Parecon Implementation Simulation

I have a keen interest in figuring out how a Parecon would be put into practice if ever an opportunity would arise to do so. For example, it could manifest via a revolution like it did for communism in Russia. Or it could start out small and gradually overtake the dominant system, capitalism. Or it could peacefully replace an existing communist regime like in Cuba. Or a democratic country could elect politicians whose main platform is to implement a Parecon (my personal favourite) and then go from there. The context of a transition to a Parecon could take many forms.

Would anyone be interested in working on some kind of hypothetical implementation plan, as though we were asked to produce one for one of the contexts I’ve described above? The goal would be to produce a kind of roadmap which could be referenced should ever the opportunity arose, to implement a Parecon model.

Regardless of the scenario, it means scrapping existing institutions and building upon those remnants the Parecon institutions. But it must be practical. For example, if in a given country, its citizens controlled all of its legislatures, what would be those legislatures first order of business? Obviously, some laws would have to change, such as those that created corporations, the federal reserve banking system, etc. But what new laws would need to be created so that the Parecon institutions would take hold?

Then, how would those worker council institutions manifest? Would the agricultural department be turned into an agricultural federation? Would the manufacture of farm implements, machinery and tools fall under its jurisdiction? if so, does that mean that John Deere and Monsanto fall under the mandate of the agricultural federation? what about farm land? would it become part of the commons?

Then there is the whole matter of painlessly transitioning from a corporate model to one that is based on Parecon principles of fair pay, etc. over what period of time would this take? what sorts of educational programs would be implemented so that workers understand their new roles, etc.

What do you think? Anyone interested in fleshing out a way forward?

Claude

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I think the most realistic path forward is to educate people, and then build up a network of cooperatively owned enterprises. Let’s imagine a scenario where there’s been a revolution and people are ready to implement a new system. The first problem is that most people have never thought about what a better system would look like. The second problem is that there’s no infrastructure available to support economic democracy. Economic democracy is going to feel weird at first since it’s so different from how things work today. I suspect it will take time for people to learn and adjust to these big changes, and the first few steps will likely provide a lot of valuable insight.

I can’t imagine a scenario where things still work like they do today, and all of a sudden we flip a switch and have economic democracy. However, if we had a network of cooperatively owned enterprises we would start off with some of the infrastructure in place, and would probably have gained a lot of knowledge in the process of building those up.

I think the core questions for any kind of realistic implementation strategy would be:

  1. How can we get more people thinking about these ideas?

  2. How can we create more cooperatively owned enterprises?

I feel like the first question has been addressed in some other threads around here. The best answer for the second question is probably going to be some kind of subsidy. There’s a law in Italy that lets unemployed workers pool their unemployment checks together to start a new cooperative enterprise. It would be great to see more things like that happening around the world.

My dad worked at a car factory here in America for about thirty years, and then the people up top decided to move the whole thing to Mexico. The workers had a serious discussion about attempting some kind of buyout and turning the factory into a cooperative, or at least starting a new cooperative with what was left. Unfortunately, they ruled this out pretty quickly because they didn’t have the money to do it. I imagine there have been a lot of people in a similar scenario, so it makes sense to me to spend all of our political energy towards enacting laws that can help support new co-ops.

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I’m all for education and it would make things a whole lot easier to implement if everyone knew in advance what this enterprise would look like, but I’m not sure how realistic it is to do so. How many people would you have to reach to do so? ideally it would be influencers who then educate their audiences. But how long would this take?

As for cooperatives, there are a number of initiatives around the world that seem to work out. This could be a potential avenue. My biggest concern is that cooperatives need to function within a capitalist economy and their markets. The elites can easily crush these if they wish. They need capital, cash, to get going. Your raise the issue in your own example:

On that note, the idea of starting cooperatives taking into consideration the notion of lack of capital and competing within a capitalist market economy, there was one idea that I was bouncing around.

An Indian reservation could be a place to set up a Parecon. They have land, which is one of harder things to come by. They could potentially set up their own economy, working outside that of the capitalist economy. For example, their first enterprise could respond to the most basic of needs, food. There is a reservation close to where I grew up. There is a mixed bag of socio economic status, most of which is in the lower strata. A good number are on welfare, and many of those are single parents. What if they got together and started to work the land to feed themselves. They still have their welfare checks coming in, so the food is over and above. It gives these people a sense of purpose, community. They can earn credits for working the land and producing crops for themselves. The credits they earn would be spent on this food. If they produce a surplus, they can sell these in local grocery stores, raising capital to purchase lumber, tools, etc. In addition to farming occupations, there would be childcare jobs, because the single parents can bring their children with them. So already we have two types of occupations. And the education component that you raised is also addressed because this community will learn as it goes. Other individuals on the reservation could also participate. A barber for example, could cut hair and accept the Parecon credits as a method of payment. So long as excess food is produced, the credits can be spent somewhere, so there is an incentive to earn them. All the while, the Parecon institutions can be established. It could virtually become a fully functioning Parecon at some point down the road.

I see this as a viable alternative and one that could be worked on in the short and longer term. I can see this succeeding more quickly than trying to establish a cooperative, although this would be a cooperative of sorts, but one that is truly functioning outside of capitalism.

As for the approaches I cited in my first post, when the Bolsheviks took power, they had a plan, and over time implemented it. The same could be done with a Parecon if the same opportunity presented itself.

Cheers

Claude

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Well you’ll never get everyone to agree, but I hope the aim would be to have the majority of people support the core principles and values of the system. I don’t see how a democratic system could function without that kind of support. And yeah, I think we’re many years away from being able to implement something like this.

I actually think past revolutions are a great example for why we need education. I think it’s fair to say that many dictators have manipulated the people’s desire for a more democratic economy to take power and implement a harsh regime. If the people had a clearer idea of what the better system looked like they would have been better equipped to press their demands and stop that from happening. At the very least they would have been able to identify what was being implemented was nothing like what they wanted. Instead of putting faith into charismatic leaders to do the right thing, I’d like people to be equipped to do the right thing themselves when the time comes.

I agree that cooperatives have their fair share of problems, and there’s no doubt the elites would want to crush them. But I see developing cooperatives as a transitionary phase where we can take the first steps to implementing the infrastructure we need while also getting more experience with economic democracy.

I like your example of starting with the small communities. But I imagine they would also face opposition from elites at some point. You’ll face that no matter what the approach is haha. But in my mind there’s a better chance of keeping these things alive if we can influence the government to provide support for them (like what I was talking about with the government passing laws to support cooperatives). Without that level of support, I imagine anything would be crushed.

I have long thought that cooperatives are an important part of a transition program to reach a participatory economy… or any more desirable economy for that matter! Afew years back I published an article in the Eastern Economics Journal which spelled out a way that cooperatives which must, necessarily operate in the environment of capitalist markets for now, might overcome at least some of the problems this creates. That idea came out of working with folks in Venezuela where the government was creating a huge number of new cooperatives every month, but not happy with the fact that inequalities were emerging between richer and poorer cooperatives. This is the citation and abstract:

Reducing Inequities Among Worker-Owned
Cooperatives: A Proposal
Robin Hahnel
Department of Economics, American University. Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,
Portland State University. 3716 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, OR 97202, USA.
E-mail: robinhahnel@comcast.net

When worker-owned cooperatives trade goods and services at market prices they tend to
reproduce differences in payments to members of more advantaged co-ops compared to
members of less advantaged co-ops. Members of worker-owned cooperatives who believe
this violates ‘‘cooperative principles’’ requiring that co-op members be compensated
fairly could reduce inequities among co-ops by forming a cooperative mutual aid
association which adopts redistributive pricing rules. This article proposes redistributive
pricing rules that (1) reduce inequities among co-ops and (2) leave members of more
advantaged co-ops absolutely better off, but (3) do not introduce inefficiencies in the
distribution of capital among co-ops.

Eastern Economic Journal (2009) 35, 174–189. doi:10.1057/eej.2008.10

If anyone is interested I can email them a pdf file of the article. Just email me to ask for the file:
robinhahnel@comcast.net.

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