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Anarchism and a moneyless economy

category international | economy | opinion / analysis author Friday February 03, 2006 20:01author by Alan MacSimoin - WSM Report this post to the editors

Anarchists are usually pretty good at listing the things we are against: capitalism, racism, religious sectarianism, authoritarianism and so on. We are usually pretty good at explaining how best to struggle: direct democracy and mass direct action. Where we often fall down is in explaining what we want at the end of the day, and convincing our listeners that it is a realistic alternative rather than a utopian pipe dream

Too many anarchists throw up revolutionary slogans without explaining what they mean.

To give an example: most people think the state is the country where they live, i.e. Ireland. So there isn't much point in shouting 'smash the state' without first explaining what the state is and why we want to smash it. Unless we want to look like idiots!

Similarly, there is a slogan in one of the toilets at work that says 'abolish all prisons'. Without a discussion about what is a crime, what causes crime, why we believe most of the causes can be eradicated - we sound like nutters who just want to open the doors for rapists, gangsters and murderers.

If we want to be taken seriously we have to convince people that what we say makes sense.

We often sum up our goal of a communist non-market and moneyless economy with the slogan 'from each according to ability, to each according to need'. Tonight I will try to kick off a discussion about what this means and how it might work.

To start, I’ll reject the collectivist idea of exchange between independent workplaces and localities. That may have made sense when the productive forces were only in their lower stages of development, but now capitalism has created the conditions which makes communist economy a realistic option.

Those at workplace level who produce goods would have no say as to how those goods would be distributed or used - since if they did they would have a property right over them and that would not be socialism.

Society as a whole is immediately the owner of any product of labour supplied by each of its members, who will have no special rights over what they have produced.

Under anarchism production will be social, and thus there is no ownership by anyone of the instruments of production, including the land and fixed installations like factories, power stations or transport fleets.

Social ownership would not be based on the state (or nationalisation), or even on common ownership by the workforce in each job, but on the complete absence of any exclusive use-controlling rights over the means of production and their products; and it would involve the complete disappearance of buying and selling, of money, of wages and of all other exchange categories, including enterprises as autonomous economic units.

The administration - or whatever we choose to call the bodies we delegate to administer distribution – will allocate whatever proportion is needed for general services like health, education, housing, foreign aid, etc. and leaves the rest for daily individual consumption.

Naturally, there being no money, the goods which the administration make available for individual consumption would be available for individuals to take freely without charge.

But what happens when there is not enough to go around? That's really the key question isn't it? There will be conflicts and disagreements. Should we put a new roof on apartment building A or apartment building B? And if we want to do both we might need to use timber obtained by cutting down trees in an area that some people believe should be left untouched because it is important to a local ecosystem.

So disagreements will exist, the difference is that we will seek to resolve them democratically rather than through the rule of the rich.

What about "supply and demand"?

Anarchists do not ignore the facts of life, namely that at a given moment there is so much a certain thing produced and so much of is desired to be consumed or used.

Neither do we deny that different individuals have different interests and tastes.

However, this is not what is usually meant by "supply and demand." Often in general economic debate, this formula is given a certain mythical quality which ignores the underlying realities which it reflects as well as some unwholesome implications. So, before discussing "supply and demand" in an anarchist society, it is worthwhile to make a few points about the "law of supply and demand" in general.

Firstly, as the historian E.P. Thompson argued, "supply and demand" promotes "the notion that high prices were a (painful) remedy for dearth, in drawing supplies to the afflicted region of scarcity. But what draws supply are not high prices but sufficient money in their purses to pay high prices. A characteristic phenomenon in times of dearth is that it generates unemployment and empty pursues; in purchasing necessities at inflated prices people cease to be able to buy inessentials [causing unemployment] . . . Hence the number of those able to pay the inflated prices declines in the afflicted regions, and food may be exported to neighbouring, less afflicted, regions where employment is holding up and consumers still have money with which to pay. In this sequence, high prices can actually withdraw supply from the most afflicted area."

Surely anarchist-communism would just lead to demand exceeding supply?

It's a common objection that communism would lead to people wasting resources by taking more than they need. Kropotkin stated that "free communism . . . places the product reaped or manufactured at the disposal of all, leaving to each the liberty to consume them as he pleases in his own home." [The Place of Anarchism in the Evolution of Socialist Thought, p. 7]

But, some argue, what if an individual says they "need" a luxury eight bedroom house or a personal yacht? Simply put, workers may not "need" to produce for that ‘need’. As the British synicalist Tom Brown put it, "such things are the product of social labour. . ..it is improbable that any greedy, selfish person would be able to kid a shipyard full of workers to build him a ship all for his own hoggish self." [Syndicalism, p. 51]

Therefore, anarchist-communists are not blind to the fact that free access to products is based upon the actual work of real individuals - "society" provides nothing, individuals working together do. Therefore, the needs of both consumer and producer are taken into account. This means that if no factory or individual desires to produce a specific order then this order can be classed as an "unreasonable" demand - "unreasonable" in this context meaning that no one freely agrees to produce it.

There are plenty of examples today to indicate that free access will not lead to abuses. Let us take just three everyday examples, public libraries, water and pavements.

In public libraries people are free to sit and read books all day. However, few if any actually do so. Neither do people always take the maximum number of books out at a time. No, they use the library as they need to and feel no need to maximise their use of the institution. Some people never use the library, although it is free.

In the case of water supplies, it’s clear that people do not leave taps on all day because water is often supplied freely or for a fixed charge.

Similarly with pavements, we do not spend our free time walking up and down the street because it doesn’t cost us anything extra.

In all such cases we use the resource as and when we need to. Why would we not expect similar results as other resources become freely available?

In effect, the anti-free access argument makes as much sense as arguing that individuals will travel to stops beyond their destination if public transport is based on a fixed charge! And only an idiot would travel further than required in order to get "value for money."

However, for the defenders of capitalism the world seems to be made up of such idiots. It would be interesting to send a few of these clowns to hand out Progressive Democrat or Fianna Fail leaflets in the street. Even though the leaflets are free, crowds are most unlikely to form around the person handing them out demanding as many copies of the leaflet as possible. Rather, those interested in politics or current affairs take them, the rest ignore them.

Part of the problem is that capitalist economics have invented a fictional type of person, whose wants are limitless: someone who always wants more and more of everything and so whose needs could only satisfied if resources were limitless too. Needless to say, such an individual has never existed. In reality, our wants are not limitless - people have diverse tastes and we rarely want everything available nor do we want more of a thing than is necessary to satisfies our needs.

Anarchist-Communists also argue that we cannot judge people's buying habits under capitalism with their actions in a free society. After all, advertising does not exist to inform us about the range of products available but rather to create needs by making people insecure about themselves.

Advertising would not need to stoop to the level of manipulation that creates false personalities for products and provide solutions for problems that the advertisers themselves create if this was not the case.

Crude it may be, but advertising is based on the creation of insecurities, preying on fears and obscuring rational thought. In an alienated society in which people are subject to hierarchical controls, feelings of insecurity and lack of control and influence are natural. It is these fears that advertising multiples - if you cannot have real freedom, then at least you can buy something new. Advertising is the key means of making people unhappy with what they have (and who they are).

It is naive to claim that advertising has no effect on the psyche of the receiver or that the market merely responds to our needs and makes no attempt to shape our thoughts. Advertising creates insecurities about everyday things (how we dress, how we look…) and so generates irrational urges to buy, urges which would not exist in a libertarian communist society.

However, there is a deeper point to be made here about consumerism. Capitalism is based on hierarchy and not liberty. This leads to a weakening of individuality and a loss of self-identity and sense of community. Both these senses are a deep human need and consumerism is often a means by which people overcome their alienation from their selves and others (religion, ideology and drugs are other means of escape). Therefore the consumption within capitalism reflects its values, not some abstract "human nature."

This means that capitalism produces individuals who define themselves by what they have, not who they are. This leads to consumption for the sake of consumption, as people try to make themselves happy by consuming more commodities.

In other words, the well-developed individual that an anarchist society would develop would have less need to consume than the average person in a capitalist one. This is not to suggest that life will be spartan and without luxuries in an anarchist society, far from it. But what I am arguing here is that an anarchist-communist society would not have to fear rampant consumerism making demand constantly outstrip supply.

Investment

As for when investment is needed, it is clear that this will be based on the changes in demand for goods in both collectivist and communist anarchism. As Bakunin's colleague, James Guilliame put it this way, "by means of statistics gathered from all the communes in a region, it will be possible to scientifically balance production and consumption. In line with these statistics, it will also be possible to add more help in industries where production is insufficient and reduce the number of men where there is a surplus of production." [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 370]. Today it makes more sense to talk about the use of bar codes to track demand.

Obviously, investment in branches of production with a high demand would be essential and this would be easily seen from collected statistics. Tom Brown states this obvious point: "Goods, as now, will be produced in greater variety, for workers like producing different kinds, and new models, of goods. Now if some goods are unpopular, they will be left on the shelves. . . Of other goods more popular, the shops will be emptied. Surely it is obvious that the assistant will decrease his order of the unpopular line and increase his order of the popular." [Syndicalism, p. 55]

The abolition of money is an ancient dream, the most radical demand of every social revolution for centuries past.

400BC: Hey all you thirsty people, though you've got no money, come to the water. Buy corn without money and eat. Buy wine without money and milk without price. (Isaiah).

1652: There shall be no buying and selling . . . If any man or family want grain or other provisions, they may go to the storehouse and fetch without money. (Gerrard Winstantley).

We must not suppose that it is therefore destined to remain a utopian dream. Today there is an entirely new element in the situation: Plenty.

All previous societies have been rationed societies, based on scarcity of food, clothing and shelter. The modern world is also a society of scarcity, but with a difference. Today's shortages are unnecessary; today's scarcity is artificial.

The world is haunted by a spectre - the spectre of Abundance. Only by planned waste and destruction on a colossal scale can the terrifying threat of Plenty be averted. Wine lakes, butter mountains, cars built to fall to pieces after less than 10 years, etc.

Money means rationing. It is only useful when there are shortages to be rationed. No one can buy or sell air: it's free because there is plenty of it around. Food, clothing, shelter and entertainment should be free as air. The only excuse for money is that there is not enough wealth to go round - not a valid excuse in a world which has developed the means of production to a level capable of satisfying everyone's needs.

If we made a list of all those occupations which would be unnecessary in a Moneyless World, jobs people now have to do which are entirely useless from a human point of view, we might begin as follows: Wages clerk, Tax assessor, Stockbroker, Insurance agent, Ticket puncher, Salesman, Accountant, Slot machine emptier, Industrial spy, Bank manager.

Of course, the itemising of those jobs which are financial does not end the catalogue of waste. All production today is carried on purely for profit. The profit motive often runs completely counter to human need. 'Built-in obsolescence' (planned shoddiness), the restrictive effects of the patents system, the waste of effort through duplication of activities by competing firms or nations - these are just a few of the ways in which profits cause waste.

What this amounts to is that perhaps up to ninety per cent of effort expended by human beings in the industrialised countries today is entirely pointless (an estimate by the Socialist Party of Great Britain). So it is quite ridiculous to talk about 'how to make sure people work if they're not paid for it'. If just ten per cent of the population worked, and the other ninety per cent stayed at home watching telly, we'd be no worse off than we are now.

But there would be no reason for them to watch telly all the time, because without the profit system work could be made enjoyable. Playing football or climbing mountains are not essentially any more enjoyable than building houses, growing food or programming computers. The only reason we think of some things as 'leisure' and others as 'work' is because we get used to doing some things because we want to and others because we have to.

In a moneyless world work would be a completely different affair. Those tasks that are unavoidably unhealthy or unpleasant, such as coalmining, would be automated or the jobs rotated so that that nobody has to stay doing an unpleasant job for the rest of their life.

But not every country will go anarchist at once. Although modern mass communications and easier travel will mean that the positive experience of the revolution will be known pretty quickly in most parts of the world, there will still be unevenness in the growth of the revolutionary movement.

In the period between, say, Western Europe making a revolution and the rest of the world catching up, how will we cope?

It's one thing to make non-exportable goods and services (like electricity, basic foodstuffs, housing, health and so on) free - but if everything is free what's to stop capitalists like Tesco sending their trucks over here to load up with our free foodstuffs?

I would suggest that we will need a customs service (or if we want to sound more radical, a workers inspection team!) to stop abuses like that.

We would also need money to trade with non-anarchist countries, and indeed to holiday there. But this would be a very minor part of everyday economic life for the average man or woman.

And what money we may need could have an expiry date after a few years, so that it could not be traded internally and hoarded.

These are the sorts of questions we should devote more time to if we are to move from being protesters at the injustice of capitalism to being the advocates of a system that our friends and neighbours will see as a realistic possibility. A talk given to the Jack White branch in late 2005

author by Ilan Shalif - AATWpublication date Sat Feb 04, 2006 23:50author email nali at ainfos dot caauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

For sure we want as much freedom as possible in the classless libertarian communist society after revolution. However, there will always be limits to our will - even if only because of physical limitations of gravity.

The supply of needs of people will be limited because it will needs work time dedicated to their creation - even if all other
limitation of environment and scarce materials already overcome.
For sure lot of what will consumed will be in the social mode of public services like health and education or according to personal needs only. But also a significant part will be of luxeries and personal tastes or hobies.

Thus, in a way simmilar to what Poentas wrote in 1934, there will be some kind of rationing, but it can be rationing by each person and not forced by social supervision.

Some products will never be produced like private airoplans... and addictive drugs... lot of others will be produced according to the fluctuation in the need for them if not causing environmental hazards.

In addition, people will need and take lot of work product, and the true people will not want to take more than their just share of the work products pool.

Thus, among the statistics accomulated there will be accomulated also the statistic of fruits of work every person "takes for free" which needs investment of work for hir specific take away, so s/he will know not to over take than hir share in the production of such luxeries.

(I think that for people with strange urgs for luxeries needing investment of lot of work, there will be the option for contributing more work time than the norm. In the same line of thoght, groups of people with specific urgs that need invesyting of lot of work will be able to form their specific
grouping to manage that consumption as collectives.)

In the beginning of the new social order, and in the case of immature or those whose braine function is limited, there may be a kind of social supervision or presure so people will not take more than their just share of work products, or waste socially and free consumption.

Related Link: http://ainfos.org/ilan/anarchy
author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sun Feb 05, 2006 00:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There will always be trade-offs. This is
unavoidable. That's because there are only
24 hours a day. There are limits to how much
time we want to work. And there are only so many
able-bodied adults. This means there is a finite
limit to the production capacity of the society.
If construction workers spend their day building
a health clinic, they cannot spend that same
amount of time building houses.

You also fail to consider the limits placed on
human production by ecological limits. Air in
fact is not free. A problem with capitalism is
that it pollutes it precisely because no one
prevents them from doing so. To avoid pollution
of air and water requires human time & resources.
As global warming makes clear, we must move away
from fossil fuel burning. This will probably
reduce production capacity due to the needed move
to a lower level of energy consumption.

Given these limits on production, it is essential
that we ensure that what we do put our time &
resources into building is what people most
strongly desire. There is no way to find this
out within the system you have sketched. In order
to find out what people prefer, people have to
make hard choices, hard choices in a situation
where they can't have just anything they might
want. Hard choices in a situation where
inevitably there are finite limits to what they
can consume.

You say nothing in this essay about how
decisions are made in regard to production.
It cannot be the case that workplace groups
make decisions unilaterally. That would make
them completely unaccountable to the society.
There are both public or collective goods that
we want produced -- education, health care,
elimination of pollution, sidewalks, libraries.
There are also private consumption goods. How
is it determined which private consumption
goods are produced? It's not adequate to say
you simply look at what people take. How do
you decide what options are available for the
taking? Moreover, if everthing is free, how
do people know what the consequences for society
are by their consuming a certain amount of
things? There are inevitably consequences
because the more resources & time that go into
producing X, the less is available to produce
something else that would have been produced
with the labor time & resources that went into
producing X. How do you know that people
wanted X more than those other things that
weren't produced but could have been produced
with the same labor & resources that went into
producing X? In fact, under your scheme there's
no way to know.

Free distribution encourages the wrong mentality.
It encourages a mentality of individulism. That's
because there's no information provided about
the social costs of production, and if it's
free, that means the person who is the most
aggressively uncaring about social costs will
get the most goodies.

To find out information about what people most
desire to have produced, people need to have
some finite, quantitative entitlement to
consume which they can allocate to whatever
potential products they want, but forced to
keep within their budget. By doing so, they
then tell us what they most highly desire.
It's inevitable that each person will be limited
to only a finite share of the social product.
And social responsibility is not being
encouraged unless we require work effort from
everyone to produce the social product. Giving
each person a finite quantitative entitlement
to consume for the work effort they do then
encourages social responsibility and it gives
us information about what people most prefer
when they allocate this among the possible
things that could be produced. Without this
information about what people most prefer,
there is no way to ensure effectiveness of
social production in using scarce time &
resources to produce what people most desire.
This is why your moneyless economy would be
hopelessly ineffective & not socially
responsible.

You say at one point that if people demand
mansions, they won't be produced. But who is
to make this decision? Let's say that Jack
wants a boat to go ocean fishing. He's willing
to live in a smaller amount of on-land living
space if he can have this. Why not? As long
as he's doing his share of work, why shouldn't
he be able to take his finite share of the
social product in any particular set of things
he wants? But that will require some way of
measuring the social value of the various
resources that go into producing things. This
requires that we give numeric values to the
various resources we use, so that we can
calculate the social costs of different products.
This means something akin to money. The existence
of social accounting money does not imply
the existence of a market or of capitalism.
But it is necessary to be able to track and
compare the social costs of the various things
people might ask to have produced. This is
necessary if we are to have an effective
and socially accountable system of production.

author by a johnstone - socialist party of great britainpublication date Sun Feb 05, 2006 02:56author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address author phone naReport this post to the editors

i won't enter this discussion but would like to draw your attention to the exchanges that have taken place in the World Socialism Movement discussion list between advocates of Free Access ( SPGB ) and the proponents of Labour Time Vouchers ( mostly De Leonist SLP ). It may be of interest and a relevant and worth- while addition to this debate .

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WSM_Forum/

Also similar debates have taken place on the World In Common discussion list .

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/worldincommon/

author by Paul Azzario - shortly rejoining the SPGB (WSM)publication date Sun Feb 05, 2006 03:45author email paul at azzario dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was alerted to your site by A. Johnstone, a fellow poster on the World Socialist Movement (WSM) Forum (Yahoo). I agree totally with your analysis of the world situation as it now stands. Have you ever posted on the WSM Forum?
As one of those who is all for free access to the products of society, I for one would welcome you to our forum as well. We are currently debating similar topics as well as how to 'advertise' to a greater number of workers.
Yours for world socialism.
Paul Azzario.

author by Brian Gardner - Glasgow branch, SPGBpublication date Sun Feb 05, 2006 05:03author email brian.gardner132 at btinternet dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think the issue Alan has raised is a very important one. In my view, an important obstacle stopping more people supporting the idea of a society based on production for use, is that they simply cant see how a society without money or wages could work. It seems too daunting - too much of a leap of faith to make. The more we discuss it and argue why it needs to involve the removal of the market and money system, the less daunting it seems. In particular, the closer you look, the more examples we can find of where humans routinely behave (inside capitalism) in "socialistic" ways (For example the examples of pavements, water and libraries that Alan mentions)

Most of the objections however tend to be the same old "what about the lazy person who doesnt want to work ?" argument dressed up in another disguise.

But before we get too far into the subject itself, I think it is very important to ask ourselves how much work would actually need to be done ? My interest was alerted by Alan's reference to the SPGB estimate of 10% of current employment being "useful" and the remainder being socially-useless. As an SPGBer I am aware of the paucity of any real data on this issue, and its hard to find out the original sources for these estimates Elsewhere (German 4-Stunde Woche, US Rand Corporation) I have heard reference to figures for socially useful labour inside capitalism (advanced states, ie Europe/US) varying from as high as 50% to as low as 4%.

(Incidentally, I would be very interested in any other estimates, figures or references anyone has)

I think its important to have some handle of this before starting to argue about how a moneyless society might operate. In particular because if these sorts of estimates are at all in the right ballpark, then it changes everything.

Tom Wetzel says there will always be trade-offs. Well yes, there will still have to be some trade offs, but far far fewer than at present. How will those trade-offs be claculated ? Tom thinks we need some sort of money accounting system, presumably because this reduced everything to a simple comparable number. But we know tthat inside capitalism the apparent precision of a price arrived at by the invisible hand of supply and demand hides massive assumptions (need to make a profit for the owner of the productive capital) and is simply not a good measure of social need. [For example the climate change economists who calculated that the average US life was worth $500,000 while a Bangadeshi life was only worth $1000 (because on the market that is what the average person in these two regions insures their own life for !)]

But it doesnt even apply in capitalism anymore that buyers and sellers only look at price - they know that the immediate price on offer doesnt always give a good indication of long-term risk. Do you buy the cheapest nuclear power station available ? - or do you check on the health and safety or environmental protection controls in place. Even the smallest local authority contract now places some weight on "external" issues such as quality of product being tendered, timescale for dleivery, on-going maintenance support, stability/security of provider (ie will they be around in 5 years time to service the equioment sold, or be taken to court in the event of a failure etc etc).

I think production/distribution decisions inside non-market socialist society will involve complex decisions - but not much more so than happens at present. (more open and democratic, but not much more invovled or complex I dont think).

I am not against using accounting tools in certain situations. For example the Scottish environmentalist/engineer Malcom Slesser has proposed a natural capital accounting system using energy/entropy as a unit of measurement that almost all things (labour, resource depletion ect) can be reduced to. Personally, I dont think we will need one single system - we'll probably have a range of types of tool available to use for different levels /scopes of decision-making (just as at present european law requires environmental impact assessments for certain types or locations of major development projects, but you dont do an environmental impact assessment when you decide what to have for your tea at night). The important thing however is not to have a single universal accounting system that relates back to ownership. That just brings you back ultimately and inexorably to class society, employment, exploitation and states.

Tom mentions environmental/ecological limits. He's right these will have to apply to a non-market socialist society as much as (hopefully a good deal more so) in a capitalist society. But if those estimates from above regarding the proportion of work inside capitalism that is actually useful (ie provides us with the wealth (products and services) that we actually "enjoy" at present, is (say) only 50%* of the work done, then that changes everything. Capitalism cannot contemplate reducing economic growth by a few percentage points over the next few decades to stop the world crowning, but the shift to production for use would mean a halving in economic activity. Surely that would tick every Kyoto box immediately ?

(* Note that I am not saying it will be this level: I think in developed states it will be nearer 10-30%, but have no idea about other regions, which will presumably be much higher. I don't think we have any sort of handle on it at all)

Tom mentions the exmaple of Jack who wants a boat to go ocean fishing and is prepared to forego size of land onshore for this. Tom is right to be wary of the soiet-style option of having some committee deciding how much land everyone will have or what size of boat everyone has. Tom asks how this calculation would be made. But I dont think the calculation will need to be made. Jack presumably doesnt want to use the boat all the time (if he does and if that is the jist of Tom's point, then it is just the old "lazy man" argument returning in another guise), so Jack will just book up to use the local boat when its next available. This reminds me of a similar debate on another site hwen soemone asked how a socialist/anarchist non-money society would be able to provide him with the latest digital camera to take pictures when he's on holiday ? The answer of course is he'd borrow it from the local store and return it when he'd finished with it: just because capitalism in the last 50 years has massively pushed the idea of personal ownership of all sorts of things doesn't mean that a socialist society would ape it completely - there's a big industry growing now in the provision of storage space for people (particularly in cities) to put all the junk that they dont use from one year to the next but dont want to get rid of. Dont get me wrong, I like not having to share a toilet with everyone on my stairs, but I dont feel a need for my own clothes washer, digital camera or indeed ocean boat

Tom asks "How is it determined which private consumption
goods are produced? It's not adequate to say
you simply look at what people take. How do
you decide what options are available for the
taking?

Tom is right it cannot just be left to the workplace committess to decide what is produced (they can decide how it is produced, but not how much). We should use the local market structure that we will inherit from capitalism. In other words, I think it is adequate to say you simply look at what people take and that automatically triggers (without the need for money) the demand from the next level upstream of production (ie at a simple level: local store- regional distribution warehouse-manufacturing/assembly factory-raw material extraction).

author by Manuel Baptista - Luta Socialpublication date Sun Feb 05, 2006 05:14author email manuelbap at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dear Comrades,

If we want a world according to our views, we need a proper and adequate political system to run it.
It is very important to establish, from the start, that our collective or communist management of the economy will be made by a series of councils which will organise the whole population and express it's views on all the matters concerning production, distribution and consumption.

I think that the decision to evolve to an integral moneyless society will be taken, but not in the first stages of the new anarchist communist order.
For a certain time, a sort of measure of what are the amounts of goods we can purchase as an extra will be needed.
Providing that food, housing, health care, education, are totally free, the symbol we call money will no longer exert the same fear, domination and fascination as now in a capitalist world.

The important thing is that the councils will be articulated with each other in a federalist way, so that all the people will have the power to participate in the decision making.
In this context, all the goods that are subjected to trading will have their price world-wide regulated according to the decision of all the federated organisms.

In a similar way, all the decisions concerning the allocation of work force, raw materials, equipements, energy supplies, to a certain industry, will not be made by those inside this particular industry but by the federated councils that recieve the input of all the grass-roots community councils.

Only in a very politically organised society, with an entire new set of institutions obeying to what we call "direct democracy", the anarchist communist world is possible.

It is not a matter of having plenty or not enough, it is rather a matter of a totally new paradigm, a matter of enhancing the sharing and responsability, the collective spirit, the solidarity.
Here are a few reasons for it:

- If it was a matter of a society with plenty, then it would make our model inadequate in lands where, due to climate or geology, or other geographical aspect, there is and has been and will probably exist scarcity of many essentials to human life. In such areas, only with exchanges and regulating the consumption of goods, in a sustainable way, the limited natural resources could maintain a human society. This means that in these societies, the councils will have to make decisions of rationalizing, in a way or another, the spending of the limited amounts of products.

- In a society where plenty is the norm, scarcity can happen and does happen sometimes, as a consequence of a natural disaster. Earth quakes and tsunamis will continue to devastate some aeras and, beyond the immediate rescuing and relief operations one knows well there is a long and often painfull period of rebuilding. In this extended period, even with solidarity from other parts of the world, there will be scarcity concerning some goods, or housing spaces, etc.
But in such situation, our mode of runing the society is mostly needed, it is even more necessary than in "normal" times.

Anarchy is the deeper and superior understanding of order, of social organisation, of politics in the noblest sense of the word.
It is order without coertion, it is freedom with it's correlated responsability, it is solidarity rooted in a deep sense of equality and justice.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sun Feb 05, 2006 08:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Brian says:

Tom asks "How is it determined which private consumption goods are produced? It's not adequate to say you simply look at what people take. How do you decide what options are available for the taking?"

"Tom is right it cannot just be left to theworkplace committess to decide what is produced (they can decide how it is produced, but not howmuch). We should use the local market structure that we will inherit from capitalism. In other words, I think it is adequate to say you simply look at what people take and thatautomatically triggers (without the need formoney) the demand from the next level upstreamof production (ie at a simple level: local to regional distribution warehouse-manufacturing/assembly factory-rawmaterial extraction)."

Brian has merely repackaged Alan's original claim without answering my objection at all. What I'm talking about is the creation of new products, which requires a decision to allocate resources (people, equipment, etc) to make them.

Moreover, calculating what people take from stores tells us nothing whatsoever about relative preferences for outcomes if people do not need to pay anything for those things they take. All it tells us that they are interested enough to make the effort to go to the store. How do you know that what people start taking from stores will match the amount of human labor hours and other resources we've allocated to produce things? We don't want to end up slogging away 18 hour days because of the excessive demand due to things being free. In fact this is an invitation to a huge amount of waste.

Brian says:

"Tom mentions the exmaple of Jack who wants a boat to go ocean fishing and is prepared to forego size of land onshore for this. Tom is right to be wary of the soiet-style option of having some committee deciding how much land everyone will have or what size of boat everyone has. Tom asks how this calculation would be made. But I dont think the calculation will need to be made. Jack presumably doesnt want to use the boat all the time (if he does and if that is the jist of Tom's point, then it is just the old "lazy man" argument returning in another guise), so Jack will just book up to use the local boat when its next available. This reminds me of a similar debate on another site hwen soemone asked how a socialist/anarchist non-money society would be able to provide him with the latest digital camera to take pictures when he's on holiday ? The answer of course is he'd borrow it from the local store and return it when he'd finished with it."

This is totally arbitrary. Who is to say it can't be Jack's possession? What if he likes sleeping on it? Some people use a waffel iron maybe once every two months. Does this mean they will be required to borrow that too? There is a certain hat I only wear infrequently. Must I borrow that too? I think you get the point. This ends up being a completely arbitrary bureaucratic imposition.

Brian says:

"Tom Wetzel says there will always be trade-offs. Well yes, there will still have to be some trade offs, but far far fewer than at present. How will those trade-offs be claculated ? Tom thinks we need some sort of money accounting system, presumably because this reduced everything to a simple comparable number. But we know tthat inside capitalism..."

I think there will inevitably be vast numbers of tradeoffs for the simple reason there are tradeoffs in the making of ANYTHING WHATSOEVER. Moreover, I wasn't advocating capitalism, so Brian's switching the discussion at the end to prices within capitalism is irrelevant. I was talking about a socialized, planned, self-managed, class-less economy.

In regard to the idea that federal congresses of delegates from local community and/or workplace assemblies make up the total social plan, I'd point out this a form of central planning. It has the defects of any form of central planning:

(1) It will inevitably lead to the concentration of information and decision-making in a central planning bureaucracy, which will tend to use its power to also set up a managerial hierarchy in the workplaces to enforce its plans. In other words, it will lead to the re-emergence of a class system.

(2) There is no way to gain information about the relative preferences of people for consumption outcomes if they do not have to make choices between alternatives, assigning their own finite share of the social product -- their own finite budget -- to different productive outcomes in the planning process.

The alternative that is being missed here is participatory planning. Participatory planning is an alternative form of economic allocation that has only been worked out by various radical economists since the 1970s. But participatory planning presupposes that able-bodied adults earn a finite share of the social product thru their socially use work, and then allocate their own share -- their own budget -- in the planning process to different possible things they want produced, up to the limit of their share of the social product.

But doing this presupposes that we evaluate the social costs of the inputs and outputs of production. It's not possible to have a rational social accounting in a class-less socialized economy without a way of evaluating the social costs of the various inputs & outputs. And that presupposes that people -- individuals and social groups -- make manifest their requests for production, and then have the opportunity to revise those requests in light of the consequences of what everyone has requested, through information provided to them about the total impact on social production of what everyone has requested, for both public goods and private consumption goods. This presupposes a process of society-wide negotiation to articulate a social plan.

author by Anarchopublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 04:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Moreover, calculating what people take from stores tells us nothing whatsoever about relative preferences for outcomes if people do not need to pay anything for those things they take."

but thery would be informed of the social costs
involved in producing it -- the hours taken to produce it, population, etc. Prices don't reflect
this information at all well, so they don't reflect
real costs/

"All it tells us that they are interested enough to make the effort to go to the store."

So people who take stuff they don't need? Are they utterly irrational?

" We don't want to end up slogging away 18 hour days because of the excessive demand due to things being free. In fact this is an invitation to a huge amount of waste."

Sure, and people leave their taps on because it is free. And people go further on the bus than required because the standard ticket covers a longer journey. Oh, and people always take six books out the library every time they visit.

It is true that supply will need to meet demand
-- but are people really stupid enough to work and work in order to produce more and more? I doubt it.

As for Parecon, it would *never* work. How can you realistically create a plan for millions of interrelated products? Either the plans are very vague, in which case people don't know what they are voting for, else they are detailed and no one would have the time to read and evaluate them. And that is ignoring the problems in gathering and processing the information in the first place.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org
author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 06:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

BEGIN
"Moreover, calculating what people take from stores tells us nothing whatsoever about relative preferences for outcomes if people do not need to pay anything for those things they take."

but thery would be informed of the social costs
involved in producing it -- the hours taken to produce it, population, etc. Prices don't reflect
this information at all well, so they don't reflect real costs/
END
The various qualitative factors involved
in production that should affect a person's
decision to propose it for production needs
to include things like the working conditions,
the impact on the ecology. But we also
need a way of comparing the social costs
between different possible things we could
do with our labor & other resources.

If we spend a certain amount of time & use
certain materials to make a health clinic,
that will exclude other things that would
could have used that labor & materials to
make, such as houses or whatever. All the
things that could have been produced with
that labor & materials but now won't be is
what economists call the social opportunity
cost of building the health clinics.

The only way we can compare social costs
is if we have a way of measuring the
intensity of desire of everyone for the
various things we might produce, and the
materials we might use to make them, the
different kinds of human skill we'd need
to develop to produce then. After we've
looked at the real qualitative factors --
the ecological effects, the work methods,
the benefit we'd receive -- we can make
a decision about what we'd prefer. But
this needs to be encapsulated in a price
in order to have a way of comparing the
social opportunity costs of the different
possible uses of our labor & materials.

Telling people the hours taken to produce
something, the number of workers, and the
tons of this or that material stuff, doesn't
really tell us accurately what the social
cost is.

BEGIN
"All it tells us that they are interested enough to make the effort to go to the store."

So people who take stuff they don't need? Are they utterly irrational?
END

People can't be spontaneously rational and
socially responsible without the necessary
information. By disallowing prices that
encapsulate relative evaluations of ourcomes
by people, you deny people crucial information
needed to make a rational and socially
responsible decision. There is in principle
no limit to what people might want. Jakc might
decide he wants a larger house. But if a lot
of people start requesting larger houses, it
will have an effect on the other things we
could use those human labor hours & materials
to produce. Jack might not have known what
those impacts would be when he put in his
request for a bigger house. It's not a question
of stupidity or bad intentions, but of
information & social coordination.

BEGIN
" We don't want to end up slogging away 18 hour days because of the excessive demand due to things being free. In fact this is an invitation to a huge amount of waste."

Sure, and people leave their taps on because it is free. And people go further on the bus than required because the standard ticket covers a longer journey. Oh, and people always take six books out the library every time they visit.

It is true that supply will need to meet demand
-- but are people really stupid enough to work and work in order to produce more and more? I doubt it.
END

Pointing to examples where demand is naturally
limited doesn't make the general case. And it
isn't a question of stupidity but of having
the information needed to make a rational &
socially responsible decision.

BEGIN
As for Parecon, it would *never* work. How can you realistically create a plan for millions of interrelated products? Either the plans are very vague, in which case people don't know what they are voting for, else they are detailed and no one would have the time to read and evaluate them. And that is ignoring the problems in gathering and processing the information in the first place.
END

Plans are made now. Corporations are planning
machines. It's a question of having social
accountability to the population of the socially
owned productive facilities & of its impact
on the ecosystem. If you don't want a market-
governed system, which will inevitably be a
class system, social production needs to be
governed by a comprehensive agenda for production,
a social plan. There is no other alternative.
Within participatory planning, individuals
and groups -- worker groups and community groups
-- develop their proposals for production, what
they want, what they produce to produce. The
plan ultimately is simply made up of an
aggregation of these proposals, but only
after a period of negotiation to ensure a fit
between what is being proposed by worker groups
to produce and what is being proposed by
individuals and community groups for output
for their wants.

author by Ilan Shalif - AATW ainfospublication date Mon Feb 06, 2006 19:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom do not trust multi tier direct democracy so he support Parecon as way to reach decisions beyond the grass root community.
He do not trust multi tier direct democracy so he regard work places as independant or semi independant entities and not just delegates of grass root communities to do autonomeosly their mandat.

He do not trust the social being of people so he do not accept the end between what people contribute to what people receive.

In world wide commune of grass root communities ideas and wishes for new things and social efforts and change in the ongoing ones will be discussed by all the one who are interested and the direct democracy system will reach decisions by the members of the grass roots communities involved.

In libertarian communist society the social consumption will be decided on by grass root members of social entities - including the management of regional hospital and sewage...

Every one will get a personal quota for consumption of work fruits - part of it according to needs (which people differ in as age and body differ..) most of it will be equal for what the imagination will wish.

There will not be a sum of money or "voches" in hand. But, what people will take will be registered so people will know how much they took from the quota they got.

People who will take more than their quote will know it. So will know the members of the grass root one is in it. Grass root community members will treat such infringement like they traet any other infrigement on the Freedom & Equality & Solidarity.

The range of social responce will be like for any other untisocial behavior: from the mildest public informing of the breach - up to expulsion from the community.

Fro personal experiance I can assure you that social presure is very effective, and people who joined communes just because a mate was member there adjust very fast and easy to both the social consumption and the end of relation between work and private consumption.

"From each according to ability - to each according to needs" - is so much in accord with human nature - just like the afinity to the Freedom & Equality & Solidarity
Ilan

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Tue Feb 07, 2006 00:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Actually, grassroots direct democracy of assemblies is one thing that Ilan and I agree on. But I believe these are needed in both workplaces and geographic areas of residence. There are different kinds of collective decisions, affecting different groups of people differently. There are many decisions in a workplace that mainly affect the people working there and not others in the community. To deny them there own self-manaagement through workplace assemblies would be a violation of their self-management.

If Ilan says the consumption of people consists both in free public or collective goods shared with others (use of the health care system, education, rides on public transit, etc.) and also equal payment for private consumption goods, he and I are also in agreement. But note that equal payment for socially useful work presupposes a quantitative, finite entitlement to consume, that is, it presupposes money as a form of social accounting. This is not a moneyless economy.

author by Ilan Shalif - Anarchists Against The Wallpublication date Tue Feb 07, 2006 22:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There are many ways people can confound polemics....
Tom write:
"Actually, grassroots direct democracy of assemblies is one thing that Ilan and I agree on."

Of cource we do not agree on it.
I regard the grassroots direct democracy of grass root communities as the base for the libertarian communist society with all other kinds of groups only autonomeous entities - mandated by the grass root communities and not independant of them.
Tom:

" But I believe these are needed in both workplaces and geographic areas of residence."

In one social system you cannot have two equal basic entities that can only negotiate... One world commune of grass root community with multi level direct democracy is by itself so complicated. You cannot have two separate system of power.

In the libertarian communist model, the work place one do his shate in and provide society with needs is a mandated task by grass root communities to function within mandate in autonomeous way.

For sure there will be direct democracy in work places. For sure some of them will be so big that even in them the direct democracy will be multi tier. But in the libertarian communist model the sole source of power is the assemblies of grass root communes.

Tom:
"There are different kinds of collective decisions, affecting different groups of people differently. There are many decisions in a workplace that mainly affect the people working there and not others in the community. To deny them there own self-manaagement through workplace assemblies would be a violation of their self-management.

Ilan:
In the libertarian society of Freedom & Equality & Solidarity there is no such thing as abstract "self-management" outside the basic membership in society and in grass root community.

There is the freedom of a person in hir life (not "self-management") restricted only when it conflicts with that of other people. There is the autonomy of people mandated to tasks (including work places) but not such as obscure "self-management".

Tom:
If Ilan says the consumption of people consists both in free public or collective goods shared with others (use of the health care system, education, rides on public transit, etc.) and also equal payment for private consumption goods, he and I are also in agreement.

Ilan:
No we do not agree even if it seems so. There is a differnce between a specific quota allocated to a person to obtain good and services and "payment".

When one is "paied" one can do what one want with the sum,
and with it alone. When one is allocated a quota - one is supposed to keep between its limit or be asked to justify infringement before the community assembly.
And more so the disagreement about the following:

Tom:
"But note that equal payment for socially useful work..."

Ilan:
Peple get the alloted quota for consumption not "for useful work" but because one live within the community.

The consumption in libertarian communist society is NOT tied to the contribution of work (from each according to ability - to each according to needs is the way the severance of the connection between the givving and resiving is expressed".
Tom:
.....presupposes a quantitative, finite entitlement to consume, that is, it presupposes money as a form of social accounting. This is not a moneyless economy.

Ilan:
The concept of "money" in class society, developed from the exchange of comodities can be streched to lot of directions...
When a person is alocated a sum of work invested products and services, the process is so different from the function of money in the modern capitalist system that is better not to use it in this context.

Though Tom try to present the Parecon as an anarchist model, it is clearly not of main streem anarchism. Any one who bothered to compare it to other anarchist models can see that it is more according to the "corperative" version of anarchism than to any. It is clearly not a libertarian communist model.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Wed Feb 08, 2006 03:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's a characteristic of the sectarian mentality
to insist on one's own wording for things, while
not looking to see if there isn't in fact an
underlying agreement on the fundamental point.

Ilan:
"When one is "paied" one can do what one want with the sum,
and with it alone. When one is allocated a quota - one is supposed to keep between its limit or be asked to justify infringement before the community assembly."

Ilan is playing word games. When someone is
is giving a finite quantitative entitlement to
consume, that is, as expressed as a quantity,
that person "is supposed to keep" within that
"limit".

Ilan:
"Peple get the alloted quota for consumption not "for useful work" but because one live within the community."

So, Ilan is proposing to create a new class of
social parasites, able-bodied adults who can
consume what others have produced without any
requirement of earning that consumption through
effort in socially useful work? No thanks.
Capitalists are parasites. We don't need any
new classes of parasites.

Ilan:
"There is the freedom of a person in hir life (not "self-management") restricted only when it conflicts with that of other people."

More word games. Self-management is freedom.
Freedom is self-determination, having the
actual ability to plan out and decide the
issues that impact you. When others are
roughly equally impacted by a decision, the
decision needs to be made collectively. But
when some are only marginally or not at all
affected but they can impose their will on
you over that decision, that is inconsistent
with freedom, that is, with people having
control over their lives.

author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Sun Mar 12, 2006 02:38author address Oslo, Norwayauthor phone Report this post to the editors

If we're successful in explaining how a moneyless economy is realistic, I think it's just the sort of attractive politics which will contribute to making people anarchist (I know it had that effect on me!)

I also agree wholeheartedly with Alan that "These are the sorts of questions we should devote more time to if we are to move from being protesters at the injustice of capitalism to being the advocates of a system that our friends and neighbours will see as a realistic possibility."

In fact I think these questions are so fascinating that I actually want to make a whole book about it (communist economy, that is). Unfortunately though,, I've got too much else to prioritize to write before such a project could be started. For those who're interested in reading more of this sort, you could read a rather extensive comment I wrote about a moneyless economy and the ensuing debate at:
http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=944#comment915
(Scroll down to the heading "COMMUNIST ECONOMY").

One last point: the whole military apparatus would be totally superflous in a libertarian society -that alone counts for several percentages of the states annual budgets. That's something I certainly can testify to, as I'm currently stuck in compulsary military service in the north of Norway. In just one hour of shooting practice, for example, each soldier can blow away ammo for several thousand of USD worth, and contaminating the environment for many years to come, at the same time(!).

author by Derek Wallpublication date Sun Apr 23, 2006 08:50author email wallddd at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

briefly... capitalism needs to artificially construct scarcity to survive, think of advertising, goods that fall apart, etc.....however I think the interesting thinking around moneyless economics comes from commons regimes, open source and social sharing...the essay by Benkler in Yale Law Review which argues with great technical flourish that an alternative to the market and the state exists is going to be very very big.

Even the free market Economist magazine is admitting there is an alternative beyond the market and state.

I am worried that the really important stuff (commons, open source, social sharing) is being missed by anarchists, socialist, greens, etc

Related Link: http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/
author by Justin Wyattpublication date Tue May 23, 2006 22:14author email jpwyatt at comcast dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Although this is one of the most solid articles/disscussions of a moneyless economy iv'e seen in awhile, I have to say I'm suspicious of the idea of "administrators" or "councils", elected or not that have power over the distribution of goods. This has the potential to allow a new ruling class who can move products around at will. Some things that require large scale operation, such as energy production, and the mining of resources such as iron will give those who produce/mine these products power over them if they simply decide not to give them to the "administration" and distribute them as they please. Although I don't intend this to be an attack on moneyless economy, which is fundamentally a good idea, such questions as this will require solutions.

author by aq johnstone - Socialist Party of Great Britainpublication date Mon Jul 03, 2006 02:35author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address einburgh scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

The debate between advocates of free access and the abolition of money ( the SPGB ) and those who promote Parecon ideas (T Wetzel ) resurfaced at :-

http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=3304

It may be of interest to some as a follow up to this discussion

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/standardonline/index.html
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