New Systems Series: Volume 1
March 1, 2016
The First Four Papers
The Next System Project’s “New Systems” paper series seeks to publicize comprehensive alternative political-economic system models and approaches that are different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present, and capable of delivering superior social, economic, and ecological outcomes.
While there are complementarities and overlaps, the first papers in our series set out four very different visions of an alternative system:
In “Economic Democracy: An Ethically Desirable Socialism That Is Economically Viable” David Schweickart proposes a model that would preserve a role for markets in goods and services while extending democracy into the workplace and the linked spheres of finance and investment. In place of private ownership of the means of production with markets in capital, labor, goods, and services under capitalism, or state ownership and planning under socialism, Economic Democracy has a basic economic structure of socially-owned, worker-controlled firms in a competitive market. The model has neither capital markets nor labor markets in the usual sense. Workers would control their own jobs and workplaces, while productive resources would become the collective property of society and there would be social control over investment.
In “Participatory Economics and the Next System” Robin Hahnel describes a model (developed together with Michael Albert) that revolves around (a) social ownership of the productive “commons,” (b) consumption rights based on effort and need, (c) and workplace councils and neighborhood consumer councils which coordinate their interrelated activities through participatory planning rather than through markets. While long-run development and investment planning are carried out mostly by federations of industry and consumer councils, an annual planning procedure decides which worker councils will produce what goods and services for consumption by which consumer councils. Ever more accurate estimates of the full social costs of producing goods and services, and the opportunity costs of using different capital goods, categories of labor, and natural resources and sink services, emerge during the annual participatory planning procedure, as councils and federations revise and resubmit proposals for what they wish to do until a feasible plan is agreed on. All proposals and revisions of what a council will do originate with the council itself – which distinguishes the participatory planning process from all other planning models, and ensures meaningful self-management by workers and consumers.
In “Whole Systems Change: A Framework & First Steps for Social/Economic Transformation” Riane Eisler’s model places economic policies and practices in their larger social context, proposing two integrative social categories that go beyond religious vs. secular, capitalist vs. socialist, East vs. West, and so forth. It distinguishes between societies that orient to either a domination model or a partnership model, the latter characterized by three interactive components: a democratic rather than authoritarian structure in both family and state or tribe; equal partnership between women and men rather than ranking the male half of humanity over the female half, and with this, valuing in both women and men of the “feminine” such as nurturance and caregiving; and an end to institutionalized/idealized abuse and violence as no longer necessary for maintaining rigid rankings of domination. It proposes an action plan to break with traditions of domination, identifies trends in this direction, and outlines four strategies to build the missing foundations for a more equitable and sustainable socio-economic system.
Finally, in “Social Democracy: Not Socialism, and Coming to America” Lane Kenworthy proposes a model that closely resembles the actual political economies of the Scandinavian countries and has as its primary goals the full realization of economic security, equality (low inequality) of opportunity, and shared prosperity. It is in essence a market capitalist model with generous and employment-friendly social policy. Government transfers rather than taxes would play the principal role in reducing and minimizing inequality. Over the past century, it is argued, the U.S. government has slowly been moving closer to a social democracy, as policymakers have come to realize that larger government will help to improve economic and living conditions and have pursued policies to that end. Going forward, this is likely to continue.