Thought experiment: What if the participatory economy did not have annual participatory planning and instead worked in the following way:
Producers submit bids, at any time, to use productive resources that become available and if they win they get a permit to use the resource for a specified amount of time. Maybe the amount of time could be worked out with their industry federation, and would be a little more dynamic than in annual participatory planning; for example, if the workplace only needs the resource, say a tool, for half the year, like could be the case for some farmers, then the permit would only be given for that length of time.
Their social cost is still measured in the same way as in participatory planning: whatever they paid for the resource through bidding is added to the workplace’s social cost. Their social benefit is as well: it is just the sum of all the prices of products they sell.
Acquiring labor would have to be a bit different than for other resources in the Commons. Workplaces wouldn’t get permits to use people. They would just hire who they need. Everyone would have balanced jobs of course. Worker’s incomes would still be based on effort and sacrifice. The total amount of income a workplace gets to split among its workers could happen in the same way as in participatory planning. In Democratic Economic Planning, Robin writes that, “It is last year’s actual social benefit-to-cost ratio that serves as a cap on average effort ratings worker councils can award members.” Labor would be added to the workplaces social cost as is so in participatory planning.
Workplaces are evaluated maybe on a yearly basis to determine if their social benefit is greater than or equal to their social cost. If this is not so, and they don’t have a good reason for it, like a natural disaster, maybe they get another year or two to turn things around. If they can’t turn things around then the workplace is closed. This is what annual participatory planning does already as I understand it: annual proposals are approved based on projections but workplaces are actually held accountable for the actual SB/SC ratios at the end of the year.
I understand that in participatory planning workplaces are still sort of bidding on productive resources, but what I am suggesting basically removes the need for the IFB in this process. The IFB would adjust prices for products on the consumer side with an algorithm that just adjusts prices up if demand is high and down if demand is low, but in real time and not through an iterative planning procedure.
I know this sounds a little like a market but it is not. This is because all productive resources are a part of the Commons still. When a workplace sells a product they do not get that money as income, just like in participatory planning. Social benefits and social costs are still being calculated and acted upon. Workplaces and consumers still have access to all of the information about social costs and benefits of their actions that they would in participatory annual planning. But while it is not a market, it is also not a plan because things are happening in real time in a market-like way.
The point I am making is that this way of doing things would be updating production based on consumption in real-time. The industry federation wouldn’t have to work with consumer federations to adjust a plan, which seems like it could get a little difficult for situations where demand for a product is increased.
I am not saying I don’t support participatory planning. I think the idea is great. Nor am I super confident about any of this. I am just brainstorming here. In any event, if I am wrong I will be able to learn more from the experience. My thought process was to make participatory allocation a bit more dynamic. I started thinking a bit about post-plan adjustments and the idea came that we might not need a participatory annual plan. Development planning would still be required.