Participatory Planned Economy

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Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Red Aegis on Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:13 pm

How would such a thing work?

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:35 pm


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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Rev Scare on Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:18 pm

I suggest you visit the Z Communications website and read Parecon: Life After Capitalism.

In addition to watching the video provided by Celtiberian, I suggest you also watch the debate between Michael Albert and David Schweickart in order to ascertain Albert's rather compelling case against market socialism in favor of a participatory planned economy.


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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by RedSun on Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:24 am

I've watched both the lecture and the discussion, although I haven't yet read Parecon. I have a few questions:

Is there any evidence to suggest that a democratically planned economy has any better chance of success than the centrally planned economies of Soviet Russia, Maoist China, and the like, or that economic planning is morally or practically better than the market?

Michael Albert wisely pointed out that any kind of desire for self-management and balanced job complexes should be reflected in the structure of the revolutionary groups that try and bring a socialist nation about. How does the RSF plan to do this?

How would a company with balanced job complexes deal with specialist work like that of surgeons?

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by RedSun on Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:50 pm

After reading a ways into Parecon: Life After Capitalism, I have some issues with Albert's reasoning. In addition to the questions I'd still like answers to, Albert tends to rely excessively upon his own theorising. For example:

To see how this follows from dividing labor as indicated, imagine that overnight it is decided to hold formally democratic votes on various policies in a typical corporate workplace. The jobs in that workplace, however, are to remain as we currently know them. The managers, CEOs, engineers, custodians, shipping clerks, and assembly workers are all going to vote on large policies that provide the overarching norms for their daily activities—but in their daily activity they are going to do just as they have done before, with the same autonomy or lack of it, the same empowering work or lack of it, and so on. Despite the one-person-one-vote majority rules approach to the biggest decisions, we can predict that in the process of developing options to vote on and then arguing on their behalf, only the views of the employees with access to knowledge of the workplace and with relevant decision-making skills will come to the fore. They will set agendas. They will pontificate ponderously or compellingly, alone. Their desires will overwhelmingly dominate proposals, discussion, debate, and choice. The hierarchical distribution of empowering circumstances conferring to only a few actors informed opinions and decision-making information, skills, and confidence, will obstruct participation of all actors in voting. Corporate divisions of labor will ensure that a few would give orders and most obey, and these are not conditions conducive to all participating equally. With corporate organization, that is, formal democracy becomes not just a facade on top of unequal conception and debate, but an annoyance that wastes time and energy. If you are low in the hierarchy, why should you attend meetings and vote when your attendance and vote have little to no impact since real decisions are largely made before you ever arrive on the scene? Why should those who do impact outcomes put up with the participation of the uninformed and risk having to waste time trying to convince them which options to pursue? Hierarchical work organization empowers a few and gives those few every incentive to replace formally democratic rules with their own explicit domination of every facet of decision-making. Corporate divisions of labor do not advance and in fact overwhelmingly obstruct self-management.

This all sounds very reasonable, but can Albert actually substantiate this with evidence? Why doesn't he do research and actually demonstrate that this tends to occur via a study of existing worker-run businesses? I've heard of instances where workers actually demonstrate contempt for the decisions of management, which would counteract in that particular circumstance most of Albert's line of logic.

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Rev Scare on Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:45 pm

RedSun wrote:I've watched both the lecture and the discussion, although I haven't yet read Parecon. I have a few questions:

Is there any evidence to suggest that a democratically planned economy has any better chance of success than the centrally planned economies of Soviet Russia, Maoist China, and the like,

Participatory planning is comprehensive in its valuation, rational, and most of all, just. Central planning was by no means a failure, but it sorely lacked in areas such as self-management (due to coordinator rule) and proper allocation (due to the artificial constraint of information flow as a result of centralized authority), which are qualities we obviously believe to be vital to economic success. As for evidence in favor of participatory planning, I am not aware of any studies on the matter (it does not, yet, exist in practice), but parecon is theoretically consistent, and all that we do know of democratic workplace participation speaks in favor of extending this to the greater economy. In The Political Economy of Participatory Economics, found online, Albert and Robin Hahnel present a rigorous defense of participatory economics, devoting considerable space to participatory planning.

or that economic planning is morally or practically better than the market?
Markets are irrational, inequitable, and alienating. For some of our reasoning, consult this thread. Planning itself is often present in many facets of economic life even within capitalist systems, particularly in areas where markets regularly fail (e.g., education, medicine, military, infrastructure, public research and development, regulation, long-term investment, etc.). Private oligopolies, which dominate modern markets (as both a logical and historical consequence of capitalist development), are not truly subject to market forces and are themselves, in fact, privately planned operations. To quote Alfred DuPont Chandler on the subject:

"[When the modern business] enterprise came into being and continued to grow by setting up or purchasing business units that were theoretically able to operate as independent enterprises...The internalization of many units permitted the flow of goods from one unit to another to be administratively coordinated.

[As giant corporations came to dominate business,] the visible hand of management replaced the invisible hand of market mechanisms...Whereas the activities of single-unit traditional enterprises were monitored and coordinated by market mechanisms, the producing and distributing units within a modern business enterprise are monitored and coordinated by middle managers. Top managers, in addition to evaluating and coordinating the work of middle managers, took the place of the market in allocating resources for future production and distribution."

The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, pp. 6-7.

Michael Albert wisely pointed out that any kind of desire for self-management and balanced job complexes should be reflected in the structure of the revolutionary groups that try and bring a socialist nation about. How does the RSF plan to do this?
First, it is important to distinguish between economic and political democracy. Second, I am in no position to offer an official response on behalf of the RSF, but I do not view the concern to be so great with respect to our organizational form. We are organized in the form of democratic centralism, and a prospective political faction would presumably incorporate various democratic measures, such as the formation of general assemblies. A post-revolutionary government, according to what all of us within the RSF envision to whatever degree, would adopt an organizational composition very similar to that of the economy (viz., democratic council). In addition, as Admin has stated in another thread, it is likely impossible for absolute political democracy to exist so long as material conditions do not render the state obsolete.

Perhaps this particular point is better saved for an independent thread.

How would a company with balanced job complexes deal with specialist work like that of surgeons?
"Specialists," such as surgeons, would be required to work a balanced job complex in the same way as all other workers. Whether or not this is efficient is addressed both in the book Parecon and in the Parecon FAQ on ZNet:

Wouldn’t it be horribly inefficient for Doctors and other highly trained professionals to be required to do unskilled work like changing bedpans?

This isn’t true, depending, as always, what you mean by efficiency. For Mozart to do unskilled work instead of writing music costs humanity every time it occurs far more than for me to do unskilled work rather than, oh, whatever I may do that is skilled. This is true enough...

The question is what happens when we talk in terms of large numbers of people, on the one hand, and what is at stake beyond merely the material or service product of each person’s labors, on the other. Thus, for whatever losses society incurs for some people spending some time not utilizing their greatest and most revered talents, even in the case of geniuses – how much is gained by the release of new talents and genius from constituencies previously dumbed down to fit rote work slots? And how much is gained, in a social and other sense, from attaining equity of circumstances and empowerment? It is pointless to look at one side of a trade-off without attending to the other side.

In parecon, the point is that each actor occupies a balanced job complex of his or her or choosing, from among all those available that he or she is qualified for. To prepare for this, each actor’s education needs to leave them capable of informed and effective participation in decision-making. As well, the economy can only benefit from each actor using, as they choose, their educational experience to enlarge their potentials and capacities, and from the education system promoting this result for everyone. This is quite the opposite from now. In capitalism the economy needs workers suited to the available job offerings (this much is always true, in any economy) and capitalist offerings are highly skewed, requiring that most actors are accustomed to boredom, have no expectations of controlling their circumstances, have no related skills or knowledge, and so on. In other words, the economy needs the school system to dumb people down in order that they fit its limited role offerings – precisely the result that we see. In parecon precisely the opposite obtains.

So, even if we ignore the increases in justice and sociality, etc., from having balanced job complexes – the question over output becomes do we lose more by the fact that Mozart and some great surgeon have to spend time on tasks that are onerous or boring than we gain by the fact that (a) there are many more Mozart’s and people of great surgical talents discovered due to a school system and culture that promotes excellence in all and (b) across the board we are getting more capacity-enrichment and utilization from everyone previously dumbed-down and consigned to have their talents hidden and made dormant and dead?


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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Rev Scare on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:15 pm

RedSun wrote:This all sounds very reasonable, but can Albert actually substantiate this with evidence? Why doesn't he do research and actually demonstrate that this tends to occur via a study of existing worker-run businesses?
Coordinator rule is a historical fact, and it is no less prominent today. The nomenklatura emerged precisely because of the privileges enjoyed by a small minority of administrators. The same is no less true for contemporary economic enterprises, such as corporate (or any) bureaucracies, and the advantages stemming from information asymmetry and the exclusivity of empowering labor.

I recall a handful of studies on worker cooperatives that have indeed linked participation to empowerment, sense of commitment, and responsibility; I do not have these recorded, but I will do my best to procure them.

I've heard of instances where workers actually demonstrate contempt for the decisions of management, which would counteract in that particular circumstance most of Albert's line of logic.
Not at all. If anything, it would serve to support Albert's argument. However, the resulting alienation from coordinator class dominance is not at question. The real question is whether or not certain professions and productive roles, as a result of their monopolization of information and empowering tasks, if left in the hands of a minority, would propel that minority to the fore of social decision making and raise its interests above those of the stultified majority, thereby perpetuating class contradictions.


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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:42 pm

RedSun wrote:Is there any evidence to suggest that a democratically planned economy has any better chance of success than the centrally planned economies of Soviet Russia, Maoist China, and the like

There's no empirical evidence to suggest so, but that's simply because there's yet to be a nation which has practiced participatory planning. In theory, however, the information and incentive issues which hindered centralized economic planning are solved in participatory economics.

or that economic planning is morally or practically better than the market?

That's a matter of opinion. Personally, I consider the market's method of remuneration to be entirely unjust. I suggest reading the chapter on remuneration in Parecon: Life After Capitalism to see if you agree with the market abolitionist argument. (I've expressed my views on the subject here.)

This all sounds very reasonable, but can Albert actually substantiate this with evidence? Why doesn't he do research and actually demonstrate that this tends to occur via a study of existing worker-run businesses? I've heard of instances where workers actually demonstrate contempt for the decisions of management, which would counteract in that particular circumstance most of Albert's line of logic.

Michael Albert has spent a great deal of time visiting worker cooperatives around the world and observing their strengths and weaknesses. He even organized South End Press as a self-managed enterprise, and it practices many principles parecon advocates (e.g., balanced job complexes, effort-based remuneration, etc.).

Coordinator hegemony did characterize many Yugoslav cooperatives and can be observed in some of the Mondragón cooperatives as well, but I think Albert may be somewhat mistaken with respect to the causes of this phenomenon. In the case of Yugoslavia, Tito was transitioning the economy away from central planning and toward a self-managed market socialism, and, unfortunately, the government didn't allow firms to exercise as much autonomy as they could have. With respect to Mondragón and the reclaimed factories in Argentina, conversely, we have cooperatives attempting to exist in markets dominated by multinational capitalist corporations and possessing no tariffs to insulate the economy from goods produced cheaply via unethical practices (sweatshop labor, no regard for ecological degradation, etc.). In short, free trade, complications acquiring loans, and so forth, have all served to exacerbate the problem of coordinator domination in worker cooperatives. However, if a nation were to collectivize the means of production, nationalize finance, implement workers' self-management, and enact a system of fair trade, the dynamics of the market would change dramatically—and likely be far more conducive to significant participation in management. Unfortunately, remuneration would remain unfair, empowering work would continue to be monopolized by a relatively small percentage of the population, and participation in the management of firms wouldn't be as robust as it could be under a participatory planned economy, but it would at least be better than capitalism (and Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel would agree).


Last edited by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:19 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by RedSun on Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:43 pm

Rev Scare wrote:I recall a handful of studies on worker cooperatives that have indeed linked participation to empowerment, sense of commitment, and responsibility; I do not have these recorded, but I will do my best to procure them.

That would be excellent.

Celtiberian wrote:Michael Albert has spent a great deal of time visiting worker cooperatives around the world and observing their strengths and weaknesses. He even organized South End Press as a self-managed enterprise, and it practiced many principles parecon advocates (e.g., balanced job complexes, effort-based remuneration, etc.).

I'm sure he has, but it would still be much nicer for one trying to read his work and talk about it to other people if he could cite real-life examples of his points in his writing.

Thanks very much for your help, both of you. I am increasingly coming to accept the necessity of using market syndicalism as a transition stage to parecon. One last question: how long do you anticipate (although I'm sure that any guess will prove to be wrong) that the transitional stage will be necessary before a socialist nation begins to reclaim its economy from the market and plan it democratically? What are the conditions that would show that this transition is now necessary and practical?

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:11 pm

RedSun wrote:I'm sure he has, but it would still be much nicer for one trying to read his work and talk about it to other people if he could cite real-life examples of his points in his writing.

The purpose of Parecon: Life After Capitalism, and the various other books which Albert and Hahnel have published on the subject of participatory economics over the years, is to put forth the idea that there is a desirable and feasible alternative to capitalism. They spend a considerable amount of time describing the values that characterize parecon, so readers can determine if those values correspond with their own, and they exert a great deal of effort thoroughly explaining how participatory institutions would function. Of course it would be helpful if advocates of parecon could cite empirical case studies indicating precisely how well the system functions, but it's just not possible at this point in time. The best they can do is cite examples of previous models of socialism in practice (e.g., state socialism, anarcho-syndicalism in Spain, Yugoslavian market socialism, contemporary worker cooperatives, etc.), explain the various successes and shortcomings of those systems, and describe how parecon could possibly produce a better outcome. I happen to think that is sufficient enough for people to conceptualize how the world would function under such a system and whether or not they feel it's worth fighting for.

Thanks very much for your help, both of you.

No problem.

I am increasingly coming to accept the necessity of using market syndicalism as a transition stage to parecon. One last question: how long do you anticipate (although I'm sure that any guess will prove to be wrong) that the transitional stage will be necessary before a socialist nation begins to reclaim its economy from the market and plan it democratically? What are the conditions that would show that this transition is now necessary and practical?

There's no way to offer anything more than a vague guess, but I think it might take as long as a generation. As soon as a socialist state is established, I believe the government should start designing the institutions which will facilitate planning and take measures to begin experimenting with participatory planning. I think people will start demanding the transition toward participatory planning as soon as they become accustomed to workers' self-management, and grow tired of the vicissitudes and inequitable remuneration associated with the market.

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by RedSun on Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:30 pm

I said it was one last question. I lied: what is the difference between the consumers' councils proposed in the participatory allocation process and a democratic, decentralised socialist state? Is there one?

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Celtiberian on Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:31 pm

RedSun wrote:I said it was one last question. I lied: what is the difference between the consumers' councils proposed in the participatory allocation process and a democratic, decentralised socialist state? Is there one?

There's no difference. Consumer councils are simply institutions which assist in the democratic socialist planning process (along with workers' councils and Iteration Facilitation Boards).

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by RedSun on Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:52 pm

Dragging this topic back to the top again...
David Schweickart makes an interesting point about parecon in Capitalism or Worker Control?, to wit: in a society where a whole host of consumer goods are available, how is one supposed to submit an individual consumption proposal for all of them? To do so would require the consumer to know exactly what he'll need for a certain period of time, and in what quantities and priority.
As Schweickart puts it, "How many rolls of cellophane tape will you need, and of what width, and how important are they compared to the number of vacuum cleaner bags?"
I'd add to this the difficulty of planning for types of consumption which are often by their very nature on impulse; for example, I don't plan at the beginning of the financial quarter how often I'm going to order, and which places I'll order it from, and what I'll order each time.

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Rev Scare on Wed Feb 01, 2012 6:33 pm

In regard to the studies that you have requested, I could not find the time to sift through all of my books for distinct research, but I was fortunately able to recall a meta-analysis of worker productivity in relation to various levels of participation in the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review published by Cornell University—a far more valuable find, in my view. I present the abstract here:

Using meta-analytic techniques, the author synthesizes the results of 43 published studies to investigate the effects on productivity of various forms of worker participation: worker participation in decision making; mandated codetermination; profit sharing; worker ownership (employee stock ownership or individual worker ownership of the firm's assets); and collective ownership of assets (workers' collective ownership of reserves over which they have no individual claim). He finds that codetermination laws are negatively associated with productivity, but profit sharing, worker ownership, and worker participation in decision making are all positively associated with productivity. All the observed correlations are stronger among labor-managed firms (firms owned and controlled by workers) than among participatory capitalist firms (firms adopting one or more participation schemes involving employees, such as ESOPs or quality circles).
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 49, No. 1 (October 1995). (c) by Cornell University. http://www.jstor.org/pss/2524912

In addition, I managed to procure the following excellent survey study conducted to identify the relationship between employee involvement, empowerment, and satisfaction with various job types.

Abstract:

An employee survey conducted by a Fortune 100 company in 2003 was the basis of the study. A mixed methodology analysis was performed to determine the relationships between involvement, empowerment, and satisfaction with respect to four job-types. Employee involvement was found to be significantly related to employee empowerment and employee empowerment was found to be significantly related to employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction was determined to be positively related to the intent to remain with the company.

Further, the four job-types of (a)?hourly, (b)?salary nonmanagement, (c)?engineers, and (d)?managers were compared to each other to understand the difference in their levels of satisfaction. A significant difference was found in their attitudes concerning employee empowerment and employee satisfaction; however, the results were inconclusive regarding employee involvement. Nonetheless, managers were found to be the most satisfied in all three categories with hourly employees and engineers being the least satisfied.

The four processes of involvement were analyzed to understand their relationship to employee involvement. All processes correlated to involvement, and employees commented in particular about information and rewards. Only three of the four cognitions of empowerment were tested in this study, but all were found to have a significant relationship to employee empowerment. Technical workers were especially concerned about the competence cognition. Hierarchical organizational structure was also viewed to have a negative effect on empowerment.
Light, Joel N., Ph.D., Capella University, 2004, 255 pages; 3138946. http://www.drjohnlatham.com/Dissertations_files/Light_Joel_Dissertation.pdf (If you are interested in a lengthy read.)

RedSun wrote:Dragging this topic back to the top again...
David Schweickart makes an interesting point about parecon in Capitalism or Worker Control?, to wit: in a society where a whole host of consumer goods are available, how is one supposed to submit an individual consumption proposal for all of them? To do so would require the consumer to know exactly what he'll need for a certain period of time, and in what quantities and priority.
As Schweickart puts it, "How many rolls of cellophane tape will you need, and of what width, and how important are they compared to the number of vacuum cleaner bags?"
I'd add to this the difficulty of planning for types of consumption which are often by their very nature on impulse; for example, I don't plan at the beginning of the financial quarter how often I'm going to order, and which places I'll order it from, and what I'll order each time.

To begin, Albert and Schweickart have exchanged rather extensive arguments over the latter's initial critique of the former's book. You can scrutinize their debate by following the links here. Albert's rejoinders are certainly more exhaustive than anything I can offer you.

Nonetheless, Schweickart is correct when he states that it would be necessary to devote one's time every planning period to constructing a consumption proposal (as we must set aside time to file our taxes every year), but he is in error when he asserts that this is logistically insuperable. It is possible to design an individual plan on the basis of varying levels of categorical abstraction (e.g., listing meat instead of poultry, poultry instead of chicken or duck, etc.). It is also probable that plans would be adjustable in between official planning cycles (by allowing for a reasonable amount of macroeconomic flexibility, guided by prior and projected empirical data). The planning transactions would become progressively easier as past consumption and production proposals are incorporated into the calculus, thereby eliminating redundancies and streamlining the process. Finally, all of this would be greatly facilitated by utilizing computer systems to store data, process and integrate new information, project future trends on the basis of various inputs, and compile optimum plan configurations at the end of each proposal iteration.

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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Red Aegis on Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:53 pm

I found another debate and thought I'd share it.


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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

Post by Celtiberian on Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:02 am

Red Aegis wrote:I found another debate and thought I'd share it.


I had actually posted this debate in the Educational Videos thread a few months ago. I highly recommend it to all.

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Celtiberian
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Re: Participatory Planned Economy

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