ParEcon Questions & Answers

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Efficiency in Parecon?

vIn parecon’s values, what about efficiency. Should parecon try to be efficient? Is that even a good thing?

Everybody is for efficiency, sort of. The word is double edged in practice, however. As used in contemporary societies, that is, it involves a slight of hand.

Efficient means accomplishing what you seek without wasting what you value. Falling short of your goal is inefficient. So too is attaining your goal, but using more time, energy, resources, labor, etc., then you might have, had you gone about it more wisely.

By this definition, to be against efficiency is to advocate failing to attain desired ends, or to advocate wasting valuable assets needlessly while doing so. Therefore, only a fool would oppose efficiency.

Now enter the sleight of hand. Who decides what is sought? Who decides what is a valuable asset?

In capitalism, in a capitalist firm and capitalist exchanges, owners decide. It is owners’ will, in turn molded by the pressures of competition, which establishes aims and which asserts worth. As a result, what is efficient, in capitalism, by the standards of those in charge and by the logic of the system, is making profit and preserving the conditions of profit-making. And what is valued is only that which goes toward or preserves profit making. Thus, to expand profit while diminishing quality of life for most people, polluting air and water, crippling replaceable workers, forging authoritarian habits, imposing indignities of all kinds, and sundering souls, is efficient whenever each of these aspects add to profits

So what does it mean, in contrast, for a parecon advocate to favor efficiency?

It means he or she is for people and institutions in a parecon attaining their aims without wasting what is valued. But in parecon the aims are not profit and the conditions of profit making but instead meeting and developing people’s needs and potentials while furthering parecon’s core values without wasting anything valued plus preserving the conditions of all that – which of course includes aspects of environment, people, social relations, etc.

Advocates of parecon favor as a core value pareconist efficiency not capitalist or for that matter coordinatorist efficiency.

Next Entry: Values = Vision?


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