Participatory Economics Overview: What, Why, How

“Vision is not only about the future, but also the present. What would having a vision like the one called participatory economics imply for today’s practical choices?

Broadly considered, if you want to get someplace new, it behooves you to take steps towards where you want to go, not steps that take you somewhere else. An obvious corollary is that you shouldn’t reinforce unwanted old structures, nor should you create new ones that are contrary to reaching your destination. You should want to undermine unwanted old structures, and to develop new structures in tune with your aims. The familiar slogan is: ‘Plant the seeds of the future in the present’.

…A worthy vision for life beyond capitalism acknowledges that neither current nor future society is made up of perfect people, ever wise and ever willing to behave altruistically. Instead, we can build participatory institutions and systems that make it automatic, instead of impossible, for us to consider ourselves, each other, the environment, and any other ‘externalities’. We must therefore build a movement that fosters, promotes, and rewards equity, solidarity, self-management, diversity, and sustainability, for all. On this path, we will make mistakes and continue to be human, but we will no longer be systematically set up to fail.”

-Alexandria Shaner & Michael Albert, “Participatory Economics Overview: What, Why, How.” mέta: The Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation. 2022. DOI: 10.55405/mwp14en

While utopian, I do like the fundamental point. If you want people to participate in decision-making, the fundamental problem is creating institutions that support participation. The fundamental problem is not people. People are not going to change to create your vision of the world. The institutions have to change.

The Iron Law of Institutions

“The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution ‘fail’ while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to ‘succeed’ if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

This is true for all human institutions, from elementary schools up to the United States of America. If history shows anything, it’s that this cannot be changed. What can be done, sometimes, is to force the people running institutions to align their own interests with those of the institution itself and its members.”

-Jonathan Schwarz, “Democrats And The Iron Law Of Institutions.” tinyrevolution.com. September 5, 2007.

The Burrito Test

“The anti-psychiatric-abuse community has invented the ‘Burrito Test’ – if a place won’t let you microwave a burrito without asking permission, it’s an institution. Doesn’t matter if the name is “Center For Flourishing” or whatever and the aides are social workers in street clothes instead of nurses in scrubs – if it doesn’t pass the Burrito Test, it’s an institution.”

–Scott Alexander, “Book Review: The Cult Of Smart
Summary and commentary on The Cult Of Smart by Fredrik DeBoer
.” Astral Codex Ten. February 17, 2021.

Coveillance

“Increasingly powerful surveillance tools have shifted the power dynamics between people and institutions. To address this new dynamic, we’ve been creating a toolkit, in collaboration with the ACLU of Washington, that demystifies surveillance technologies in Seattle in the historical context of structural inequities in the United States.”

https://coveillance.org/