Thursday, March 13, 2008

Participatory Economics

Some people have no sense of history. I recently came across a post on the London Fog which attributed the idea of Participatory Economics to a Michael Albert. A quick perusal of the post and the related article on Wikipedia (I know, but it is a fast and easy first reference) gave me enough information to know that I had seen this idea before, and to predict the ultimate denouement of any society foolish enough to adopt it.

Participatory Economics, or Parecon as is is sometimes called, is one of the bizzare offshoots of Socialism. It seems most closely related to Communitarianism, or maybe an extension of the Cooperative movement's ideologies. The tangled logic that Michael Albert and his supporters use to explain the theoretical advantages of Parecon is worth reading if only to hone your own skills in debate. Don't let the fact that human nature, economic incentives and historical evidence is completely ignored or discounted by Parecon theorists dissuade you; it is important to know and understand how the other side thinks and frame their arguments. Incidentally, the very premise of Parecon and its socialist cousins is that people are not free agents, and cannot take actions to change their circumstances inside the framework of free market democracies. One only has to listen to the musical stylings ofDavid Allan Coe to undercut that argument.

Now I could go into a long post and describe the various ins and outs of the theory, and rip holes in the flimsy fabric with arguments drawn from classical economics and history, but this has already been done for us, and much better. I knew I had seen the basic premise of Parecon and its ultimate denouement before; Ayn Rand laid it out in her 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged" in the story of Starnesville and the destruction of 20th Century Motors . Novelists apparently have a better understanding of history and real life than economists.

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