Thursday, January 05, 2006

Equitable Economic Alternatives

If capitalism has to be replaced with a much better economical system, what should it look like, and how will it work? We've all heard constantly about the failure of so many socialist theory societies throughout the world, at least I know I have! It's the number one argument that the proponents of capitalism/corporatism pull at the first hint that somebody is wailing on their cherished baby of insatiability. I mean capitalism may not be perfect, but it's the lesser of two evils right? I sure do not consider myself an economist and a great deal of these theories escape my limited capacity of comprehension, but I do know from first-hand experience that the amount of income I see coming into my household is usually less than what I need to pay for housing, groceries, schooling, and utilities. So from this personal reference and knowledge of my neighbors similar situation, I do see a drastic need for a different, more just model than the one we now have under capitalism.



If there is a possible alternative to the capitalist model, regardless what it will be called, it should offer us the possibilities of liberation for the members of society. An alternative should provide the basis for the exploration, realization, and fulfillment of our human potential and an honest concern for all human beings. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for people to reach their full potential when mired down within a system that maintains high stress levels due to the inequality of resources. There is little or no time left to explore our potential as we find ourselves sliding deeper and deeper into a resource depleted social economic quagmire. An alternative should promote solidarity among the participants while supporting equity, autonomy, and diversity. So perahps it is best to briefly examine a few alterntives to capitalism and maybe this will make it easier to determine what the goals of a just alternative should be.



  • Centrally Planned Economy(for) or Centrally Planned Economy(against)



    This economy basically places the state or government in the role of determining the coordination and plans of the economy. If an economic system is centrally planned by the government, it is referred to as economic statism. This economy creates an unthinkable huge bureaucracy whose purpose is to negotiate and calculate what is best for the state in terms of the economy. Then the state would decide who does what, what needs to be produced and how much, and then where it will go. The state would be responsible for choosing, hiring and firing, appointing, rewarding, and deciding on disciplinary actions. The theory behind this model was the thought that the planners with the gathered information, could get the best possible economic plan for their society. We know how this model succeeded in the Soviet Union and I don't see where this model supports solidarity but rather just creates institutionalized managers with the rest of society falling into an apathetic stupor.



  • Market Socialism in many flavors



    In this model, the basic premise is that the means of production is either owned by the state or cooperatives and the production, distribution, and the pricing is controlled by some form of state or governmental agency. However as seen above, market socialism comes in many forms these days. Market socialism can range from the Langian proposal, service, cooperative, pragmatic, municipal ownership, to the bank-centric proposal, and we could possibly theorize our own idea of a market socialism economy, especially one created around a labor managed model. What if the ownership of all corporations was miraculously dissolved and each citizen received an equal share of ownership of every corporation? What if production was controlled by worker owned enterprises and cooperatives? Yeah I know, I can hear the pro-consumers now, as they sing in harmony, "While visions of Utopia danced in their heads". The problem I seem to have with market socialism is the "market" itself. By using markets in an economical model, aren't we asserting that human nature is greedy, individualist and competitive?



  • Community Based Economics are the color green



    Community based economics concentrate on small scale, locally based, self-sufficient, decentralized economies. This model has a tendency to reduce alienation while attempting to build some form of ecological and sustainable balance. It would seem that "smaller" would be much "easier" to organize and actually could empower people directly by creating an interconnectedness via a human interaction focused on similar goals. There are many variations of this model, including libertarian municipalism, bioregionalism, and ecological economics. However many are critical of the community based model due to it being an incoherent model. In other words, the opponents say that there is no actual model, no specified rules, procedures, or institutions for making important decisions that pertain to the workplace, individual and community decisions, and what is produced, consumed, and the amount of production and consumption. Smaller tends to appeal to me but I do see there may be a need for a more concentrated or centralized hub of sorts to connect these smaller communities into a network of social interaction.



  • Democratically Planned Economy or participatory economics


    From all these sides, there has been a proliferation of new models of socialism and alternate economic strategies. They have had in common an attempt to extend democratic participation in a decentralist fashion by extending workers' control and user participation in the management of enterprises and organizations and to formulate new representative bodies, administrative means, and strategies at the centre to control the economic surplus and redistribute it toward sustainable production for needs.

    This model focuses more on social ownership rather than state or privately owned institutions. It proposes worker and consumer councils with balanced job complexes in place of corporate hierarchy. Payment is arranged according to effort and sacrifice instead of property, power, or output. Instead of markets or a form of central planning, participatory planning and self-management would tear away class rule. I have to say I'm very impressed with the model envisioned by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel. I am also amazed at the instructionals on economic vision, as well as many others, that ZNet offers us. The instructionals do help me understand the scope of economics much better, but I can still see I have a rather extensive economical deficiency to overcome!



Somewhere in one of these theories, or in a combination of them, lie the answers to a more just economical model for the entire world. It just seems like such a huge undertaking, and I feel so small and inadequate when facing it. It is my hope, that as our virtual communities grow, expand, and link with others, we will share this great responsibility and through this connection and solidarity, we can chip away at the giant walls of economical injustice we face.

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