A PROJECTQUESTION COLUMN
Installment 11 of 13
Instead of institutions that embrace top-down vertical power, Participatory Economics opts for a system of horizontal power where each person or group has a say proportionate to how the decision affects them. Through the institution of Participatory Planning, we allow nested Worker and Consumer Councils to cooperate and negotiate the best use for resources.
And how is this done? Well, it’s done in rounds of planning. The first of which, we’ll call the wish list. Every year, each individual would look at information from the year before (things like how much they consumed, how much they worked, prices, etc.) and turn in a proposal for the next year projecting their consumption in relation to the amount of work he or she wants to do. Additionally, each Consumer Council would submit a proposal for collective council requests, as would Worker Councils have a wish list for workplace upgrades and projected output for the year.
Then through what we call facilitation boards, this first draft of proposals would make its way to all parties involved. Obviously, orders for basketballs would be checked with the plant that makes basketballs, orders for guitars would be checked with the plant that makes guitars, and so on. But that’s not the only place the information ends up.
In a Parecon, everyone has a say to the degree to which decisions affect them. So if an item of consumption is going to pollute a certain residential area, then the residents of that area deserve an input. Such input could range anywhere from smaller councils directly affected by pollution to agencies that represent the greater public in relation to climate change all the way to specialists on particular plants and wildlife.
Consequently, if cars are polluting and less energy efficient, it would reflect in higher prices. If trains and buses would lessen pollution and energy worries, this would reflect in their prices as well.
The point is that consumption in a Participatory Economy will not be just a matter of one’s own self-interest. It will be a matter of equity and solidarity. When our choices impact the lives of others, we should expect and respect the input of others in such decision-making.
So when all affected parties are given equitable consideration or input, new prices can then be generated to reflect the overall impact on society. These new prices are then distributed throughout the councils, so new proposals can be revised in accordance with the new information. This process repeats itself until such budgeted wish lists are acceptable to all parties involved and prices are set for the year.
Unlike in a capitalist market, transparency provides us not only with justification of pricing, but consumers are provided information to better grasp the consequence of their consumption. Each consumer has access to a database that lists not only the descriptions of individual products, but the social costs and effects of those products.
Of course, Participatory Economics is a matter of vision. The cooking will require experimentation and critical assessment. As each year goes by, our wish lists will become easier to project and the process of participatory planning will become more efficient.
And guess what? That’s it. That’s the last of our institutions. We’ve asked all the basic food group questions and answered with ingredients that produce the values we desire. More to come…