Schweickart's reply to my reply gives me a gigantic mound of commentary to react to - as against what I think are more pressing tasks. I actually very much favor serious debate and exchange, and would even in this case with Schweickart repeatedly calling me irrational, etc., but I have to admit that I don't think Schweickart is taking the issues and words seriously, or honing in on centrally important matters. In short, I don't think he wants to move forward. It seems, rather, that he is intent on finding ways of interpreting words or even putting them in my mouth, as well as making assertions about my views that are contrary to what my views are, that enable him to take a dismissive tone and to imply all kinds of horrible possibilities that, if taken as plausible, would sensibly deter readers from judging parecon for themselves. Why bother reading about a new proposal at any length if it is as idiotic as Schweickart implies? To answer all of Schweickart's comments would entail a book presenting participatory planning, balanced job complexes, etc. Answering these kinds of concerns, and others that are more substantial, in fact, is why I wrote the book in the first place. Indeed, Part Four of Parecon: Life After Capitalism, is seventy pages responding to concerns and criticisms of the model, including most of those that Schweickart raises in his review, for example regarding feasibility, incentives, intrusiveness, etc. So my best answer to Schweickart is really to just say, please, go read the book yourself. But, there is a sense in which that would be dismissive of Schweickart himself...so, I shall respond to him here, even though doing so, even in short hand, is going to run on horribly long.
Setting the Stage
Early on Schweickart writes "Needless to say, Albert, a self-proclaimed 'market abolitionist,' cannot endorse [my] market socialist model, but it is important for the reader to understand that there are alternatives to capitalism other than Parecon." You might think from this that I deny that there are other models. But in fact I address many such models, in my own mounds of writing and also in the book that Schweickart reviewed, and of course Schweickart knows it. He just chooses not to react to it. A review of Parecon by him could have noted, for example, that the book includes a damning critique of market socialism, and could have substantively addressed that critique. Schweickart didn't do that.
Schweickart writes "Albert often writes as if criticism of Parecon is tantamount to embracing capitalism." Maybe I am not the proper judge of this, but I think I not only don't "often write" that way, but that I never write that way. Did I do it about Schweickart, even just in one sentence? I don't believe so, which probably explains why he doesn't quote me doing it.
I do think, however, that often times (though certainly not always) criticisms of parecon by leftists are rooted in advocacy of modes of remuneration, division of labor, and forms of allocation, which I call coordinatorist, but which typically refer to themselves as market and centrally planned socialist. Schweickart is a good example of that, as he himself acknowledges.
Schweickart writes "Indeed, he [Albert] is convinced that markets of any kind 'inexorably induce a class division in which about 20% of the population overwhelmingly determine economic outcomes and the other 80% overwhelmingly obeys instructions, . . . compel against everyone's will surplus maximization and endless accumulation, and . . . make a travesty of democracy,' so there is no point in making fine distinctions." I do say the first part of the above. I do not say, anywhere, however, that "there is no point making fine distinctions." So why does Schweickart focus on what I didn't say but what he merely wrongly attributed to me, and ignore the actual substantive content about markets that I did offer?
One explanation that Schweickart may have had in mind is that I would call market socialism a class divided economy and I would call capitalism a class divided economy, and I would reject each - all of which is true. To him, I guess it may be that my rejecting each and noting that they have something in common, class rule from above, implies that I would also urge that we need not see how they are different, or that I would deny that they are different. But this is of course absurd, not only because they are different, but because over and over I detail the differences. There is capitalism. Distinct from capitalism there is market socialism. Distinct from market socialism there is parecon. These systems are fundamentally different in institutional structure and thus in implications for social outcomes. Lots of lesser differences are important too. Maybe for Schweickart, since I condemn markets in all incarnations, he deduces or imputes that I reject noting differences between different implementations of markets, between markets with different ameliorating structures accompanying them, and even between markets with private ownership or withoutn. But again this is all false. And, more, just to be clear, these distinctions aren't "fine" in any case, but quite substantial, of course.
When Schweickart gets to what he takes to be the heart of the matter, he repeats all his earlier assertions. Then he summarizes my reasonably extensive replies by offering one liners of his own design that he has stand in for my views, which one-liners he can then belittle, having ignored the larger substance.
Schweickart says, for example, that my reply to his rejection of balanced job complexes on grounds that they couldn't possibly be implemented is the sentiment "sure it's difficult to balance job complexes, but it should be done anyway." And he admits that "moreover, he never meant his discussion as to how this might be done to be taken literally."
Of course my reply said quite a bit more, including using his own university and a coal mine as an example, etc., but, even regarding the sentiment that he is trying to comment on, expressing it more fully it was that I agree that creating the structures of a new economy, including a new division of labor that gets production accomplished without imposing a class division will be difficult. Of course, but even so, yes, I think it should be done. And I think this difficulty should be tackled because the alternative to attaining new institutions, including a new division of labor, is to continue to suffer class division and class rule. Apparently that is still nonsense for Schweickart.
Honestly, however, I should probably note also that I think the real difficulty in attaining a parecon is marginally different than the real difficulty in attaining market socialism - the core of the real difficulty in getting to either of these systems being overcoming the opposition of existing powers by building a massive, inspired, and committed movement. I even think it may be easier to win a parecon then to win some variant of market socialism because I think building a powerful movement for parecon may be easier than building a powerful movement for market socialism, the relevant insight being that workers in industrialized societies are unlikely to engage in mass movement struggle to trade in one boss for another.
At any rate, imagine Schweickart replying to someone who said, "Gee David, it is going to be hard to overcome all the obstacles to instituting market socialism." If Schweickart wasn't writing a book in response, which is what would really be called for, he'd probably say something brief like "yes, it is going to be hard, but we should do it anyhow because suffering capitalist greed is intolerable." Well, in the same way, I say to Schweickart when he tells me that it would be harder to win and construct parecon than market socialism - "well, maybe it would be, though I don't think it is obvious, but, even if it is the case, we should do it anyhow because suffering market socialist coordinator class dominance is intolerable." However, when I reply this way, Schweickart takes it as simple minded...but, of course, it is not. Schweickart and I agree that capitalism is horrible, so that escaping it is essential no matter how difficult it turns out to be. We disagree about market socialism and about my contention that escaping or better avoiding it is also essential.
Balanced Job Complexes and Class Struggle
Turning to parecon the economic model, regarding balanced job complexes, what more is there to say about the discussion about rating tasks that Schweickart re-raises? In fact I meant that discussion to be taken as it was written in the book, as a logical explanation of a set of ideas, not a method. For Schweickart to take it as he did in the review felt to me like manipulation of the issue. Go read the book and you can judge for yourself. Not only does it introduce the ranking idea by talking about capitalism, where actual step by step ranking of course doesn't happen, but where we can nonetheless imagine it, the book then does the same for parecon. The ranking of each task is a kind of after the fact gedankin description of what a social process seeking balanced job complexes achieves...and even at that, the book makes clear over and over that in practice it is a social negotiation, not an engineering problem - and the outcome is not perfect, but is acceptable to those involved. More, in the book this is all preparatory to later descriptions of actual hypothetical job complex examples arrived by social discussion and decision. Only a nincompoop would say that we should grade every single task in an economy - what, a million, five million... - and then combine sets of them to get numeric averages of the grades, literally, as our operational methodology, and mean it as an actual instruction for behavior. Since Schweickart took it that way he concluded I must be irrational, or perhaps he was too kind to call me a nincompoop. When I told him no, that's not said or implied or meant, well, he came back with it again, denying that I offered anything more, which is simply false. There are examples, and further discussion, at length. I think Schweickart just finds it so absurd that it doesn't register.
Where do you work? Whatever...imagine a gigantic social upheaval occurring over a period of years, leading to a new economy. During this tumult, working people, throughout society, and in your workplace too, organize into work place councils and challenge old modes of decision making, remuneration, and division of labor. They win innovations, as reforms on the road to revolution, and finally the whole old system gives way to change. What occurs, more specifically, regarding the division of labor?
To some extent there is retraining, and in time this occurs not only within the workplaces, but in schools, etc. To some extent there reallocation of tasks among jobs, a regrouping of responsibilities so that jobs take on a better balance. Does this balancing of the empowering effects of work among workers happen instantly, in one big jump? Of course not. But suppose, as in
But beyond our disagreement about the possibility and difficulty of attaining balanced job complexes, here is what seems to me the heart of this particular dispute if I take Schweickart's repeated comments about this as sincere concerns. How much balancing can we in fact do? That is, to what extent can workers redefining their own workplaces disperse empowering work among the whole population, as compared to reserving it for only about 20%? Does Schweickart think we can do no better than we see all around us, so that all empowering work should be done by one set of people and so that another set of people, about four times as large, should do only rote and tedious work? If he doesn't see it that way, then how far toward each person doing a set of tasks that is broadly as empowering as the set of tasks each other person is doing can we move? Does Schweickart want to say that it doesn't matter? Does he want to say that we don't have to seek that kind of balance because there are no class issues involved and no serious questions of income and power? If so, he should say that. It would explain why he is content with modest limitations on corporate divisions of labor, and why he celebrates markets that produce and enforce those divisions of labor.
Schweickart writes, "Albert acknowledges that balanced job complexes would be quite difficult to achieve and certainly could not be achieved by 'some idiotic mechanical calculation' such as the one set out in detail in his major chapter on the topic, which I took seriously enough to think through concretely." This may be getting tedious, for the reader, I fear. But...the description in terms of numeric rankings was there to make a point and not set out a practical methodology. In replying I gave Schweickart the benefit of assuming that he honestly missed that and took it as a method when he commented on it as such - perhaps misunderstanding through poor communication by the book, rather than due to a desire to grab any possible hook for a rush to negative judgment. But now, even having read the answer to his prior comments, Schweickart chooses to write the above as if it is warranted. For him I am just dodging, not living up to my earlier words, and he was diligent. I'm sorry, it just isn't the case. Readers will have to check for themselves. But even if it were the case, why not address the real substance?
Schweickart writes, "In fact I stated explicitly that Albert didn't think this procedure could be implemented with precision." Well, more than that, the discussion utilizing rankings of tasks was to explicate the ideas, to clarify what balancing meant to accomplish by way of showing the distribution of types of task, and particularly to show that it was logically possible. And yes, I admit that the fact that Schweickart chose to treat it in the most mechanical possible way, was very odd to my eyes, even the first time, much less now too.
Schweickart says, "But I went on to note that he gives us no clue as to what other, more realistic procedures he might have in mind." Well, actually, the book even describes hypothetical workplaces, and their hypothetical balanced job complexes. My earlier reply gave examples too. In my own view, this was arguably too much specificity, not too little. But the real point here seems to me to be very different. In all Schweickart's words devoted to debunking balanced job complexes - and even ignoring what I think is his misrepresentation of what I say about them - Schweickart never addresses or even acknowledges the reasons why I favor them. I claim that if work is apportioned so that some monopolize empowering tasks and others do only what is rote, tedious, etc. - the latter group will be dominated by the former even if there are formal rules about democracy, etc. Schweickart ignores this. He doesn't say it is false; much less argue some reasons why it is false. But if it is true, then attaining balanced job complexes, however difficult it turns out to be in actual practice, even if it were much more difficult than I think, is essential if we are to avoid class rule by empowered coordinators above disempowered workers. So why not tackle that substantive issue, I wonder?
When Schweickart gets to the end of his comments on balanced job complexes, he says, "I leave it to the reader to decide [if they are feasible or desirable]." I agree with that sentiment entirely. But I hope the reader will consider what I and others who advocate parecon claim, not what Schweickart says we claim. Even more, I hope readers will exercise their own imagination and wisdom regarding the issues. The focus of all this should not be parecon as I or anyone else proposes it. The focus should be sharing a vision of a classless economy that we can all manage to cooperatively, over time, conceive and seek. If parecon helps with that, and even captures some or many of the central defining features of a worthy classless vision, as I contend it does, so much the better. But if parecon turns out to have flaws, okay we should undertake amendments, adaptations, refinements, or even complete overhaul, but we should not dismiss it as a precursor to returning our advocacy to classist structures.
My claim is that working people can forge, not instantly, and not like a perfect engineering project, job complexes that are balanced for empowerment and that are therefore consistent with classlessness, and that we can also construct an allocation system that ratifies and compatibly enhances a classless division of labor. I agree that achieving this in transition from capitalism to a parecon will take time and will involve travail, to be sure, but I also claim that maintaining such constructions once we have attained our new division of labor and our new mode of allocation will be far simpler and far less costly - which is to say far more materially productive as well as far more socially desirable - than would be defending the monopoly on empowering work held by a few that is typical of market socialism.
So this is a very real disagreement between Schweickart and myself regarding what we can even attempt, and thus also what we can achieve. As to how jobs can be redefined to incorporate a different mix of tasks than we now suffer, I give examples in the book - and in my earlier reply, too - but I don't want to make believe that I think having as extensive an answer to this query as I offer in longer presentations is mandatory at this stage. For the most part, how we attain balanced job complexes, supposing that it becomes a goal of social change, will be determined in social practice, via experience, and will vary from industry to industry. We can now usefully offer a broad picture of the kinds of thinking and alteration that move toward balance, whether within firms or across them. I did that, and I did more, actually, with hypothetical examples, in the book - but suppose I hadn't given those examples. Suppose I didn't provide a general conception of what would need to be done to have balanced job complexes, but instead said that I had no idea how to do it. And suppose I hadn't worked in balanced job complexes, myself, for that matter, and that I couldn't and didn't offer explanations of why they would be productive as well as humane. And suppose, again contrary to fact, I was even afraid that it couldn't be done, like Schweickart is (except that Schweickart seems to be happy at the thought it can't be done, not afraid that it can't be done). Even if all that were the case, I freely admit that I would still say, well, okay, we need to think about this division of labor issue and we need to find a way to attain a balance in empowerment implications among jobs, because if we don't find a way to do that, we are going to be stuck with class rule by a few over the many. I would still feel, that is, even lacking any idea how the hell to escape the past, even lacking any idea what achieving the goal would look like, even fearing that it was impossible, that if we structurally continued to opt for institutions that give a fifth of the population conditions that empower them and give four fifths conditions that disempower them, the one fifth will set agendas, determine outcomes, etc., and in time, will rule over the four fifths - and that this will happen not because the one fifth is somehow intrinsically malevolent, much less because all people are intrinsically malevolent, but because those are the outcomes that our structural choices would make natural and systemic.
In other words, even if I take Schweickart totally sincerely regarding balanced job complexes, and even if I transfer his worries about attaining them or maintaining them into my mind - which is not so easy but a good way to try to understand his position, I think - I find that I still come away with an almost diametrically opposite inclination. And I think this fact, which I think Schweickart perceives, is what causes Schweickart to question my motives, rationality, etc. My being so hostile to class division and class rule that I wouldn't throw up my hands and say, there is no alternative to it, like he does, if I was as confused about and as doubtful of current formulations of a classless alternative as Schweickart is, means that I am irrational.
Well, first, at the current time, Schweickart's view ignores that we actually disagree, using our respective capacities for reason, and that I am not worried, as he is, about parecon being impossible. But, second, I should say that it is true that years back things were more like what I am hypothesizing when I say what if I had his fears. That is, when I was first hostile to capitalism, and when, as I studied the history of what has been called socialism, I also became hostile to market and centrally planned socialism, and when, as I looked at what anarchist and libertarian movements offered as a better system for classlessness, I also felt those formulations were not viable and convincing - I didn't throw up my hands and say there is no alternative to class division. I didn't sign to advocate markets, corporate divisions of labor, etc. I didn't become a market socialist/coordinatorist, like Schweickart thinks any serious rational anti capitalist would do. Instead, I, with Robin Hahnel, worked hard to do better for the classless stance by providing it a sounder and more compelling model to advocate, a model that we named parecon that does not embrace institutions that violate our values, but that instead offers a new way of doing economics that furthers our values.
Remuneration and Incomes
Moving on to matters of income, Schweickart says my reply to his rejection of remunerating effort and sacrifice was my saying that in his words "Work must not only involve effort, but it must also be 'socially useful' to merit remuneration. Moreover, each enterprise has a fixed pool of income to distribute among its workers, so evaluators do indeed have an incentive to be accurate and fair." Then actually quoting me he says I said, "I don't know how Schweickart missed all this." But of course I know exactly how Schweickart missed his own rendition of my words. I didn't say them in the way he implies because there is no fixed pool of income that each workplace gets independent of what it is doing. A workplace is able to disperse income to its members in accord with the level of effort and sacrifice it can claim they have expended. More work and effort that is socially useful, warrants more income for dispersal, and less work that is socially useful warrants less income for dispersal. But the actual volume of payment available to workers isn't equal to the volume of value that a workplace generates. It is based, instead, on the social average, and goes above or below that in accord with whether the workers in the plant are expending more or less than socially average numbers of hours of socially useful work.
A workplace can't successfully claim to have undertaken twice as many hours as it did, unless its output is consistent with that claim. This isn't complicated and it requires no fancy much less authoritarian oversight. It has a nuanced consequence, however. It means that if Schweickart and I and ten other people have a nice little workplace, and Schweickart is responsible for indicating worker's effort ratings and he cheats in the formulation of claims about intensity or duration (as he claims in his review that he would) giving himself and two friends highly inflated ratings for duration, and giving the rest of us only average ratings - but the whole plant in fact only generates output consistent with ten people doing average labor, then the pool of income that the plant gets to internally disperse (whether it produces bicycles or a drug that cures cancer) will equal ten times an average income. If the other seven of us let Schweickart get away with inflating his and his two friends' incomes, they will get more and we will get less of that pool of income, and we will suffer for it. It is therefore unlikely to happen.
Regarding remuneration, Schweickart says, "In replying to my objection as to the unfeasibility of rewarding only effort, Albert adds two crucial elements to his model that are lacking in the original presentation." But as far as I am aware the "conditions" I noted in the reply are in every rendition of parecon I am familiar with, my own, and other people's, though I would agree they get discussed more explicitly in some contexts - usually when dealing with detailed objections - than in others, such as trying to make a broad initial case.
Schweickart says, "Albert now insists that an individual's effort as well as the output of the enterprise itself must be 'socially useful.' By this he means that production must be organized efficiently." Not exactly, because the word efficient is easy to misinterpret, and so I would tend not to use it in the manner Schweickart attributes to me. I would say, instead, that to be remunerated labor must have socially useful output. I can't work for hours digging and filling holes and get remunerated for it. Nor can I be a drummer or a painter or many other things, because I cannot do those things well enough for my product to be socially valuable. In the same way a firm that produces some item, bicycles, if it has output which matches up to a certain number of hours of average intensity labor, can't claim to have expended twice that, and call it all socially useful. The claim would be either a lie about the actual duration, or if the hours were really spent then half the duration would have been incompetent. But Schweickart, who now understands that much, I think, still seems unable to perceive a further aspect. Suppose a place where I work produces bicycles. A place where Schweickart works produces brain surgery. The brain surgery is certainly more valuable to society than the bicycles, per hour of labor spent on each, by a huge amount. This would have no bearing, however, on the income of employees like me and Schweickart. What would matter is instead does society want the output of where we work commensurate to the assets utilized in its production (does society plan for the output to be produced) and then, when the output is produced, does the output measure up to the assets utilized. Income per member in a firm isn't higher for firms that produce more valuable output, but only for firms that expend more time per worker or more intensity per worker or that suffer worse conditions per worker while producing outputs that are sought.
Schweickart writes "[Albert] also now insists that each enterprise is given a specific pool of money to pay out in wages, so that the enterprise evaluation committee does indeed have an incentive to be honest and fair, not simply give everyone high evaluations." I don't now write that, I always do, or at least I imply it by what I do write, or I try to, though I admittedly emphasize it far more when communicating with economists, I admit, because they tend to worry far more about the associated issues. But that pool of money isn't some fixed thing, but instead varies with the volume of labor time and intensity that the firm utilizes in producing socially valuable output, as in the example above.
Schweickart says that in the book it nowhere says that "each enterprise is allotted a fixed pool of money to be allocated among its workers." Correct, because it isn't the case. I didn't say that in the reply to his review, either. The pool of income depends on the total labor duration and intensity of the workplace. He also says that in chapter seven on remuneration I didn't explain what I explained in the reply to his review. That's true. In fact, the closing sentence of the chapter acknowledges that by saying that the chapter only shows that an economy could remunerate for duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, in accord with values expounded earlier in the book, not that doing so would provide proper incentives, etc. Why not? Well, because there was still allocation to discuss and incentives and income distribution can't be properly treated without addressing allocation. The issues Schweickart is concerned with about remuneration come up in treating complaints about efficiency, productivity, etc., later in the book.
But again, let's say I wrote a book, or someone did, trying to put forth a vision of a classless economy with equitable remuneration, cooperative negotiation of outcomes, self management, etc. And suppose they or I did overlook, or even did not understand some problem, unlike in this case. It seems like a reviewer could have two angles on that. They could grab on to it and act as though it somehow meant that no classless economy was possible because, after all, here was a description which had a flaw. They could even act as though the aspiration was demented, say, or otherwise beyond the pale, seeking to suggest that all interaction with such a perspective should cease. Or they could wonder, is the flaw correctable? Now I don't think this flaw that Schweickart believes is present is even there, in fact I am quite sure it isn't, certainly not in the model, and not in most expositions, either, but in any event I think Schweickart's rush toward the first posture is revealing.
Schweickart says, "As for labor needing to be 'socially useful,' [Albert] does say that 'by effort we mean anything that constitutes a personal sacrifice for the purpose of providing socially useful goods and services,' but he says nothing about the labor counting as less socially useful if it is performed inefficiently. Nor does he say anywhere in Parecon that a firm will be penalized if its level of effort is less than average intensity." It isn't that the labor is less socially useful if it is inefficient, it is that some of it wasn't useful at all. It could have been done more quickly, but it wasn't. It is as if the worker was sleeping some of the time, or not present at all, and was for the rest of the time working at normal intensity to be properly remunerated. More, a firm isn't penalized. What would that mean, even? Nor are its workers penalized. Nothing earned is withheld. There is no punishment going on. No fine. What is earned is forthcoming. A firm's employees are accorded a total pool of income for remuneration commensurate to the duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially useful labor they actually together expended within the firm - which sum is then allocated among the employees, now in accord with their differences in expended effort and sacrifice, as the workers judge those differences and wish to differentiate remuneration in light of them. The underlying idea here is relatively straightforward. The economy needs to remunerate for only effort and sacrifice if it is to be equitable. But the economy also needs to utilize assets properly, not rewarding useless activity, etc., if it is to avoid wasting capacities. The mechanism that permits both these ends to be achieved simultaneously is what is described above. It attends to both utilizing assets by requiring that work must be socially useful. And it provides morally sound remuneration by rewarding duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially useful labor, but not rewarding output itself.
Schweickart may actually be correct, and in fact I would be surprised and a bit embarrassed if he wasn't, that I explain things, at least as I see them, better now than I did four years ago when I wrote the book he reviewed. I hope so. But regrettably, perhaps due to my still less than optimal explanations, Schweickart is still not understanding the full situation. He seems to think that we are coming up with some social usefulness measure for the firm's output and then workers are getting an income pegged to that valuation of output. That is not the case. Again, suppose there are a hundred bicycle plants using the same technology. If Schweickart's plant claims it has put in 60 hour weeks per worker, and the others all claim 30 hour weeks per worker - note that bikes are socially useful because people want them, as evidenced by the plan settling on producing them - and Schweickart's plant generates the same number of bikes per worker as the other workplaces rather than twice as many, then either there was something wrong at Schweickart's plant, or they are lying about the hours, or are working at half intensity, or are incompetent. This isn't very complicated. And there is no need for "a far removed authority," dominating everyone, to conduct this type remuneration. Workers councils will suffice, in workplaces and whole industries. That is merely a scary ghost Schweickart invents.
Schweickart is concerned about "penalties" and "national boards" and differences in "degrees of social usefulness" between plants, and so on, all of which concerns are, however, not about any part of parecon. What is part of parecon is on the one hand a cooperative negotiation of allocation, which yields social valuations for all items, which in turn reveal outputs from all workplaces as being commensurate to or as failing to live up to claimed assets, and on the other hand another part of parecon is worker's self management and balanced job complexes which permit and facilitate workplace councils deciding how exacting they want to be about differential incomes within their operations. None of this entails the structures or raises the issues Schweickart worries over, but a full reading is essential to determine that point, so I can only recommend that.
Moving on to allocation Schweickart says that I say "the [participatory planning] process is anonymous," as my reply to his asserting that it involves public display of personal choices which would be intrusive. And Schweickart is right, I did say in the reply that consumption proposals are anonymous. Of course, I also said it in the book, though perhaps not clearly enough for Schweickart, so one wonders why we are wasting time on this. But, and I hope this isn't wasting time, I think there is a deeper related point that we can examine with some gain.
Suppose I had written somewhere that personal consumption choices under participatory planning aren't anonymous, but are public. In the endless words I have written about parecon, and more words delivered in talks and inteviews, maybe I even have said that - though I would be very surprised to see it. What then should be the reaction of someone reading or hearing it? It seems to me it should be to note that there is no central reason compelling or requiring such a choice in a classless economic vision. If having public display of personal consumption choices is bad, as I happen to agree with Schweickart that it would be, then don't do it. It isn't the core of the model, or even its periphery. It is a conceivable policy choice, among countless conceivable choices, that would have to be made, or that could be made, in an implementation of parecon.
In other words, like many features, a parecon could incorporate public consumption proposals, or not. If Schweickart was looking to have a serious discussion of the possibilities and issues associated with parecon as a model for achieving a classless economy, it seems to me he might say something like, "Albert, you seem to be saying we all have to parade all our choices in front of everyone else. Why would you say that? It doesn't seem in any sense essential to the structures you care about. And it doesn't seem to further the values you advocate. So what's with that?" And I'd say back, "you are right, it isn't necessary, parecon doesn't need it and I don't advocate it. We agree." And if he quoted me saying it was part of parecon, at some moment or other, I'd say back, "you are right, we can and I think we should jettison that silly utterance, of course." In fact, however, there is a chapter of the book about intrusiveness, just as there is a chapter about each of the other issues Schweickart raises, and many that he doesn't raise, and that chapter about intrusiveness most certainly does include that proposals can be anonymous in the following sentence, for example: "And the fact that individuals can make anonymous consumption proposals if they do not wish their neighbors to know the particulars of their consumption habits keeps this [intrusiveness] from becoming a serious problem at all."
Schweickart is worried that the mechanics of participatory planning would be unwieldy, time consuming, etc. These matters are dealt with in considerable detail in the book, actually, in more than considerable detail, perhaps even too much detail. Schweickart wasn't convinced by the discussion (assuming he saw it, that is, unlike the discussion of intrusiveness or labor having to be socially valuable or about market socialism, etc.), so much so that he thinks only an irrational person would be convinced by it. Well, okay, I don't see the point in essentially reproducing whole long chapters from the book here. I have to urge you to look and think it through for yourself. But honestly, I should make clear that I don't think reading a book about something this complex, and this important, should be alone fully convincing in any case. Rather, I think the book Parecon should at most propel further discussion, further exploration, further thought, and when needed refinement, amendment, and even reconceptualization. Of course, that's the parecon phenomenon that Schweickart can't comprehend and wishes to terminate.
Answering Schweickart's first allocation-related jibe - "What would be done with those people who fail to turn in their lists or fill out the forms sloppily or keep turning in requests that exceed their budgets. Let them starve? Talk to them nicely? Shoot them, when patience runs out?" - I have to honestly say, is not worth the time and trouble. I would rather not credit Schweickart's repeated attempts to portray parecon as somehow authoritarian, regimented, intrusive or whatever, by his flights of verbal fancy, with the dignity of a reply that establishes that such concerns are a sensible and serious terrain for focus...other than to say, however much I would rather not have to do so, that this is drivel, in my view, and readers can simply decide for themselves by looking at fuller presentations and their discussions of possible methods, behaviors, etc., to determine who is right.
The same goes, I regret to say, for most of Schweickart's redundant comments on allocation. To reply to Schweickart, who just repeats what he wrote earlier, that preparing, refining, and deciding on participatory planning proposals would not over tax humanity I would have to repeat what I wrote earlier (as I had to above) or I would have to go on at greater length, like the book itself. That seems pointless. The reader just needs to think these things through, without preconception, based on assessing full presentations, however, and not Schweickart's retellings. And, I would also urge, if there are things about this classless model that trouble the reader, or that seem unworkable to the reader, very good. Then explore them further, and work to improve them, before falling back on any class-divided model that gives up the values we all strive for.
One last little point about allocation. Schweickart uses a footnote to complain that my objections to markets are "repeated like a mantra" (Schweickart seems to miss no opportunity to find a way to imply robotic irrationality). He says, "One might suspect [Albert] doth protest too much. Vehement repetition should not substitute for careful analysis. 'Market' consequences depend on which markets operate and on the network of regulations and mechanisms of redress within which they function." First, some "market consequences" depend on which markets we are talking about and on context, including "regulations," etc., just like some consequences of private ownership depend on ownership of what, and surrounding context, or some consequences of dictatorship demand on its scope and on surrounding structures. This is all right. But there are other consequences of markets (like for other institutional systems) that are endemic to them in any context. I am, in fact, quite careful about this distinction and in all honesty, I don't think there is any way Schweickart could be sincerely unware of that fact. In Parecon there is far more than anti-market mantra, there is, instead, detailed argument as to why it is that markets, by virtue of pitting buyer against seller, by virtue of misaccounting transaction implications that extend beyond buyer and seller, by virtue of requiring firms to accumulate without limit including cutting costs regardless of implications for workers and communities, and so on, have horrendous implications including producing grotesque anti sociality, misvaluing everything, violating sustainability and collective needs, and imposing class division and class rule, all even in the absence of capitalist ownership relations and despite whatever regulatory agencies Schweickart might propose (and I might too, for that matter, when having to put up with markets) to ameliorate the ills. If that's a mantra, okay, better that is afoot than the more familiar market jubilee attributing to them sensible pricing, democracy promotion, etc. The anti market list has the advantage of being true. But, if Schweickart wants more than the succinct list that a reply permits, that's fine. I recommend to him the
The Broader Philosophical Points
Even as I skip offering what I think would be a tedious repeat regarding the details of allocation, I do want to address the overarching comments Schweickart ends with, because they include some new points, and consequential ones, at that.
Schweickart writes: "There is a deep contradiction at the heart of Albert's project. On the one hand, Parecon requires a massive amount of effective, conscious coordination (committees, councils, facilitation boards, etc.) - yet Albert is deeply hostile to 'coordinators.'"
Maybe this is sincere, I don't know. But if it is sincere, either Schweickart can't read or I can't write. In fact I have no problem with coordination, of course, or with coordinating, either. Only an ignoramus would reject coordination or coordinating. I do have a problem, however, with economic institutions that monopolize empowering labor in the hands of few people who then rule all others. I do have a problem, in other words, not with coordination per se - but with coordination being achieved via a few people dominating many. I am hostile to class division and class rule, and yes, I happen to call the class that monopolizes empowering tasks the coordinator class. Does Schweickart honestly think this implies that I reject coordination, or is he again just taking my words and molding them into a non existent viewpoint that he can criticize?
Schweickart continues: "This hostility [that is, the one that doesn't exist] may derive from Albert's view of human nature. At first sight, Albert seems to be deeply sanguine about human nature. If there is no 'coordinator class' twisting everything to their advantage, people will cooperate willingly, develop their talents appropriately and take on major responsibilities without the incentives of status, power or extra income."
Actually, as indicated repeatedly in all the texts about parecon, and in the book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, that Schweickart reviewed, in a parecon, people will cooperate, will develop their talents, and will take on responsibilities not least because they will get status in the sense of admiration from others for doing so, and, even more relevant to his comment, because they will get income in accord with their effort and sacrifice while doing so, and, yes, they will not get extra power.
Schweickart says, "For [Albert] is convinced that any group of people who come to exercise authority on a non-rotating basis, even when subject to democratic accountability, will inevitably abuse this authority and consolidate themselves into an exploiting class. That's just the way people are, he seems to think. Therefore, we must design our economy so that no one is ever in a position of authority long enough to consolidate his grip on power."
That's "just the way people are," I think? That's my reasoning? Moreover, where does it say in parecon that people won't have as part of their work exercising authority? Nowhere, of course. Quite the contrary, it says some people won't have only that, while others have none of that. I guess maybe what he expressed above is what Schweickart can see in my words, but in fact, what I actually think is that if we have a set of institutions that propel people to rule others as their way to succeed in fulfilling their responsibilities, then, yes, they will rule others, and, in ruling others, supposing that doing so conveys information, skills, and dispositions necessary to decision making, in time, they will rationalize their dominant situation and defend it and will utilize their institutionally vested power in accord with their evolving class interests. But Schweickart should place note that it isn't simply that people are exercising authority that leads to class rule and subordination. Nowhere have I ever suggested that. In parecon people exercising their wills and, yes, authority, happens all the time, of course, in diverse kinds of work, as in any conceivable economy and society. The problem parecon seeks to overcome arises if one set of people are overwhelmingly empowered by their activity, and another set are overwhelmingly disempowered by theirs. In that case, the former will consistently, due to its social position, determine outcomes. The latter will consistently, due to its social position, be ruled. But this situation arising from a capitalist or a coordinatorist economic arrangement is not a sad comment on humanity or an indication that I somehow am not sanguine about human nature (whatever exactly that is supposed to mean). This situation, which I think is essentially inexorable when one has the identified structures in place, indicates, rather, that however inclined we humans are to be sociable, caring, responsible, initiating, etc. - and I think we are mighty inclined to be all that - if we find ourselves on the one hand in small numbers constantly elevated to elite power and influence, or on the other hand in large numbers constantly relegated to drudgery and tediousness, we will all show the signs of this in our inclinations and, more so, in our capacities as well as our derivative choices. I doubt that Schweickart would deny the claim, other than in a context of trying to denigrate everything pareconish, that is.
Schweickart says, "Albert appears not to appreciate the skills involved in managing complex enterprises, working effectively in democratic assemblies, making difficult decisions in such a way as to minimize resentment and promote the common good."
Where do I fail to appreciate this? Or, for that matter, fail to appreciate the skills involved in being a composer, a chemist, doing design or personnel work, and on and on? Rather, I highly respect these skills that are so typically demolished even in people doing those labors, much less in everyone who has subordinate positions, now. But skills in management, coordination, planning, or surgery, and all the rest, in sum total are not such that they can be practiced only by 20% of the population, while the rest do only rote and repetitive work.
So why does Schweickart say I "do not appreciate the skills"? He says it, I suspect, because I claim people who are now occupying tedious working class jobs can do these skilled things as a part of new balanced job complexes in the future, and in his mind this is tantamount to saying there is no skill involved, since those currently rote workers, in his mind, lack the potential for such skill. That's, I am sad to say, the only explanation I can see for Schweickart making his assertion about me not appreciating the skills involved in coordinator class activity. Certainly nowhere do I say anything that indicates that, but instead, I only make arguments recognizing the untapped potentials of most of the population. I am sorry if this reading of Schweickart's logic is unfair, I am sorry if I missed a more benign explanation. And I should add, if the above formulation seems abstruse to you, simply imagine a racist saying of someone that they are denigrating skills after they talk about blacks being perfectly able to manifest them, or think of a sexist saying of someone that they are denigrating skills after they talk about women being perfectly able to manifest them. Classism is quite like racism and sexism in this dimension of implicitly or explicitly believing that the subordinate constituencies lack for brains, talent, morality, etc., rather than believing that they are systematically robbed of these capacities.
For workplaces, it turns out, for those who need it, we have ample proof of the wide presence of decision making potentials among workers. Thus, in
Schweickart says, "The trick to effective worker-self-management is not to abolish professional 'coordinators,' but to strike the right balance between administrative autonomy and democratic accountability. Albert thinks human nature stands in the way of avoiding exploitation this way. I disagree." Actually, I think what stands in the way of accountability in coordinatorist economies, including market socialism, is a division of labor which systematically subverts it (not to mention an allocation system that produces that division of labor). And for that reason, just like parecon doesn't say we should eliminate surgery, or we should eliminate engineering, it also doesn't say we should eliminate coordinating, or even we should eliminate managing. Not at all. What pareccon says - and please note, all these matters are dealt with many times over in the book, to the point where missing them would require serious effort - is that whatever huge array of tasks need to be done they need to be apportioned so that everyone is comparably prepared and empowered when trying to exercise their will in self managed decision making, which in Schweickart's terms would be so that everyone is prepared to make outcomes accountable. In other words, parecon doesn't think human nature is an obstacle to participation and self management, but, instead, that certain institutions are. I don't see how it is possible to have read the book Parecon, or even just these exchanges, and come up with my thinking that human nature is the problem.
Suppose someone said to Schweickart "I thought you were sanguine about human nature, but I see you aren't. You think it is so conducive to anti social outcomes that just because we have some people owning productive property all will go to hell in a handcart, driven there by a human nature that prevents simple restraints on the owners from working. Why can't people make owners accountable?" Schweickart would wonder, I believe, how someone could come up with such a peculiar formulation. I have the same query for him.
In responding to a question I asked about his values, Schweickart admits that "it bothers me not at all that NBA players make so much. These people have talents I can't dream of possessing. Such high incomes may not be good for their character, but--this is the important part--their incomes in no way detract from the quality of my life; indeed watching them in action enriches it." Watching them enriches Schweickart's life, true enough. But having them take huge pieces of the social product, leaving less for Schweickart, most certainly diminishes his life. That bit of reality added, and how does Schweickart miss that, it is also true that Schweickart and I apparently have different values. It seems to me this should have been what our exchange was about. Why didn't Schweickart just say, "Albert, you think it is wrong for some people to earn 1000 or 500 or 50 or 10 times as much as others for the same duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, simply due to having better tools, or working in a sector that outputs more valued products, or having been born with inborn talents that are highly valued, and I, Schweickart, don't. Here's why."
Schweikart says, "As for managers, I think good ones are essential to an efficient enterprise." Good management is essential, I agree, or we might say good organization, good planning, or good coordination, is essential - though what is good regarding these and other functions would change dramatically in a classless economy, of course. What isn't essential to "efficient enterprise," however - where efficient enterprise should mean enterprise that produces valued outputs without wasting valued assets where valued assets includes people's potentials, and without generating horrible byproducts such as anti sociality - is that all the empowering work be in the hands of about a fifth of the workers, with the rest doing only tedious and rote functions that are controlled by others. This coordinator/worker division of labor that I reject guarantees not only that the former coordinator class members have better conditions, but that they will be unaccountable because those below will be denied not only means to influence outcomes, but information and even energy to do so.
Schweickart says he thinks "that a political project that focuses on abolishing hierarchies of authority and all inequalities unrelated to effort is deeply misguided." Me too. Who proposes that? I want to debate that person!
I want to get rid of class division and class rule, but that doesn't say that there aren't situations of authority that should persist. And nowhere do I ever suggest wanting to get rid of all inequalities unrelated to effort - not those between people of different height, weight, appearance, talent, learning, etc. I do want to get rid of differences in income owing to property, power, or even contribution to output. That's true. So why doesn't Schweickart feel a need to re-word my views to imply what I don't believe?
If Schweickart said, as he finally sort of says regarding remunerating NBA players, look there is nothing morally wrong with hugely rewarding people who are born with highly valued talents, on top of their genetic luck. Or if he finally said there is nothing wrong with rewarding those who have better tools to use, or who happen to be producing more highly valued output, more. And if he finally added that he didn't think doing so had negative economic implications either - despite having no valuable incentive effects and producing gross income inequality - okay, then we could debate our difference about that. Why is it necessary, however, to act as though if I don't agree with him about such ethical matters I must advocate eliminating all differences? Or I must doubt human nature? And so on.
Schweickart says I have "lost sight of what is really important. Hierarchies and inequalities need be kept in check by democratic procedures, but they are not, in themselves, the enemy." Okay, what if Schwecickart's next door neighbor said the same thing about the minor little hierarchy that rests on remunerating property? Why not just restrain that via democracy? Schweickart would answer, well, wait, allowing that hierarchy creates a situation that both gives a class of people anti-social interests and perceptions and also subverts the possibility of democratic restraints operating well, or often even at all, regarding the prerogatives of that class of property owners. And in that case Schweickart would be right, of course. I claim that in precisely the same pattern, I am right when I say to him that having a typical corporate division of labor (as well as markets that produce that division of labor) creates a situation that both gives a class of people anti social interests and perceptions and also subverts the possibility of democratic restraints operating well, or often even at all, regarding the prerogatives of that class of empowered actors.
In the first case, Schweickart would say we need to eliminate the structural basis for the focused class hierarchy - we need to eliminate private ownership of the means of production - and he'd be correct, and it wouldn't mean, by the way, that he wasn't sanguine about human nature or that he was irrational, etc. And in the second case I would say we need to eliminate the structural basis for the focused class hierarchy - the corporate division of labor (and also replace allocation institutions that enforce that corporate hierarchy) - and so too it doesn't mean I am not sanguine about human nature or irrational.
Schweickart says "Albert stakes almost everything on the notion of participatory democracy." That's very odd to read, like many of his assertions about my views, because I hardly ever even use the phrase "participatory democracy" - and I think never regarding parecon. Mostly that's because I am not sure what "participatory democracy" means. I do talk about self management, however, often, because I can be very clear about what that means. But beyond that, what does Schweickart mean by I "stake everything" on it? Yes, I propose an economic vision, called parecon. It rests on some key institutional commitments including balanced job complexes in workers councils, self management, remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, and allocation via participatory planning.
Where is the "staking everything"? Is that how he describes an effort to offer a vision, argue its logic, and address concerns?
Next Schweickart writes, "Parecon, [Albert] claims, will avoid both the authoritarian structures of Soviet planning and the coercive laws of market competition. Democracy is the antidote to both these moral poisons." I never remember saying that, and I believe I never have. I don't talk about laws of market competition, but about structural implications of markets for prices, motivations, and behaviors. And I rarely talk about democracy at all, since I advocate self management, not simple democracy. But, in any event, for me the antidote to the allocative ills of soviet planning and of markets is participatory planning. And, yes, I claim participatory planning permits and even propels self management, among many other attributes.
And then Schweickart says, "But Albert seems not to understand that democracy does not necessarily promote solidarity. Democracy, even the most participatory, can itself be deeply alienating." This is quite odd, for a few reasons. First, I don't ever remember saying a word linking democracy to solidarity. In fact, I don't even remember linking self management to solidarity, per se, which is why I have both as core values, not one standing in for the other. What I do link to solidarity, about parecon, however, is (a) that it doesn't have structures that pit classes against one another, or that pit buyers and sellers against one another, or that pit firms against one another, and, quite the contrary, (b) that it establishes an economic context in which people have shared rather than contrary interests. And of course I often contrast this to markets, which are exactly the opposite, not producing solidarity, but obliterating it.
Schweickart says "There are no hierarchies in Parecon, says Albert." But, actually, I don't say that, have never said it, and wouldn't say it. Schweickart is using his words to stand for my views, and they are wrong. In a parecon there will be countless hierarchies, I would imagine, of diverse kinds, ranging from a conductor and her orchestra, to a surgeon and her assistants, to teachers and their students, and yes, to group leaders and their groups in all kinds of workplaces, at any given moment. What there won't be, however, are lasting hierarchies that pit people who are always above against people who are always below, whether in the way labor is divided or in the way decisions are made, and which create an abiding fault line among people, with one class systematically dominating another.
Schweickart then describes what he takes to be, I guess, some political structures that he says are hierarchical, and says I must support, and implies my doing so is contradictory. But, I don't know much about these structures, they are not part of a parecon, and whether I would like some variant of them for a polity or not, would not in any case contradict any value I have just by virtue of their incorporating hierarchy. I think Schweickart knows all this, unless he has come to believe that I believe the things he attributes to me despite reading otherwise over and over.
Schweickart says "Secondly, there's the "inequality of democracy." All participants in the various assemblies (and in society at large) face each other as equals in Parecon." What does this attribution to parecon, one that I never wrote in such words, mean? I thing for one thing that Schweickart is talking about some political assemblies I have no knowledge of at all. But, yes, in general in a society with a parecon I would imagine that in pretty much all arenas and certainly in worker and consumer councils people will face each other as humans with equal rights. But they certainly will not face each other as equals in influence over every decision. Some will provide more information sometimes, others will do so other times. More, some decisions will affect some people more, and they will have more say, and other people will be affected less, and will have less say. Also, beyond having more (or less) relevant expertise or information, some people will be more adroit at coming up with ideas and proposals than others will be, sure, and they will be respected for it, yes, but they won't have more votes, or get more income, for that reason.
Schweikart says, "But as anyone who has participated in a democratic assembly knows, all are not in fact equal. Some are quicker on their feet than others, some have more rhetorical skill, some are better adept at the formal rules of the game, some are more intimidating, some are more stubborn, some are more at home in the dominant culture of the assembly, etc. (I suspect that Albert is well-endowed with these advantages, which perhaps makes him more sanguine about democratic decision-making than is warranted.)" What Schweickart doesn't see is that what is bad is having a social structure that produces these kinds of differences in that way systematically causing some people to always by virtue of their position in the economy dominate others to the extent that the latter are essentially disenfranchised and the former are enshrined as dominant.
Schweickart says, "Please notice, these inequalities exist quite apart from the power-inequalities that so corrupt our present political system. Albert is sensitive to the latter inequalities, but he seems blind to the other kinds of inequalities that exist among human beings." I can only say, again, the reader needs to look at what I have written to see what I think, not at what Schweickart says he sees there, or, as in this case, what he manufactures there. And, no, I am not blind to differences among people. Quite the contrary, I take into account their existence, both celebrating them for the diversity and achievement they render, and also seeking to ensure that while they benefit the human community, they do not simultaneously get turned into a basis for domination and subordination.
Without quoting his next long point word for word, it is that democratic - he could have more relevantly said self managing - decision making could be carried out in ways that are burdensome in their tediousness, and will often lead to decisions that some don't like. All this is true enough. And parecon's claim is that the solution isn't dictatorship, of course - nor is it class rule by a few. Instead we have to figure out structures of classlessness that get economic functions accomplished effectively, as well as in accord with our values, not least self management.
Schweickart ends by saying if we want a desirable economy we have to use "markets, central planning, and democracy judiciously, employing them in such a way that the strengths of each offset the weaknesses of the others." And there is a limited sense in which I agree with this. That is, if there is indeed no alternative to class divided economics, if there is no alternative to choosing among existing institutional structures, if for some reason we have to renounce all hope of attaining an economy that has no classes and that delivers to all participants equitable income and self management, which is to say if we must use markets, or central planning, and corporate organization, then we will have to try to restrain the ills of each by any means we can muster, including the means Schweickart mentions. But I don't accept that there is no alternative to class rule. Rather than accepting that roadblock to liberation, I prefer to think hard about new ways of organizing labor, determining inputs and outputs, making decisions, and remunerating people's efforts consistent with values that I aspire to - solidarity, equity, diversity, self management, and ecological rationality - instead of merely trying to make the best of institutions that trample those values. That's why I favor workers and consumers councils, balanced job complexes, remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, and participatory planning. Call me any name you like - it is why I favor parecon.