizing the enjoyable, empowering work, odious and rote tasks are shared equally among everyone, as are empowering and enjoyable tasks.
|All citizens do rote and unpleasant tasks (a small amount of the work week to be sure) as well as enjoyable and empowering ones (the majority portion of the work week). Each job complex is also designed to be of equal effort and sacrifice (as much as is possible). The federation maxim for remuneration (payment) is that payment is measured by effort and sacrifice. If one wishes to get paid more, one works harder. Thus most citizens are paid, more or less, for hours worked. This is of course in contrast to archaic forms of remuneration, such as payment according to bargaining power, or payment according to output, which is unfair as not all citizens have equal capabilities. One should not be paid more because one is born smarter or stronger.The technological developments of recent times have all but eliminated rote and unpleasant tasks, and jobs today are mostly balanced for empowerment and enjoyment. As before, workers rank their jobs for empowerment and enjoyment (as well as drudgery, if there is any) with the same accuracy that one might grade an English composition. Everyone then receives a more or less equal work detail, as far as it can be managed. If one’s work detail involves more or less effort and sacrifice than average, and this cannot be easily remedied, one is compensated appropriately.||
The permanent heirarchy that exists aboard starships is worrisome to many federation citizens.
In order to perform tasks agreed to in the participatory planning process (see here), worker’s councils meet to plan and discuss projects. Councils can vary from small project councils to councils to represent and plan for an entire industry. Councils are formed by the principle, “People should have decision making power proportional to how they are affected by the decision.” (the self management principle) Thus for high risk work or work that will require much effort and sacrifice, consensus may be needed for a decision. Otherwise, lesser majorities are needed.
When a task requires a hierarchy, such as work scheduling or a project leader, a leader is appointed. However, to offset the harmful effects of one person monopolizing powerful positions to further their own ends, and the fundamental abuse of humanity that comes with ordering subordinates about, every work position that requires a hierarchy is rotated. In this way, all federation citizens enjoy roughly equal empowerment, which has contributed to the liberal lifestyle and freedom of expression enjoyed in the federation.
Exceptions to this rule only exist in starfleet (and on cargo ships) where there are permanent admirals, captain’s and officers that monopolize powerful positions. This permanent hierarchical arrangement is an ever present source of friction between starfleet personnel and federation citizens. Though nobody disputes that a hierarchy is needed aboard starfleet and cargo vessels, a minority, but still a substantial percentage of federation citizens, disagree with the assertion that a permanent hierarchy is needed. They argue for a form of command rotation amongst senior officers, and a less militarized command structure. They argue that such rigid and long lasting hierarchies are abusive in an humanitarian sense (to those ordered about for a good portion of their lives), and point to the risks of captains and admirals taking it upon themselves to command people outside of their jurisdiction, and the risks of a military coup. Defenders of the current starfleet system claim that such a thing has never happened in Federation history, and never will. Obviously, not all are placated by such assertions.
The Federation allocation system is generally accepted to be more efficient, just, equitable, and conducive to self management than any other known system, including central planning and market allocation schemes.
|Every year, in a process running from November 1st to November 30th, Federation citizens indicate, via computer terminal, what and how much of various goods and services they would like to consume in the following year. At the same time, citizens also propose how much work they would like to accomplish in the following year. Briefly, this allows for both “supply” and “demand” to be known, from which is generated a list of prices for various goods and services for the coming year. These prices are generated by publicly accepted algorithms, and other factors, such as the environmental and social cost of producing a good, are factored into the generated prices. Thus prices in the federation reflect the “social opportunity cost” of a good. This is defined as a price that indicates how much society is losing out by producing this good, where it could have produced other goods, and have been less abuse to the environment, etc.The generation of prices and the submittal of work and consumer desires is an iterative process. In the first round, (ending Nov 14) Individual consumers and workers submit the number of hours they with to work in the next year, as well as the amount of goods and services they wish to consume, from simplified lists of available products. At the same time, neighborhood, regional, national, planetary and interplanetary consumer councils form and submit consumption proposals (For things like swimming pools, more ships for starfleet, terraformation of new planets, etc.). Worker’s councils also submit proposals for how much they wish to work, what improvements they would like to make in the workplace, how many of a particular good they wish to produce. All these proposals are then summed up by computer and indicative prices are generated.||
One of the driving forces for this recent time traveller’s guide to the federation was the recent reanimation of several cryogenically frozen people from the 20th century. Upon awakening, a formerly wealthy induvidual wanted to know the status of his “stock portfolio”. Captian Picard himself had to explain a bit about federation economics to the hapless man while simultaneously negotiating with the Romulan Empire.
The process of generating proposals is simplified by facilitation boards. Also, all citizens who wish to can make proposals for consumption at any level they wish. One can propose that a new planet be colonized, that an athletic facility be built near you, a new power plant, that streets should be repaired, etc. The facilitation boards take these proposals and put them together as packages to vote on. A series of meetings (which anyone can attend) refine these proposals into working plans, which are then submitted at the appropriate level. In a similar way, worker proposals for workplace upgrades and production are submitted.
As long as a consumer proposal is of average cost, or a worker proposal is of average effort, they will stand as long as the original adherents wish to keep them in light of new prices. Above average consumer requests, or below average work proposals are subject to scrutiny by peers and, in some cases, can be rejected if they are not justifiable. The position of being in a council that reviews such outstanding proposals is of course rotated.
After seeing the results of the first round, consumers and workers both rework their proposals in light of the new prices from Nov. 14th to Nov. 21st. This is accomplished in a similar manner to the first round proposals, where workers meet to discuss reworking of their proposals, individual workers propose ways to move forward which are reviewed and summarized by the facilitation boards, and individual consumers refine their proposals and meet in councils where they have concerns. Thus the second round proposals go in, and a third and final round with new indicative prices commences.
This time, in the round from Nov 21st to Nov28th, consumers and workers are not allowed to deviate from their last proposals by more than 20%. This is to ensure some convergence in the participatory plan, and to make it more workable. After the end of this round, three days are given to the facilitation boards to generate a number of workable plans (usually three to four), similar to the final round plan, based on data from all previous rounds. On December 1st, these various plans are voted on in a multi-round voting session, where citizens indicate their first, second, and third preferences multiple times, before a final plan is decided upon.
Thus prices are set for a year in a democratic and participatory manner, that reflects accurately the consumption and work desires of the populace. Since it is important not to make the plan “too accurate” and allow for unforeseen changes in the coming year, the plan also incorporates “slack planning” where many goods are overproduced and stored in case of a natural disaster or similar crisis.
In the past there were more iterations of the planning process to ensure better convergence, sometimes as many as six, with a smaller deviation allowed each time. However, since the plan of 2292, there have only been three needed, due to the stunning technological achievements of the United Federation of planets, where nearly everything that citizens desire can be produced at low social opportunity cost.
Federation citizens possess what a 20th century capitalist would refer to as “money” only in a limited way. What corresponds most closely to “money” in the Federation is referred to as “credits”. These are earned by working, the more and harder one works, the more “credits” an individual earns. One can then use these to purchase food, transportation, living space, etc. Once one spends a credit, it disappears, it is not transferable to the store or anyone else (except parents to children). It is simply deducted from one’s total. To get more, one must work more. Credits cannot be traded, except for some controlled gamboling instances, and cannot be stolen. The deduction and accumulation of credits is more of a bookkeeping system than anything else. As above, production units that produce transporters, food, etc. do not trade money for inputs, but simply get what was decided upon by the participatory planning process.
Due to advances in computer technology, product distribution outlets possess technology that tracks and records individuals as they make purchases through facial recognition and other means. Citizens simply take what they need when they need it, and are told by AI systems of their credit deduction and total at the time of purchase.
Thus the common assertion by Federation citizens that people don’t have money in the 23rd century is entirely understandable and accurate.
Though one can buy and own food, transportation, living space, etc. in the federation, the ownership of the means of production is not allowed. Thus farms, ships, industrial plants, etc. are collectively owned by all, and in a another sense, by no-one.
Though one might think that the facilitation boards involved in the planning process would be a likely candidate for corruption, the lack of tradable money, transparency of facilitation meetings and rules such as facilitation workers cannot handle data from their own region have made this close to impossible, with very few such instances in the entire history of the federation.
|Over the centuries it has been in place, the United Federation of Planets Economic system has been responsible for some astounding and impressive technological advancements.The primary drive for these innovations has been threefold.
(1) Since everyone has a balanced job complex, there has been a powerful incentive to eliminate rote, dangerous, and arduous work. This led to increased robotics and computer development. (2) The less planning iterations needed, the better. This has led to increased computer technology, replicators, and a massive industrial base that astounds even people today, such that only three planning iterations are needed, and everyone basically gets what they want, on average. (3) The participatory planning process has allowed federation citizens to express their desire to allocate resources to explore strange new worlds and new civilizations. The technological discoveries of these other worlds have been mutually shared and appreciated. In an almost artistic way, the participatory planning process has allowed humanoid kind to express its love of exploration, knowledge and creativity on a massive scale to make a civilization that takes on great and interesting projects for the sake of themselves.
The development of interstellar starships is only one technology that participatory economics has brought to the Federation.
|Finally, since innovation is seen to be a public good, institutions such as the Daystrom institute have been given more than adequate resources for centuries.|
|Appeared originally in: Mandel, E., Revolutionary Marxism and social reality in the 20th century: collected essays, ed. and with an introd. by Steve Bloom, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1994, pp. 179-206|