The Kudos economy and some criticism.

A market anarchist proposes a system which might bridge the gap between a market-based economy and the problems that disparity of wealth creates. Here’s my LibCom citicism.

Kudos Burgerville
Image by daftgirly via Flickr

William Gillis writes an interesting post about the differences between Capitalist and Communistic ownership rights and gives a different perspective of how market theorists misunderstand the criticisms Anarcho-communists are directing at Private Property. It’s a bit thick to parse but I think it’s worth a read especially on how he takes the distinction between property and possession to a different dimension and the 2 pointed critiques of Private Property.

Of course there are some parts I have to disagree, for one:

Obviously however, just because such differing economic approaches might make better software for a fraction of the energy Microsoft spends doesn’t mean that it can do things like move goods between locations to satisfy demand efficiently or signal all the costs of one consumption versus another. Without the capacity to assign value to spatial/physical relationships (as with the realm of actors and objects) one can’t concretely mediate between those relationships

This particular part is, I believe, making the mistake merging two different concepts of a capitalist economy. Production and distribution. William accepts that socialized production seems to be much more efficient than the capitalist mode of production but he then proceeds to criticize the former for not achieving efficient distribution. But this is something unrelated to the productive process so I assume he’s attempting to criticize an explicitly Communist (or moneyless) way of distribution (as opposed to collectivist or syndicalist which might still retain money).

The problem is here again some of the assumptions of free market theory. The assumption that free markets satisfy demands and the assumption that the price mechanism passes along the correct signals. Unfortunately none of these assumptions are right asĀ  the markets can only satisfy effective demand and the signals ignore externalized costs and don’t provide enough information. By not basing transactions on prices, but simply on pure supply & demand (as would be the case in a communist society) both of these issues are avoided for demand is based on people’s needs and the productive process and democratic control of it ensure that the supply is analogous to the costs.

The second criticism I have is directed towards this sentence

Anti-capitalists often disingenuously blur the distinction between wealth and coercive power — wealth and/or disequilibria in wealth do not inherently have to grant any capacity for social control — but it’s certainly true that direct pursuits of power and wealth share the same form.

I don’t think it’s disingenuous at all as anti-capitalists are criticizing actually existing capitalism and not theoretical market constructs with wildly different parameters on production and money. In actually existing capitalism as well as in any market based system where money is arbitrary (ie not tied to labour-hours or something as solid) and private property the dominant form of property, the accumulation of wealth is very much a measure of coercive power as it directly limits the options of those who do not get to have any. But no anti-capitalists will consider that wealth is power when in a system which has been specifically setup so as to ensure that wealth is not power. The only problem is that all conceptions of a propertarian economy have not managed to avoid this problem.

Which brings us to the interesting part of Williams conception of a market economy. It looks like something taken out of the Algebraist to tell the truth and I can’t but worry that it’s as much of a fictional concept. You see the idea looks workable, in a theoretically constructed society around the concept of a reputation market, and I do think that if we did get such a system then I (or most communists I assume) really wouldn’t have any issue with it. Nevertheless my main criticism would again lead to ask: How do we get there?

If a labour-time-tied money system is already a difficult concept to grasp and put into practice or even move towards a situation where it can be put into practice, an even more extravagant concept based on reputation just strikes me as half-way impossible. I would be far more interested to see a viable process by which such a system might become a reality until which point, I cannot consider the actual criticisms made by William against anti-capitalists to hold much water, as they were based on comparing them to a utopian construct. Unfortunately I believe such a practice ends up diverging attention from practical issues and solutions (ie criticism of capitalism and ways to fix things) and gives some ammo for market theorists who would twist and grasp any concept in order to prove that “Free Market (Capitalism) works!”

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