RevolutionZ

Ep 248 Who Likes Markets Or Central Planning

September 24, 2023 Michael Albert Season 1 Episode 248
RevolutionZ
Ep 248 Who Likes Markets Or Central Planning
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Episode 248 of RevolutionZ critiques markets and central planning as unfit for a desirable new economy. 

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Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I am the host of the podcast that's titled Revolution Z.

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This episode continues a sequence that is presenting chapters from the book no Bosses written very carefully a couple of years ago, including intermittently, spontaneously commenting on the material now, two years later. So we are up to chapter six, titled who Likes Markets and Central Planning. The chapter deals with why, in conceiving and advocating a new economy, we should not include in it either of these modes of allocating what we use for and what we receive from production. As with other chapters of no Bosses and thus other episodes in this sequence, this one too begins with a couple of quotes. First we have Alec Nove, wrongly but influentially, telling the world back a bit before our efforts at vision. That quote there are horizontal links, markets. There are vertical links, hierarchy. What other dimension is there? There is no third way. I want to interject. He wasn't weeping when he said this sort of like someone gleefully saying there is war and there is pestilence, or there is cancer and there is COVID. And the second, more instructive and more accurate quote is from Rudolf Rocker, saying just as the functions of the bodily organs of plants and animals cannot be arbitrarily altered so that, for example, one cannot at will hear with his eyes and see with his ears. So one also cannot at pleasure transform an organ of social repression into an instrument for the liberation of the oppressed. And then starts the chapter and this episode.

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In economies, goods and services are produced and consumed. How much and by whom? Workplaces produce this or that, what and how much? We all have incomes. How much can any particular income purchase of any particular item? How does what people consume match up with what people produce? Allocation is the name that economists give to how an economy determines relative worths of economic inputs and outputs, how it determines what and how much to produce, how it determines investments and what mediates what consumers receive from society's products, as individuals and as part of groups. Allocation typically occurs in today's world by way of the other markets, central planning or a combination of the two. So can our proposal for a new economy retain one or the other, or maybe a combination of these two modes of allocation? I interject, of course. A proposal can include one or the other, or both. In fact nearly all proposals do. What I should have asked was can a proposal for a classless, ecologically sane, self-managing economy sensibly retain one or the other, as I am guessing I will have gone on to ask.

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The chapter continues. Can we successfully combine either markets, central planning or a combination of the two with the structures we have proposed to this point A productive commons, self-managing, worker and consumer councils, balanced job complexes and equitable remuneration? Can all these features together become mutually intersecting elements of a worthy and viable new economy? I interject Well, my last interjection was clearly useless, since here I did better what I said I ought to have done. Gotta be more careful about rushing, to add, as we proceed.

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The chapter continues. For property and decisions, we have rejected private ownership of productive assets and authoritarian control and in their place we have proposed collective responsibility for the natural, built and human commons by way of worker and consumer councils where people have a say in proportion to the degree they are affected. This was to overcome capitalist rule. It was also to overcome misuse of society's assets. We argued that the choice would retain expertise but not inequitably reward experts with power. It would not predetermine any particular approach to tallying votes or disseminating and deliberating information, but would leave those affected to settle such determinations. For the division of labor, we rejected corporate roles which empower 20% and disempower 80%. We proposed to combine tasks into jobs so each job provides all workers comparable social skills, knowledge of workplace circumstances, connections to others and confidence.

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I interject. You will hear those kinds of words, those kinds of combinations of words, those phrases that point, repeated over and over in my work, in no bosses, etc. Why is that? Well, it's because you don't hear it. Too many other places, some, to be sure, places that are also presenting participatory economy, but not other places. And that's striking to me because the claim here is that there is another class, different from capitalist, different from workers, a third class, if you will, and that this class is capable of becoming a ruling class. You'd think that that would be a very important point, a very important claim that should either be acted upon, recognized and utilized, or debunked, made evidently false. One or the other, but not ignored, chapter and episode continues.

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This, that is the formulation above, was to remove the source of class division and class rule of coordinators over workers. It was to establish classlessness. It was to tap the creative potentials of five fifths rather than only one fifth of the population. It was to remove class strife and subjugation and enlarge society's productive capacities. Again, I interject. These are no small matters. If it's true that you need to change the division of labor to have those effects, then you need to change the division of labor. Chapter continues For income. We rejected rewarding property, power or output. We instead proposed that people receive income for the duration, the intensity and the onerousness of their socially valued work or, if they can't work, that they receive average income. We proposed to replace exploitation and inequality with equity. This was to eliminate profit seeking and power brokering. It was to provide proper incentives for what people can actually themselves undertake. I interject I recently chatted with a sixth and seventh grader at dinner with them and their parents, including my nephew.

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The UAW strike came up, including the demand for a 40% wage increase and the rest, most notably, I think, a four-day work week. So a discussion about what people should earn, about what people should get paid for, ensued. I asked the young adults what they thought. Why should a famous actor earn more than a teacher? Why should a doctor earn more than an assembler? Why should Jeff Bezos earn more than a worker who delivers Amazon packages and so on? Their initial response was that one produces more and one has more training, even without noting the gigantic disparities it now obtain. Just asking whether folks should get more because they happen to have inborn talents or because they had more power to take more, etc. Immediately yielded their response of course not. And so what should people get paid for An out-popped? How long they work, took a little probing, but then also how hard they work and whatever hardship they endured due to bad conditions while they were working.

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And my point is well, it is a paraphrase of a book title of a friend of mine, danny Schechter, from years back. His title was the More you Watch, the Less you Know. The book was about mass media, the news, etc. So the paraphrase could be a title for a book on schooling. The more years you go to school, the less you know, as in by the time young adults finish high school, they are well on the way to full-fledged social ignorance, which is, if they pursue it, most often only further and large by professional finishing schools that we call college. The chapter continued that's all promising, but however much we may wish to implement self-management, balanced job complexes and equitable remuneration, an economy also has to accomplish allocation, and allocation is not simple. If we can pick an existing allocation approach to combine with our other proposed economic features, doing so would certainly speed up and simplify envisioning a better economy. But can we? Central planning was the choice of many self-titled socialists in quotes, but really coordinator economies With only modest differences from the society-wide version. Central planning is also used within massive production units like Walmart and Amazon to allocate diverse products and tens of thousands of workers among many purposes.

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In central planning, a planning agency seeks and assesses information from workers and consumers. It proposes inputs and outputs for all economic units. The units then consider their instructions. They either carry them out or they register problems that they think will prevent their carrying them out. The central planners then assess the predicted problems and issue new instructions, and the cycle repeats. It arrives at its conclusion when the planners no longer seek responses but instead issue orders, commands, which is why it's sometimes called command planning. The process is down-go questions to workplaces seeking information. Up-go answers to planners trying to provide information. Down-go draft instructions. Up-go concerns and problems. Down-go orders, up-go's obedience. In practice, central planning has many additional details to make it work well, but it has nothing that fundamentally alters its down-up logic.

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Having been a key component of most post-capitalist economies, central planning has been relentlessly criticized by advocates of capitalism, who typically claim that central planning requires collecting too much information and that it distorts incentives so that it can't work. Those criticisms have been, for the most part, exaggerated, in fact in technical journals, though not in popular accounts mainstream economists this is inside capitalist countries mainstream economists often acknowledge the workability of central planning and during decades of operations, at least according to the critical mainstream economist's criteria, soviet central planning actually worked rather well. Indeed, when comparing the Soviet Union over its first six decades to countries that had comparable development at the outset, for example in output development and many other indices, the Soviet Union, again by mainstream measures, outstripped the others. Finally, huge capitalist firms economically comparable to or larger than small countries have used central planning to internally allocate their workforces and internal products for decades and again, at least by mainstream norms, they have done so quite nicely. I interject. These observations are not hypotheses but reality. So why do most folks think central planning is unable to function? Because they have been so schooled. And why doesn't Jeff Bezos reject central planning inside Amazon? Because schooling at the very top is different than schooling below.

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The chapter continues that a massive public lie central planning can't allocate without disastrous material results could be told and sustained. Shouldn't be overly surprising. Consider the lie that owners are highly productive and need to receive profits for workers to benefit, or the lie that 80% of workers are intrinsically unable to do empowering work, or the lie that doctors and other coordinator class workers need huge incomes to avoid their choosing to do rote instead of empowering jobs. Clearly, massive lies routinely persist. But if central planning can get things produced and distributed which it can why not use it for our preferred economy? I interject that is a serious question. When Robin Hill and I were first considering how to answer the question what do you want for the economy? Why bother trying to come up with a new approach to allocation? Why not opt for one that exists, in this case central planning? So it was a fair question that needed attention and indeed many people on the left rejecting capitalism did favor central planning.

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The chapter continues. Our answer is simple. In central planning, workers and consumers must ultimately abide the instructions planners generate. There is a narrow decision making top and a wide decisional bang bottom. Central planning clearly violates self management and even majority rule democracy. More central planners are not interested in having to overcome resistance coming from local units. Central planners therefore do not want workplaces and neighborhoods to be self-managed by workers who will resist planners' directives. Instead, they want workplaces overseen by people who have similar interests to them. In other words, central planners, who are coordinator class, seek to communicate with others in the coordinator class. That is who they feel unity with, who they personally understand, that is, who feels unity with and understands them.

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Dealing with coordinators instead of workers involves no undue friction. For that reason, inside firms and centrally planned economies, the old, familiar corporate hierarchy and centralized authoritative decision making is vastly preferred and implemented. Looking forward from the present, a new centrally planned economy would retain corporate roles from the past, but central planning would actually generate a corporate division of labor if the past didn't provide it in full form, which was actually the case in the Soviet Union and China. I interject, I think, or perhaps I intuit, as a better descriptor, as a hypothesis, that the extreme political authoritarianism in both those countries wasn't just Leninist politics becoming Stalinist politics. It was instead that, lacking a well-developed coordinator class in the prior economy and outside the polity, when the revolutions won power, the state itself had to serve the coordinator function, and it did, thus embodying a degree of authoritarianism that exceeded what would otherwise have been natural, which would otherwise have perhaps been something more like western-level political authoritarianism. At any rate, the chapter continues.

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The point is that central planning subverts desires for self-management. It subverts balanced job complexes. It imposes coordinator class rule. Even if planners start out honest and are not immediately corrupted by their power, over time they come to view those they administer as subservient. They come to view themselves as worthy and exceptional. They then reward themselves and also people like themselves more than workers below. Why also reward people like themselves? Because their justification for their higher incomes becomes their greater education, training, skills, connection and decision-making responsibilities.

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And if that justification is to be compelling for the central planner's income and status, it has to be honored for all those who have those credentials, which means not only for those who centrally plan but also for those who are empowered within local units. The empowered even come to think of themselves as better able to spend extra income. They can enjoy finer things. The workers below not so much. These paternalistic coordinator views of themselves and of workers below mirror the same coordinator class attitudes and capitalist economies. In other words, the central planners need local agents who will hold workers to the norms the central planners decide. These local agents must be locally authoritative. Their credentials must legitimate them and must reduce other actors to relative obedience.

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Central planning thus imposes or welcomes, or is established by a coordinator class that rules over workers. Workers are made subordinate, not only nationally but also in each workplace. Thus central planning is not an option for a truly classless economy of the sort we seek. Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely is not mere rhetoric, I interject. So again, back at the beginning, for thinking about economic vision, we had now done away with the idea of utilizing central planning. But what about markets, which in our culture were taken for granted as both marvelous and unavoidable? I interject. I want to add another, I don't know, call it an observation. That's interesting At this point, even though it's a bit of an aside.

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When developing the participatory economic model and participatory planning and so on, we also spent time thinking about examining, trying to understand the Soviet economy of the time, and we ran into an interesting situation that at first seemed like a problem for our understanding, in other words something that didn't fit. And the thing was that in the Soviet Union and critics would tell me this on numerous occasions, when I presented the system and used doctors as an example of coordinator class members that in the Soviet Union doctors were not particularly elevated as compared to everybody else and even as compared to working class citizens doing jobs that were wrote. And this seemed contradictory to the analysis. If you had to use the claim you had on knowledge and skills and so on to justify your greater income and power, if you were a central planner or a manager, then it seemed like you would have to also accord the same kinds of benefits to others who had those assets. And doctors have those assets. They have knowledge and skill and so on. And looking a little deeper, we eventually found that the reason for this was beyond the economy. The reason for this was that in the old Soviet Union almost all care work, not only the lowest versions of it, was done by women, including being doctors. So it turned out that the patriarchal dynamics overweighed call it class dynamics. In that particular instance, the doctors in the Soviet Union, women could be treated as lower level in all respects, or in almost all respects, because they were women, even though they had the, or they nominally had characteristics that defined one as coordinator class.

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It's an interesting aside. I think. We thought of it at the time, still think it. We're not even sure what the actual factual details are. Anyway, the chapter continues.

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In that case, what about markets? To clarify, market allocation doesn't refer simply to all economies where people get stuff from stores. That's what many people think. That, hey, a market that's that's you get stuff from stores, but that's not a market. Indeed, it's not a market because, well, that's true of all modern economies, not just some. In central planning, people get stuff from stores, but it's not a market. That is. Market doesn't refer to all economies where people have incomes and make purchases for prices. Again, that is true of all modern economies, not just some. If that defines a market, then there's only one kind of allocation markets.

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And that observation if that defines a market, then there's only one kind of allocation markets is why that, in popular parlance, defines a market, because it precludes being anti-market, it precludes asking is there something else, something better? And so it becomes sort of the common sense that, well, there's just markets, there's getting things for prices at stores. Markets are instead a particular way to accomplish economic allocation With markets. There are stores, yes, there are prices and budgets, yes. But market allocation only exists in those economies wherein, in addition to those universal attributes, buyers and sellers compete to advance their own separate interests, such that prices and budgets arise from the competitive interactions of the buyers and sellers.

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Can we carry competitive market allocation over for use in a viable and worthy economy? If we can, why propose something new? Why replace what isn't broken? Sadly, it turns out markets like central planning would subvert our other gains. First, markets immediately destroy equitable remuneration, since markets, even without private ownership of productive assets, and thus markets in what its advocates call market socialism, but we call market coordinatorism reward output and bargaining power instead of only duration, intensity and ownerlessness of socially valued work.

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In fact, even if we could forgo labor markets in a market economy without disrupting its overall logic, which we can't with markets, a workplace worker or consumer overwhelmingly receives what its bargaining power allows, not what is ethically and socially warranted. Information incentivizes that. If I have a monopoly on information, skills, resources, equipment, venues, connections or even just the inclination to rule, I have more bargaining power and I get more. If I am white or male and society is racist or sexist, I have more bargaining power and I get more More. Lacking such advantages, I seek them. Markets generate inequity.

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Second, with markets, buyers buy cheap and sellers sell dear. Each seeks an advantage for itself, each fleeces the other or is fleeced by the other. A workplace gets ahead at the expense of those it buys from, sells to or dumps pollution on. Each workplace seeks to get ahead because left behind it risks going out of business. Nice doesn't pay, nasty pays More. My defense against your nasty is to be nastier. My alternative to being nastier is to be outcompeted.

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Markets punish cooperation. Markets foster antisociality. Workplaces gouge, dump and downsize, not only to profit immensely but even just to stay afloat. Markets pressure everyone to abide and partake of that workplace behavior. We become less human than we ought to be. Markets propel us to seek more stuff than we should have In each transaction, in each economic choice. Markets pressure people to be cold to the circumstances of others. They propel workplaces and individuals to consider only self.

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It is true for producers trying to make a profit or even just stay afloat. It is true for consumers with no access to information about others and a context that destroys means or even inclination to support others. Markets push us to calculate every choice solely for self. It is an exceptional, not a normal person who even considers distant others, much less is moved by distant others, much less advances the needs of distant others. Markets make us individual in the most inward-looking atomistic sense. Markets are literally a system in which we are made and must be sentient social atoms, careening about looking out for number one and ignoring what we don't know. Markets make us insular, ignorant and selfish. They describe the result as virtue. They don't just compel greed, they deem greed good, they worship greed. They crush solidarity. They generate antisociality.

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Third, markets explicitly produce dissatisfaction because only the dissatisfied buy again and again, which is what market actors pursue to accrue income. As a general director of General Motors Research Labs, charles Kettering, who regularly introduced model changers for GM cars, put it this way Business needs to create a dissatisfied consumer. Its mission is the organized creation of dissatisfaction. Advertising doesn't try to inform consumers so that they can decide what they do and don't want. Rather, advertising consists into buying commodities to meet needs that commodities can never fulfill. This is so if a capitalist class profits or if enlarged surpluses go to workers in more successful firms.

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Fourth, and of massive consequence, market prices don't reflect all social and ecological costs and benefits. Market prices result from competitive buying and selling by immediate buyers and sellers. They account for the impact of power, mediated production and consumption on those immediate buyers and sellers. They do not account for their impact on people peripherally affected by pollution or, for that matter, by positive side effects. In other words, only the direct buyer and seller enter into market transactions, not those affected at a distance. As a result, markets bias heavily against collective and public consumption benefits, even while they propel collective and public debits by routinely violating ecological balance, sustainability and stewardship. Plastics proliferate water, air and sound pollution proliferate. Public services atrophy. Markets destabilize ecology and deny life. Markets are society's suicide machine.

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I wanna interject here. If you get Netflix and you can watch on it. There are two. There are obviously many others, but there are two shows in particular that are very attuned, not in an ideological way but in a descriptive way, to the dynamics of modern capitalism. One is called Pain Killer and the other is called I can't remember the name of the other one, but it's also about the pharmaceutical industry. Both of them are looking at the oxycodone pandemic you could call it the proliferation of the use of oxycodone and its impact on communities, and they are very, very graphic about the kind of pressures and dynamics that are at work, not only at the top, not only at the level of the you know, the board of overseers and the CEO and the like of these companies, but also even down into their sales force and also into the customers, doctors and consumers. They're well worth looking at, I think. But beware, they are very hard to look at in places because they are very honest.

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The chapter continues, okay, but perhaps our other choices for property, division of labor and remuneration contain markets sufficiently for us to use them. Maybe markets under capitalism with private property and a corporate division of labor and remuneration for bargaining power are horrible, but maybe if we have commons and a new division of labor and a new norm of remuneration such as we've described, they won't be so horrible. Okay, bearing on that last hope, fifth, markets also produce decision-making hierarchy and squash self-management. This occurs not only when market-generated disparities and wealth give different bargaining power to different actors, but also when market competition compels even council-based workplaces to cut costs and seek market share. So this dynamic is a little more subtle to see.

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With markets present, even workplaces wanting to maintain self-managing, councils, wanting to maintain equitable remuneration and even wanting balanced job complexes have no choice but to compete with one another to stay afloat. That's how markets work. To compete. They then in turn have to figure out what costs to cut and how to generate more output, even at the expense of workplace and consumer fulfillment, and then they have to implement such choices. But who, in a self-managed council of workers, each of whom has a balanced job, would be good at overseeing cost-cutting that turns off air conditioning for themselves, that merciless speeds up production by themselves, that lies to everyone but themselves and that dumps garbage on neighborhoods where they themselves live? It turns out to do accomplish these and other steps that they have to take to compete in markets, workplaces have to insulate some employees from the discomfort that cost-cutting imposes, and then also let and even cause those insulated actors to feel superior to other workers. So the elevated few will propel competitive steps at the expense of the subordinated many, but not at their own expense. In other words, to cut costs and to otherwise impose market discipline, even starting with councils and balanced job complexes.

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Marketlogic elevates a coordinator class which in turn accrues ever more power to itself and in turn obliterate self-management, equity and, finally, balanced job complexes. Pressured by market competition, that is, any firm I work for must try to maximize its revenues to keep up with competing firms. If my firm doesn't keep pace, then its workers, including myself, will lose their jobs. So workplaces dump their costs on others. Workplaces seek as much revenue as possible, even via promoting excessive consumption. Workplaces cut costs of production, even via reducing comforts for workers and unduly speeding up work.

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Forget about workplace daycare. To relentlessly pursue these paths to market success, however, a few conceiving and coordinating the choices must not suffer the pains those choices induce, so they will willingly impose them. So even in a workplace that is initially committed to self-management and balanced job complexes, if it operates in a market, its roles will, over time, impose a necessity to hire folks with appropriately callous and calculating mindsets, of the sort that business schools now produce. Workers would then have to give these new callous employees air-conditioned offices and comfortable surroundings, insulated from the harsh conditions they must impose on the rest of us. We workers would finally have to tell them okay, screw us, cut our costs to ensure our livelihood in the marketplace. In other words, we would have to impose on ourselves a coordinator class, not due to natural law and not due to some internal psychological drive, but because markets would force us to subordinate ourselves to a coordinator elite we would accept and welcome, lest our workplace lose market share and eventually go out of business. This flaw of markets, like the inbuilt flaw of the corporate division of labor would institutionally subvert our worthy aspirations for classlessness. I interject. This discussion of how markets and institution imposes class division and class rule, as well as the other indicated social and economic ills, is instructive of no boss's whole approach to thinking about economic vision. Realize that institutions, by their intrinsic requirements, can impose outcomes that people filling the roles of those institutions would otherwise reject, and then even get folks to rationalize the outcomes as inevitable, like aging. So we just have to put up with the associated pain and certainly not uselessly try to get rid of its cause. The chapter continues. Markets destroy equity, subvert solidarity, violate ecology, under supply collective goods, manufacture dissatisfaction and finally also produce class division and class rule. And I interject, having come to that conclusion.

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Way back at the outset of trying to envision a better economy beyond capitalism, hanell and I took to calling ourselves market abolitionists, and there is, I think, something interesting to say regarding that. On the one hand, it said that we wanted to get beyond markets, like anti-slavery abolitionists wanted to get beyond slavery, and we made clear, beyond the slogan, that we didn't mean to say get rid of them overnight. It would be a long battle and more we didn't mean get rid of the function of allocation per se. Allocation was a necessary social function. We just meant find another way not markets to get it done, and we felt okay, at least at first, staunchly sticking to the language of abolition. In time, however, I think we decided it was too easy to interpret market abolitionists as meaning don't have anything to do with markets now, get rid of them now, etc. And worse, we don't need to accomplish something called allocation at all. So there is an analogy to being, I think, a police abolitionist, say, or prison abolitionists. While those phrases might artfully capture in their own minds, for the people who use them, what some have in mind, like market abolitionists, captured what we had in mind. For Robin and I, we nonetheless need a new way to deal with violations of social well-being or allocation. The choice of words tended to be heard is not even just get rid of that stuff now, but also no need for that function at all. This is different than slave abolitionists, I think, about which I doubt there was much confusion, and so maybe it is worth thinking carefully about using prison abolition or police abolition or market abolition as a catchphrase. Maybe it doesn't communicate well. In any event, the chapter continued.

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Mainstream economists often claim that all these market failings are not a product of markets per se, but of imperfect markets that haven't attained a condition of perfect competition. But this is a bit like saying that the ills associated with ingesting arsenic occur because we never get pure arsenic. We only get arsenic tainted with other ingredients. The non-pure ingredients, not arsenic, are the problem. On the other hand, calling for perfect markets ignores that in real society there is literally no such thing as frictionless competition, so of course we will always get imperfect markets. Even more important, however, calling for perfect markets ignores that the harmful effects of markets do not diminish when competition is made more perfect. They intensify.

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Historically, the closer economies have come to a pure market system without state intervention and with as few sectors as possible, dominated by single firms or groups of firms and with as few unions as possible, the worse the social implications have been. For example, there have rarely, if ever, been markets as competitive as those of Britain in the early 19th century. Yet under the sway of those nearly perfect markets, young children routinely suffered early death, working long days in the mills of the time. The point is well functioning markets most certainly accomplish various essential economic tasks, but they do not promote excellence in any form, they do not resist and they even facilitate material, cultural and moral depravity. As a result, seeking an economy that can deliver equity, solidarity, diversity and self-management, not to mention classlessness and ecological sustainability, means rejecting markets as a tool for allocation, but, differently, imposing restraints on markets to reduce their ill effects and adding to market requirements to enforce positive effects are worthy steps. These are good things to do, but markets will constantly, intrinsically work against all such impositions. Markets will either overcome such restraints or be transformed into a new shape, a new logic, a new form, by ever elaborating and enlarging such alterations. It may seem hard to imagine, but if we are serious about our proposed values, the conclusion is inescapable For the final vision reject markets, morph them, replace them until we have something structurally and logically new. It is not a cute slogan to ignore in our practice. It is an existential necessity to steadily attain by our practice, albeit knowing that it won't happen overnight.

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I interject Psychologically and sometimes strategically. It is hard to have arrived at a full understanding of the incredible ills of some institution, in this case markets, which I tend to think will at some time in the future, be acknowledged to have been the single most destructive creation of humanity, more so even than war, and yet function within them and even propose ways to improve them all, while working toward their total elimination. The same thing holds in other domains. The anarchist discovers, understands and vibes, totally comprehends the ills of a state above society, but then, not being able to institute a stateless society with a polity, but not a state, overnight or in short order, proposes changes to the polity, to the state and the current system to make it less bad. That's a good thing, as long as one keeps one's eyes on the prize. Same goes for inside workplaces, for income, demanding a higher minimum wage. That's a positive step. It's particularly positive if it's conceived in such a way as to leave toward equitable income. At any rate, the chapter continues.

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Our contemporary allocation problem is that, as could be seen in the old Yugoslavia and Soviet Union, even without private ownership of the means of production, markets and central planning each subvert equitable remuneration, each annihilate self-management, each horribly misvalued products, each grossly violate the ecology. They each relentlessly impose antisocial motivations. They each unavoidably impose class division and class rule. This is precisely the kind of dynamic our approach to thinking about economics attunes us to Particular institutions. In this case, markets and central planning impose role attributes that violate our aims. They are leaky life rafts. A worthy vision must transcend them. The same observation holds for private ownership of productive assets, the corporate division of labor and inequitable remuneration. These institutions, too, violated the values we favor. That is why we had to figure out how to transcend them. And now our critique of markets and central planning shows that they, too, violate the values we favor. Such a critique isn't an intellectual exercise that we should forget about once we step back into our own work on consumption? Do we hold our values or not? If we do, then our critique of markets and central planning is deep, devastating and agenda-provoking.

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The title of this chapter is who Likes Markets and Central Planning? The answer is anyone who thinks nothing else is possible and wants to avoid the chaos they believe rejecting markets and central planning without a replacement would cause likes them. And anyone who actually likes the implications of markets and central planning for society, including that a coordinator class dominates a working class, likes them. Allocation is the nervous system of economic life. To allocate is both intricate and essential. We can't sufficiently describe what we want for a new economy without offering a proposal for a new allocation. What we want needs a name and a broad definition. We don't need contextual details, we need key defining features. Quite differently, to round out our proposal for a new economic vision consistent with what we have so far urged, we must conceive an allocation mechanism that can one properly determine and communicate as accurate and full information as possible about the personal, social and ecological costs and benefits of economic options. Two give workers and consumers self-managing influence over choices. Three, actively promote solidarity, facilitate equity, support balanced jobs, seek sustainable ecology and ensure classlessness. These are the tall orders that we must meet.

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The chapter is almost over. When writing it and getting to this point, I decided on putting an addendum. I think it's the only chapter I did that for, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the addendum, called an anti-academic addendum, goes like this you have had the experience of taking an economics course in college or have otherwise heard economists claim that markets permit producers and consumers to fulfill their desires without external imposition, without waste and supremely efficiently.

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Economists even prove that a mathematical model that they say captures the essence of market exchange has these delightful properties. The problem is that their model and the reality they say their model models diverge dramatically. Imagine that I model war as including many people severe disagreement, a few guns and little or no dying. Then I examine my model for the properties of war. My model leaves out too much that matters. Economic theory is like that. Briefly, the economists model assumes, among other falsehoods, that markets, buyers and sellers are all small and weak and unable to themselves affect prices. It also simplistically models their behavior as maximizing profit or surplus and maximizing personal preference fulfillment. And then it proves the model that will have various properties. For example, it won't waste things. Yet strangely, in our economy 40% of all produced food is wasted. That alone, and there are many such glaring gaps between claims about the model and facts of worldly outcomes, should terminate people pointing to such models instead of pointing to reality to learn about reality. It does that, at least to an extent for some high-powered, more realistic economists, but not for the economics we learn in Economics 101 or for media pundits.

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Rhetoric Further and more instructively, even if reality did act like the economic models and thus did attain what the models call efficiency, what is that? The word efficiency is used by economists and their business paymasters to rally support for whatever they favor, but the word is rarely carefully considered. We all like efficiency when we think it means attaining desired ends without wasting things we value. Who would oppose that? No one wants to not attain what we seek, no one wants to waste what we value, and so no one wants to be called inefficient. But here's the rub Efficiency really means attaining the ends you seek, whatever those may be. It means not wasting things you value, whatever anyone else might think about the things you value. So if you seek profit and you don't value the lives of the workers or the health of your workplace neighbors, you should cut workers' pay and speed up workers' tasks while you scrimp on their safety and simultaneously dump waste into neighboring water supplies or spew it into the sky. In fact, given market aims and what markets do and don't value for workplaces, to not impoverish workers and to not dump pollution would be inefficient. You know this applies I'll add now to the products that are produced too. If you look at those movies I mentioned earlier, if you consider the behavior of the pharmaceutical firm selling oxycodone, you realize that they have an incentive to make it more addictive, to make it sell more, regardless of the implications.

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There was an example I'll just tell one more story of this when I was back in college I was, I think a senior, maybe a junior at the time, living with some other people, including Robin, in Somerville, mass, right next to Cambridge, where we were all going to school, and we were in a neighborhood, a working class neighborhood, and there were kids nearby, high school kids who we would, you know, play touch football with and things like that, and we became sort of friends, not real close but friendly. And one day we saw that our a van that we had a Volkswagen van those days, that was a big deal had been occupied by the students for a time and clearly they were smoking stuff in it and we weren't sure what. So we had them up to our apartment that was not uncommon and we talked to them and we found out that they were sniffing glue. That was something at the time Maybe it still is, for all I know and we looked into that and we discovered that glue was poison, that when you sniffed it you were literally killing brain cells. Just the act of doing it was killing brain cells. So we talked to them about it and we tried to, you know, convey that and they understood it, in fact they knew it, and we tried to say well, you know, why do you do this, and I guess the eloquent version of it eloquent version of it that I remember is one of them saying well, what difference does it make? You know what do we need brains for? We're going to wind up on a line someplace, or you know boxing stuff, or or you know handing stuff over in the supermarket or something, and you don't need brains for that. And sniffing glue is nice, now it lets us forget the pain that our lives are, and we went away from that. I'll tell you something that I'm both a little proud of and a little nauseous at.

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We were trying to figure out how to get them to stop, even though they had a sort of a rational reason for not stopping and we couldn't talk them into it. I mean, the idea of going to school and becoming not. None of that stuff made any sense. It wasn't in their future. They just felt it was pie in the sky, not real, and so I actually came up with something to tell them. We told them that sniffing glue would make them impotent and ruin their sex lives, and that stopped it. They stopped doing it. Just so you can see that this kind of reasoning isn't so uncommon.

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Jean-paul Sartre, very famous philosopher, french philosopher was asked how he finished a particularly long book on what he was doing writing it. And he conveyed that he was taking speed. I forget the actual drug it was, but it basically called speed to give himself the energy and the focus to work on it. And they said, yeah, but that's going to cut short your life. And he said, yeah, I know, and I made a calculation. I calculated that I'd rather finish the book when I'm young and do that qualitatively beneficial in my view thing, than live an extra few years at the end when I'm not so productive. It's a different kind of situation, but actually the kind of thinking is not that dissimilar. It's just that the circumstances of their lives were so dissimilar. The kicker for the story was that the ingredient in the glue that was made it sniffable wasn't essential to its gluiness. It was put in for the purpose of selling more glue to young kids. This is quite like the oxycodone manufacturers increasing the dosage required in order to addict the people who were taking it for purposes of curtailing pain. All right, sorry for that long interjection. The chapter continues or the addendum continues.

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Typical economists overly abstract their models. They leave out workers while being social relations and the environment. They then use the label efficient to appear credible and curry favor. Economists who do this are either incredibly stupid or they know better but have succumbed to the pressure of accommodating those who pay their salaries or publish their writings. It is an extreme, albeit common, tendency. Do you think I exaggerate? Consider what John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the foremost and most accessible economists of the last century, had to say. Quote economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. Galbraith was very clever. Our alternative is to seek self-management, equity, solidarity, diversity, sustainability, internationalism and participation. It is to account for all that is personally, socially and ecologically affected. It is, to the extent possible to attain our goals and not waste what we value. In other words, we want to be efficient too, but with a different set of values guiding, and it thus requires a new method for allocation. And that said, this is Michael Albert signing off for Revolution Z until next time.

Allocation in a Classless Economy
Problems With Central Planning and Markets
Flaws of Markets, Need for Elimination
Critique of Economic Efficiency and Models