There seem to be all kinds of layers to this debate or aspects.
One is that Meta is new. It’s part of DiEM25. Parecon has been neglected pretty much over it’s thirty year history. That Yanis, Meta and DiEM are onto it means it becomes more visible…hopefully. This can only be a good thing. There is a feeling Parecon is stirring up the waters a little. May be an illusion, but you never know.
Another is that when Michael enters into a debate he has to toss up…I’m assuming this totally…who the readers are and it seems to me he often adopts the view that it’s new readers, new people, that are being exposed to something like Parecon. So he writes accordingly…unlike myself who just writes whatever and gets into trouble (conjures up the free will debate don’t it. Can us people do otherwise than what we actually do do? Does it matter that we can’t? Is acting freely compatible with determinism if it be true? Ok, I’ll refrain. Is the ability to decided to refrain, rather than even actually refraining, all that’s needed for acting freely? Ok, I’ll actually refrain.)
For me it was more, ok, another debate that probably won’t go anywhere. Just squat somewhere on some marginal website no one knows about. Both participants stating their views in a well-mannered way, then going home. Yanis holding firm to his market/socialist type notions and Michael holding firm to Parecon. But then I thought, well, perhaps there are many out there who know of Yanis but not Michael and not so much Parecon. So for Michael it’s always about outreach and getting more people to consider seriously something like Parecon. Parecon is the outlier here. It’s unique. But it’s getting publicity.
Another is the format. Both participants are restricted to word count. Got to be concise which means it’s not like the other debates on ZNet. So there is a frustrating element here. But then maybe more for those of us familiar with Parecon and the arguments but not so much a new audience.
Another frustrating component is about Meta. Meta verges on the overly intellectual. Pushing beyond folk commonsense and knowledge. There’s a desire at Meta, in my opinion, to analyse beyond what I would regard as sufficient and necessary. To me Parecon, as a scaffold, is sufficient and necessary. One can go beyond if one wants, intellectually and perhaps in institutional detail and I would not have a problem with people doing so. I would have a problem however with things getting beyond the comprehension and understandability of “the folk”. I would not have a problem with extensive institutional detail that could invoke the notion of a “blueprint” (a mythical beast I have yet to stumble across…anywhere). Why? Because you just look at what’s proposed, discuss and deal with it. If most of it can be thrown out because “everyone” thinks it goes too far so be it. Not an issue. But over intellectualisation is an issue. And Yanis hints at it himself by invoking Marx and philosophically questioning words like equity and such, yet the format doesn’t really allow for enough elaboration of such ideas. So far no Hegel…thank fucking supercreator!
Then there’s the wait between each participant. I would wager Michael is ready at any moment to respond to Yanis, but I’m not so sure about Yanis. The wait, time lag, between responses is frustrating.
Also frustrating is that one can only comment it seems at ZNet. Not that commenting actually does anything at all. But this whole kind of Meta thing has a kind of keep out mentality about it. There’s no commenting facility at all, no forum, like this PE site, which I find pointless really. It’s like another Next System Project where they have a section where multiple players can dump their visions and views about what post-capitalism is, should be and leave. And at Meta, it appears there is the view that we are already in a post-capitalist world. This tendency to over intellectualise economics…for instance the idea we are in “late stage” capitalism is only of any meaning to someone who’s read Wallerstein’s world systems theory. It’s totally meaningless at the folk level and it’s at that level all this stuff has to get out. Like how do you get people like Bill Baker, Matt Damon’s character in Stillwater, and his daughter Allison to believe that life can or could be, if we changed the economic system, less than brutal?
It’s kind of strange in a way that these kinds of discussion are formatted like this and that visions for tomorrow…because that’s what visions are for…are always merely dumped somewhere by “individuals” and left for other “individuals” to read and make their “individual” minds up as if that’s how shit has to work or should work etc… It’s often just too much for “the folk” if they even know where to look.
One can go on Commons Transition and read lengthy transcriptions on the meaning of value that are so overly intellectual and philosophical it renders them pointless for “the folk”. There are lengthy discussions , around the traps, about “Art” and it’s role within the Left Landscape that I find obnoxious in the sense of Art being some special category of life that only a special category of person can do. Arguments about innovation, as if that matters as much as basic desired values. And as if fostering those values alone and getting people to agree on what they mean…like equity…ain’t hard enough, let alone having to try and match or outdo market capitalism’s supposed amazing innovative nature…fuck off.
But for once I’d rather see a serious discussion about where visions diverge along a spectrum and where they remain similar than just these debates between two individuals with two individual visions. A collating of ideas for fuck sake. Collaboration rather than DEBATE. Why constantly argue the points? Why not just see where they diverge along a spectrum and admit that shit, if I’m wrong then maybe you’re right, but if you’re wrong, maybe I’m right. So Parecon isn’t a “different” vision to Varoufakis’s or anyone else’s but rather sits somewhere else on the spectrum of change and it just addresses things that market socialism may not. So rather than say, I think your planning system is not feasible, you say, “fuck me, you guys came up with a mutually cooperative participatory non-centralised planning system? Who does that? That’s fucking awesome. Let’s make sure that as many people as possible know it exists. And maybe there’s a way that some of the ideas included in Parecon can inform my market based model, which could be superseded by your non-market model, eventually because my model is really just say some variation of maybe, Olin Wright’s ideas, or Schwieckart’s ideas or Alperovitz’s ideas, along some spectrum.”
The same SHOULD go with discussions about post-capitalist debates/discussions with anarchists. But you see it doesn’t happen. Anarchists hold their grounds on principle, because, well, they’re anarchists. Declared anarchists. Or they’re even overbearingly arrogant anti-anarchist anarchists trying to outsmart the outsmartest. For fuck sake. Even Chomsky won’t debate or discuss Parecon with Michael and one of Michael’s main reasons for desiring that isn’t to prove Noam wrong, but rather to garner as much visibility for Parecon as possible. The late David Graeber called Michael a “theorist” as if that’s all Parecon amounts to. It’s just a theory, and not really practical as if anarchism in some basic sense is a practical and innate non-theoretical position that will some how miraculously just appear…see Zapatistas and Rojava…and a world of 9 billion people really doesn’t need an economy…production, consumption and allocation…to be spelled out in any detail. Like the second smartest anti-anarchist anarchist in the world Bob Black declaring we must get rid of work and well, that’s it. Just get rid of it and make it fun. There ya go. Of course he thinks Chomsky is a Marxist. For fuck sake. So maybe sucking up one’s principles and discussing these matters in ways that are productive for the whole Left landscape, working together, is a better strategy, rather than just a bunch of clever, intellectuals holding their ground. Because let’s face it, once you’ve declared publicly that you hold to certain views, say of the great man Karl, you probably going to be less likely to all of a sudden, when confronted by another individual’s views, renounce your position and admit perhaps you are just plain wrong. Or that even perhaps that those views are just plain irrelevant and unnecessary. That may be embarrassing.
The folk view of equity and whatever else is far more important than Marx’s or any philosophers for that matter. Or even better than Nob Black’s ideas (sorry, typo). Folk intuitions play an important role in all this stuff and Meta comes across, to me at least, a little verging on beyond the folk, which calls into questions it’s practicality.
The practicality of these debates/discussions/sites is what matters along with how many people even look at them. What should really matter is that market socialism is infinitely…well perhaps not infinitely…better that market capitalism. So is it a transitional kind of phase change toward something even possibly better, like a non-market participatory planned economy? Viewed from this position Parecon isn’t something to be debated and proven wrong by the likes of a few individuals who often stand way apart from folk intuitions about these matters, mainly because they’ve read…and like to let people know they have (see Nob Black). Or even worse, declared not feasible by similar individuals. It’s actually merely a real possibility on the spectrum and we should be thankful it’s there. That people thought it up. I suspect even Nob Black would like people to read about his ideas re work and find it worthy or valuable. I have and think there’s merit. But not in Nob’s arrogant isolationist with me or against me I’m hard but fair but definitely smarter than everyone else out there attitude. Perhaps I shouldn’t call him Nob Black, but it’s kind of fun. And I’m trying to make this, writing this, this “work”, funnish.
So Chomsky (the Marxist intellectual…lol) has issues with Parecon around remuneration (principled) and whether it stretches credulity based on what I call the ignorance argument. So what? He could be wrong. The argument he makes about us not really knowing enough to come up with a new system in some whole sense doesn’t account for the fact that two people did come up with Parecon and think it viable. Are they ignorantly overstepping to think that? Who cares. Look at it seriously because Albert and Hahnel are serious people, not whacky goofballs with science fiction type ideas on their minds (Nob may think otherwise and not be able to refrain from saying so). The ignorance argument actually suggests we look at everything rather than ignore some…even REAL blueprints…in case “we” (the elusive WE. Is Meta a general all round inclusive folk “we” or a very select “We”?) have missed something. Some say, almost irrespective of this ignorance argument, that there are many possible economies, which is odd. Well, maybe there actually aren’t. The ignorance argument makes it possible that for anything around the present population of this earth that there is in fact only one all round general set of economic institutions that will foster the values we all innately, secretly or even unconsciously desire and that promotes ecological sanity. And anyway to say we could have many economies really should invoke more detailed discussion as to what that really means and how all those apparently different economies speak to one another or interact. Just saying we can go local is meaningless. Just saying we need a solidarity economy is meaningless. Eco-socialism is meaningless. Make work fun is meaningless.
A basic income is also meaningless from a folk standpoint. The first question anyone would ask is how much? A living wage is meaningless. What does “living” mean? I can see outrageously long drawn out debates at Commons Transition about this stuff. Then of course, how much would a “living” wage be? Why that much? Who decides? Why can’t a basic income be fifty thousand dollars a year for everyone instead of the usual 10-12000? Start from there, not from way down below. Then work your way through arguments that will inevitable divulge the underlying premises or positions from which someone is arguing. Why not just declare that we could print that amount of money easily…it just appears, like a bank loan, in your bank account? What would a basic income like that do to the existing economy? What does it tell you about the existing economy? Maybe that it’s absurd, along with markets? After a while one begins to realise all people are doing is arguing from some already held theoretical basis, ideological position or belief in some set of economic institutions that put arbitrary constraints on how much a basic income can be. If in your head you have a certain economic system in mind then the basic income can only be x. If another, it can be y. If another it can be z. Arbitrary stuff really. Parecon in some sense was built ex nihilo, from a set of values the economy needed to foster and compared to already existing economic systems and institutions and how they faired fostering them.
It’s like arguing for economic efficiency. As Michael says, that would depend on what you believe in value wise. If you think it ok a few should get real rich and the many can live boring, tedious and banal lives, often very short, the the most efficient economy is capitalism coupled with markets.
One can argue till the desert frogs come out to spawn over the meaning of equity and the “dangers” that lurk within. But for fuck sake, most of us have a pretty simple idea of what freedom of opportunity perhaps is without sitting down with Harry Frankfurt and going through his On Equality with a fine tooth comb. “Fuck man, I just want to be able to buy me a reasonable guitar that holds its tuning and have enough time to pursue my creative drive to a degree that satisfies, perhaps without being totally self-indulgently selfish”. Now rewrite that sentence and replace “to buy a reasonable guitar that holds its tuning” with x. That requires access to the social pie. How to access it? It asks about what the social pie consists of. That sentence suggests a willingness to admit that one cannot just sit idly by and let others make the stuff one wants and just consuming it. It suggests, even if only just, a notion of social value and utility. And it suggests the idea of leisure time, time for oneself, where perhaps creative drives and maybe “living” for most can really be pursued.
So viewed from that point of view and not from some endless incomprehensible philosophical discussion about the meaning of equity and the “dangers” that lurk within, one can ask simple questions about economic institutions and structures to see if they provide and foster what “the folk” want.
Of course we can’t ask every single member of “the folk” because that’s just ridiculous and many will no doubt answer as Bill Baker and his daughter Allison believe, that life is brutal and that’s it. But we can certainly present change with a view to “the folk” mindset and basic commonsense.
And I guarantee you, even without having read Yanis’s ideas for a post-capitalist system, yet, that much of it will be difficult to digest being that he is an economist, has read Marx and declared, at least to some degree, himself a Marxist of sorts. Schwieckart is similar and similarly difficult and Yanis is driving down a very similar path. And that’s not good enough. It just isn’t. I hope I’m wrong.
Often these debates do come down to who has more credentials and/or who is cooler or better known. Yanis probably wins that race in a sense…not to have a go at Michael. Lack of credentials and coolness is not of interest to me, but to many it kind of is. So I can see Yanis being declared the “winner” of this debate perhaps regardless of the fact that when it comes to change there shouldn’t ever be a winner per se. Change is what’s important. Change in the way we do things. And those things we have changed and presently do will determine whether or not everyone, on a relatively as good as “we” can get equal basis…(straight away I can hear the philostophers [shout out to FZ] crowing)…has a chance of “buying” a guitar that holds its tuning and fulfilling their creative desires. See, that’s a basic way of looking at equality. Equality is merely a way of making life for everyone less brutal and if possible…and the ignorance argument suggests we should shoot for perfection…wonderfully relaxed.
Debates can go on forever. The free will “debate” is one such. God damn: Consequence arguments, determinism, indeterminism, incompitabilist arguments, compatibilist arguments, moral responisibility, principle of alternative possibilities, sourcehood and manipulation arguments, deterministic foreknowledge, theistic foreknowledge, leeway compatibilism, indeterminate initiators, counterfactuals, elbow room, basic ultimate source argument, Frankfurt cases, dilemma defence, flicker defence, decisions in the head as opposed to external action, could you have decided otherwise, refrained or acted otherwise, what is it to act otherwise, what would an alternative action to making a cup of tea or scratching your nose be or need to be, even time travel and on and on.
Changing the economic system is and should not be anything like this. Nor is it like making a vaccine. Gar Alperovitz has a pretty good handle on it. It’s a matter if practical application. What can we actually do. But Alperovitz is wrong when he says Parecon is not feasible (personal communication). Schwieckart is wrong when he said, channelling Jeremy Bentham or perhaps Lenin (Bentham said it first), Parecon is nonsense on stilts. Not only is this wrong but it’s arrogant and unhelpful. John Jordan, along with others who believe in improvising our way to a better future or “self-organising” as we go, is wrong. Not just wrong but actually quite silly when he, Jordan himself, says,
“Our movements are trying to create a politics that challenges all the certainties of traditional leftist politics, not by replacing them with new ones, but by dissolving any notion that we have answers, plans or strategies that are watertight or universal. . . . We are trying to build a politics . . . that acts in the moment, not to create something in the future but to build in the present, it’s the politics of the here and now.”
Unhelpful, and who “our movements” are is worth thinking about a little. And all market socialists are wrong, when they say markets are necessary. As are anarchists when they suggest we do not need “remuneration” or some accounting method in an economy spelled out to any degree.
All are wrong, but they are all right as well. They all want change and advocate for something that sits along a spectrum of possible change and that is somehow shaped by internal beliefs and principles. But essentially it’s the same path they are all on. Yes some veer off in seemingly crazy directions, but who cares…they could be on the right path, we’re ignorant remember…but essentially it’s a matter of how far you are willing to go.
So where does Parecon sit on the spectrum and where does Yanis’s view sit on that spectrum. And how do we see them as moving in the same direction and how do we bridge the gap or at least keep Parecon in view all the time, on the table, all the time, and not to have to fight even just for recognition. Parecon isn’t just a vision, it’s presents ideas to dealing with matters and problems that other visions do not. For that alone it should be constantly referred to not ignored and it really should not have to defend itself against accusations of infeasibility because such positions are, if one takes the ignorance argument seriously, arrogantly over-stretching. Parecon could even be of value to Nob Blacks ideas on work. But of course Nob has already poo pooed Parecon already, so for him it’s off the table.
Markets are bad. Even Yanis agrees. Schwieckart loves them. There’s a difference between Schwieckart and Yanis even though they are driving down the same road. Alec Nove said anything other than a centrally planned allocation system was not possible (ignorance argument in play). Albert and Hahnel have proved Nove wrong. There is a way. Is it THE WAY? Who knows? The ignorance argument applies. But we should be thankful Parecon is there and not damming it to the scrap heap on principle, or arrogance, or even gagging and suffocating from its institutional structure. That’s just emotive rubbish.