"A great many activists and concerned people ask, quite rightly, what alternative form of social organization can be imagined that might overcome
the grave flaws -- often real crimes -- of contemporary society in more
far-reaching ways than short-term reform. Parecon is the most serious
effort I know to provide a very detailed possible answer to some of these
questions, crucial ones, based on serious thought and careful analysis."
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|Participatory Economics & the Environment (Pt. 4)|
Go to Pt. 1 / Pt. 2 / Pt. 3 / Pt. 4
Chris Spannos interviews Robin Hahnel.
January 10, 2004
Robin Hahnel has taught political economy at American University for over 25 years. He has co-authored, along with Michael Albert, numerous books on participatory economics. His forthcoming book is Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation published by Routledge. Chris Spannos is a member of the Vancouver Parecon Collective
Spannos: What role would environmental activism, groups like Green Peace, or future environmental political parties, say the Green Party, have in a future society based on parecon?
Hahnel: Substituting the institutions of a participatory economy -- worker and consumer councils and federations, participatory planning, balanced job complexes, and remuneration on the basis of effort or sacrifice -- for the institutions of capitalism -- private enterprise, markets, and hierarchical decision making -- does not guarantee that the environment will be adequately protected, much less restored. A participatory economy gives people decision making power to the degree they are affected. A participatory economy eliminates perverse incentives that make it in the individual interest of decision makers to overexploit and despoil the environment. Unlike capitalism and communism, each of which contain powerful incentives for decision makers to ignore adverse affects on the environment -- and unlike market socialism, which is little better suited to accounting for environmental externalities, avoiding conspicuous consumption, and avoiding injudicious growth -- in a participatory economy it is in the individual interests of decision makers to treat the environment wisely. There is no bias favoring growth of output over growth of leisure. Status cannot be achieved through conspicuous consumption. There are no perverse incentives that make it in the interests of producers or consumers to over pollute because of neglected externalities. Instead, those who benefit from environmental preservation have the power necessary to protect their interests. Long-term plans place constraints on annual plans in ways that balance the interests of present and future generations. And the interests of future generations -- which depend on environmental preservation -- are given every opportunity to receive their due in the long-run, participatory planning process. But a participatory economy provides no guarantee that people will treat the environment wisely, which is to say it does not make the environmental movement obsolete. A participatory economy merely eliminates perverse incentives that create biases against environmental preservation and restoration on a playing field where people weigh their competing goals democratically and fairly.
Spannos: Thank you very much.
Hahnel: I want to thank the Vancouver Parecon Collective for this opportunity to discuss participatory economics and the environment. I also want to than the members of the Southern Maryland Greens Local, which as been the primary organization for my political activism over the past four years, for deepening my understanding of environmental issues and their importance to local organizing.
Robin Hahnel has taught political economy at American University for over 25 years. He has co-authored, along with Michael Albert, numerous books on participatory economics. His forthcoming book is Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation published by Routledge.