Sunday, June 18, 2006
Parecon Reading #1
This weekend I got busy with my goal that I mentioned in my last post of learning more about Parecon. I ordered Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert and read my first non-Wiki article on the subject. This was an introductory paper by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel entitled Socialism As It Was Always Meant to Be. It's not too long, but it gives I think a good introduction to the basic concepts of participatory economics.
I'm not going to write a book report type of summary here, because that's incredibly inefficient when you could just read it yourself. Rather, in the spirit of learning together and discussing, I'll mention a few aspects of the article that I found interesting.
Firstly, the notion of rewarding people based on their effort, i.e. "to each according to his or her labor". This was a feature that I knew existed in Parecon before reading this article and I had some definite skepticism about this. Shouldn't those who are naturally gifted and intelligent benefit the same from less effort if they can produce more efficiently? I'm not criticizing Parecon in that there wouldn't be incentives for innovation, because I think they made a decent case in such a short paper that there would indeed be. However, this idea is relatively new to me. They argue that giving people more just because of their gifts that they are born with is no different than giving people more because they are born with more money and property. And I can see this point of view. However I don't think that analogy works completely because intellectual differences contribute to real differences in productivity, whereas property ownership simply means that you're benefiting from someone else's productivity. However, even this sort of compensation might result in an increase of living standards for educated people over what they get in the current capitalistic system. In the current economy, when you think of the big money, who do you think of? CEOs and property owners get the lion's share of the economic output, yet produce little to nothing of value. Jobs that take a lot of education, like science for example, get paid next to nothing in comparison.
I also thought the idea of Workers' and Consumers' Councils and the iterative planning process that they are involved in was interesting. They didn't discuss this too much in this paper, and I look forward to hearing more about the details of it in upcoming readings.
What were your thoughts? Does anyone else want to host the next reading or next topic? It doesn't have to necessarily contain a reading.