How would Anarchists/Communists deal with the Free Rider Problem?

Free-rider
Image by schoeband via Flickr

A Free Rider is considered someone who consumes more than he should, or more than what is considered “fair”. In the more extreme case it is someone who contributes nothing but still receives the full benefits of society. In a more mild case, it might be the lazy person who manages to obscure the fact that he’s only working half the time.

Both of these cases are considered a problem because they present a prisoner’s dilemma to whatever they apply. If I work in a factory and can simply slack off half the time, this will bring me the benefit of living a happier, less tiring and stressful job. If this can pass unchallenged it will trigger others in the factory to act in the same way (defect) so as to get the same benefit. When a few people become free riders then it usually does not create an issue as others can cover for their loss without noticeable drawbacks. However when everyone, or a critical mass, defects then everyone suffers.

Free rider then must be somehow convinced or coerced to stop defecting from contributing what is expected of them, and societies have come up with various ways to work around this problem. In a modern nation for example, active coercion is used via the form of taxes to insure that everyone contributes their share. In a theoretical “Anarcho”-Capitalist society on the other hand, this problem is resolved through death1. The question occurs then, how would an Anarchist/Communist society deal with Free Riders.

The way I see it, there’s two necessary conditions that must exist to turn someone into a free rider. These are Incentive and Obfuscation. Incentive is the fact that in a prisoner’s dilemma the best result is when the other side cooperates as you defect. The greater the difference from the result of mutual cooperation compared to cooperation/defection, the greater the incentive to defect. Obfuscation on the other hand is the ability to hide your choice in the prisoner’s dilemma so as to avoid coercion or others defecting with you.

The greater the incentive and the easier the obfuscation, the more free riders you will get in your system until it collapses. A Capitalist system (wether a fascist, democratic or an stateless one) has such a a major issue with free riders because both conditions are high. It is easy to hide the fact that you’re lazy when your co-workers won’t care to give you away and the rewards for doing it are considerate (same pay for less work).  I want to show how in a Socialist society both of these conditions are severely reduced.

Incentive

Lets say we have a factory where our potential free rider is a worker. In a Capitalist run factory he would either be getting the minimum wage (the cost to survive) due to the commoditization of labour, or in the lucky case that the worker is living in a Bourgeois nation, he’ll be getting a decent one. Whatever happens then, the worker knows that he will be getting the same wage and it will also be unlikely that any extra effort will be rewarded.

But this is not the case in a socialist mode of production. Because the workers themselves reap all the fruits of their own labour any slacking at work will come directly out of one’s “paycheck” while any extra effort will increase their reward. Because of this, in our prisoner’s dilemma abstraction of the situation, the reward one receives from cooperating with others within Socialism are approaching the reward one receives via defection. The smaller this difference between rewards becomes, the smaller the incentive for one to defect

Obfuscation

The second condition is how easy it is for a potential free rider to hide the fact that he is slacking about. Within a capitalist company, the limited management finds it very difficult to tell apart who is the slacker as opposed to who is simply slower than others (but still trying) or who is having a bad time. And since other workers generally don’t rat on their colleagues, especially when working conditions are bad, it becomes quite easy to hide the fact that you’re avoiding work, and this only gets easier in direct proportion to the size of the company.

However when you have a company where every worker’s reward is directly affected by every other contribution, suddenly people who take but do not give stand out much more. And because  we’re talking about interactions between equals, workers will find it much easier to speak out and pressure the slacker socially to behave. Whereas it’s easy to hide from ( (or suckup to) the minority of the people who have the power to punish or fire you, it is not as easy to do the same when everyone you work with has a chance to notice, complain and eventually get rid of you.

Now you might have noticed that I’m mostly talking about workplaces as this is the main area where someone might try to free ride, but there’s also the case that one tries to escape working altogether. How can you tell then if your neighbour is contributing his part to the community for all the  benefits he’s getting back? Like the workplace, in a small scale community2 it is very difficult to hide the fact that you never seem to be doing anything. Sooner or later neighbours and other member will start adding 2 and 2 together and come to the right conclusions.

We also should consider that it’s very unlikely that any person would prefer doing nothing for most of his life. I think it’s in our evolved psychology to want to feel productive to some degree. Certainly there are subcultures where it seems as if free riding (on social benefits) is promoted, but how much that is caused by other social conditions is a big argument (ie are people free riding because they can, or are they free riding because the alternative low-paying crappy non-fulfilling jobs are a far worse option?)

Dealing with Free Riders

So I’ve argued how the number of Free Riders within an Anarchist/Communist society would be much lower than what we’ve come to expect from experience, but it’s still conceivable that a number of them will still exist. While it will be easier to be discovered and the rewards of them defecting will be marginal, some may opt for this method. Perhaps they are just that lazy or don’t care what others think etc. How will we deal with them?

Social Pressure

Humans are primarily social animals and don’t really want to live alone. When a free rider is discovered in work, his colleagues can easily make his life miserable by avoiding contact and/or being hostile, depending on how much he is slacking off. This type of pressure works even now to a significant degree and you very often see people quit from nice jobs because of office hostility. If this can work on people who can even be on the right (that is, not being lazy) then it will doubtly work on people who have to face their colleagues and their own conscience.

Outside work, the same thing can happen. Friends & Family will start urging you to do your part or abandon you if you don’t. Social contacts may become hostile and as the information spreads more and more, people around you will do the same. Imagine your grocery store clerk wordlessly giving you your necessities, imagine your postman “forgetting” to bring you the mail. You get the idea. I do not think there’s many who will want to be in this situation, especially if it’s their own fault for wanting to be lazy.

Ostracism

There is always a chance that a free rider will associate with other free riders in order to alleviate the effects of social pressure. As long as food and shelter are always provided, then one only needs to avoid social withdrawal in order to function in society and if they can find other like them, a subculture of free riders may be created that will be more resistant to social pressure.

Hopefully a future society will be a federation of communities whereas people cluster together with whoever they want to associate with. As such, each community will get to decide with whom they want to associate with and provide their communal resources. Were such a group of free riders to appear amidst the community, it would be relatively simple for the productive members of society to refuse to support them. Whereas this is impossible in a tax based welfare system, it would be fairly simple under Anarchism.

Leaving them be

It is very possible that even with the small incentive and low chance to hide, some people might still find a way to free ride in a Anarchist/Communist society and this is unavoidable in any kind of system really. For example in a taxation situation, you still have a lot of people who find a way to hide their true income or simply become invisible and only work through the black market. In the sense that these people keep using public services that the rest of us have paid for, they are free riding.

Well how about simply ignoring them? The number of such undiscovered free riders can never be large enough to be disruptive as this would mean that the method they achieve it would eventually leak to the rest of the community which would then take action. Trying to get rid of them through blanket measures is more likely to do more harm than good, as it may require authoritarian measures and the like.

So in the end you have a very small percentage of any community leeching off somehow in a way that does not incite others to do the same, we simply write it off as part of the waste. Among the people with special needs, the sick, the children and the elderly, a bunch of free riders will never make any difference.

A vulgar right-wing libertarian might here say that as long as there is any waste, as long as any person has the possibility to leech off his hard work, then the system is unacceptable. But the problem is that under Capitalism not only do the free riders abound but they also get to wield all the power. Who are they? Well, as per the initial definition, they are of course the ones who do not contribute anything by themselves and retain all the benefits of society. How do they do that? By simply turning their wealth to more wealth without having to lift a finger. They are the parasitic class who skim all the surplus value without having to break a sweat. They are the Capitalists.

Given the choice of a free rider in an Anarchist society – who can never have anything more than anyone else, nor exert any power over his comrades – and a free rider in a Capitalist society who not only gets to live the good life without even trying, but also get to be more powerful as time passes at the expense of everyone else…well I’d like to think that most can see which is the best choice.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
  1. To be fair, this is the position is espoused by this particular AnCap who seems to be a bit challenged in the empathy department. As such, it does not necessarily mean it’s the position espoused by all AnCaps, so a more accurate description instead of “death” would be “reliance on private charity, but possibly including death where charity is ineffectual”. H/t sblinn []
  2. since I generally advocate those I will argue from that point. []
  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Your arguments about the nature of the problem in your anarcho-communist society appear thorough enough but you seem to misunderstand the workings of the capitalist system. Take the paragraph below as an example.

    "Lets say we have a factory where our potential free rider is a worker. In a Capitalist run factory he would either be getting the minimum wage (the cost to survive) due to the commoditization of labour, or in the lucky case that the worker is living in a Bourgeois nation, he’ll be getting a decent one. Whatever happens then, the worker knows that he will be getting the same wage and it will also be unlikely that any extra effort will be rewarded."

    In a capitalist system, wages are compensation for work performed under a contract between the worker and the employer. The worker's disincentive to do less work is that he would be breaking his contract and the employer has the right to fire him. The worker's incentive to take extra effort is that he can increase his value to the employer and pursue a more favorable working contract. In the end, the worker does the work because he has agreed with the employer that he will accept his pay in exchange for his labor. Taken to a logical extreme, the paragraph quoted above implies that once hired, a worker has no incentive to work at all!

    What's more, the free rider in this case is the burden of the employer. Society has not sacrificed its wealth to support the free rider, only the employer. This puts it even more in the interest of employers to identify free riders and solve the problem.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      We can assume that a free rider in any society would either be immoral or capable of living with his conscience, thus there's no point in talking about what a "good" employee might do.

      So of course the worker knows that he is going to be fired or punished for free riding, which is why he will try to obscure the fact. I explained this in the post. The logical extreme you take it is correct, the best case for a worker would be him "defecting" while the employer "cooperates". Why is this? Because the reward for the worker's full cooperation (when the employer cooperates) would be the same, with a small possibility of advancement. While the reward for defecting while the employer cooperates would be the same as both cooperating, only without the small possibility of advancement. The incentive is clear.

      • OpenMindedCapitalist

        As discussed elsewhere, it is entirely the employer's responsibility to deal with free riders. The employer will either have to live with free riders or take measures to incentivize work. As such, the incentives of the employee will be shaped more by the employer than by the system.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      The worker's incentive to take extra effort is that he can increase his value to the employer and pursue a more favorable working contract.

      That is unfortunately an optimal case and only in a limited number of jobs and in a limited number of nations. Very exploited workers, particularly those where their labour price has been driven to its cost, generally do not have any chance of this happening. Not only that, but this is furthermore impossible to do for everyone as there's simply not enough room at the top.

      Say you have a factory with 100 workers where a management position becomes available. You say that in a (meritocratic) society, the workers have an incentive to work harder to get that position. But the truth is that 50% of the workers already know that they will never get is simply because some others have a genetic advantage. Of those who are in the top half of abilities, only some will be interested (some may be content where they are, others not sure of themselves etc). So you're left of a small minority of very competitive and genetically endowed workers who have a chance. For the rest, it's better to find ways to free rider instead where they get the benefits here and now.

      • OpenMindedCapitalist

        This entire discussion is theoretical. Whether it can happen in any countries at all in the present time is irrelevant because there are no pure capitalistic societies, just as there are no pure communist societies. Similarly, it is the theoretical capitalist ideal that workers have incentives to work harder than required but it is obviously not the universal practical situation.

        Capitalism is alive and well but most people cannot stomach the uncertainty and responsibility of it, so governments tend to have socialistic elements to try and have the best of both worlds. Your arguments are worthless if you try and compare an idealized theoretical economy with a real working economy.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Your arguments about the nature of the problem in your anarcho-communist society appear thorough enough but you seem to misunderstand the workings of the capitalist system. Take the paragraph below as an example.

    "Lets say we have a factory where our potential free rider is a worker. In a Capitalist run factory he would either be getting the minimum wage (the cost to survive) due to the commoditization of labour, or in the lucky case that the worker is living in a Bourgeois nation, he’ll be getting a decent one. Whatever happens then, the worker knows that he will be getting the same wage and it will also be unlikely that any extra effort will be rewarded."

    In a capitalist system, wages are compensation for work performed under a contract between the worker and the employer. The worker's disincentive to do less work is that he would be breaking his contract and the employer has the right to fire him. The worker's incentive to take extra effort is that he can increase his value to the employer and pursue a more favorable working contract. In the end, the worker does the work because he has agreed with the employer that he will accept his pay in exchange for his labor. Taken to a logical extreme, the paragraph quoted above implies that once hired, a worker has no incentive to work at all!

    What's more, the free rider in this case is the burden of the employer. Society has not sacrificed its wealth to support the free rider, only the employer. This puts it even more in the interest of employers to identify free riders and solve the problem.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Your arguments about the nature of the problem in your anarcho-communist society appear thorough enough but you seem to misunderstand the workings of the capitalist system. Take the paragraph below as an example.

    "Lets say we have a factory where our potential free rider is a worker. In a Capitalist run factory he would either be getting the minimum wage (the cost to survive) due to the commoditization of labour, or in the lucky case that the worker is living in a Bourgeois nation, he’ll be getting a decent one. Whatever happens then, the worker knows that he will be getting the same wage and it will also be unlikely that any extra effort will be rewarded."

    In a capitalist system, wages are compensation for work performed under a contract between the worker and the employer. The worker's disincentive to do less work is that he would be breaking his contract and the employer has the right to fire him. The worker's incentive to take extra effort is that he can increase his value to the employer and pursue a more favorable working contract. In the end, the worker does the work because he has agreed with the employer that he will accept his pay in exchange for his labor. Taken to a logical extreme, the paragraph quoted above implies that once hired, a worker has no incentive to work at all!

    What's more, the free rider in this case is the burden of the employer. Society has not sacrificed its wealth to support the free rider, only the employer. This puts it even more in the interest of employers to identify free riders and solve the problem.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    What's more, the free rider in this case is the burden of the employer. Society has not sacrificed its wealth to support the free rider, only the employer. This puts it even more in the interest of employers to identify free riders and solve the problem.

    They certainly do but as identification of free riders is a very costly business, this cuts into their profits and makes them less competitive. The least costly method for a capitalist to deal with free riders is to treat all employees as guilty and use blanket and inhuman methods to avoid this happening. You can see that already in the ultra productive Chinese where the workers are not even allowed to go in the toilet outside the designated times.

    In short yes, it is in the interest of the Capitalist to solve the free rider problem but they will by necessity go for the most oppresive solution. In the same way that a "Anarcho"-Capitalist society will have to go for the most radical solution (death) to deal with their social free riders.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    And the incentivization the employer will take will be shaped by the system. Particularly the dog-eat-dog system of Capitalism will force them to take the most brutal anti-free rider measures they can while reducing any incentive for people to work harder.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    As elsewhere, you ignore the fact that employment is a voluntary contract between employee and employer. Oppressive measures to prevent free riding will either drive workers to another employer or push wages higher. The employees are not helpless.

    Also, please do not hold up China as an example of capitalism. It is not a capitalist country. They are a communist country that opted to accept certain capitalist reforms in order to gain wealth and become part of the global economy.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      As elsewhere, you ignore the fact that employment is a voluntary contract between employee and employer.

      Nothing is voluntary as long as coercion is involved. It's as voluntary as me putting a gun to your head and telling you "work for me or I kill you".

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      Also, please do not hold up China as an example of capitalism. It is not a capitalist country. They are a communist country that opted to accept certain capitalist reforms in order to gain wealth and become part of the global economy.

      Oh it very well is. China was never a Communist country. It was a state Capitalist. The only thing that changed now is that the State allowed competition with itself. The workers that I mentioned are not forced to work at the barrel of a gun, they "voluntarily" select to work in inhuman conditions.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    Whether it can happen in any countries at all in the present time is irrelevant because there are no pure capitalistic societies,

    That's a No True Scotsman. Everything we have now is a Capitalist system. Perhaps it's not a laissez-faire or stateless one but the incentives on different types of Capitalism differ anyway.

    Similarly, it is the theoretical capitalist ideal that workers have incentives to work harder than required but it is obviously not the universal practical situation.

    It is only good in theory if you ignore the commoditization of labour, the fact that we can't have meritocracy and the fact that not all humans are born with the same abilities. When you add those, you see that even in theory it fails.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    Whether it can happen in any countries at all in the present time is irrelevant because there are no pure capitalistic societies,

    That's a No True Scotsman. Everything we have now is a Capitalist system. Perhaps it's not a laissez-faire or stateless one but the incentives on different types of Capitalism differ anyway.

    Similarly, it is the theoretical capitalist ideal that workers have incentives to work harder than required but it is obviously not the universal practical situation.

    It is only good in theory if you ignore the commoditization of labour, the fact that we can't have meritocracy and the fact that not all humans are born with the same abilities. When you add those, you see that even in theory it fails.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    Capitalism is alive and well but most people cannot stomach the uncertainty and responsibility of it,

    I don't see why we should be living in uncertainty when there are other systems that can avoid it. We created societies to avoid the law of the jungle and social darwinism, not to reinvent it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    Oppressive measures to prevent free riding will either drive workers to another employer or push wages higher. The employees are not helpless.

    Not if workers don't have anywhere else to go. There's always more workers than there are positions and as such, the workers are indeed helpless to avoid their wages getting lower and lower while their working hours get longer and longer.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    That is not capitalism by any definition.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      Nor is capitalism based on voluntary contracts.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    You are correct but only on the basis of an ongoing oversupply of workers which is not true by necessity.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Commoditization of labor is a fallacy, full meritocracy is unnecessary and it is irrelevant that people are not born with the same ability set.

    The reason why there are successful capital ventures is because there were people who had an incentive to work hard at them.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Commoditization of labor is a fallacy, full meritocracy is unnecessary and it is irrelevant that people are not born with the same ability set.

    The reason why there are successful capital ventures is because there were people who had an incentive to work hard at them.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    Commoditization of labor is a fallacy

    Please argue this point. From the way I see it, it's very much true.

    • OpenMindedCapitalist

      Take the example of two skilled workers, a vegetable farmer and a butcher. Assume that because of their skills, the farmer can produce vegetables twice as fast as he can produce meat and the butcher can produce meat twice as fast as he can produce vegetables.

      If the farmer provides the butcher a day's work worth of vegetables, how much meat should he get in return?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

        You're talking about self-employed people. Not wage workers. The problem is in wage-labour.

        • OpenMindedCapitalist

          The issue is the same. Rather than trading the product of labor between two people, you are talking about trading the actual labor of the employee for the money of the employer.

          In either case, the values are subjective. The article referenced assumes that labor has an objective use-value but in truth, one person's hour of labor is not going to be equivalent to another person's hour of labor. What makes the transaction palatable to both parties is they they are trading something they see as less valuable for something more valuable, rather than trading things of equivalent labor time.

          As long as various parties put different values on their labor, goods, capital, etc. then the cost does not have to trend to the value because those two numbers are from the perspectives of two different parties. The fact that people are born with different abilities, receive different trainings and have different needs means that the values will not converge to zero.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

            The article referenced assumes that labor has an objective use-value but in truth, one person's hour of labor is not going to be equivalent to another person's hour of labor.

            That's why we are talking about Socially Necessary Labour Time. Not simply labour time.
            And Labour has an objective use value, in fact, it is the only thing that can create new objective use-value.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    The reason why there are successful capital ventures is because there were people who had an incentive to work hard at them.

    Really? So there were no government subsidies? No other factors at play? Just hard work?

    I think you're very deluded.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    The reason why there are successful capital ventures is because there were people who had an incentive to work hard at them.

    Really? So there were no government subsidies? No other factors at play? Just hard work?

    I think you're very deluded.

    • OpenMindedCapitalist

      Sorry, I was a bit unclear. Hard work alone did not produce success but success rarely comes in spite of poor effort. Therefore, the existence of successful capital ventures implies that there were probably people were incented to work hard at them.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

        There are people who are "succesful" (AKA rich) and there are people who are hard-working. It is only inenvitable that occasionally these two merge. But truth is that success does really come (more often than not) in spite of poor effort. Most rich people are born rich and remain rich despite horrible blunders.

        Poor people who "make it" are the exception that proves the rule.

        • OpenMindedCapitalist

          What was the incentive of the hard-working minority?

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

            Greed I suppose

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Reducing the incentive for people to work harder is counterproductive for a capitalist. It is paradoxical that employers will use these brutal measures to get more production out of their employees but these same brutal measures also reduce their incentive to produce more.

    In the real economy, employers are only driven by the system to try to get the most productivity out of their workers for the lowest cost. In some cases, this means that brutal measures will be used. In others, higher compensation, better benefits, fewer hours and other positive (or at least non-brutal) incentives are used.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Reducing the incentive for people to work harder is counterproductive for a capitalist. It is paradoxical that employers will use these brutal measures to get more production out of their employees but these same brutal measures also reduce their incentive to produce more.

    In the real economy, employers are only driven by the system to try to get the most productivity out of their workers for the lowest cost. In some cases, this means that brutal measures will be used. In others, higher compensation, better benefits, fewer hours and other positive (or at least non-brutal) incentives are used.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    Reducing the incentive for people to work harder is counterproductive for a capitalist. It is paradoxical that employers will use these brutal measures to get more production out of their employees but these same brutal measures also reduce their incentive to produce more.

    In the real economy, employers are only driven by the system to try to get the most productivity out of their workers for the lowest cost. In some cases, this means that brutal measures will be used. In others, higher compensation, better benefits, fewer hours and other positive (or at least non-brutal) incentives are used.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    t is paradoxical that employers will use these brutal measures to get more production out of their employees but these same brutal measures also reduce their incentive to produce more.

    Not necessarily. Enough of a "whip" can force workers to be super productive even when they do not wish to. Those who are not will simply get fired and left to starve.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    In some cases, this means that brutal measures will be used. In others, higher compensation, better benefits, fewer hours and other positive (or at least non-brutal) incentives are used.

    In a real economy, that is, an economy which is not propped up through imperialism and exploitation such as those of the developed nations, there is not space for benefits. There are simply so many workers that one can demand that only those who are super productive work for them.

    There's also the fact that the labour required to produce something will always be driven to mechanization and simplification, making the demand for skilled workers low. And when all you need it unskilled workers, there's no need for benefits. Those only come to play when you have a limited amount of skilled workers, that is, where there's more demand than supply.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    In some cases, this means that brutal measures will be used. In others, higher compensation, better benefits, fewer hours and other positive (or at least non-brutal) incentives are used.

    In a real economy, that is, an economy which is not propped up through imperialism and exploitation such as those of the developed nations, there is not space for benefits. There are simply so many workers that one can demand that only those who are super productive work for them.

    There's also the fact that the labour required to produce something will always be driven to mechanization and simplification, making the demand for skilled workers low. And when all you need it unskilled workers, there's no need for benefits. Those only come to play when you have a limited amount of skilled workers, that is, where there's more demand than supply.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    full meritocracy is unnecessary and it is irrelevant that people are not born with the same ability set.

    If you do not have meritocracy then workers have even less of a reason to be extra productive, since the higher position will be taken by the boss' cousin. As such Meritocracy matters.

    I already explained why people which are bone genetically inferior in their current work have less incentive to be more productive.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    It is true by reality

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    If you are in an anti-meritocratic realm, then you are correct. But full meritocracy is not required. As long as there is even some meritocracy, then it is a potential incentive for harder work.

    As far abilities, that is a relative measure. You may not have the same incentive as a more able coworker but that does not mean that you have no incentive at all.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      The less meritocracy you have, the more the incentive to free ride. The less endowed you are, the more the incentive to free ride. These are not boolean option but work on a scale. As such, these two factors will always play a role.

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    That's an incentive. What's wrong with that?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      Aside from the fact that your primary incentive is a vice, nothing. But I don't see where you're going with this.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/BlueLinchpin BlueLinchpin

      I disagree with db0, I feel there's a great deal wrong with greed being the only reason for working. Various industries, such as the news industries, health industries, and others are driven by profit motive which can and does get in the way of their value to society.

      The news industry, for example, regularly puts profit above providing something vital to democracy: accurate news. When publishing a report could lose you money (such as the Fox News vs Akre case I believe it's called), ethics get in the way of profit.

      The health insurance industry is another example of how greed is a very, very bad incentive. I can't imagine that you haven't heard or read about their behavior (I doubt you haven't but I'll look for news reports if I not) — these industcompanies deny healthcare that people need to survive, looking for any excuse they can, in order to make more money. How is that a good thing?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BlueLinchpin BlueLinchpin

    Thanks to inheritance, luck, and being born into a family that is able to provide an excellent education and connections, hard work is less necessary when many of the things you need to be wealthy are given to you.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    I disagree with db0, I feel there's a great deal wrong with greed being the only reason for working

    Well, I was being parly facetious :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/spgreenlaw spgreenlaw

    Great post. A couple of questions:

    You write:
    "Because the workers themselves reap all the fruits of their own labour any slacking at work will come directly out of one’s “paycheck” while any extra effort will increase their reward."

    It sounds as if you are keeping certain aspects of the capitalist mode of production alive, namely commodification, the law of value, and a wage system, albeit a more democratic one. This isn't really the abolition of the capitalist mode so much as the democratization of it. I thought for "true" communism, rather than something transitory, the concept of value itself has to be abandoned. Or am I misreading this?

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    I never argued that there are no incentives for people to work harder. I do argue however that the incentive for some to work harder will affect only a minority whereas the majority will attempt to free ride. I also argue that for the vast majority of people, how hard they work affect how much they progress very little. This is yet another incentive to free ride rather than work hard.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    Presumably, the case would be similar in a communistic society but it is a matter of opinion that I believe people are likelier to be motivated to work hard in a capitalist environment.

    Some people perhaps. Whereas Capitalism may not have a few people working their ass off (so that they can be the top dog I guess) Communism will have the majority of people working happily and productively without trying to become free riders as they would have very little incentive to.

    The point of communism was never to have a lot of people working hard, nor do I see the point in that. Lots of people working hard is the means to an end. The end in Communism is egalitarianism and the end of human suffering and it doesn't need that particular mean.
    The end of Capitalism is accumulation and so it does.

    But which of these two ends is best choice is the important question

  • OpenMindedCapitalist

    I agree that greed is not the best or most noble incentive to work harder.

    My point was that there are incentives in a capitalist system that would prompt employees to work harder than required to earn their wages. Capitalism does not drive all employer-employee relationships to be essentially owner-slave relationships and there are a mix of incentives for any worker.

    Presumably, the case would be similar in a communistic society but it is a matter of opinion that I believe people are likelier to be motivated to work hard in a capitalist environment.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    You are right that is look like a simple democratization of Capitalism but I tried to present it in a form that would make sense to most. This is the reason why paycheck is in quotes.

    To answer your question, depending on the socialist system, there may be various degrees of commodification. But in all of them, the main thing would be that the worker would get to retain his/her surplus value. In mutualism for example it would be used for trading, whereas in Communism it would be given to those who need it.

    You are right that this doesn't apply well to Communism but in the abstract sense we can assume that people are awarded the full labour time they do per day (and that society expects of them). I hope this makes sense :-/

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/spgreenlaw spgreenlaw

      That does make sense. I think I've got it now. Thanks for the clarification.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chungyc Yoo

    Here's a criticism of what you wrote and a potential topic for followup: you mentioned "under Capitalism not only do the free riders abound", but nowhere in your supposed ways that would deal with free riders is there any indication that they would not apply to capitalism. You might want to talk about why they wouldn't with capitalism or many other systems.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

    The reasons why free riders persist in our current society is because the incentive and the obfuscation factors are high (I think I provided quite a few reasons for that). Further to that, social pressure measures cannot work very well because of alienation which is fed both by crass individualism promoted by the system and by pitting each worker against the other in competition (very often for life)

  • Anders

    I'm interest in knowing how you would disallow people to "over-consume". One might not be lazy, but might instead just take more of the cake than anyone else. It's easy to see how a single individual or a family might fill their homes with luxury articles. TV's in every room, only eating steak and so on. how is this dealt with?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/db0 db0

      I won't have to disallow really. I will leave social pressure to do this task. If for example there are new HD TVs being handed out by a communist warehouse and someone comes about and tries to grab 5-6 of them, the apothecary is quite likely to refuse until everyone has had their own. If there is no scarcity of TVs of course, there would be no such problem.

      If someone is found to overconsume in some way then it's very likely that normal actions of peer-pressure would be employed to show him that others do not consider him to be acting properly. The resulting social backlash is likely to be worse than the benefit one has of trying to hoard TVs or something.

  • Pingback: What are the economics of piracy? | A Division by Zer0()

  • Pingback: furniture stores atlanta howell mill road()

  • Pingback: how to get one direction concert tickets()

  • Pingback: home decorative dry erase boards for the home()