From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Jesse A. Myerson:

"The key to imagining what post-capitalist markets might look like, according to David Schweickart, is to discard the unitary idea of “markets.” Too general a term to be useful, markets, Schweickart suggests, should be divided into three types: markets for goods and services, capital markets, and labor markets. The first sort was compatible with feudalism, and it can be compatible with socialism: with solid regulation, price discovery through market clearance is a useful tool in signaling demand and avoiding the shortages in goods and services that may result from clumsy, or capricious, central planning.

But the other markets are not nearly so capable in the resource-allotment division. Capital markets are prone to careening wildly between booms, when they allot far too many financial resources, and busts, when they allot far too few. Labor markets are volatile because of this careening, but even in the boom times, commonly maintain a reserve army of unemployed workers amid back-breaking overwork. It is these capital and labor markets, therefore, that Schweickart contends must be socialized to give rise to the next system. To these, I’d add two that might broadly be thought of as capital markets, but which beg different, if similar, solutions: the market for intellectual property and the market which birthed capitalism, land.

There are basically two strategies for de-marketing labor, and they work best together. The first is the aggressive encouragement of worker co-ops, including buying out (not bailing out) failing firms and leasing them to workers, giving workers the right to buy out their shops as an alternative to closure, and providing public financial and technological support for start-up co-ops. The more workers can become owners, the less they’ll have to work for wages, thus shrinking the labor market. The second strategy is to provide the option to exit the job market by filling out the welfare state: public health care, education, and “last resort” guaranteed employment, capped off with a basic income to subsidize culture- and community-production. The ability to survive without submitting to the dictates of the job market would incapacitate the capitalist imperative to compete with everybody else.

Co-ops also help to de-market capital, relocating ownership from stock market gamblers who are physically and sentimentally remote from the firm’s operations to workers who inherently give a damn about the fate of the firm and the labor they deploy for it. In addition to this, it is crucial to expand our public wealth funds in number and scope. The Alaska Permanent Fund, CalPERS, and even the Social Security trust funds are pools of capital whose income streams (dividends and interest) flow to the public. A national sovereign wealth fund and/or many regional ones would shrink capital markets. (It might make sense to emulate Alaska, using the fund to outlay the aforementioned basic income.) For best results, this should be held together by a public banking system, most easily run through the postal service, featuring a publicly-controlled mobile payments system.

De-marketing intellectual property is especially exhilarating, because we can skip the socialist step of moving ideas from private to public ownership, and go straight to the communist state of non-ownership. Ideas such as pharmacological discoveries, software developments, and works of media are immaterial, their digital representations as sound, video, image, text, etc. files infinitely reproducible at negligible cost. In order, therefore, to effect their decommodification, the government only needs to take a laissez faire approach to enforcing their patents, copyrights, etc. Beyond possibly brief, non-transferable licenses for authors and inventors (as the founders intended), there is no need for the government to impose artificial scarcity, without which, an infinitely abundant product will approach its “correct consumer price”: zero dollars.

Lastly, there are also already existent vehicles for democratic land management and development that can allow us to undo the initial act of capitalism and de-market land. Foremost, in recognition of the fact that the price of a location is determined by the desirability of the surrounding community, the government can impose a fee on land-owners equivalent to the ground rent they derive. Especially elegant would be to have these fees provide the initial investment into the public fund paying out the basic income, thus compensating everyone for their exclusion from the locations in question. Additionally, the government should devote public financing and its power of eminent domain to energetically foster Community Land Trusts. Perhaps most importantly, the government should massively grow the public housing stock so that it does not merely provide poor people undignified living conditions, but rather houses major swaths of large cities in modest, comfortable units. This last is probably the most difficult, seeing as how the federal government is prevented by law at the moment from financing public housing.

A socialism like this, with capital, labor, ideas and land brought out of the market and into the democratic sphere, could accommodate markets in goods and services without imposing on all of society the imperatives unique to capitalism. Mass liberation from capitalist market imperatives would effect reparations for the dispossession that incited the capitalist laws of motion. The system would no longer have the necessity, or perhaps even the means, to impose its relentless imperatives on you and me and the whole wide world." (