Originally published at: » A PARTICIPATORY ECONOMY: What’s in a Name?

Four decades ago Michael Albert and I discussed what to call our post-capitalist economic proposal at some length. If memory serves we spent more than a year thinking about a suitable name, and mulling over different alternatives. Since our model abolished private ownership by “capitalists” of what socialists had long called “the means of production,”…

Aren’t all models merely guides? All the market socialist models that only economists know about as well. Just ideas some humans have come up with? Parecon offers a point of difference of course, but it’s still just a guide, a bunch of possible and coherent ideas. And it’s not even remotely close to being an actual thing and yet people are critiquing it, offering up changes, this and that, as if we DO know a bunch of stuff that would happen if implemented in its original form, which surely no one really does. All that stuff can be done while something like a Parecon is being put in place without issue. That’s assuming of course if something like Parecon was ever given the green light most humans would be up for the challenge because they voted it in or something to that effect in the first place. And surely it wouldn’t happen in one big bang. Arguing or debating about whether participation would result in endless meetings when we have actually no idea what having a Parecon would be like, or even a considerably planned socialist economy with some market stuff, is just weird to me. And I think not at all helpful. It’s just a possibility that’s worthy of notice and consideration like any other. We aren’t even close to ridding ourselves of the private ownership of the means of production. We aren’t even close to a good mix of planning and markets yet or something like Schweickart’s model with no labour markets or financial markets. We can’t even get a GGND up in the face of doom. Who knows what we are capable of doing? It would be a transitional process to get to a Parecon surely. You spent decades trying to convince someone of something that no one really knows will work or not? Isn’t it a transitional thing? Move to a, then b, then c, with a GGND first, bit of this, then that, ruptural change here or there if we get cocky and lucky, have the numbers and it’s needed or possible, then whatever seems a further possibility and something better, could be done and could lead to z, Parecon and it’s supposed impossible institutions, which by then may just seem obvious? I put Parecon at the end because it’s essentially still invisible, and we haven’t even started yet on the first step which gets us to a. By the time we get to y, if y is possible and even desirable, or maybe even before, long before, people will probably know whether a full blooded participatory planning system is possible, desirable, stupidly easy and, oh my god, who would have thought, time friendly. By then Seemingly Humanlike Intelligent Tech (SHIT) may have become actual AI and is helping us humans out through the kindness of its own artificial heart and superior intelligence. Or not! But only if Parecon is one of the many acceptable blueprints on the table which actually should be the case now because, well, the idea is here, it’s conceivable, more so than Chalmer’s philosophical zombies, it’s as good as any other vision and has it place further along the trajectory of change giving humans plenty of time to see its pitfalls and decide whether they want or need it.