View Full Version : Parecon
I ran across "participatory economics" at this site (http://www.zmag.org/parecon/indexnew.htm). There was one thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=282644&highlight=parecon) on the topic in GD. The overall opinion was that it was too bureaucratic and anyway looked a lot like communism. There was also quite a bit of discussuion about its concept of compensation being proportional to "effort".
One of the main questions in the OP was "would it work?" I don't want to open up the debate again, but it seems obvious to me that this question can't be answered unless one actually set up such a system. If it worked, fine. If not, then you would probably have a big mess. So why can't a simulation be set up to explore how such a system would work (or not)? It would seem to me that simulating an economic system (even a simplified version) would involve something similar to simulating the weather.
12-06-2006, 09:05 AM
It would seem to me that simulating an economic system (even a simplified version) would involve something similar to simulating the weather.More complex, because the fundamental unit in the weather is air molecules, whereas the fundamental unit in the economy is people's minds.
Specifically, the economy is a form of communication. It is how a culture transmits and decides upon how much specific goods and services are worth. This is accomplished by setting prices, both of goods and of services (which are called wages). If you artificially tinker with prices, you censor the communication and destroy the ability of the economy to accurately talk about how much things are worth. This directly affects what people do for a living and how the resources of a country are spent and the kinds of things people import and export.
It all comes down to this: There are too many options available to any person or group for that person or group to decide on what the best course of action is without information on what everyone else is deciding. Should I make more bouncy balls or hard balls? Should we build a copper mine or a foundry? Is it better to be a heart surgeon or a pediatrician? Every decision affects a huge interconnecting web of other decisions which we call our society. The fundamental inability of anyone to set prices or decide on a course of action in the absence of good economic data is called the calculation problem (http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/essays/paretian/social.htm).
12-06-2006, 09:35 AM
It would seem to me that simulating an economic system (even a simplified version) would involve something similar to simulating the weather.
It's almost impossible to simulate weather, but let's leave that aside. It's almost impossible to simulate an economic system because we do not have a system capable of even accurately guessing what large groups of people are going to do. All economic simulations rely on some sort of a huge assumption that is always wrong, and just 'how wrong' will determine how useful your simulation is.
The problem with simulating parecon is that you cannot really make an assumption that any particular council of any size is going to behave in a manner beneficial to anybody, even its own members. Complex social tensions control human behaviors and create rather random and unpredictable(** from the point of you of benefits and expectations). A good example of this is the Abilene paradox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox), where a group decides to collectively do something not a single member of the group wants. This isn't even a minority controlling the majority, this is simply a collective unconscious random number generator.
You might note that I put a ** above. In my personal experience unsubstantiated by any sort of scientific method the best bet that can be made (not a very good bet at that, but better than any based on benefit analysis) would be to bet that a group would settle in a decision that requires fulfillment of the median range of enthusiasm within the group and is of maximal detriment to the group as a whole within the restriction that the group remains stable and the detriment to any particular individual is inversely proportional to their 'group dynamics factor'. I define a 'group dynamics factor' as a product of how well someone is liked by the group and how much they whine publically.
You might think I'm being overly cynical but try reading a history book with such an approach in mind and see how much more sense everything suddenly makes.
12-06-2006, 10:00 AM
At least the decision process sees the light of day. It has a chance of benefiting the majority. Decisions behind closed doors,made by a few, would eventually benefit the few. The old benevolent dictator saw. The best and most efficient government would be a benevolent dictator. We haven't found one yet.
12-06-2006, 10:13 AM
At least the decision process sees the light of day. It has a chance of benefiting the majority. Decisions behind closed doors,made by a few, would eventually benefit the few.
I don't know, I'd put it "Decisions made behind closed doors, made by a few, have at least a chance to eventually benefit somebody" :p
Maybe simulation was the wrong word to use. I agree, we can't simulate the weather. But what we can do is predict (fairly well) what the weather will be like five days from now given the current conditions. At the end of the five days, another prediction is run, and so on. So why can't the same thing be done for an economic system? Aren't such things already done for parts of the economy like the stock market?
Isn't Monopoly kind of a simplistic simulation of capitalism? What about a Parecon game? I wonder what that would look like and how one would go about winning?
One reason I got to thinking about this was because of this article (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6601-sales-in-virtual-goods-top-100-million.html) in New Scientist. Probably nobody would be interested to play a Parecon or Communism or similar "game", but as the economist mentioned in the article found, such a virtual world can be studied un the same way as a real one.
vBulletin® v3.7.3, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.