Date: Mon Dec 04 2006 - 13:32:26 EST
I am on the working group who are drawing up the economic section of the manifesto for the new Solidarity Party In the coming Scottish elections. The party is very new, having formed last month. I had to draft these proposals very hurriedly And would welcome commentary / feedback from political ecnonomists on OPE as to feasibility. Top level aims of Solidarity in the economic sphere: ending exploitation , democratising the economy, controling carbon emissions. 1. Ending exploitation Exploitation currently comes in two main forms, exploitation in work, and exploitation through usury. 1.1 Exploitation at work. Workers in scotland create on average £19.50 of added value for each hour that they work. They are paid on average only £11.70 per hour and 50% of workers are paid less than £9.30 an hour. This means that their employers are stealing £7.80 an hour from the average worker, and half the workers in the country are being robbed of more than £10 an hour. This exploitation is by far the most serious and lies at the heart of the division of society into rich and poor. It can only be eliminated by paying workers the full value that they create. In the long term this requires, as Marx taught, the replacement of money by a system of labour tokens so that workers are explicity paid in hours not £s. Goods would then be priced in terms of the hours needed to make them, eliminating exploitation. However this, which Marx saw as the first stage of socialism requires 3 essential preconditions: a) A new system of accounting to work out the labour contents of goods. This is eminently practical with modern computerisation, I have done experiments with an up to date computer at the University of Glasgow which indicate that labour value of all types goods in the country could be worked out in about 2 minutes. b) That production be directly social not private, that is to say the socialisation of the means of production in the economy as a whole under a system of democratic planning. c) The replacement of the existing banking system with one that keeps individual labour accounts. It is clear that the process of setting these three preconditions up would take a few years - perhaps up to 5 years. So that whilst steps a,b,c are being put into effect we need short term measures to abolish exploitation. I suggest the following immediate measures. 1.1.1 Labour be recognised in Scots Law as the source of added value. 1.1.2 Any employee or group of employees to be able to apply to the Small Claims or Sheriff Court to recieve redress for any shortfall that has occured between the value they added to their employers business and what they were actually paid. The two measures could be included in an Employee's Rights Act. It might also be necessary to prohibit the indirect ownership of firms by other firms or trusts in order that there is a clear agent against whom exploited employees can take action. The demand to end exploitation and pay workers the value they add is simple, and to the economic benefit of the vast majority. 85% of the population can see they would be better of on £19.50 an hour than on their current pay. 1.2 Exploitation by Debt The banks were once temples to thrift. They channeled the savings of the Scottish people into productive and useful investment. All that has changed. Now the banks discourage thrift. They go all out to get us into debt. The rich have discovered that lending us money at 20% interest on credit cards is much more profitable than actually investing in industry. Down through the ages, religion and philosophy taught that usury, the blind pursuit of money was the root of all social evil. Now usury, called ‘credit’, is respectable. But a change of name does not change the sordid reality of debt. First the capitalist robs us of half the wealth we create, then he lends us back the very money that we created for him. Millions barely survive because their wages are eaten by criminal interest. Whole African nations sink into abject starvation whilst Edinburgh and London banks collect billions. Debt is a treadmill from which your only escape is the grave. The two measures required to eliminate debt exploitation are quite obvious. There has to be i) a cancellation of all existing debts and ii) a prohibition of lending money at interest. The cancellation of debt has historically been a key demand of revolutionary movements, from the democratic revolutions in ancient Greece down to the program of the Social Democratic Federation ( the first Marxist influenced political party in Britain). It tended to be forgotten in the latter part of the 20th century, but it is more relevant than ever because personal indebtedness has reached such high levels. 1.2.1 The appropriate political form would be referendum on the abolition of all debts. The existing banking system would be thrown into instability by this. Abolishing debts would abolish the debts that banks held to individuals as well, so the measure could either be combined with the shift to labour tokens or one would have to say that the banks would still be liable for personal credit balances up to some modest figure - say a months wages which could be met by the reserves of the banks. The measures in section 2 would have relevance to this. Because of the impact of the cancellation of debt on the liquidity of pension funds it would be politically essential to enact a very substantial rise in the state pension prior to the cancellation of debt. 2. Democratising the Economy The long term aim is to bring the economy as a whole under the deliberate democratic control of the citizens, and to bring individual workplaces under the democratic control of those who work in them, insofar as this does not conflict with the general social interest. The two main forms of democratic control would be a) Major strategic institutions like banking, energy, water, land telecoms, rail, airports and ports would be put under not for profit companies a majority of whose boards would be drawn from the general population of citizens of working age, and having a minority representation of employees of the individual not for profit company. A reasonable split might be 70% citizen representatives and 30% employee representatives. b) An act would be passed allowing the employees of any private company to have a ballot turing their company into a co-managed enterprise with a 70% employee representation, and a 30% representation by the former owners. It is clear that these measures to democratise the economy would greatly facilitate the long term goal of ending exploitation. Shareholders in the firms converted to not-for-profit companies would be given bonds in return for shares. A subsequent referendum vote on the cancellation of debt would of course make these bonds worthless. If the national economy is to be democratised it will be necessary to establish some form of electronic voting, perhaps using telephones, to allow the citizens to have a say on national economic issues like the level of taxation, the level of health or education expenditure, the level of investment in the railways etc. 3. Controlling carbon emissions It is clearly necessary to restructure the economy towards a low -carbon one. This will entail, over time, substatnial changes in the way people live their lives. In particular the use of car transport will probably have to eventually be phased out, with an associated move towards less suburban and more urban lifestyles. Right wing parties currently propose carbon taxes as means to achieve this end. However these are regressive in income terms. In the long run, in the context of a democratic planned economy, goals for carbon emissions would be one of the overriding concerns when drawing up national economic plans. As discussed in section !, the infrastructure necessary to allow rational socialist planning will take some time to put together. This creates the need for some shorter term measure to regulate carbon emissions. Broadly speaking economics knows of only two mechanisms to regulate consumption: a) market pricing where goods in short supply go to those who can pay most, b) rationing, where all consumers are guaranteed an equal access to the good in short supply In times of national emergency like war, governments have resorted to rationing because it is fairer. We propose that the same applies to carbon emission regulation. The government should set a declining national target for carbon emissions. This should then be divided equally among the adult population each of whom should be given an equal carbon weekly ration. These would be used when purchasing petrol, gas, or electricity. This would be a fair system. Those who did not use cars would be able to sell on some of their carbon ration to businesses who did use motor vehicles. Once can envisage that Tesco would buy ration tokens from customers without cars in order to fuel their delivery lorries for instance. Carbon rationing would thus be progressive in its income effects. Carbon rationing in addition to havein progressive income effects gives certain control over the level of carbon emissions. WIth carbon taxes, there is uncertainty about the level of tax required to reduce carbon emissions. WIth rationing, you know precisely the amount of carbon that will be emitted. ---------------------------------------------------------------- This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.
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