The Nonviolent Extermination of the Rich

Mike Meginnis cracks me up:

…my preference would be the version that doesn’t require murdering the ruling class and anyone else who gets in our way. At least we could fail humanely.

My alternative would be capitalism with limits — allow people to seek profits, but under serious guidelines and with tremendous, progressive taxation.  A hybrid of Socialism and Capitalism — much like the one under which we already live, but tilted considerably away from facile Adam Smith-isms.

Mostly I think its funny that discussions of economic change require disclaimers that we don’t mean killin’ folk.  Such is the extent that non-capitalists have been smeared.  But I also have Serious Thought on economic systems:

A lot of wonderful writings on new economic systems can be found here.  There are hundreds of different proposals, of course, but the two big schools of thought are Participatory Economics and market socialism, compared well here.  To summarize:

The basic model of market socialism is that enterprises are cooperatives owned by their workers, who hire management and govern their business.  These coop businesses compete with each other in normal markets for goods and services.  The government (often in a very decentralized form) invests and provides venture capital to firms as well as performing its normal welfare state roles.  Many have proposed industry-specific guilds to set product standards and mitigate excessive competition among businesses.

ParEcon takes the market socialism devices and adds a Participatory Planning process to replace traditional markets.  Everyone is members of a consumer council (in addition to the worker council at their workplace).  These worker and consumer councils bid on the price and quantity of goods to be produced in an iterative process to arrive at an ideal production amount, eliminating overproduction, and various other market inefficiencies.  The process isn’t very complicated, but Albert and Hahnel (the creators) explain it better than I can here.

Generally, I think our reformist path to utopia starts with the kindler, gentler capitalism (more unions, higher wages, less hours, more workplace safety laws, etc.).  Then certain policies can transition us to market socialism (incentives/mandates for worker cooperatives, establishing state investment funds, progressively outlawing forms of corporate investment and ownership).  If markets are still a problem at that point, we can try to pursue participatory planning.  I doubt I’ll live to see the market socialist vs. ParEcon debate become relevant, so I don’t worry about it too much.

The important thing to note is that even a change of economic systems can happen via small, evolutionary changes.  No punctuated equilibrium necessary; no mass die-offs required.

4 comments to The Nonviolent Extermination of the Rich

  • I pretty much agree with you completely, in principle if not in the details of practice (of which I am largely ignorant). I don’t think it’s really a smear to interpret calls for revolution as calls for violent revolution, though — dudes totally still want to beat the hell out of the ruling class. I’m sympathetic, but, you know, ew.

  • Yah, we could get bloody and stuff.

    Dudes do still totally want to beat up Teh Elite, for sure. I just wish the immediate association with “revolution” wasn’t violence, because it’s a powerful term.

    But there is a lot of justifications, as how many non-violent revolutions have there been? The only one that comes to mind is Czechoslovakia’s.

  • Oh yeah, I’m not denying that there’s a strong argument in favor of violent revolution — especially in other capitalist countries than the US, where conditions seem to allow for less brutal means. Ultimately I’m too much of a hippie to go for violence except as an absolute last resort, but I won’t deny the validity of arguments against my view there.

  • I was unclear: I meant there’s a lot of justification for the association of the term “revolution” with violence, since so few are non-violent. Not that I think that violent revolution is justified.

    But, yes, I agree with you, hypothetical tool of last resort, almost certainly not helpful here in the US.

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