International Relations Involving a Participatory Society
This essay seeks to explore the issues that would face a participatory democratic society when relating to other countries. It is assumed that some of the other countries the participatory society deals with are not participatory societies. It is assumed that there could exist a country whose economy was governed by participatory democratic structures as envisioned by Hahnel and Albert in their vision of "Participatory Economics" (parecon). Also, it is assumed that this country has a "Participatory Polity" (parpolity) as envisioned by Stephen Shalom. There would be other important characteristics of this society, dealing with such issues as kinship, culture, and religion, but they will not be specified here.
The purpose of this essay is not to provide vision about how a participatory society should manage its international affairs. Rather, I am seeking to address the likely scenarios a participatory nation will face, and how it will likely deal with them, given my understanding of participatory structures and institutions. Some questions along this line are: With what structures would a participatory society manage its relations with other countries? How would the institutions of a participatory society motivate it to help (or hinder) the development of other countries? Would it have an army? Would it have conscription? Would it be motivated to commit an aggressive war to conquer other nations? Would be motivated to never go to war? How would it negotiate economic deals with capitalist countries? Would it deal with capitalist countries? Would it try to "export revolution" (encourage - or force - other countries to adopt its institutions and systems)? How would foreign policy be decided? Would it have ambassadors? How would immigration be handled? How would its unique monetary system coexist with international currencies?
There are many questions to answer, and I honestly do not know how to answer them all. By interpreting the writings of parpolity and parecon, I will attempt to address some major issues.
As a bit of a preamble, I would first like to establish a basic principle of a participatory society, namely that the policy of the participatory nation, based on the wishes of the majority of its citizens, is most often fair and reasonable. I will use this idea throughout the essay. Since we are dealing with an imagined participatory society, where the opinions and beliefs of the majority of the population should reflect (for the most part) the foreign policy of the nation, it seems reasonable to think that the foreign policy will be fair minded. Evidence for this is given in polls of ordinary citizens conducted in the modern age. Polls show that most Americans think resorting to military force to promote democracy is wrong, that the
However, it is possible for the majority to be irrational and nasty, for example, consider witch burning and slavery. It is probable that instances of the "tyranny of the majority" may crop up in a participatory society. Fortunately there are proposed methods for dealing with this, discussed below. Hopefully such instances where the majority of citizens want unethical things to happen to a subgroup or foreign group of people would be rare. It is of course, impossible to predict, but since there would be much debate in this society, free and non corporate media, and people would often be considering the opinions of others, one would hope and expect that the majority of people in a participatory society would be convinced by the voices of others to support ideas that are fair minded and reasonable.
I will now briefly summarize the economic system of parecon and the political system of parpolity. For more background, please see the writings of Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert on participatory economics, also see Stephen Shalom on "parpolity." People already familiar with these proposed systems are invited to skip the next bit.
Participatory Economics seeks to set up an entirely different economic system by fundamentally changing work life, and how goods and services are allocated (no markets and no central planning). By law, productive property would be owned by all citizens, no private ownership of factories of farms etc. would be allowed. Work life would be democratic, each worker would be able to vote on issues in the workplace in proportion to how much the issue effects them. Further, each worker would have a "balanced job complex." This means that each worker has a mix of tasks, some empowering, and some rote and perhaps unpleasant. Through sharing both the empowering and unempowering work, one class is established, and the economy is more fair. For instance someone might be an airplane pilot (empowering) some of the time, and a baggage handler at the airport for the rest of their work week. Surgeons would spend some of their time sweeping floors or sorting mail. Also, if it is necessary for someone to be in charge in the workplace, then this job is rotated. For instance, if you are in charge of baggage handling at the airport, then on some other day, you are one of the baggage handlers. Finally, in a parecon one gets paid according to how much effort and sacrifice one does at work. If you work longer hours, or at a hard job, you get paid more. Balanced job complexes should have roughly the same effort and sacrifice.
Money in a participatory society is also different. A worker in a parecon gets "credits", a sort of record of how much they work. They can then use these credits to buy goods and services, but when they buy things, some of their credits disappear. They do not go into a till or a bank, they are gone. To get more, one must work more. Credits are not transferable to other people. I could not give you any of my credits no matter what you might give me. There are no banks, no stock market, and no interest rates. Investment still happens, but differently. If the parecon nation wants to invest in infrastructure, everything else gets more expensive, but no loans are given.
Allocation in a participatory society would also be very different from today. Each year, all citizens would engage in a participatory planning procedure, the goal of which would be to set prices for all goods and services for one year. At the beginning of the procedure, consumers would enter proposals on what they plan to consume for the coming year on an individual, neighborhood, city wide, provincial, and country wide basis. For instance, an individual might order a new bicycle and stereo for the new year, and a city might order a sewer system upgrade. Proposals involving more than one person would be accomplished by any citizen submitting a proposal to a facilitation board, which would be a service to help develop the proposal for approval by the rest of the population. The sum of proposals would then be approved by interested people in that region, then submitted during the participatory planning procedure. In a similar way each worker (who would also be a consumer) would propose how much they want to work in the coming year, and at what they want to work. Workplaces would also propose changes to their workplaces, such as upgrades. This proposed supply and demand will be summed up, and factors such as environmental damage involved in producing goods and the toll on workers will be added to the price of a good, making it more or less expensive. This generates prices to be reviewed for all goods and services. Since the prices incorporate information about the impact of the goods on society, it is said that the prices reflect the "social opportunity cost". After reviewing the prices, people then resubmit proposals, as prices might not be what they expected. This process is repeated several times, and less deviation is allowed each time, whittling down the proposals into something beneficial to all. After this, prices are set for a year. Note that though this might seem like a demanding process for the population, there are mechanisms to make it easy on consumers, such as getting time off work to do it.
Parecon describes how economic life would work, but this leaves out the creation and enforcement of laws. This is a job for a parpolity. To make laws, Shalom proposes that a nested council structure be created. Each person would belong to a council of 25 to 50 other citizens. Each council would elect a representative to go to the next level council, which would then represent 625 to 2500 people, and each of these would send representatives to the next level, and so on. At five or six levels, you can represent billions of people. Each council would be deliberative, that is, capable of making independent decisions for the sum total of its constituents. Laws passed could involve new work safety standards, outlawing practices that are very harmful to the environment, etc. However, the decisions of each higher level council would be easily challengeable by a referendum. Also, the lower level councils would be asked to give general preferences for issues that come up, leaving the details to be worked out by the appropriate council. For instance people could vote that they are generally in favor of allowing stem cell research, with provisions like no babies are to be brought to maturity just to get their stem cells, but leave the exact details to a higher level council. People interested in the details could follow the deliberations of the higher level councils and comment on them as well, and perhaps petition for a general vote if many observers are unsatisfied.
Courts in parpolity would not be changed a great deal, however, there might be more juries. Presumably police would still be needed, as this is a skilled profession, and police would work in a balanced job complex. Prisons might be needed as well for seriously violent people. Hopefully the need for police and prisons would be much diminished, and prisons would focus on reform and creative ways to help people who have trouble living in a society. Courts would also be used to check tyranny of the majority. If one group tries to oppress a smaller group through voting some legislation, courts would be used to block these violations of the constitution. Courts can also assist on ruling which group of people gets to vote on what issue. It is assumed here that there would be a constitution, though Shalom has not made this explicit, since it seems to be the only way to aid court rulings. Countries like the
Now that each system is summarized, let us move on to international relations.
1.0 Economic Relations Between Countries
Fortunately, Robin Hahnel has recently clarified how economic relations would work both between parecon countries and also parecon and non-parecon countries in his recent book "Economic Justice and Democracy". Previous to this, how this might work was something of a mystery.
1.1 Economic Relations Between Participatory Societies:
For relations between two parecon countries, it is first important to understand a few points about parecon. In a parecon, every able worker has a balanced job complex.
In implementing the balanced job complex, though, it is proposed that not every worker work at the same place for their entire job complex. Some workers could perhaps perform their tasks all under one roof, but others will have to spend some part of their work in one place (say a coal mine) and another part somewhere else (such as a research institution). In this way, jobs are balanced amongst workplaces.
Another point to understand is that there is freedom of movement anywhere in a parecon. If you want to live somewhere within the parecon, you may live there (as long the work you can do is needed, and you can get to your workplace). If some parts of a country are much more desirable to live in, then many people will want to live there. If too many people want to live there then the resources of that region are strained, and the environment is strained.
What can be done to mitigate the undesirable (and unstoppable) effects of too much migration to more desirable parts of the country? The solution is to not develop one part of the county beyond other parts, so that each part is as desirable to live in as possible. To put it another way, if two countries go parecon at the same time, and one is less technologically advanced than another, the first priority of the more advanced former nation (now a part of a larger nation) is to help develop the less advanced region. Otherwise, too many people will move to the more advanced region and overwhelm it. Also, because jobs would be balanced across workplaces, then people from the more advanced areas of the country would be motivated to improve the less advanced regions, else they will have to work in worse conditions. The interesting (and laudable) thing is that the parecon nation is seriously motivated to aid underdeveloped regions, otherwise its own progress is hindered.
Two parecon countries geographically adjacent to each other would most likely become one country economically. The more developed country would be obligated to help the less developed country until they are on equal terms, as above. Councils would order projects that would affect both countries, effectively becoming a single entity, as there should be unrestricted trade between each. However, the farther apart each country is, the higher the price of goods would be if the good would have to be shipped all the way from one end of the country to another. Two parecon countries separated by water would presumably be able to order goods freely from each other with no restrictions, but transportation costs would factor in by raising the social opportunity cost of each item.
It is of course possible that many regions in a parecon country could be culturally and politically distinct, and might be named differently and so on. However, if both are parecon, there is no reason to assume that these differences would impede the free flow of goods between each other, and that there would be any trade restrictions. In fact any restrictions would be detrimental to the economy of each, as it would seem to hurt efficiency, and decrease the diversity of goods, and would make workers in each country work harder and longer hours. If consumer councils cannot order goods and services from other regions just because of cultural differences, then there is an unfortunate dispute between the two regions, something for the polity to resolve. In any case, restricting trade between two parecon countries would be in the economic interest of neither.
1.2 Economic Relations between Participatory Societies and non-Participatory societies (capitalist or communist):
Leaving aside for the moment that a participatory society would likely face hostility from non-participatory societies, there is a possibility that a "capitalist" or "communist" countries might wish to have economic relations with a participatory country. Robin Hahnel has also recently proposed how this might work as well.
Hahnel states that if a parecon country can deal with a more advanced economy (technologically speaking presumably) then it is fine to get the best deal it can get. The parecon country should sue for the most "efficiency gains" it can get, since nobody will be worse off in either country.
In physics, more efficiency means that the work or energy you get out of a device is greatest compared to how much energy or work was put into a device. A car is not very efficient if much of the energy produced by the engine goes into making heat, (typically only 10% goes into moving the car). In an economy, transposing this concept would define an efficiency gain as putting the least amount of labor and resources into producing a good for the greatest amount of the good produced and the greatest social benefits as well (including worker satisfaction, not impacting the environment etc.). If you can produce enough toothbrushes for all with 10 people in a small factory, then you shouldn't use 100 people and vast resources to do it. Also, if infrastructure is already existing to produce toothbrushes, then it is inefficient to make more infrastructure unless it will reduce use of resources and labor in the future, and maybe have social benefits.
Therefore if a parecon country can get goods with less investment of labor and resources from the more developed country, then it should do so. Nobody gets hurt in either country. Also, if the parecon country can get resources to build a more efficient factory or get better job training from the advanced country, it should do so. And so on.
If however, a parecon is dealing with a less advanced country, the parecon country is obliged to get less than 50% of the efficiency gains of the trade deal. In this way the less advanced economy gets most of the benefits, but not all. The parecon country gets some efficiency gains as well, but it is morally obliged to try to benefit the less advanced economy more than itself. The parecon country does not lose anything, but it does not gain as much as it could.
Why be so nice? Hahnel proposes that to do otherwise would violate the principles of a parecon (, p. 212-213) It seems true that violating one's ethical principles would matter to a participatory democratic society, where the fair mindedness of the population would presumably rule, as I have already discussed above.
Further, this issue relates to immigration. A principle in parecon appears to be that too much immigration is held to be "bad" for a region. Since immigration rights are an important activist topic today, it is important to clarify that advocates for a participatory society are not anti-immigration. Rather just the opposite, "freedom of association" is a fundamental right in a parecon or parpolity, and such a society could not work without it. It seems hard to have a participatory democracy without people being free to live where they want and associate with whom they want within the country.
If the principle of "freedom of association" is extended, it would imply that the international border of a participatory society would be open both ways, anyone must be free to enter, and anyone must be free to leave. Having an open border might of course lead to the problem of too many people coming into the country.
Might this motivate the parecon country to restrict immigration? If there is no internal pressure for a participatory society not to put restrictions on immigration, and the external pressures can presumably be ignored, then restrictions might very well happen. At this point, I invoke the principle (above) that the majority of citizens in a participatory society are fair minded. What would a fair minded person do? One would think that having open borders (as much as possible) is the fair thing to do. You must allow refugees into the country, it is simply the fair thing to do. It is beneficial to allow skilled workers to immigrate as is done in many "first world" countries. What about people wanting to enter the country who might not have special skills? The fair thing seems to be to let them in as well. Presumably a constitution for a participatory society would have freedom of association written into it. Thus the court system of the participatory society would uphold the constitution and keep the border open, unless the situation is very dire. Further, the parecon nation can deal with immigration issues by improving the lot of other nations it trades with. If you make life better for people in other countries, then they have less reason to immigrate to your country.
Getting back to the reason why a parecon nation would be generous (allowing them more efficiency gains) to less developed countries, the parecon nation is also motivated to be fair in economic dealings due to the above principle of freedom of association. Since the border would be presumably open, the parecon country would want to raise the standard of living in other countries, otherwise be faced with overpopulation. As well, there is motivation to be friendly to other nations and form alliances, or else be attacked or sanctioned. These reasons seem enough to motivate the participatory society to trade in a way that gives the majority of efficiency gains to another country.
It might also be possible to send workers from the parecon country to less developed, non-parecon nations, and bring workers from non-parecon countries to the parecon country, as a sort of cultural exchange (if other countries are willing). This would also be beneficial in promoting goodwill amongst nations, and beneficial to the participatory society to understand other cultures and engender goodwill from them. This raises an issue that might need discussion, "What right does a participatory society have to force workers to move?" Of course, if there is no work for their particular skill set for someone in a particular region, then it seems like they should either get retraining or move. It seems very unfair to force someone to work somewhere, though. Therefore if this cultural exchange work program is done, it might have to be voluntary.
Another point is that it may be difficult for a parecon to incorporate a trade deal with another country into its participatory planning procedure. The deal would have to be negotiated prior to the participatory planning procedure, with conditions in the deal stipulating that the parecon nation does not know exactly how much of a particular good it will want, or how much it can export until after the planning procedure is done. Other countries will have to wait for exact figures, with just estimates in the meantime. There might be other ways to do this as well.
There would also be difficulty in estimating the social opportunity cost of goods from other nations. Much less data will be available to determine the social opportunity cost. Also, workers in the other country would not be working in a balanced job complex, and would not be remunerated for effort and sacrifice. Rough estimates of the social opportunity cost would have to be made. Further, a parecon country would likely try to price products like organic food grown in a cooperative at low cost (and therefore order more of that good) and price automobiles produced in factory conditions very high (and order little or none of these things from the other country). This would be an encouragement to the other nation to develop in more equitable ways, and might be considered "exporting revolution," to be discussed below.
1.3 Currency Exchange
Other points to consider are that a parecon would not use money in the traditional sense, it would have no traditional capital to give another country for its goods. Credits in a parecon are for bookkeeping the effort and sacrifice of its workers. There are no banks.
There appear to be some options available to the participatory society, though. Presumably, the parecon nation could export goods to other countries and get foreign currency for them. It could then use its stores of currency to pay for things it wants to import.
However, this might not allow the Participatory Society to get the cash it needs. It might want to buy many goods from other countries (food, wood, metals, etc.), and if you can't pay for them, you can't get them. Presumably there are limits on any country in this day and age, you cannot produce everything internally, nor do you want to. Thus you need a loan. To pay back a loan, you need money that other nations would accept.
Another country might not accept parecon "credits." Credits, under the parecon philosophy, are a record of the effort and sacrifice a capitalist country or corporation gave to a parecon country, to be redeemed by that entity only for goods the parecon nation produces. Presumably a capitalist entity would want currency that can be exchanged on an international market so they can acquire other currency to buy things the parecon nation does not offer. Remember, parecon currency is not transferrable to someone else. Thus parecon credits might not be acceptable to other entities, and trading with a capitalist entity might be impossible.
A solution might be to have two currencies. This solution was suggested to me by Robin Hahnel in a personal communication. One currency is internal, credits to give workers that disappear, the other is a regular currency used for international trade. Other countries and corporations and people could then redeem the other currency to get things from the parecon nation. Somehow, this would have to be incorporated into the yearly planning procedure, even if some entity wants to redeem its credits right away. Would a parecon nation issue bonds to encourage foreign investment? Would it give out loans and charge interest? I'm not an economist and don't know how this might work in detail. In my opinion it deserves a detailed answer. It is probably doable, however.
One might worry about the effects of having an external trading currency and an external bank system etc. Might it undermine the principles of parecon? One can imagine a hostile entity trying to devalue the currency. Might the IMF or World Bank try to force a parecon nation to get loans and pay them back? Could trading itself (where you negotiate the best price and enter into a sort of hostile arrangement) be contrary to parecon principles and undermine the country? Presumably this danger exists and, again, I believe this issue needs serious thought. I have not seen it dealt with in any parecon literature. On the flip side, a participatory nation will presumably face military and ideological challenges from foreign powers as well. Economic hostility is just more hostility, and a participatory society must do what it can to protect itself, perhaps trying to keep trading to a minimum, and relying on its internal resources as much as possible. In the end, just because you have an external currency that mimics normal capitalist currency should not introduce mechanical difficulties so extreme as make to a participatory society impossible.
2.0 Defense of a Participatory Society
2.1 Existence of an army
One may question whether a participatory society would have an army, whether it would make weapons, etc. There does not seem to be any reason to have an army beyond some sort of police force if all nations are parecons and have a parpolity. However, if the example of
It must be noted that there are other things it can do to defend itself besides arming itself. It can form alliances with more socialist type countries (if possible). However, it would not seem fair to the allied country to expect it to do all the fighting if the alliance is attacked. The participatory country can also trade with countries by applying the above 50% rule, and will engender goodwill by doing so. Further, giving aid and support during crises will also help, particularly if aid and support is given to the population of nations who are likely to attack the participatory nation. The participatory society would also have motivation to strengthen and be an active and obedient member of an organization like the UN.
The very existence of an army might be a troubling institution for a participatory society to deal with. Soldiers must be trained to kill, other countries see a force that is trained to kill them. The socializing effects of an army seem negative. For instance, today some soldiers see being a warrior as part of being a true "man." It is this very thing that a participatory society is designed to get away from. We want to make a peaceful society. Perhaps soldiers in a participatory society will see themselves as reluctant defenders. Hopefully, the army would have a primary role as an emergency response team or a manual labor team, and a secondary role as a killing force.
Assuming that the participatory society will arm itself for defense, who will do the fighting? An interesting answer comes from Noam Chomsky:
"One preliminary question is whether it is a democratically determined community decision that an army is necessary. Sometimes the answer is pretty clearly Yes: in World War II, for example. There were some people who refused conscription, dedicated pacifists mostly: courageous and honorable, but doesn't bear on the issue. Suppose that assumption holds. Then conscription is not a violation of basic human rights any more than parceling out other unpleasant work equitably is. Say garbage collection. In a decent society it shouldn't be "volunteer" in the sense that it's undertaken only by people who are driven to it by need. Rather, it should be equitably distributed -- which one can call "conscription" if one likes. These are basic issues discussed in all thinking about decent participatory societies, within the PARECON discussions, for example."
Here Chomsky is replying to a query on the Znet sustainers forum regarding conscription. He makes a good case for the idea that military service in a participatory society should be mandatory on the grounds that it is hard and very dangerous work, and thus it should be shared, like rote work is shared in a parecon. I think his point is well made, and leads us to conclude that in the event of a war, a participatory society might have to use a draft to defend itself, or perhaps make military service mandatory for all citizens when they are young, as is done in some countries. I find this a surprising conclusion, but cannot see any way around it.
2.3 Would a participatory society invade another country?
Why do countries invade one another? Traditionally, elites in one country see a chance to expand their power, or become richer by invading another country. Also there could be strong racism between the two countries, or one country might wish to terrorize another country to keep it from asserting its rights, etc. What motivation might a participatory society have to invade another country, if the participatory society does not have an elite?
The only scenario I can think of where a participatory society would have motivation to invade another country for its own benefit is if a large majority of the society voted to subjugate the other country to make the participatory society better off as a whole. Since this would need a large majority, it seems unlikely that a large percentage of any population might vote to be that cruel, again invoking the principle that the majority of the population is fair minded. However, one should that remember that early societies regularly practiced slavery on a large scale, so it is definitely not impossible. It seems particularly unlikely without a media and propaganda system to egg them on (assuming a functioning "unbiased" media). Given how the majority of people today react to the thought of war and oppression, even as their own governments carry out this oppression, it also seems unlikely. However the possibility remains. A measure against this would also be in the court system of the participatory society, where the high court would have the ability to review and block any vote to do this, just as it would block a majority decision to oppress a minority within its own borders.
It is of course possible to concoct a scenario where it would be ethical to send troops to another country. The example of the genocide in
It might also be wise to stipulate that any high level council that directs the defense of the participatory society when it is invaded would have to resign once the war is over. War causes negative effects like establishing permanent hierarchies. It might even be necessary to allow a high level council to stay on longer than normal if elections are impossible. Again, measures would have to be taken to get anyone out of power once a war is over.
2.4 Hierarchy in the Military
Presumably it is possible to have a balanced job complex in an army or navy. Generals and captains can clean toilets with the best of them. However, it may be very difficult to deal with military hierarchy and have a proper democracy. Military leaders need to be few for reasons of secrecy and expertise, and people must follow orders because there may be little time to explain them. It is of course possible to rotate the captaincy of a ship between four or five people, and it is possible to explain strategy to all people in the army and vote on it. One can even rotate for expertise, when the ship is in combat, only two out of three captains (for example) might be qualified to give orders, otherwise other people can captain the ship when the ship is not in combat.
The Spanish revolution provides examples where officers partied with the troops and troops voted on whether they would take a hill. According to people who fought this way, it worked. One can go beyond this and rotate the position of officer amongst those qualified. Those not fit for command can do other empowering tasks such as planning strategy or programming war games, or even have an empowering job outside the military.
Even with all this to try, when it comes to fighting you want the best (nastiest?) people to be in charge and you need to follow orders. Otherwise people die and you lose. There is no getting around this. One can only hope that invasions into a participatory society can be beaten off quickly, so that the predictable negative effects of permanent hierarchy and loss of self management can be fixed.
3.0 Deciding Foreign Policy in a Participatory Society
3.1 High level councils
As described above, laws would be made by various level councils in a participatory society. It seems natural that the highest level council could represent the population in international events and decide on foreign policy. There could also be a separate high level council chosen in some manner from lower level councils for this purpose as well (if there is too much of a work load). In any case, this council would take general guidance from the population on foreign policy issues and deliberate the details of foreign policy. For instance if the lower councils send a message that it is time for increased trade with willing countries, then this council would hammer out the details (which countries, what things to trade, consult with facilitation boards for estimates on indicative pricing on non-parecon countries, etc.). The council would then inform its ambassadors with instructions on what to negotiate for and what parameters to negotiate under (bottom line for deals and so forth).
There does not seem to be any reason why a participatory society would not have an ambassador(s) in other countries and an embassy. Since the job must be balanced, it would seem necessary to have a team of ambassadors and negotiators, whose other jobs would be cleaning the embassy, sorting mail and maybe taking dictation. If there is not enough rote work for the team to do at the embassy, they would go back home to do it for a few months of the year. Ambassadors would be mandated to only make statements and negotiate settlements as guided by the high level council they are answerable to.
4.0 Exporting Revolution
How wise is it to interfere in the lives of people in other countries? Should a participatory society do what it can to export revolution, and try to convince other countries to follow its lead?
Suppose some country becomes a participatory society successfully, then a little while later, a resistance group from another country contacts the participatory society asking for military aid to overthrow their own government. What to do? Would a participatory society want to support and get involved in a bloody revolution in some other country? What if it fails and the participatory society gets attacked? What if it is successful, but only at great cost of life, and the results of the revolution turn out to be not successful?
This also bears on the issue of encouraging certain forms of work life in other countries. A parecon country would naturally encourage cooperatives that do not pollute the environment in another country and self managed workplaces, and try to buy from them. Is it right to interfere in this way? I would say yes in this case.
In any case, there are certainly no easy answers, and the right thing to do would depend on each unique case. This presumes that the majority of the population wants to do the right thing, which should hold up, as reiterated above. A general "hands off" policy (in military matters) might be wisest, simply due to the unpredictable nature of such an endeavor, even with the best of intentions.
What if people from another country wanted to take a vacation in a participatory society? Of course, there is no reason to deny this, however they will have to exchange their foreign currency for parecon credits. This foreign currency can be put towards buying goods from other countries and giving it to parecon citizens that wish to travel abroad.
Why give parecon credits to someone who has not worked for the society? It is a bookkeeping system, after all. Notice though that the parecon nation benefits from these currencies, as it can use them. Since there is this benefit, it seems fair to allow the tourists credits.
There is no issue regarding tourism between two participatory societies. Since the two countries would likely order things from each other during the participatory planning process, work would be done for the benefit of each, regardless where it was done. Thus credits from one country would be redeemable in another participatory country.
Would a participatory society spy on other countries? Would it keep secrets from its own population? Would it spy on its own population? Would care if other countries spied on it? Let us try to address these questions in turn.
First, note that espionage is not against international law, though it is against the law of any nation who is being spied on. Whether espionage should be against international law is another question.
Is there any motivation for a participatory society to spy on other non-participatory countries? It would seem there is. Perhaps another country is planning an attack on the participatory country. My guess is that knowledge of the time and location and means used in this attack would be pretty useful information. Or perhaps the participatory society would like to know how to construct a really useful piece of technology, like a drug or a computer program, developed in a capitalist country, whose method of manufacture is a secret.
Would a participatory society respect copyright laws and patents? A reason to respect them would be to engender goodwill towards capitalist nations. If a parecon nation manufactures and sells a drug at 1/100 of the cost of the corporation that owns the patent, they are going to be upset, and there might be repercussions. If the repercussions are severe, then you don't want to do this, unless the costs are worth it. Beyond negative relations with other countries, I see no reason for a participatory society to care one whit for copyright laws or patents. Knowledge and the ability to produce what you want would be seen as something for the greater good. Respecting the right of an inventor to profits is not in the parecon philosophy.
Thus it stands to reason that there is motivation to spy on other countries. Is it worth the lives of agents to get these secrets? Perhaps there would be volunteers willing to risk their lives to steal technology or get vital intelligence on an aggressive enemy. Should they be allowed to go? Would spying be worth the risk of upsetting other countries, and fostering mistrust from other nations? Perhaps this would be best left up to a general vote by the polity, which is a funny thing to do, as you are openly announcing that you intend to spy on other countries. If allowed, then the appropriate branch of the foreign affairs council would train and send spies into other countries, and use the information gathered appropriately.
Would a participatory society care if it was being spied on? Presumably it would not care if someone was trying to steal a formula for a beneficial drug. Let them have it. However, not everything is beneficial. We don't want a foreign power to have a formula for toxic gas that researchers in a participatory society have found, either accidentally or deliberately. Therefore there would be secrets to protect in a participatory society. If a participatory society decides to have an army for defense, they should have fairly modern weapons, otherwise they pose no credible deterrent. Thus either a participatory society will have to keep up to date on cutting edge weapons by espionage, or failing that, put research and development into developing means to kill people, as distasteful as that sounds. Indeed, the socializing effects of having a military makes one wonder if it is really worth it. If research and development is going into making weapons, then do we want countries willing to attack us to know how to make them too? Presumably not, but then again it might not matter, if everyone has similar weapons technology, then attacking the participatory society would still be costly. However, maybe you don't want your enemies to know the exact capabilities of your weapons. Thus whether or not you allow people to spy on you is debatable, but might actually be allowed.
Since it is assumed that a participatory society would not have weapons of mass destruction, the method of manufacture for these weapons would be best forgotten, and knowledge of how to manufacture should be kept a secret (or destroyed?).
Finally, would a participatory society spy on its own population? There might be motivations for this if there were, for example, people committed to capitalism that for some reason conspire to commit acts of terrorism. Certainly knowledge of this sort of plot would be desirable. Of course this must be balanced by the need to not harass and monitor the countries own citizens, as this has a very negative social effect. Investigating ones own population (before any crime is committed) is routinely carried out in countries today, and is part of the work of intelligence agencies and police. One would assume that citizens of a participatory nation would have little tolerance for being investigated by their own officials, thus it seems reasonable that gathering intelligence on its own citizens would be quite limited in a participatory nation.
7.0 United Nations?
Would a participatory society follow international law, and heed the rulings of a world court? Would it heed the rulings of the World Trade Organization, would it accept loans from the IMF and/or World Bank? What sort of member of the United Nations would it be? How would it prefer that the United Nations be organized?
There are a lot of questions. In general, one would assume that a participatory nation would want to respect the decrees of the UN, as long as it believes the structure of the UN is sound. It is important to respect the idea of an international arbiter and thus support it by obeying it, as the general idea could lead to peace around the world. Of course the democratic potential of the UN is far below the level of a participatory society. Particular problems today include the permanent members of the security council whom have veto power. Positive measures can be blocked by a powerful state with veto power. Other problems include the toothlessness of the UN, as it cannot enforce any decree that a military power like the
I suppose that it depends on how compromised the UN is. If it becomes a totally worthless organization, why bother supporting it? However it should be supported as long as it is somewhat functional, as I would think this is an important global principle a participatory society would want to support. Participatory societies can also form their own international organizations, with much more democratic structures if need be.
One can imagine a participatory UN, where delegates from participatory societies are sent to the international body, where they deliberate on international rules and arbitrate disputes, or decree whom can attack whom and so on. Would it be logical to give such a body its own military? It might make sense that participatory nations would transfer all their military might to a proper international organization, only to be used if the member nations all agree. Then there would be no standing army in any participatory society, only on the neutral soil of the participatory UN. Whether or not this is a good idea needs discussion. It could lead to a situation where whomever is in charge of the collective army and weapons attacks and takes over the nations that donated their army.
As far as the IMF and World Bank are concerned, it is doubtful that a participatory society would have anything to do with them, as the loans given by these organizations tied to structural changes in the receiving country, benefitting the rich and not the poor. Even in a severe economic crises, it would probably be foolish for a participatory society to accept a loan from these institutions. Accepting such a loan might even make it impossible to continue as a participatory society.
8.0 Splitting up of a country?
Shalom has already provided some ideas regarding the secession of a participatory society. A summary of his position as follows: Secession is not desirable, as it means you have failed to live together, but must be allowed, otherwise you encourage the tyranny of the majority.
However, secession should not be allowed if it gives more resources to one fragment of the original nation. A part of a country with vast oil reserves should not be allowed to separate from the other nation unless they would both have equal access to this wealth. Also a secession should not be allowed if it leads to some minority being oppressed by a majority. Democratic rights must also be protected in some fashion.
Shalom goes further. He argues that politically distinct subunits in a participatory society might want join another council than the one they are in. This allows for another check on the tyranny of the majority. The drawback is that less diversity is fostered.
In the end, secession must be dealt with on a case by case basis.
I personally find all this quite reasonable, and have no other issues to raise.
9.0 Respecting the laws of other countries?
To what extent would a participatory society respect the laws of other nations?
I suppose the short answer is "To the extent they are reasonable." I would imagine that a participatory society would not have a death penalty, and would protect people who would face a death penalty if deported from the participatory nation. Further, if a Participatory Society believes in rehabilitation rather than punishment, it is unclear to what extent it would allow any "criminal" to be deported to the nation where the crime was committed. To make this more clear, consider what might happen if we do away entirely the concept of punishment for a crime. What if someone committed a murder (say a wife kills her husband after he is abusive to her) and after being examined by a series of psychologists it is determined that there is very close to 0% chance this person would ever murder again. What point is there in locking them up? Seemingly none, the murderer is no danger to anyone. Thus a participatory society might have a different conception of justice than other nations.
Not respecting the laws of other nations leads to conflict, of course. However, countries today do not allow supposed criminals they capture to be deported if they think they will be tortured. At least that is the stated policy of countries like
 See the parecon website http://www.zmag.org/znet/topics/parecon,
Or the online edition (http://www.zmag.org/zparecon/pareconlac.htm) of
Michael Albert, Parecon: Life after Capitalism, (2003 Verso Books)
 Stephen Shalom, parpolity: Political Vision for a Good Society, http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/4957
 Robin Hahnel, Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation, (Routledge, 2005)
 The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Americans and promoting democracy, p. 3 September 29, 2005 Report, http://www.ccfr.org/publications/opinion/main.html
 The Chicago council on foreign relations, Global Views 2004 : American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, p. 10, 2004 Report, http://www.ccfr.org/globalviews2004/sub/usa.htm
 Noam Chomsky answer questions on Znet sustainer forums, Subject: Conscription during WWII in
 CBC article on Medicare and Romanow report. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2002/12/05/poll_health021205.html
 Health Affairs Journal Article. http://healthaff.highwire.org/cgi/content/full/20/2/33