Re: [ox-en] angel economics
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 20:09:17 +0200
Hi Graham, unknown blogger, all!
@Unknown blogger: This is a posting to a mailing list discussing
things very similar to your ideas. However, our approach is a bit
different in that we are inspired by peer production processes like
Free Software or Wikipedia which in many ways implement an economy
like you are suggesting. You may want to check out
2 months (82 days) ago Graham Seaman wrote:
I just read the blog page:
which I strongly recommend: pretty much a whole coherent program based
(independently, as far as I can see) on both oekonux and hipatia related
themes. Among many other things I particularly liked the attempt go to
work out an economic system of resource usage which relies on human
judgement rather than any single measure such as price or labour time,
which he goes into more detail about on:
I don't know who the individual behind this is, though I guess he lives
in the UK. Is it someone on this list?
Well, at least nobody raised her hand here ;-) .
I'd like to reply to a few points. Please note that sometimes I'm
highlighting the differences here. In many respects I agree with the
basic text and sometimes I'll highlight this also, too. Most of the
time, however, I'm posing questions.
Cited from http://angeleconomics.blogspot.com/2009/06/outline.html:
1. First, there is no private property. Large national utilities and
other enterprises, land, natural resources, knowledge, industrial
equipment - none of this is privately owned by an individual or group,
nor is it owned by the State 'on behalf' of the population. It is owned
by /everybody/, which is equivalent to saying that it is owned by
/nobody/. More simply still, the institution of private property does
Now there /will/ be some replacement rules to ensure, for example, that
if I have lived in a certain place for many years, I cannot simply be
thrown out by someone who has taken a liking to it. Similarly, an
industrial concern that uses a set of buildings, machinery and
resources, will have rights of disposal over them that can't merely be
overridden by the whim of some distant claimant.
For this I'd use the term posession. Posession is ownership without
the alienated features: You can use the good concretely by you may not
use it in alienated ways - like selling it.
2. Second, the knowledge-environment is also far more open. To begin
with, basic education delivers a far higher and broader level of
knowledge than at present (because more time is available to devote to
it, because there is a generally higher level of culture, because
educational techniques are much improved, because many of the
impediments to good education have been removed, and so on - see
Further, under AE people do whatever work they wish (see 'Free'
section), so in all likelihood they will typically choose to work at a
number of different jobs, in each one undertaking tasks that are
stimulating and stretching, as opposed to routine and stupifying. For
obvious reasons this kind of daily experience massively affects
somebody's level of education and knowledge, so it is a big contributor
to why individuals under AE are well-informed and capable.
Sounds as being close to a concept we call Selbstentfaltung in
Of course, experts, specialists, and people with long experience of
particular trades all still exist, since this is necessary for anything
to be executed to a professional standard, or for progress to be made in
a discipline. And so there are also still very large differences in what
people know, and conversely a great deal that each person does /not/
know. What AE does, though, is simply to get rid of the economic
features that produce cognitive /disability/, and hence insuperable
/boundaries/ to exploration.
I like the way you put this. Indeed I think in a complex societies not
everybody *can* know everything so specialists are certainly needed.
The general rule governing these institutions is openness. So, all
institutions are open to all at all times, unless there is a good reason
for access to be restricted in some way. In practice, there will be
restrictions on quite a few institutions, but just insofar as these
serve to define their function, and only ever as a result of general
I think the debate around Commons could link in here.
The basic rules and practices that define how institutions work will
also function as 'restrictions' - in assessing students a teacher can't
just fail anyone he doesn't like; when compiling a workplace newsletter,
all departments should be given some coverage; when manufacturing
ball-bearings, margins of error no more than a certain amount are
acceptable. And so in some respects AE's institutions will end up
looking similar to today's.
Agreed. I think these are exactly those places where the inherent
logic of things plays the major role - and not how they are embedded
But more generally, people do not participate a great deal in the social
world around them. Few people, for example, who buy a car participate in
its design. Residents in an area rarely participate in its running,
administration, upkeep, and beautification. The shopkeeper feels she has
no business participating in the publishing company down the road; the
bin-man doesn't participate when the local delicatessen chooses its stock.
The reasons for this have to do with the /private/ basis of today's
economy; the fact that most people simply have little time outside of
work hours to engage in anything other than resting and enjoying
themselves; the fact that /power/ has far too extensive a reign over
social life; and the more general 'closed' atmosphere that these and
other features create.
I don't think that private basis of things is the only reason and may
be even not the most important one. I'm for one am glad when I do
*not* have to care for everything which is important for my life. I'm
glad if I can engage in those things I'm interested in and get rid of
all the uninteresting stuff. Is that possible in AE? How are my
interests cared for then?
There will be some limits to participation, for the most part identical
to the limits to openness and with the same rationale. For example,
suppose a group of people are collaborating together in the production
of a documentary, with the work in its final stages of editing. If out
of the blue, a stranger were to decide to declare their dislike of what
has been done so far, and demand it to be started from scratch, this
would clearly not be fair.
Fair rules of participation, though, would not be difficult to
formulate, and as in the case of openness, this could be done
Good you wrote that because otherwise I would not have agreed ;-) .
In peer production we discovered the maintainer principle which also
includes participation but still the maintainer is free to ignore or
refuse contributions. I think this works better than democracy.
In some cases (for example a proposal to construct a large reef of wave
turbines, requiring millions of hours of labor and resources and
potentially causing significant disruption to marine life and coastal
inhabitants) the constituency of people that is significantly affected
and who therefore should participate in deciding the question, may be:
all those within a fairly large geographical area of the project whose
labor and resources would be occupied in it (and hence not available for
other potential uses); all those near the area whose lives stand to be
disrupted; all those concerned with the effect upon marine life; all
those groups of people, potentially anywhere in the world, who might be
called upon to supply resources to the project (because their labor
would be required) and also those whose lives are connected with those
suppliers in some way (since, as before, labor devoted to this project
is not available for other potential uses), and so on. (While strictly
true that, if the chains of people affected by people affected...by
people involved, were followed through to their end, then everybody
would have to take part in every decision the world over; still,
obviously at each degree of removal, the level of affectedness drops.
Since the time available to devote to such issues is not infinite, it is
the /relatively/ more important issues that people participate in).
Adding together all these various constituencies yields a group of
participants probably numbering several million, possibly hundreds of
millions. How would this work?
Today, the solution to the problem of how large numbers of people can
make a decision is to use representation. But the parliaments of today
demonstrate that it does not really work. In fact, there are many
possible mechanisms by which millions of people might directly
participate in coming to a decision on such an issue. One such is the
following. The process is split up into two stages, a contributions- or
brainstorming stage, and a decision- or voting stage. In the first
stage, everybody offers their ideas, objections, proposals and
alternatives, and generally discusses the issue. This can be done in
electronic forums, face-to-face meetings, in publications and via other
Now, many ideas will overlap or coincide, some will be directly opposed
to one-another, some will refine earlier suggestions, and so on, so that
one can expect that all the expressed positions would be represented by,
say, six or seven different concrete policy plans. The voting stage then
occurs, through which one of these is chosen. Numerous modifications of
this basic process are imaginable.
As well as variation in status, affected constituency and
decision-procedure, there are also a great variety of levels at which
collective decisions would have to be made, depending on the issue at
hand. Some would have to be taken at a world level (i.e. with everyone
participating), some at a regional level, some at a local level. Many
would involve constituencies that are better specified in
non-geographical terms: age-groups, industry sectors, medical condition
sufferers, professional groups, supply-chains and so on.
Phew - sounds like a super-complex system. Do you really think this
will work? Is it desirable at all? Well, at least for me it sounds
But the most important question is: Why do you think such a
super-complex system is necessary?
I agree that the brainstorming phase is useful - though in practice
this will be more a permanent procedure where people contribute ideas
and thoughts. But in peer production then I have maintainers who care
for doing things right. Do you think this is not possible? If so why?
I guess your answer will be somewhere along a line I'd call alienated
interests for the maintainers. But if a maintainers objective is to
create the best thinkable product there is simply no room for
4. *Non-monetary. *AE does not use money.
Things are simply not commensurable in the way that the use of money
implies. It makes no sense to turn the labor of a cobbler into a number,
then equate it with the number representing the labor of the journalist.
They are too different.
Well, it makes sense. Money denotes the average abstract labor
necessary for a product - the exchange value of a good. This has
nothing to do with the use value of course - which you seemingly are
looking at. If you are interested in understanding these topics you
may want to check out Marx' The Capital. It is explained very well in
the first chapters.
AE replaces this function of money - the /accounting/ function - with a
combination of: a) the use of the /natural units/ and measures, in each
case appropriate to the specific product or industry in question (i.e.
/gallons/ of oil, /lines/ of code, /area /of woodland, /hours/ of
clinical attention, etc, or composites like /units /of bicycles or arts
programs) with no single overarching measure; b) /democratic structures
of communication/ involving all the groups and agents participating in
or affected by a particular line of activity, to yield production plans,
investment priorities, job lists, research guidelines etc, i.e.
particular /project strategies/; c) /information-gathering agencies/,
belonging to each sector (and sub-sector and sub-sub-sector) and level
of the economy, which study the activity of each area and provide the
data necessary for 'b)' to occur; and d) individuals using the
information provided by 'c)' to make /judgments /about the right
economic course of action.
The /information agencies /provide data on resources - everything from
milk-cow herd numbers, to square meters of available carpets of
different kinds, to tonnes of prospective- and already-refined copper;
likewise for labor - the numbers of people practicing dentistry,
carpentry, research on 18^th century German poetry, midwifery and so on.
Information is also provided on other significant economic matters: the
level of demand for each item or service - both at global, regional, and
other geographic levels, and as split up between different industry
sectors or uses - would be important, for example. Higher-level trends
and patterns, further breakdowns of groups of users for particular
services and so on, would also be very useful.
This data is what would then be used, by democratic structures, to make
economic decisions. Suppose, for example, that a region learns that it
is not producing enough eggs: a variety of sources - bakers,
restaurants, confectioners - are reporting that ideally they would use
more, if available. A number of scenarios are then imaginable. One is
that the region's farms simply decide to produce more. In another, the
farms advise that increasing production will require diverting resources
from other lines, and so a further process occurs considering these
changes and their ramifications on other industries. In another, the
request might prompt the farms to state that current levels of egg
production are unsustainable, and that consumption patterns need to be
In which way this is different from a planned economy like in the
The abolition of money is another way of describing the abolition of
1. *Technologically sophisticated*. Angel Economics will lead to faster,
deeper and wider scientific and technological progress.
One final question: Why is it called *Angel* Economics?