"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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|What is Participtory Economics?|
Parecon is a unique alternative economic system. It is very different from "free" markets or central planning, or any variant of "socialism." Unlike other economic systems, parecon is designed to promote self-management, solidarity, diversity, and equity. This is done through true democracy in the workplace and a unique democratic participatory allocation system.
Work: In a parecon, work life would be very different. Instead of throwing away democratic rights at work, every worker would be able to vote on workplace decisions in proportion to how much they are affected by the decision. Not only would we be able to vote in workplace affairs, but all workers would also have a balanced job complex. A balanced job complex means that everyone would share empowering enjoyable tasks, as well as rote tasks that are not as empowering or enjoyable. For instance, a surgeon might spend part of their day sweeping up, or on some other rote task. This creates one class of workers. In addition, when hierarchy is needed, the task of being in charge is rotated. This ensures that a permanent hierarchy would not be able to take over the workplace. The fact that every worker is able to review and understand workplace issues means that every worker can contribute ideas on how to organize and proceed, helping to maintain the equality of power in the workplace. One would be paid according to the effort and sacrifice expended. Since everyone would work in a balanced job complex, the intrinsic effort and sacrifice in each job would be comparable. If a worker wanted more money, she or he would work more hours.
Allocation: Instead of markets, a participatory economy would use a democratic participatory planning process that would last about a month. The end result of this process would be to set prices for all goods and services for one year. The next year, the planning process would set them again. This would be done by getting most consumers and workers to state what they wish to consume and how much they wish to work via computer. Each individual consumer would state their consumption requests in an easy to fill out form, as detailed as they like. Also, groups of people at the town, city, provincial and country wide level would state would state their consumption requests in a collective manner. Any citizen would be able to suggest collective projects for communities and larger constituencies to do, all of which would be brought to the general populace for voting by facilitation boards, which exist to aid the planning process. Workers would also make their wishes know by stating how much they wish to work, what jobs they would like to perform, suggested upgrades to their worksites, etc. Once all consumer and worker requests are recorded, prices based on this record of supply and demand would be generated. In addition, prices would be adjusted according to how the products being made affect the environment, and how hard they are on workers to produce. Prices would therefore reflect the "social opportunity cost", for example, a product produced by damaging the environment would be expensive. After the new prices are in consumers and workers would restate their preferences, based on the new prices, and a second round would ensue. After a few more rounds of adjustment, where creative compromises would be reached for all, a final plan would be produced and voted on by all. This would be the final plan for the year.
To find out more you can look at the main parecon website, or continue to browse the materials on our website.