Re: [OPE-L] Participatory and democratic production

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue May 29 2007 - 08:53:47 EDT

Dear Jerry; is the quantum of freedom gained deciding the placement of pumps justified by the efficiency loose of a democratic planning of that kind? Maybe people would be willing to place the time, otherwise consumed by the design of pumps, reading Nove's Feasible Socialism. If not, they have the possibility of becoming pumps engineers.

Hi Alejandro:

I belong to an online board  in which, I can assure you,  hundreds
of members would (and have)  happily spend time discussing the merits
of  different designs of  pumps for boats. That is by no means unique: 
just look at a listing of the thousands of  'yahoogroups' devoted to the
discussion of special interests.  And, yes, engineers and engineering students
and laypeople who have an interest in engineering have already shown a 
willingness to discuss matters online related to specialized branches of 

It is true, I  think, that there may be a democracy / efficiency tradeoff.  
Certainly, democracy takes longer than some authority issuing commands
and a temporal lag may in many circumstances be deemed to be
inefficient.  This question, though, has to be put in a historical context:
we already have experience with  highly bureaucratized and over-centralized
and non-democratic forms of "socialism".   The *key* issue which must be 
overcome is the belief - based on the historical experience of those nations,
as perceived (perhaps incorrectly, in some ways) by the masses - that
socialism is inherently non-democratic.   In that sense, unless we have a
democratic model of socialism then *no* model  will be "efficient" since
no model would be feasible.  

Another *key* issue will be constructing a society that doesn't rest on  
*capitalist* norms of efficiency, profitability, and "choice". For example, 
the doctrine of "dollar votes" is  antithetical to socialism and democracy since 
it is not based on the   principle of 'one person, one vote' (instead it's 'one 
dollar, one vote'). Where,  then, there is income inequality, this would give a 
disproportionate vote to those with a higher income and this would undermine 
the social solidarity which is a necessary characteristic of socialism.

In solidarity, Jerry

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