I'd like a moneyless system, but see a couple flaws that need fixing

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ladybug
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Jan 21 2012 20:09
I'd like a moneyless system, but see a couple flaws that need fixing

Hello everyone! smile This is my first post here… and I’m starting off with a huge question.

I recently read the article by Robin Cox called The "Economic Calculation" controversy: unravelling of a myth (http://www.cvoice.org/cv3cox.htm). Overall I found the article convincing, and it laid to rest various scepticisms I'd had about a moneyless (and free access) system, but there were still a couple things that remained problematic for me. (They are explained below.)

I would prefer to live in a moneyless system, but as long as these problems remain unsolved I don't think such a system is viable. cry That does NOT mean I think we need markets or wages or even a single unit for accounting. Each good can have multiple prices according to the labor time, environmental harms, and non/semi-renewable resource usage associated with that product. We could have non-circulating credits for labor time and also for various environmental harms we want to limit (like greenhouse gas credits) and also for non- or semi-renewable resources (biodiversity impact credits). These credits can be distributed according to need (about equally but with more for those with greater need). This would not be buying/selling or exchange, the credits would just be subtracted from each person's account (I guess electronically).

The benefit of this is that it places limits on our consumption and thus require that we prioritize what to consume, which would then automatically signal information about what our consumption/production priorities are, without needing to have various meetings to communicate our priorities.

In any case, like I said I would prefer a moneyless system so I'm posting this not to try to shoot down your ideas but because I'm hoping you know how to solve this problem.

The Problems Explained...

Critics, and also supportive sceptics, of a moneyless and free access system have said that in such a system we won’t be able to decide how to allocate resources necessary for production (raw materials, such as steel, and intermediate goods, such as microchips).

For example, if producing a month’s supply of thing X for our community takes 200 units of chlorine, and producing a month’s supply of thing Y requires 100 units of chlorine, but we only have 200 units of chlorine per month available (due to our democratic decision to limit harsh chemicals), how will we decide what to produce? Should we produce half a month’s supply of X so we can produce an entire month’s supply of Y? Should we not produce any Y so we can produce the entire month’s supply of X? Or some other combination?

The solution usually given is that we will make these decisions through meetings where we will discuss, debate, and decide our consumption priorities, using something roughly like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Basic survival needs like food, shelter, and medicine will take top of the list priority. Trivial luxuries will be at the bottom of the list.

I agree with this solution in principal but I don’t think it solves the problem adequately – for a few reasons:

1. Cases involving goods of equal priority. Continuing with the example where the available supply of chlorine falls short of the demand for it, If thing X is of very high priority and thing Y is of very low priority, then we can produce the full amount of thing X and reduce the production of thing Y. But what if both are of the same priority? What if they both rank at level 15 (out of a possible 30 priority levels)? We will need to have a meeting to decide which is of the two is of slightly higher priority. If we decide X is of higher priority we can’t just stick X in level 14 because we already decided it was less important than goods in that level. And we can’t stick Y in level 16 for the opposite reason. So we have to create a new priority level, which means we now have 31 priority levels. But eventually the same problem will come up again with another two goods and we will need to have another meeting and will then have 32 priority levels. This process can go on indefinitely, every time two goods of equal priority come into conflict.

2. Even when goods are not of equal priority we still don’t know to what extent to reduce production of each good. Knowing that X is of a higher priority than Y tells us that we rather reduce production of Y than of X. But it doesn’t tell us to what extent we are willing to sacrifice Y to get X. Are we willing to have no Y whatsoever so we can have a full supply of X? Or would we rather have a half supply of Y which still leaves us with a three-quarters supply of X? There are many other possible options. Which to choose? You might say that these decisions would be made at meetings, but with all the fluctuations of supply and demand that might occur from day to day for all the myriad of goods and their inputs, this would require more meetings than most would be willing to tolerate.

3. A good in a low priority category should not necessarily, in each case, be sacrificed to produce a good in a high priority category. For example, the need for food is obviously in a tie with various other needs for being of the utmost priority. But not all food deserves to be on such a high level – i.e. potato chips. And even a food staple, such as bread, is not in itself absolutely essential, as long as alternatives are available. If there is no bread I can have potatoes, corn tortillas, rice. Now let’s imagine a scenario where we have a demand for both bread and beer, but not enough wheat to fully meet the demand for both. In fact, to totally meet the demand for bread we will have to fall short of our beer demand by 70%. If we were using a priority ranking system, staple food is in the highest priority category and beer is probably at least halfway down, so indeed we would produce only 30% of our desired amount of beer but plenty of bread. But wouldn’t it make more sense to reduce the production of bread somewhat so that more beer could be made? After all, there are other food options besides bread. (There are also other alcohol options besides beer, so perhaps this wasn’t the best example, but if you use your imagination you can think of other examples where it doesn’t make sense to drastically reduce a low priority good to meet production for a “high priority” good. I’ll give another example: not enough rubber to meet the demand for both raincoats and dildos. Protection from the rain is more important than a masturbation tool, but there is also the option of the umbrella which needs no rubber. And maybe half the people who want raincoats already have one that works fine, but it looks shabby so they want a new one. In that case the need is not for protection from the rain (a high priority) but fashion (a priority which is not necessarily of more or even equal importance to masturbation). Again, you might say common sense will solve this issue, but whose common sense? For the decision to be democratic, we will require meetings for our collective common sense to be put to use. But with such issues coming up frequently, it would require frequent meetings.

4. Different people have different desires/priorities. For most people thing Y might be at a level 20 priority (out of, say, 30 priority levels) and thing X at a level 5. But for some people it might be the exact reverse. Such people would not be happy with the decision to produce lots of X and very little Y. Of course as in any democratic decision not everyone will be happy with the outcome. But we should at least hope that what little of Y is produced goes to those who most desire it. In a free/open access system, how can this be assured? Unless we think of some way to make it otherwise, what will happen is that people will get things on a first come first serve basis. If I do not have to limit my consumption, that means I don’t need to prioritize what I consume, either, and therefore I might consume Y even though it’s at a level 20 priority for me. My neighbour for who Y is at a level 5 priority happens to get to the distribution outlet later than me and by then there is no more Y left. I suppose we could reserve scarce goods for those who most wanted them, but how would this be determined?

Now the purpose of bringing this up isn’t to conclude that a moneyless system of free/open access is impossible. It’s to ask if you can think of any solution(s). I imagine the solution may be an extension of the solution which is usually given, mentioned above, that we will know how to allocate scarce resources because we will set our consumption priorities through a democratic process. Although such a simple answer is insufficient, I believe it can be the basis or nucleus of an adequate answer. Then again, maybe the solution is to be found in something else entirely (but something that, of course, does not resort to either authority or wages).

Thank you everyone I hope we can figure this out! grin

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Jan 21 2012 21:17

I'm sure someone will answer more in the spirit you want, but if millions of people across the globe can organise together, disrupt economies, change social relations and how they see things, then wage and win a total war on a destructive scale we've never seen, without being co-opted or destroyed by Leninists, I'm sure they will be able to work out how to allocate units of chlorine after the revolution.

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Jan 21 2012 21:25

I don't actually see the flaws as this whole thing is still constructed in bourgeois categories, scarcity among others.

Communism is supposed to be a post-scarcity society; scarcity as a category is a product of private property that has little to do with material scarcity.

However, the example you gave is an interesting one. Let's suppose we still have money and the same situation arises (production is limited by inputs).

How will money deal with it? The way I see it, in the case of an auction the highest bidder will make the deal and make the decision for others. That's in no way better than to make the decision based on social needs, is it?

Stalemate, huh? The thing about money is that it leads to power imbalances, which in the eyes of anti-authoritarians is worse than a group decision, no matter how faulty it may be.

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Jan 21 2012 23:12

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/communism-your-opinion-it-true-each-according-their-ability-each-according-their-n

If you haven't encountered that thread, you may find it of interest.

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Jan 22 2012 22:41
ladybug wrote:
Hello everyone! smile This is my first post here… and I’m starting off with a huge question.

Welcome!

ladybug wrote:
The Problems Explained...

Critics, and also supportive sceptics, of a moneyless and free access system have said that in such a system we won’t be able to decide how to allocate resources necessary for production (raw materials, such as steel, and intermediate goods, such as microchips).

For example, if producing a month’s supply of thing X for our community takes 200 units of chlorine, and producing a month’s supply of thing Y requires 100 units of chlorine, but we only have 200 units of chlorine per month available (due to our democratic decision to limit harsh chemicals), how will we decide what to produce? Should we produce half a month’s supply of X so we can produce an entire month’s supply of Y? Should we not produce any Y so we can produce the entire month’s supply of X? Or some other combination?

I'm not going to speak in terms of how it might be in a perfect society where everybody does everything the same way. If we ever get our way there will probably be quite a bit of chaos and different social experiments going on in communities of varying sizes, so there are many ways to solve this and I'm sure it will be tried in many different ways.

This would likely be done very locally, as in what would currently be considered a county in the US today or even just a single town. I don't advocate a system where a council rules, even if all are supposedly involved. I prefer something much more informal. So say I manage to bring about my vision of communism or anarchism in a small county in the US during the Revolution.

With my way there wouldn't be a law against harsh chemicals, but there may a strong belief amongst the majority of the people living in my county that they are bad. Let's say we only have one factory producing these chemicals so they are in short supply. There are several groups or other factories or laboratories, etc who may want or need the chemicals but there isn't enough for everybody to get what they want. There may be much bickering, especially if the county has only recently overthrown capitalism and monetarism; let's say that it has.

They may bicker and argue for a long time and either the one who's product is most valuable to the community may end up getting it or nobody will be able to agree and thus no one will get it. There will be one thing that everyone will agree on though: more chemicals are needed. So a new chemical factory would be constructed because of general consensus.

Now since this is a simple chemical and it's need may not be dire there is no need to ask for help from neighbors so they may be able to afford not to give it to anyone. But if it's something absolutely needed like bread or apples, we may need to ask for food from others and informal rationing may occur (peer pressure being the main enforcer). Of course since this is food people may resort to home gardening to help solve their own needs which could then be used to help their immediate neighbors if necessary. Other individual and novel solutions could be formed for other needs or even desires.

People aren't uncharitable, they are simply encouraged to be extremely selfish all their lives under capitalism and monetarism. Under capitalism people would just leave or beg or worst of all steal because in monetarism there is a sense of looking out for yourself; helping others might not yield a direct reward and so it is discouraged. But during or after a/the revolution there may be a different feeling or attitude, people may be much more charitable, in fact I wouldn't put it beyond people to actually go to these ailing communities and offer their help and services so that the community can be made self-sufficient.

ladybug wrote:
Now the purpose of bringing this up isn’t to conclude that a moneyless system of free/open access is impossible. It’s to ask if you can think of any solution(s). I imagine the solution may be an extension of the solution which is usually given, mentioned above, that we will know how to allocate scarce resources because we will set our consumption priorities through a democratic process. Although such a simple answer is insufficient, I believe it can be the basis or nucleus of an adequate answer. Then again, maybe the solution is to be found in something else entirely (but something that, of course, does not resort to either authority or wages).

I don't believe it's impossible, there are many paths to a solution. My path may not work, and if it doesn't something will be hammered out that does. In the mean-time thousands, maybe millions of other similar communities will be going through the same thing and will attempt different approaches. Some might tr other methods, some might resort back to monetarism, some might become totalitarian enclaves or feudal ways of life, who knows. The one that is the most successful and does the job the easiest and keeps people the most satisfied may be used or picked up by others (yay internet and social networking!).

And the "revolution" mentioned is only hypothetical, but even in different circumstances I would prefer informality to a formal organization if at all possible.

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Jan 23 2012 18:39

I think the issue isn't so much one of decision. I think in cases where things are not working properly, there is a shortage or a clearly defined problem, there needs to be community and possible federated input on the issue. However, I think, most of the time, the economy will not be in a state of crisis or extreme shortage. Even if there aren't that many apples at a "supermarket" one week, it doesn't necessarily imply a catastrophic shortage, or even a shortage that needs to be dealt with by the community. Perhaps production was down for a time, bad weather or something, and next week things will perk up a bit. Under such conditions, which are frequent, I see no need for an elaborate theory or community plan.

Additionally I think we need to take into account machines. Back when this economic calculation argument was drafted by the Austrians, there was no efficient way to organize the economy without some kind of measuring stick, money. Things are different today. Wal-Mart for example knows exactly how many of each item it brings into its stores and how much is bought, at what price, at what rate, and so on and so forth. It knows this because of the massive amount of scanning technology involved in the purchasing process, all of which goes to central servers and organizing bureaus. I see no reason why such technology cannot be applied in a libertarian communist society, where people simply take resources based on their needs, the data becomes logged and plotted, and demand can be predicted. Thus supply can roughly meet demand and keep a stable society.

Mind you this is very different from central planning, which relies on a central authority to set numbers. This kind of coordinating can be totally decentralized, which different unions, labor councils, factories, farms etc being responsible for different geographical locations. Data would be coordinated with other firms for the sake of efficiency, but such decisions would be organized on a decentralized, democratic basis, rather than a hierarchical one.

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Jan 23 2012 19:00
Railyon wrote:
I don't actually see the flaws as this whole thing is still constructed in bourgeois categories, scarcity among others.

Communism is supposed to be a post-scarcity society; scarcity as a category is a product of private property that has little to do with material scarcity.

However, the example you gave is an interesting one. Let's suppose we still have money and the same situation arises (production is limited by inputs).

How will money deal with it? The way I see it, in the case of an auction the highest bidder will make the deal and make the decision for others. That's in no way better than to make the decision based on social needs, is it?

Stalemate, huh? The thing about money is that it leads to power imbalances, which in the eyes of anti-authoritarians is worse than a group decision, no matter how faulty it may be.

I'd agree that an underproduction example isn't really solved by currency. Currency, as issued by states and corporate entities, has served little more function than a way of concentrating wealth rather than distributing it or acting as an economic marker.

However, (and this is where I'm going to start to get shit for this) we shouldn't conflate money with markets. Graeber goes over examples of social currencies in Debt, currencies that have the primary function of maintaining relationships between people rather than demarcating value for trade. These currencies often lead to actual human trade and other sloppy-side effects, but I'm not sure that currency necessarily does so, depending on what exactly the currency is supposed to represent and whether or not it's just a medium for any and all exchange. It's not hard to imagine a situation where one (individual or group) actually has no interest in providing something to another (individual or group) and could give a damn less. Strangers, people from outside the community, basically anyone that doesn't have some sort of baseline trust is unlikely to reap the benefits of a collective surplus without some sort of trade. If in some region something takes on the role of representing good intent for outsiders that need/want something from strangers, I'm not going to whine too loud about it.

But still, currency should not be the basis of an economy.

That said, @lady bug, Railyon makes a good point. The main arguments here are largely rooted in capitalist terminology and assumptions. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that economy for economy's sake is rather dry and tells us very little about how people actually function. It's important to first analyze what the assumptions and myths of capitalist economies are before wondering how alter-economies would work. And even then, to imagine a different economy one has to imagine an entirely different social makeup than the one we see now.

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Jan 23 2012 21:53
Birthday Pony wrote:
Graeber goes over examples of social currencies in Debt, currencies that have the primary function of maintaining relationships between people rather than demarcating value for trade.

Graeber sets out his view here about what he thinks should happen to money "after the revolution".

He writes:

Quote:
It's probably impossible to imagine a society where nothing is rationed, but wouldn't we want to keep it to a minimum? So we'd really want to limit the money sphere: perhaps make basic necessities freely available, and provide coupons for the more whimsical stuff, so people can play whatever games they like with chits without getting themselves in serious trouble. Or maybe, better, lots of different sorts of coupons.

But who would issue these? Some central authority? That's the next problem. After all, another definition of money is an IOU, a promise – money is just the way we produce promises that can be precisely quantified and therefore passed around. But who gets to make such promises? In the current system it's not the government but banks – central banks such as the US Federal Reserve or Bank of England. Ultimately the whole contraption is supposed to be authorised by something called "the people". And the authority to make up money does come from all of us, but we're also not really supposed to understand how it all works, so as to ensure that we continue to treat debts we owe in this money that we just authorised bankers to magic into being as sacred obligations, on which no decent person could ever default. So then the question is: once we get wise and blow up all the banks, who gets to make such promises? Everybody?

It's not unprecedented. There was a time, even in England, when most cash took the form of tokens issued by shopkeepers, tradesmen, even widows who did odd jobs. And in a truly free society, who could stop someone from making up any sort of chit or coupon they wanted to? In some Chinese towns, mahjong tokens used to operate as change in markets. Why not? They were always acceptable at the local casino.

People will always play games. Some will involve saying 12 of this is worth five of that, and once you say that, you've got a form of money. Perhaps the best solution would be to ensure everyone has the freedom to create whatever sort of game they fancy, which would probably mean an endless proliferation of types of money, but also that the losers will still never want for feather pillows and something nice to eat.

I'm not quite sure what he's getting at but it looks like a recipe for chaos.

Anyway, as an anthropologist, why doesn't he think that people who want to produce and exchange "whimsical stuff" won't practice "generalised reciprocity" or "the exchange of goods and services without keeping track of their exact value" (as anthropologists define it)? In which case coupons wouldn't be needed any more than today's money.

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Jan 23 2012 22:10

Because gambling (which is basically the game he's talking about) requires a risk in order to be fun. Risking a useless coupon for dry cleaning or something isn't going to put someone in debtors jail, but it's enough to get a kick out of gambling.

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Jan 23 2012 22:35

Got interrupted by a phone call and lost my train of thought...

but anyways, Graeber isn't proposing his desired mode of exchange. He is just making an observation. What if someone does feel like 12 of these are worth 5 of those? Do we revert back to capitalism because of one person's ignorant desires?

ladybug
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Jan 24 2012 06:17
Railyon wrote:
However, the example you gave is an interesting one. Let's suppose we still have money and the same situation arises (production is limited by inputs).

How will money deal with it? The way I see it, in the case of an auction the highest bidder will make the deal and make the decision for others. That's in no way better than to make the decision based on social needs, is it?

Stalemate, huh? The thing about money is that it leads to power imbalances, which in the eyes of anti-authoritarians is worse than a group decision, no matter how faulty it may be.

I don't think this critique applies when the credits/vouchers/money is distributed about equally but with more going to those with greater need. That IS distribution according to need, isn't it? Scarce items going to higher bidders is not an imposition on others when we all have equal bidding power... because all it means is that unequal bids are a result of unequal desire (rather than unequal power to meet our desires).

Thanks everyone for adding to this thread. Looking forward to hearing from others.

alb
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Jan 24 2012 09:37
Birthday Pony wrote:
Graeber isn't proposing his desired mode of exchange. He is just making an observation.

OK, Graeber was being a bit "whimsical" himself in that article, but I don't know why you conclude that he wasn't proposing what he wanted. What he describes follows from his particular definition of money as "debt" (as opposed to the Marxist view that it arose from trade as one "commodity" that could be exchanged for all others) and also from his position as an anti-centralist anarchist. Since in any society, future communist society included, people will have obligations to each other, money in his sense will always exist. On Marx's definition, though, money will disappear as soon as goods and services cease to be produced for sale, ie as commodities. His objection to a moneyless (in Marx's sense) society is basically the same as those supporters of capitalism who say you can't get rid of money because people will always barter.

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Jan 24 2012 18:25
alb wrote:
OK, Graeber was being a bit "whimsical" himself in that article, but I don't know why you conclude that he wasn't proposing what he wanted. What he describes follows from his particular definition of money as "debt" (as opposed to the Marxist view that it arose from trade as one "commodity" that could be exchanged for all others) and also from his position as an anti-centralist anarchist. Since in any society, future communist society included, people will have obligations to each other, money in his sense will always exist. On Marx's definition, though, money will disappear as soon as goods and services cease to be produced for sale, ie as commodities. His objection to a moneyless (in Marx's sense) society is basically the same as those supporters of capitalism who say you can't get rid of money because people will always barter.

On the invention of money

Graeber himself denies that barter actually existed as a standard method of exchange in historical societies. I found his argument convincing so thought it was worth mentioning.

Graeber wrote:
"What anthropologists have in fact observed where money is not used is not a system of explicit lending and borrowing, but a very broad system of non-enumerated credits and debts. In most such societies, if a neighbor wants some possession of yours, it usually suffices simply to praise it (“what a magnificent pig!”); the response is to immediately hand it over, accompanied by much insistence that this is a gift and the donor certainly would never want anything in return. In fact, the recipient now owes him a favor. Now, he might well just sit on the favor, since it’s nice to have others beholden to you, or he might demand something of an explicitly non-material kind (“you know, my son is in love with your daughter…”) He might ask for another pig, or something he considers roughly equivalent in kind. But it’s almost impossible to see how any of this would lead to a system whereby it’s possible to measure proportional values. After all, even if, as sometimes happens, the party owing one favor heads you off by presenting you with some unwanted present, and one considers it inadequate—a few chickens, for example—one might mock him as a cheapskate, but one is unlikely to feel the need to come up with a mathematical formula to measure just how cheap you consider him to be. As a result, as Chris Gregory observed, what you ordinarily find in such ‘gift economies’ is a broad ranking of different types of goods—canoes are roughly the same as heirloom necklaces, both are superior to pigs and whale teeth, which are superior to chickens, etc—but no system whereby you can measure how many pigs equal one canoe."

More or less how one would imagine it, or at least how I would. Peer pressure (which people tend to forget can be more powerful than a gun) and circumstance being the general rough determinor of value, and this is in societies where people did not live in abundance of anything really.

It wouldn't surprise me if "barter" is almost entirely a ruse to justify the existence of monetarism through the "nature over nurture" argument.

alb
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Jan 25 2012 07:13
Ambrose wrote:
On the invention of money

Graeber himself denies that barter actually existed as a standard method of exchange in historical societies.

In this article Graeber concedes:

Quote:
All this is not to say that barter never occurs. It is widely attested in many times and places. But it typically occurs between strangers, people who have no moral relations with one another.

Despite what Adam Smith and the Von Mises Institute (who he was arguing against) may argue (presumably, that humans have some natural propensity to barter), Marx too made this same point both in Capital and in his A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (from which this is taken):

Quote:
In fact, the exchange of commodities evolves originally not within primitive communities, but on their margins, on their borders, the few points where they come into contact with other communities. This is where barter begins and moves thence into the interior of the community, exerting a disintegrating influence upon it. The particular use-values which, as a result of barter between different communities, become commodities, e.g., slaves, cattle, metals, usually serve also as the first money within these communities.

Of course this is a matter for anthropologists not economists to settle, but anthropologists themselves don't agree on the definition of money or (therefore) its origin. For a different view to Graeber's see The Evolution of Culture by Leslie A. White, McGraw Hill paperback,1959, pp. 333-343. (I think you can see this on the internet if you google "Leslie A White" + "evolution of money" and scroll up and down. I think).

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Jan 25 2012 09:39

That's all well and good, but Marx's definition of money doesn't quite cut it. There would be far too many special cases and instances of "oh, well that's actually not money because it doesn't fit this definition..." which, ironically, is exactly what Misesians will tell you about anarchism when you say it's not state-enforced. "Oh, well that's not communism because it's not all the ugly things Mises said about it..."

alb
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Jan 25 2012 12:45

But isn't Graeber saying "but that is money because it fits my definition" ? I would have thought that to regard any obligation as money just because it is a sort of debt is the theory that doesn't cut it.

And isn't "anarcho-capitalism" based on the ideas of Mises?

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Jan 25 2012 19:45

I think when it comes to the Barter system and whether or not it actually ever existed and it was used as part of Karl’s economic framework in the opening chapters of Das capital.

Smith as I remember claimed it did; citing historical evidence from reports from European observers and commentators re the Iberian invasion of South America and the Peruvian Inca’s and what not.

Given the state of Jesuit interest in matters of political economy, one way or the other, I think we can to some extent regard their reports as perhaps factual and objective.

I think Karl considered that money was money if it circulated.

Thus in volume II he said that labour vouchers, should they be accepted as it was conceived, would not be money because they would not circulate.

There were theoretical French bods (the source of all evil) that proposed the concept of circulating labour vouchers and thus paper voucher money, which Karl thrashed around with in Grundisse and was not dealt with in das capital.

I think that in part modern fiat ‘money’ is or are circulating, albeit discounted, labour vouchers.

I suspect ALB and myself are bitter and polarised theoretical enemies on the issue on fiat currency.

ALB takes the Kautsky view and myself the Rudolph Hilferdingding position, although until recently I hadn’t realised it.

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Jan 25 2012 21:49
Dave B wrote:
I think when it comes to the Barter system and whether or not it actually ever existed and it was used as part of Karl’s economic framework in the opening chapters of Das capital.

Smith as I remember claimed it did; citing historical evidence from reports from European observers and commentators re the Iberian invasion of South America and the Peruvian Inca’s and what not.

Given the state of Jesuit interest in matters of political economy, one way or the other, I think we can to some extent regard their reports as perhaps factual and objective.

Well, they are secondary sources. So that's something to keep in mind. As far as anthropologists are concerned, there's never been a time when 5 chickens equals one goat, or any sort of arrangement like that. And if there were, there has never been a time when such a practice was universal, or when one commodity won out over another. The first paper currencies we see are just IOUs that people sign over to one another. After states take control of them, they start backing them with commodities (such as gold).

Quote:
I think Karl considered that money was money if it circulated.

Thus in volume II he said that labour vouchers, should they be accepted as it was conceived, would not be money because they would not circulate.

And that's the crazy kind of shit I'm talking about. That's not money because it doesn't fit his definition, which just puts us into an argument about language rather than an argument about money.

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Jan 25 2012 23:21

to put it another way , ladybug, i think what you are suggesting creates problems itself.. also your post is like a big torturtous maths sum! i'm afraid i could only skim read some of it cos it was doing my head in - no offence intended i just don't enjoy sums...

the thing is how can you evaluate peoples 'labour' and thereby also things they produce (are some things more valuable because they are harder to produce?) by some numerical system? what if you are caring for a child, suffering from health difficulties, undertaking tasks that will damage your health, need to consume more of a rare foodstuff or medicine because of yr situation, are elderly, going through a life crisis etc. etc.? life is just to complex and variable to assess in that way - to be summarised by numercial formulas.
(not referring to quantum physics, string theory etc, here btw but more the weights and measures approach to decision making suggested above)

i do not think there is a substitute for people being able to sit down together and endeavour to collectively take wise decisions.

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Jan 26 2012 03:19
dohball wrote:
to put it another way , ladybug, i think what you are suggesting creates problems itself.. also your post is like a big torturtous maths sum! i'm afraid i could only skim read some of it cos it was doing my head in - no offence intended i just don't enjoy sums...

the thing is how can you evaluate peoples 'labour' and thereby also things they produce (are some things more valuable because they are harder to produce?) by some numerical system? what if you are caring for a child, suffering from health difficulties, undertaking tasks that will damage your health, need to consume more of a rare foodstuff or medicine because of yr situation, are elderly, going through a life crisis etc. etc.? life is just to complex and variable to assess in that way - to be summarised by numercial formulas.
(not referring to quantum physics, string theory etc, here btw but more the weights and measures approach to decision making suggested above)

i do not think there is a substitute for people being able to sit down together and endeavour to collectively take wise decisions.

I'm in agreement with my friend "Dohball". Ladybug is thinking on a global scale and through the eye's of a planner and economist. Anarchically, things could not be done on such a global scale, at least not with ease. Maybe when society has advanced quite a ways but my gut tells me that things are likely to be very localized and community-oriented in the beginning. How could it be any other way when "countries" no longer exist?

I'm not speaking with authority or superiority in knowledge but I don't see how society can be anarchist when things are organized on a large scale.

This raises the question regarding large projects such as the construction of the Hydron Collider and space ventures. It is my belief such projects could not possibly be approached early on, people would be far too busy consolidating their own liberation and getting used to a completely new way of life. But once after a few years or perhaps decades when people have gotten used to voluntary association and non-monetary economics such projects could be safely undertaken by a community or league of communities.

It is the consolidation that will be the hard part. Whatever the history or origin of money, going without it is so new and novel to most people that simply staying the course and not "giving in" and reverting back to money and authority will be extremely difficult.

But this is just the conclusion I have come to after a few moments of thought.

alb
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Jan 26 2012 07:44
Birthday Pony wrote:
And that's the crazy kind of shit I'm talking about. That's not money because it doesn't fit his definition, which just puts us into an argument about language rather than an argument about money.

Yes, it is an argument about the best way to define "money", ie which definition fits in with and explains the facts.

The trouble with Graeber's definition of money as "debt" (not just financial but as anything somebody owes somebody else) is that it opens the door to all those currency cranks who think of money as "financial debt" created by banks out of thin air (they are rife on the internet and within the Occupy movement) and that all we need to do to solve the problems capitalism throws up is to introduce "debt-free money". Talk about crazy shit.

In any event, there can be no doubt that in societies practising widespread buying and selling money was a commodity that had value in its own right (by virtue of itself being a product of labour like other commodities). Otherwise it would not have been exchangeable for any other commodity. This in fact was the case under capitalism right up until WWI before paper token money became the rule.

Ask yourself, if Graeber wasn't an anarchist would you be defending his eccentric definition of money ? Do you defend generative linguistics just because Chomsky formulated it?

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Jan 26 2012 18:33

@ladybug

I've been thinking about this as well after having come across this problem in Parecon: Life After Capitalism.

It read:

Quote:
We are churning out pencils, as another example. When do we stop churning? Pencils are useful, but the more pencils we have, the less is the value of each new one added to the pile, at least after a point. Moreover, we certainly do not want to use up so much of our labor and resources churning out pencils that we start having to forego things more desirable to us than our growing pile of pencils—say, milk. Ideally the economy will churn out each output to a point where the benefit of the last item produced was equal to the opportunity cost of producing it. To produce another of the item would occur at the same or at a bit higher opportunity cost and would have the same or a bit less social value … so that, by not producing that item we can use our productive capability to produce something else that benefits us more.

(you can find the chapter here: http://books.zcommunications.org/books/pareconv/Chapter8.htm )

I am not particularly a fan of participatory economics, but it may be that their solution could be integrated into anarcho-communism. (I stopped reading after that to think about it)

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Jan 26 2012 19:27

Ok here's a possible solution.

First, the problem ladybug poses is that without wages and prices we do not know the preference scale of a consumer.

Second, we could therefore democratically prioritize goods and put them in categories, for example: utmost necessity (1), high necessity (2), average necessity(3), little necessity (4), and luxurious (5). For each category they could determine the percentage of the amount of goods to produce in case of relative scarcity. The percentage for the first category would be 100 percent and is likely to include food, drinkables, medicine, healthcare, as well as wheelchairs and similar goods.he percentages would of course diminish proportionally, e.g. from 100 percent in the first category, to 95, to 90, to 80, to 50, to 10 percent (or 100, to 100, to 95, to 90, to 25). This percentage is a reflection of the proportion to which requested needs can and will be satisfied. For example, if the commune at large needs 100 breads a week and bread is in the first category, 100% of it will be made. If the commune at large requests 100 playstations per week and it is placed in the category 5 (the 50%-category) then only 50 playstations will be made (because that is roughly the amount of labour we have).

The problem of personal (rather than collective) preferences still persist--especially if they are in the same category. How do we determine the personal preferences for scarce goods?

A potential solution maybe that we give everyone, irrespective of contribution, 5,000 consumer vouchers and have prices set by means of supply and demand. Thereby we the consumers will choose with their vouchers what to by and thereby their personal preferences ascertained. Maybe...?

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Jan 26 2012 20:55
alb wrote:
The trouble with Graeber's definition of money as "debt" (not just financial but as anything somebody owes somebody else) is that it opens the door to all those currency cranks who think of money as "financial debt" created by banks out of thin air (they are rife on the internet and within the Occupy movement) and that all we need to do to solve the problems capitalism throws up is to introduce "debt-free money". Talk about crazy shit.

I'm not sure how defining money as debt opens up the door to "debt-free money." In fact, it most likely rejects any such notion.

Quote:
In any event, there can be no doubt that in societies practising widespread buying and selling money was a commodity that had value in its own right (by virtue of itself being a product of labour like other commodities). Otherwise it would not have been exchangeable for any other commodity. This in fact was the case under capitalism right up until WWI before paper token money became the rule.

That's just not true, actually. At all. IOUs are the first paper money we see, and before currency there were informal debts between neighbors. The money that was also a commodity, like wood or copper, had the weight and value on one side and then the person who made them on the other. At plenty of times the currency would be worth more or less than the commodity it was printed on, depending on the credit of the person who made it. Such currencies generally didn't come into existence without states.

Quote:
Ask yourself, if Graeber wasn't an anarchist would you be defending his eccentric definition of money ? Do you defend generative linguistics just because Chomsky formulated it?

If Marx weren't a communist would you support his definition of money?

I'm not quite sure what either question has to do with what's actually useful. Even if either of us does believe the other for the wrong reasons, it wouldn't stop it from being true.

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Jan 27 2012 07:39
Goti123 wrote:
I am not particularly a fan of participatory economics, but it may be that their solution could be integrated into anarcho-communism. (I stopped reading after that to think about it)

Oh no, not parecon! Their blueprint is just aimed at trying to bring about, by democratic participation, the same result as textbooks say a free market is supposed to. In other words, they accept and defend the so-called "Economic Calculation Argument" against the possibility of a lasting money-free society in which we wouldn't have to put a price on things..

The result is a society that would be a bureaucratic nightmare, with everybody having to fill in a form at the beginning of the year as to how much and what they planned to consume which would be scrutinused by their neighborhood council and might have to be revised up to seven or more times. At work people would have to fill in a form stating how much effort they plan to put in during the year which would be monitored by their fellow workers. Frankly, this would be worse than today.

I think it would be completely incompatible with an anarcho-communist society. See this article "An anarchist society that wallows in regulation".

Anyway, does anyone seriously think that, once we've got rid of capitalism and the profit barrier, we wouldn't be able to produce more than enough pencils without having to cut back on the production of other things people need and so have to decide between producing pencils and producing food?

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Jan 27 2012 08:28

Seeing as how capitalism, with all its inefficiency, already does, I'd say we probably could do that, capricorn.

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Jan 27 2012 12:56
capricorn wrote:
Goti123 wrote:
I am not particularly a fan of participatory economics, but it may be that their solution could be integrated into anarcho-communism. (I stopped reading after that to think about it)

Oh no, not parecon! Their blueprint is just aimed at trying to bring about, by democratic participation, the same result as textbooks say a free market is supposed to. In other words, they accept and defend the so-called "Economic Calculation Argument" against the possibility of a lasting money-free society in which we wouldn't have to put a price on things..

The result is a society that would be a bureaucratic nightmare, with everybody having to fill in a form at the beginning of the year as to how much and what they planned to consume which would be scrutinused by their neighborhood council and might have to be revised up to seven or more times. At work people would have to fill in a form stating how much effort they plan to put in during the year which would be monitored by their fellow workers. Frankly, this would be worse than today.

I think it would be completely incompatible with an anarcho-communist society. See this article "An anarchist society that wallows in regulation".

Anyway, does anyone seriously think that, once we've got rid of capitalism and the profit barrier, we wouldn't be able to produce more than enough pencils without having to cut back on the production of other things people need and so have to decide between producing pencils and producing food?

Like I said, "I am not particularly a fan of participatory economics", which is a euphemism. Maybe I should have been more explicit. I oppose "parecon" precisely on the grounds that it will be a bureaucratic network, and indeed they seem to work within the framework of the neoclassical paradigm, which does not speak to their model.

I was not suggesting we adopt participatory economics, but that perhaps it was possible to integrate their perception on optimizing consumer preferences into anarcho-communism. Although I doubt it.

You're right that we could produce enough to satisfy basic as well as 'moderate' needs in abundance and that the problem is not a big one, let alone an argument against anarcho-communism (especially since capitalism induced poverty does not allow for the meeting of consumer preferences either).

But still, it would be better to use our resources optimally.

For example, we could make 100,000 pencils and 1 Playstation. Or we could make 0 pencils and 5,000 Playstations. But it may be so that we cannot produce 100,000 pencils as well as 5,000 Playstations.

The question then is, how much of each are we going to make? This question can only be answered completely if we have the consumer preferences of all consumers who choose with their labour credits or money.

If make categories of priority this partially solves the problem, but not completely.

For example, pencils will be placed in category 1 and so 100% of requested pencils will be produced (100,000P). But this means that only 1 Playstation can be made, while maybe the consumer preferences would be optimally met if only 50,000 pencils were made and 2,500 Playstations.

So how do we determine where to stop producing one good and start producing another and on what scale?

It is indeed a question we need to address.

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Jan 27 2012 16:11
Goti123 wrote:

It is indeed a question we need to address.

We can't establish a modus operandi if that is what you are suggesting. People will address this issue differently and come up with different solutions.

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Jan 27 2012 18:19
Ambrose wrote:
Goti123 wrote:

It is indeed a question we need to address.

We can't establish a modus operandi if that is what you are suggesting. People will address this issue differently and come up with different solutions.

Unless of course there is no solution. And to find out whether there is no solution we need to think of some solutions.

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Jan 27 2012 18:48
Goti123 wrote:
Ambrose wrote:
Goti123 wrote:

It is indeed a question we need to address.

We can't establish a modus operandi if that is what you are suggesting. People will address this issue differently and come up with different solutions.

Unless of course there is no solution. And to find out whether there is no solution we need to think of some solutions.

Let's hope there is

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Jan 28 2012 06:23
Goti123 wrote:
For example, we could make 100,000 pencils and 1 Playstation. Or we could make 0 pencils and 5,000 Playstations. But it may be so that we cannot produce 100,000 pencils as well as 5,000 Playstations...

...So how do we determine where to stop producing one good and start producing another and on what scale?

It is indeed a question we need to address.

This doesn't "solve" the problem, as even indirect signals with labor notes or currency do not ever work out to equilibrium, but it may be a good idea to make sure everyone has limitless access to all the tools, information, and technology to produce what they'd like.

And even still, all the examples so far require some sort of artificial scarcity. While playstations may require scarce resources, like plastic, it is not true that they need plastic, or that alternatives for most things are incomprehensible. Give everyone access to info and tech, and you've hammered out a great portion of the problem. The rest is up to the communities doing the producing.