Socialists and others, what is the bottom line implication of the model called parecon – still confined to concepts, words on paper, after all, an some small experiments?
The issue at hand is in our view quite simple: a participatory economy is built on workers and consumers councils, balanced job complexes, remuneration for effort and sacrifice, participatory planning, and self-managed decision-making. It therefore rejects private ownership of the means of production, corporate workplace organization and markets and/or central planning. In place of rule over workers by capitalists or by coordinators, parecon is an economy in which workers and consumers together cooperatively determine their economic options and benefit from them in ways fostering equity, solidarity, diversity, and self-management. Parecon is classless.
The choice that parecon poses can be summarized as follows:
1 Do we want to try and measure the value of each person’s contribution to social production and allow individuals to benefit from social production in tune with that, or even with their bargaining power or property, or do we want to base any differences in consumption rights only on differences in personal sacrifices made in producing goods and services? In other words, do we want an economy that implements the norm “to each according to the value of his or her personal contribution, property, or power” or an economy that obeys the norm “to each according to his or her effort?”
2 Do we want few people to conceive and coordinate the work of many? Or do we want everyone to have the opportunity to participate in economic decisions to the degree they are affected by the outcomes of those decisions? In other words, do we want to continue to organize work according to corporate hierarchies, or do we want council democracy plus job complexes that are balanced for empowerment?
3 Do we want a structure for expressing consumer preferences that is biased in favor of individual consumption over social consumption? Or do we want it to be as easy to register preferences for social as for individual consumption? In other words, do we want consumers to compete with each other as atomized buyers, or to cooperate in nested federations of consumer councils?
4 Do we want economic decisions to be determined by competition between groups pitted against one another for their well-being and survival? Or do we want to plan our joint endeavors democratically, equitably, and efficiently? In other words, do we want to abdicate economic decision-making to the market or do we want to embrace participatory planning?
Parecon explains why markets are incompatible with equity and systematically destructive of solidarity. It explains why market economies will continue to destroy the environment, and why a radical view of social life implies that external effects are the rule rather than the exception, which means that markets routinely misjudge social costs and benefits and misallocate scarce productive resources. And it explains that while markets may fulfill the liberal vision of individual economic freedom to dispose of one’s personal capabilities and property however one chooses, they are inconsistent with the radical goal of self-management for everyone.
In conclusion, therfore, parecon – even now, before a full implementation indicates that those who reconcile themselves to market “socialist” or other coordinatorist models do so illogically and unnecessarily. The choice is illogical because the negative experience of authoritarian planning in no way rebuts the potential of participatory planning. The choice is unnecessary because the vision of an equitable, democratic economy that promotes solidarity among its participants is as attractive and appealing as ever, and now has substance.
What is realistic, in this new context, is not accepting some flawed future as if we have no choice in the matter, but working hard to bring about a classless future, a solidarity future, a self managing future. It will be hard, yes, of course – but surely that is no reason to except abysmal relations instead.