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Or conversely we place too much importance on technological progress as an explanation for the crisis of capitalism. Interest bearing debt has been causing crisis and artificial scarcity for at least the last 5000 years in vastly different societies.
by generic on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 07:21:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like you and Graeber said: debt is not a feature of capitalism, it is at least 5000 years old. Debt crises are nothing new and there are exactly two ways to get out of them: a) the debtors stop repaying, and the creditors forgive the debts, b) the debtors stop repaying and hang up the creditors. This is no threat to capitalism, only to some capitalists.

In my view there is the unemployment crisis underlying the current debt crisis. A degree of productivity that allows traditional full time jobs only for a small minority. I don't see how capitalism could cope with it.

by Katrin on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 11:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just not convinced that this technology induced unemployment crisis exists. My clothes were made in Vietnam and my electronics were probably made in China. Is it really progress leading to mass unemployment or just slavery 2.0? I don't doubt that advertisement could create demand for most everything that could be produced if there weren't physical limits to consider.
by generic on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 12:21:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I mean rather like this. Slavery 2.0 is another problem (which must be solved by trade unions and strikes).
by Katrin on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 02:58:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But jobs are just whatever you are demanded to do to get the markers that tells everyone else that you are allowed to get some of the goods society produces. To eliminate jobs is (all else equal) to eliminate the right for some to get a fair share of the goods society produces. And in general that is to give someone else an even bigger share.

I see technological change as an opportunity to renegotiate power relations, which in a situation where capital has the upper hand means an assault on labour. But outsourcing and rounds of shock doctrine has proved far more powerful.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 05:31:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is not interest bearing debt, so much as it is concentrated power. Including, but not limited to, wealth.

A constitutional limit to wealth and income inequality - nobody is allowed to have more of either than fifty times the lowest income, or twenty times the median. Or something like that.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 06:20:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is... complicated.

Firstly we have entrenched interests who have been playing the game for generations. I'm not sure they'd be in reach of a complete revolution, never mind a constitutional change.

Secondly, nation states are idiotic and far too expensive for the (largely illusory) benefits they provide. But world government provides a single point of political failure. I have no idea how to square that circle.

Finally you need to have a system that rewards innovation, insight and creativity but keeps predatory sociopaths well away from power.

Problem is, power is inherently sociopathic. People who crave it are insane, almost by definition. But you still need to have some power differentials, because some people are simply better at things like planning and people management than others. And it makes no sense to employ the ones who don't know what they're doing.

There's also the more basic problem that human political awareness is fundamentally flawed. We don't have the genetic or evolutionary background to make smart social choices. Given a choice, the reassuring smooth-talking liars win every time.

So you need a system that makes democracy about proven performance rather than superficial demagoguery, and which is accessible and open enough to disqualify trite manipulation even if voters like it.

I don't think a financial solution is going to work. The problems are psychological and psycho-social. Money is too blunt an instrument to solve them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 at 09:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Secondly, nation states are idiotic and far too expensive for the (largely illusory) benefits they provide. But world government provides a single point of political failure. I have no idea how to square that circle.

Political decisions should be made at the most local level possible, but no lower.

This means multiple levels of government : local (1000 people maximum in the lowest echelon), municipal, sub-regional, regional, national, european, world. Proportional representation at all levels, everything has to be negotiated, both within the governmental level and with the levels below and above.

Collective decision making by design; no government level has an individual leader, at minimum a duo. This of course won't eliminate the star system completely, but ought to seriously counter-balance it.

It's a very slow-moving system, of course, quite resistant to change, but ought to be fairly responsive to the people over the long term.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 04:35:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm increasingly convinced that sortition is the answer.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 04:55:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not convinced by sortition because it seems to hand power to those who offer advice to the randomly selected representatives of the people.

The problem is that national level legislation is often large-span, complex, full of detail and technical wording.

In countries with a strongly technocratic civil service, this may not be so bad, just undemocratic. But in countries with a weaker civil service, legislation will be written by "helpful" lobbyists.

Some legislation could of course be simplified, but it should be noted that simplicity is often the ally of a shrunk state conservatism.

Why do I think it will be worse than now? Especially when I'd be the first to admit that it's very bad right now?

Because as bad as they are, parties remain organisations capable of drafting legislation for political objectives. And those political objectives provide a way for alternatives views to be incorporated, beyond technocracy and the lobbyists.

Of course, the worst thing about my view of the world is that progress only comes through either reclaiming parties of the left, or setting up alternatives like Syriza who only gain an opportunity at moments of great crisis.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 06:32:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But in countries with a weaker civil service, legislation will be written by "helpful" lobbyists.

Legislation is being written by "helpful" lobbyists NOW.

There could still be parties arguing their cause, by the way. They would supply the advisors.

by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 06:54:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because as bad as they are, parties remain organisations capable of drafting legislation for political objectives. And those political objectives provide a way for alternatives views to be incorporated, beyond technocracy and the lobbyists.
The way I see it, parties would morph into lobbies or think tanks. Already the parts of the organization capable of drafting documents from political parspectives are increasingly outsourced to party "foundations", or directly to think tanks. Lobbies lobby not only the legislators directly but the party apparatus and the foundations.

In most European parliamentary systems the government, through the upper tiers of the civil service, drafts legislation. It's not like in the US where legislation is introduced by parlamentarians. The function of parliament is increasingly limited to demanding accountability from the civil service. So that function would remain. And the parlamentarians would seek advice from think tanks, foundations or "parties" just like current parlamentarians now seek advice from their party apparatus or the party itself writes the legislation that the parlamentarians introduce.

With party parliamentary discipline as currently practised in many parliamentary democracies, especially when party-list proportional representation is used, individual parlamentarians have little initiative and are basically there to contribute to party votes.

Finally, parlamentarians selected by sortition would be less vulnerable to corruption. Not only they don't owe any favours to external interests for their access to the parliament, but as they are not part of a party apparatus they are less likely to exchange favours after leaving the parliament.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 07:08:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finally, parlamentarians selected by sortition would be less vulnerable to corruption.

Not so sure about that. If you're a billionaire it's possibly not so hard to buy off a few hundred people who are used to an average income - even if they're on an MP pay scale. (Especially if they're civil servants.)

And you still have other issues. The problem is not just about votes in parliament, but about public influence in general. That includes media monopolies (q.v. Murdoch), universities (q.v. Chicago school) and think tanks (q.v. pretty much everyone and everything in the US.)

Put simply, you need to change or remove entire technologies of persuasion and political distortion to get a useful result.

Votes are the end of the persuasion process, not the root cause.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 07:20:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
The way I see it, parties would morph into lobbies or think tanks.

The problem would be that parties would have no democratic legitimacy, and in particular, no obvious basis for public funding. i.e. the think tanks would be dominated by moneyed interests.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 08:24:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe candidates running for single seats under preferential or transferable voting have democratic legitimacy. I'm not so sure about parlamentarians elected in first-past-the-post, let alone party-list systems.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:30:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are we talking about the legitimacy of candidates, or of parties?

Currently, (mileage may vary in your jurisdiction) a party which gets 10% in elections at a particular level of government is entitled to (say) 10% of the available public funding. The party is resourced, not only for its electoral action, but as lobbyist or think tank, in function of its democratic legitimacy. This is why we have public financing, without which the left is completely kneecapped (absent mass movements of the working class).

Where does that leave parties in your sortition system? De-financed and de-legitimized.

Just because we don't like any of the parties much, it doesn't mean they don't have a useful function as mediators of the political system. Probably they need to be regulated more (transparency and democracy in their internal functioning would be a good start!)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:48:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One could solve that problem by a two chamber system, one elected, the other appointed by sortition.
by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:57:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upper house elected, lower house appointed by sortition.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:00:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would Germany need a 3-chamber system, to accommodate the Bundesrat?

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:01:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suggest we start getting a majority for our plans first and think that one out later.
by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:40:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Spain, if 97% of the population voted 'blank' out of disgust, and the remaining 3% voted for just one party, they would get 100% of available public funding, and according to you all the democratic legitimacy, too.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:59:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A failure of political offer in democracy is, in principle, a transitory condition. Unless someone is actively preventing people from forming new parties.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:22:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you interpret the current situation of decreasing voter turnout then? People are fed up with the factual one party system of neoliberals painted black, red, and green. Our media have taken on the role of actively preventing people from forming new parties.
by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:43:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and Los Piraten have shown us how hard that is in reality, even if nerds have a better understanding of of the technology of a future society.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 01:03:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is 'Los Piraten' an intentional pun about the pirate party going astray?

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:20:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In practice, elections are inherently oligarchic, as argued by Aristotle on a theoretical level and demonstrated by the Romans on a practical one.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 11:14:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
elections are inherently oligarchic

Two possibilities :

  1. They reflect the (existing or latent) oligarchy in an already oligarchic society
  2. even in a non-oligarchic society, they favour the emergence of an oligarchy.

At best, elected representatives are a self-selecting sample of people who believe they know better than the rest of their fellow citizens.

The essence of democracy is government by consent. This does not require the active involvement of every citizen; and clearly it's too much to ask of most people. Sortition may be asking too much.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:40:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sortition may be asking too much

Are you against jury duty or drawing lots for manning polling stations?

It's not a favour being asked, it's a civic duty. Plus, it would be remunerated as a full-time job. Possibly at a couple multiples of median income so as not to make it an overly onerous duty.

Military service or mandatory civic service are other examples of civic duty.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:49:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
3. They allow oligarchic groups to gain disproportionate political influence.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:51:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And how are you going to get people to care about their parish council? Yes, people care about parking spaces, but they don't care that much.

Primary schools are municipal at least, serious public transit planning is at least municipal or county, hospitals and secondary schools are sub-regional or regional. Those I can see people care about.

The parish council with a 1,000 person jurisdiction sounds like a glorified homeowners' association that gets an official channel in which to piss and moan every time the muni wants to do anything that reduces house prices in their particular neighborhood, no matte how much objective merit the policy has for the city as a whole.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:20:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Everyone should know, and be able to approach, an elected representative. Representative democracy becomes a concrete and tangible thing. Parish-level representatives are volunteers, of course, and the council leader a part-timer. It may seem ridiculous to you, but my children went to a primary school managed by a municipality of less than 500 residents. That worked pretty well. My opinion is that if all primary schools were managed on that scale, they would be better managed, and the children would be better for it.

As I said above, everything should be managed at the lowest possible level, but no lower.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 05:56:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But "the lowest possible level" is not an a priori concept but depends on the social structure. To put it differently, one size does not fit all and moreover you don't know the size that fits until you try.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 05:59:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends on the representative.

This village - well, this pair of villages - has a parish council. We also have quite a few people who work from home and need good broadband - which we do not yet have, and have no current prospects of same.

When I suggested to the council we look into this, because there's no lack of interest, I was told 'Excellent idea! We'll form a committee at the next meeting.'

That was months ago. Oddly enough, nothing has happened since. (And unfortunately I haven't been here for most of that time to chase things up.)

So representation only works when you have people with an interest in getting things done representing you. When you have people who think decisions can only be made by going through Proper Channels™ you're onto a loser.

And when you have people who become representatives purely for career reasons, things work even less well.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 07:12:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Post script - however, the Parish council put a lot of effort into making sure the ancient Norman church had a new roof.

It's not as if it's used much, and could probably have limped along for another few decades without a replacement.

But because this is middle/upper class England that kind of thing matters, while trivia like broadband and a stable electricity supply (ours isn't particularly) don't.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 07:15:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have very great doubts as to the long-term viability of a muni with only 500 residents. That sounds like the sort of place God made for young people to leave and never return to.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 07:21:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I moved there, I was probably the first immigrant since about the time Julius Caesar passed that way. The population was about 300, and it was pretty much as you describe.

20 years later, when I left, the population was about 500 and climbing, and had lost its former ethnic purity (Gaulish, of the Segusiave tribe). Mainly because it's half an hour's drive from an old industrial city experiencing urban flight.

It was a fine place to bring up young children.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 10:45:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That particular growth model does not really alleviate my doubts about the long-term viability of the project...

Urban flight is going to reverse. Soon and hard.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 12:36:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The policy of the council at that period was to issue enough housing permits to enable the primary school to keep four classes. I pointed out that this wasn't actually a good model of sustainability, but they were doing their best with the worldview they had.

And I'm not sure about the reversal of urban flight. The city they left has lots of cheap housing available; and there are no jobs there.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 01:57:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was probably the first immigrant since about the time Julius Caesar passed that way.

Ethno-nationalist romanticism likes to project local traditions and ancestry local ancestry several centuries back into the past. Truth is, rural collective memory is shorter than often assumed, and both ideas and people moved around a lot. I think that of the melting pot of the Roman Empire, the Burgundian migration, the Frank conquests, the Huguenot wars, at least some must have left their trace in the local gene pool.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 01:01:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, according to local tradition, the evil Baron des Adrets, the bloodthirstiest of Protestant generals in the 16th century wars of religion, won a pitched battle nearby, and our stream ran red with blood.  However, in this remote and eternally poor mountain region, 50km southwest of Lyon, there were no fertile lands to settle, nothing much to plunder, and it's completely unstrategic. The Loire plains to the immediate west, and the Rhone valley to the immediate east, yes, they have seen more than their share of great migrations, invasions etc... but no trace of significant population influx that I ever found.

As for people moving around a lot. Not. Genealogical research by my ex-wife demonstrated that your spouse came from an area within walking distance, for your basic peasants, until the early 20th century.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 01:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe for 98% in certain areas in the last 1000 years. But even the 2% remaining (and non-peasants) is enough.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 01:55:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
no trace of significant population influx that I ever found.

Where did you search for it? Speaking of which, when was the first mention of your village in historical records?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 02:13:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that the teacher is paid by, and the school programs established by, the French government, right ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 10:25:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well, obviously. Education (programme and staffing) is currently a nation-state-level competency; whether it should remain so is an interesting question, because it is definitely one of the strongest defining characteristics of a nation-state.

But managing a primary school, providing the buildings, employing ancillary staff, are communal responsibilities. In France, the size of a commune varies wildly (from dozens to millions of inhabitants); what I propose is that it should be a "parish level" competency rather than a municipal one.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 10:37:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Primary schools being a muni responsibility already leads to gentrification. Restricting the ability to redistribute resources to the parish level is not going to improve that trend.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 10:49:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In France at least, there is pretty heavy redistribution between municipalities, supervised by the national level. This is why a country village could run a decent school, by the way : half of the municipal budget is subsidy. What I'm suggesting, I suppose, is that the parish level should be resourced according to population (rather than ability to levy property taxes). More widely, local-level democracy as a community-building tool.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 11:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Historical note: the decentralization reforms carried out by Minister of Interior Gaston Defferre in 1982, during Mitterand's first term, handed the management of schools (buildings & logistics but not the curriculum nor the teachers) for:

That's pretty much how it's been working for the past 30 years. Kind of complicated? Some would argue this is a French cultural trait...
by Bernard on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 04:22:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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