David Schweickart-intervju inför seminarium

David Schweickart, som kommer ge ett seminarium på fredag i Uppsala, har gett en inför-intervju till Johannes Nygren, som förkortat har publicerats i Uppsalademokraten:

Let me give you some short answers to your four questions:

What are the main features of economic democracy?

1) Economic Democracy aims at democratizing both labor and capital. The main features of the (stylized, simplified model of) ED are:

a) Retention of competitive markets for goods and services—to provide incentives to enterprises to produce efficiently, to give consumers what they want, and to innovate.

b) Democratization of most (large) enterprises. Enterprises will be regarded as communities, not as entities to be bought or sold. A worker council is elected on the basis of one-person, one vote. The worker council appoints upper management, and oversees major enterprise decisions. Workers receive, not fixed wages, but shares of the profits. These need not be equal shares, but everyone’s interest is tied directly to company performance.

c) Decentralized, democratic control of investment. Investment funds will be generated, not from the savings of private individuals, but publicly, via a flat-rate “capital assets tax” on all enterprises. These funds will be allocated to regions of the country on a per capita basis, i.e., each year each region gets is per capita share of the national investment fund as a matter of right. All of these funds are reinvested in the economy, going to existing firms wanting to expand or introduce new technology or individuals wanting to start up new firms. Regions and communities can loan out these funds at differential rates of interest so as to encourage or discourage certain forms development.

What are the benefits of economic democracy compared to other systems?

2) Major benefits include:

a) A much lower degree of inequality than is typical under capitalism, since 1) the salaries of upper management must be ratified by the workers, and 2) one can no longer (to any significant degree) make money with money, rather with one’s labor

b) Genuine full-employment, since the threat of unemployment is no longer needed to keep the workforce in line. (The government will serve as an employer of last resort, providing decent but low-paying work for anyone who wants to work, but cannot find employment elsewhere.)

c) A major enhancement of democracy, since democracy is extended into areas vital to people’s well-being that are currently off-limits under capitalism: the workplace and the institutions that control the allocation of those funds, the investment of which shape the contours of society’s future.

d) Far greater economic stability, since public control of investment renders finance transparent and makes large-scale speculation impossible.

e) An economy that does not need to constant growth to keep recessions at bay, and hence is consonant with an economy that stabilizes consumption and shifts to more leisure instead, an economy, that is, consonant with ecological sanity.

Market socialism, isn't that a contradiction?

3) No—because a capitalist “market economy” is in fact comprised of three very different kinds of markets: markets for goods and services, labor markets, and capital markets. ED, which is a form of market socialism, retains the first set, but replaces those labor and capital markets—the essential sources of capitalism’s gravest defects—with more democratic institutions.

In which ways do worker-governed enterprises behave differently from capitalist ones?

4) There are three major differences:

a) Democratic firms rarely lay off workers. They never lay off fellow-workers when the firm is doing well, and even when it is not, they tend to share the pain, everyone’s income shrinking, everyone remaining at work.

b) Democratic firms do not have the same expansionary dynamic as capitalist firms. Under conditions of constant returns to scale, capitalist firms keep expanding, whereas democratic firms do not: doubling the size of the capitalist firm will double the capitalist’s profits, so he has a clear motive to do so; doubling the size of a democratic firm doubles its profits also—but it also double the number of workers among whom these profits will be divided.

c) Workers in a democratic firm, when introducing a new, “labor-saving” technology, can choose to work less—shorter hours, longer vacations--while producing as much as before, rather than producing more and consuming more. That is to say, they have a genuine choice: more leisure or more consumption, a choice not a available to workers in a capitalism firm (where “labor-saving” typically means producing more while laying people off.)

Obviously there’s much more to said about these matters (and will be said at my presentation), but that should do for now.