ParEcon Questions & Answers
Remuneration in Parecon
The next institutional commitment is to remunerate for effort and sacrifice, not for property, power, or even output. But who decides how hard we have worked? Of course, by what we have already said if must be our workers councils in context of the broad economic setting established by all the economy’s institutions.
If you work longer, and you do it effectively of course, you are entitled to more of the social product. If you work more intensely, socially usefully, again you are entitled to more. If you work at more onerous or dangerous or boring but also socially warranted tasks, again, you are entitled to more.
But you aren’t entitled to more due to owning productive property because no one owns productive property – it is all socially owned. And you aren’t entitled to more due to working with better tools, or producing something more valued, or even having personal traits that make you more productive, because these attributes don’t involve effort or sacrifice, but luck and endowment.
Greater output is appreciated, of course, and it is important that means of accomplishing it are utilized, to be sure…but there is no extra pay for greater output. Yes, my working longer or harder yields more output, and greater output can even be a revealing indicator of greater effort, but while output is often relevant as an indicator of effort its absolute level is beside the point regarding remuneration.
Both morally and in terms of incentives, parecon does precisely what makes sense. The extra pay we get is for what we deserve to have rewarded, our sacrifice at work, and it elicits what we can contribute more of, which is our time and effort. As to how the economy elicits appropriate use of productive capacities, that is a matter of allocation, still to come.
Remuneration according to effort and sacrifice (and in some cases need) is rather different than the usual left precept – which is remuneration according to contribution to the social product. The latter pays a large person and a small person cutting cane by the size of the piles they accumulate. The former pays a large person and a small person cutting cane by (assuming/establishing they are both working comparably hard) for the amount of time they are working. This also goes for a person who has learned how to cut better and one who doesn’t have the same competence – for the same hardship and effort even with different size piles cut, you get the same pay. Our claim is that this is equitable – pay depends only on hardship to the payee, which is what should be the case..
Now suppose you have a cushy job and I have a horribly onerous one. We both work a full day, at the rate the job calls for. I would be paid more because of more hardship (and probably more effort). Thus if there is no equity of circumstance but there is pay according to effort and sacrifice, pay makes up for inequity of circumstance. If there is real equity of circumstance, then pay will be a function of time worked, almost entirely.
Criticisms (among progressive and left people) of paying according to effort and sacrifice are rarely that it is in any sense unjust, but that it doesn’t provide a proper incentive system to get the best overall outcomes. We have justice in work and remuneration but the total produced drops so much that the loss there offsets the gain in justice. But this is just typical economic dogma that falls apart under even modest scrutiny...
None, if the poetry is only for you.
That is, if you choose to do stuff that has no benefit for others, and are perfectly capable of work of many kinds, etc. then you are saying that society should carry you because you say it ought to. There is no moral reason for that to occur. It is called freeloading...
Think of fifty people marooned on an island. They have to make do by their labors. There is a lot of work to get done. There are also, however, fun things to do – from walks on the beach to swimming, to playing games, taking a nap, etc. Someone says, hold on, I don’t want to prepare meals, or deal with maintaining shelters, or anything else even a little onerous. Do you want to feed that person with your labors? Now suppose you are there by virtue of a shipwreck and one person was hurt badly and can’t work. Do you want to feed that person? These are the norms of parecon, trivially obvious human norms, it seems to me.
I understand that workers in parecon are paid according to effort, but what stops all the workers at a place to just agree to give each other A+ effort ratings, thus getting A+ wages?
The economy has to perform a somewhat delicate balancing act, to promote both productive efficiency and social justice (not that they are antagonistic under parecon). It has to maximize socially valuable production and at the same time assure that individual workers’ compensation is based on effort and sacrifice rather than innate talent, luck, good-looks, etc. It does this in what might best be understood as a two-step process:
I suppose there could be a lot of belly-aching when it came time to review a council’s productive resources and establish it’s output. But if the criteria for assigning these goals were determined by the people within a sector of the economy who knew it best - the workers themselves or their chosen rep’s, then it would be a democratic and defensible process.
Finally, the above is only one approach. A parecon might come up with others, as might different firms and sectors. Different workplaces might have more relaxed or more depending attitudes about trying to make remuneration precisely reflect a very detailed accounting, or might just have it accord with hours worked ignoring minor variations of in effort (in balanced job complexes).
Wouldn’t it be more fair to allow people to work less than the average amount if they want, or even not at all, and still get a living wage? I doubt that we’d have many people do so, with social pressures, and requiring work income brings to mind some kind of moralistic form of forced lablor.
There are some problems of communication, and then some real issues.....
First, nothing in parecon can be called “forced labor” in any sensible interpretation of these words, I think. And, likewise, there is no situation of people being paid by others to do work that the former do not want to do. In point of fact, what happens in parecon is much better described by “the taking turns basis” phrase, then the more pejorative ones.
Second, and more important because even after clarifying the above an issue still remains, the link between effort and sacrifice and income is a bit more subtle than folks are perceiving (likely due to my poor explanations) and sundering the link has diverse implications, I think.
In general: In any economy, parecon or capitalism or any other, if we look at a year’s outcomes retrospectively we can see that a certain total volume of stuff was produced (including all the by-products, etc.); the total output had a certain make up of so much of this and so much of that; it was distributed to the population with so much going here and so much going there; and it was produced in the first place by people doing so much labor, under such and such conditions of work, with so and so levels of impact on their circumstances. Okay – so, in any economy we can ask how from all the possibilities does this one that occurred get picked? It is always going to be some combination of the dynamics of the economy and the choices of whichever actors are, by virtue of their roles in the economy, able to impact outcomes.
The economic visionary, therefore, has to try to come up with economic institutions that yield desired outcomes – human, social, personal, material, etc. – in ways that persist over time and meet his or her moral and value requirements. Okay, this is what one tries for and what Hahnel and I tried for with parecon. Now – shortcutting to the issue in contention (viewed a bit narrowly for want of space) Supposing that we have for an economy (as with parecon) the following – among other – norms:
Now, the question we are discussing arises, should we add another norm – for example:
Well, if we are going to decide whether to add (4) or (4') or some other variant of the receive more than the effort and sacrifice you expend in work warrants sort despite that you are perfectly able to do an average job complex, we have to determine what are the gains and what are the losses of the proposed change.
And to do it right, we have to ask not only about one aspect or two – for example does the person who works less and gets the same amount as if they worked more feel better, for that – but about all sides of the situation including effects on others, on social relations, on the quality of choices made in participatory planning and their trajectory, etc.....
Thus, we have to indicate our values and ask if the proposed change, via the impact it has on all actors and on production, allocation, and consumption, and via its impact on the economy’s institutions, furthers them or not.
Now the values behind parecon (and someone might prefer some other ones, of course) are solidarity, equity (material and circumstantial), participatory self management, and diversity So the question becomes, does adding rule 4, 4', or some related 4'' on balance give us better results for one or more of these values via its impact on distribution, or consumption, or decision making, or the make up of the social product, etc.? And does it have any deleterious effects that offset the gains? And which “weighs” more?
I will tell you that when I think about this, I still think the answer is no, this kind of change not only doesn’t make things better, it makes things worse, on numerous counts. But I wonder if you guys would be willing to try to address the question in this more methodical way, to see what you come up with..... What are the implications of 4 or 4' or 4'' on equity, solidarity, participatory self management, and diversity (paying attention not only to its obvious immediate implications – some people don’t do work they prefer not to do but get some income for it anyhow – but also to impact on the planning process, etc.)?
Finally, one more point. We can think about adding a rule like 4' at the outset, or we can think about doing it after parecon has been in existence, without the rule, for a few generations. This is not the same, by a long shot... In the former case, we have to ask the implications adding the rule has for the way that different existent constituencies/classes (in present society) would view the goal, and would try to adapt it as it is being created. In the latter case, these constituencies/classes no longer exist.
How would parecon reward “secondary labor” that women the world over are responsible for: the bearing and rearing of children, and the making of “home” or household?
If household functions are deemed work in a parecon, which they certainly can be if that is the choice, then they are part of the planning process. They are among all the tasks. They are allocated in balanced job complexes. And so on. Therefore, simply, all questions of equity, control, diversity, solidarity, etc. are handled as with any other kind of work.
On the other hand, if household functions were deemed, let’s say, kinship activity, or something, and not part of the economy per se, in a society with a parecon, then the determination of how they are done, in what relationships, etc., would depend on the values and structures of what I would call the kinship sphere of life (as opposed to the economy). However, just as the economy has to be compatible with the cultural/community sphere of life, the polity, and kinship, so vice versa. Thus, if kinship says male and female have very very limited implications for life choice, the economy cannot have a sexual division of labor. And if the economy says people must respect equity of circumstance and empowerment, the kinship sphere cannot allocate its kinship activities in a nonequitable fashion re fulfillment or empowerment. Thus, in the second case two – in which rearing children, etc., is not deemed first and foremost economic activity, still in a parecon it will have to be handled equitably if the kinship sphere and the economy are to be compatible.
The system you've designed doesn’t account for the fact that women are already underrepresented at work. Moving them into a participatory scheme would necessitate a radical restructuring of child care and home work as a prerequisite to their equal participation. How do you resolve this?
It isn’t that it doesn’t account for it, it is that a model of a vision isn’t a description or plan for how to attain and create the vision. It is just about the established good economy.
If home-work and child care isn’t deemed economic, then everyone has to do a full share of economic work, in a balanced job complex. The home and child care work would have to be equally shared or women would be exhausted, etc., as now in many instances. I agree. But it wouldn’t have to be planned in the same fashion as production in typical workplaces. It would be, instead, a part of consumption.
On the other hand, if home work and child care is part of the economy, then even just the dictates of parecon guarantee equitable and just allocations for men and women, and for all those involved. In any event, I agree with you that a parecon requires a different kinship sphere than we have – one that doesn’t produce patriarchy, for example, or commercial class attitudes either.
But isn’t in true that to move women into a participatory system, you would have to move child care and home-based work into the parecon system, to free up enough time for them to begin to participate?
This I don’t quite follow. It is perhaps one way to proceed but by saying that it is the only way, it seems to assume that however much child care and home-based work occurs, it must inevitably occupy women more. Why is that? It seems much more likely to me that it will be shared, handled collectively, etc., in various kinds of new living arrangements. Indeed, it seems to me that our vision for kinship relations will probably require this for reasons that have to do with eliminating hierarchies of power and other unjust phenomena among men and women.
There is also a good case to be made that home based work is a rather private and personal affair the volume of which is to a considerable extent a matter of one’s own choosing, not an economic plan, and the output of which is for oneself, not for others in the economy. This is what makes consideration of it a bit complex.
For example, suppose you and another person live together and opt for a very fancy house arrangement that takes a whole lot of work because you like the elaborate layout and floor plan and floral arrangements and whatnot, which entails all this work. Should all the work that you do on this stuff count toward your economic contribution to society and should all the inputs not go against your incomes, even though you and your partner are virtually the only beneficiaries of the excess household labors? It may well be more just, in fact, to say that we are all responsible for our own living arrangements, cleanliness, and so on, using our incomes and energies as we choose, in addition to whatever is the average workload that society has settled on for the economy (presumably much reduced from now). This seems true to me, at any rate. But I think good values and insights on these issues depend, in considerable degree, on a powerful, compelling, and liberatory vision (broadly) for kinship institutions in general – which is why we don’t get into it in the parecon books, too much, feeling we don’t have the insight to do so.
Here is an excerpt from the book Parecon: Life After Capitalism...with some additional points...