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Here are excerpts from "cRed-80" of "Anti-Joseph and the S.O.M.E. Hypothesis"
Deletions from the original are indicated by missing paragraphs and "[...]"

Excerpts from "Why is Joseph Afraid of the Masses?"

The Tragedy of the Commons

 Contents:       TIP: Clicking on any of the paragraph numbers
 ---------            along the left margin
                      will take you back and forth
                      between the body of the article
                      and the table of contents.
number           chapters sections subheads
 464  Appendix B:  A reply to Fred on
     "The Tragedy of the Commons" 
 467         Aluminum Jigs vs. Extra Hours 
 470         Output must exceed input 
 474         Capitalism cannot handle externalities 
 476         Concrete vs. Asphalt Driveways 
 480     Fred's question:
            Diamond Drills vs. Hardened Steel Drills 
 493         The Tragedy of the Commons 
 496         Joseph's central planning 
 501     How a complex adaptive system deals with
            "the Tragedy of the Commons" 
 503         The merger of work with its measurement 
 511     1) The information indices 
 515         Perfect is the enemy of good enough 
 518         Easy access to indices 
 521         Labor time indices 
 524         Environmental indices 
 526         Joseph's binary logic
                 applied to pollution from hamburgers 
 535         Who assigns the ratings ? 
 537         Other kinds of indices 
 539         Indices which indicate what others are doing 
 544     2) The self-correcting mechanisms 
 547         Different kinds of out-of-equilibrium conditions 
 554         The Congress of Diamond Drill Producers Confronts
               the Congress of Diamond Drill Consumers 

Appendix B: A reply to Fred on "The Tragedy of the Commons"
Fred opposes my conceptions from a different angle than Joseph however. Fred invokes what economists have called "the tragedy of the commons". And from a number of angles Fred's criticisms (despite being mistaken) are more interesting than Joseph's. But before going into Fred's views, I should first give a little background:
Aluminum Jigs vs. Extra Hours
In the local area, over the last few years we have studied portions of Marx's "Capital" and had discussions on how capitalism works. Among the topics we discussed was the role pricing mechanisms played in establishing consumption-production equilibriums. In one of my documents I used the example of a machinist who is deciding on one of several ways of making a part. One method will save him several hours but will involve the consumption of several aluminum jigs (ie: small pieces of aluminum that will be used to clamp the part and hold it steady - - but which will be destroyed in the machining process). The machinist needs to decide if the consumption of the jigs will be worth the labor he will be saved. The question is -- on what basis will the decision be made ? One of the advantages of the money system is that it permits decision makers some extremely easy ways of making decisions like this. The machinist knows the approximate dollar value of his time to the company and the cost of the jigs. In real situations like this it is nearly always better to use the jigs because they are quite cheap.
But without a money system HOW would the decision be made so that the decision is made correctly and easily ? After all -- if a method of machining the part required consuming not cast aluminum jigs but rather the consumption of machined titanium parts -- the correct decision would likely be to use another method.
Output must exceed input
Without some system of insuring that the result of some action creates more wealth than is consumed in the process -- you end up with the typical wastage that characterized the late Soviet Union: feeding pigs subsidized bread because grain is too expensive or peasants taking subsidized jet trips to and from Moscow to buy back at subsidized prices the same vegetables that they grew on their rural collectives.
So the pricing mechanism under capitalism serves the function of keeping things in equilibrium. The cheaper aluminum jigs become -- the more of them will be consumed. And what is going on under the dollar values of the items involved are mechanisms that tend to conserve labor time. The aluminum jigs are cheap because they do not require many labor hours to create and the skill of the labor involved does not need to be high. Machined titanium parts, on the other hand, are not cheap because their creation requires lots of labor hours (and highly skilled labor at that). So if workers used titanium jigs in order to make a part -- they are wasting money under the capitalist system -- but under that or any other way of organizing decisions and keeping track of things -- they are still squandering labor hours -- consuming products containing hundreds of labor hours to produce products that could be made with dozens of labor hours.
Now the example I have used might be somewhat simplistic (and it is not too realistic because even if it they were free -- no one would want to use jigs made of titanium). But the essential point applies to a very wide variety of economic decision making. Decisions must be made so that the greatest net wealth is created via economic actions.
Capitalism cannot handle externalities
One of the problems with the capitalist system is that it cannot measure the real social cost of an action. If making a product pollutes the environment or destroys an ecosystem -- and the company can get away with it (which by and large they generally do) the social cost (of poisoned people -- and the cost to future generations that would have considered the ecosystem to be a source of untold wealth) -- is borne by "society" (ie: the masses at large, present and future generations) and no where enters the profit/loss calculations used to make the decision. Such costs are generally called "externalities" by economists. Capitalism has a problem with "externalities" because -- seen in a general sense -- nearly all the ills of capitalism can be seen as externalities -- corrupt political systems, aggressive war, populations kept in ignorance and misery, social injustice -- these are all products of a system in which human economic actions are guided only by what the marketplace can measure and return to the individual decision-maker. And if the real costs are borne by someone else -- this is a problem that, while it can be reformed to this or that degree, is fundamentally insoluble under capitalism.
Concrete vs. Asphalt Driveways
So this is the kind of thing we have been discussing locally. Various other similar examples have come up. In a future communist economy, where there is no money -- how would you decide to do things ? Currently if you decide you need a driveway to your home (assuming that you have a home), you might check out the prices for asphalt and concrete driveways. You might compare their different features and their relative costs and make a decision. Is the extra cost of concrete worth to you the extra money ?
Now -- in a communist economy that did not use money -- how would you make the same decision ? It might be that if you need a driveway (assuming you lived in a home) that all you needed to do was make a call and some people would come out and give you a driveway. It would not necessarily "cost you" anything at all. It would simply be given to you because (a) you need it, and (b) society can afford it. The assumption is that in giving this wealth to you, this wealth will flow back to society later in some unspecified form (either your increased happiness will result in the generation of happiness for others -- or similarly -- that your health will be better because you will be breathing less dust and hence you will be able to live longer and contribute more, etc).
But the question here is this: will you want a concrete or asphalt driveway ? How will you decide ? How will you weigh the merits of each option when the money cost does not exist and yet you have an interest in minimizing the expenditure of social wealth ? So it can be seen that this example is essentially the same as the first, but in a slightly different form.
Fred's question:
Diamond Drills vs. Hardened Steel Drills
In a polemic against me, Fred brought up another example (these examples are all essentially the same but it is useful for purposes of visualization to deal with a variety of examples and we have also discussed cans of tuna fish in a grocery). In "A Layman's Guide to Infotopia" (3-24-95), under the subhead "Economy without coordination" Fred comments on Joseph's Neo- Conservatism (part 1) and says that it effectively anticipates and demolishes the article I wrote 5 days later in response to it (ie: "Why is Joseph Afraid of Consciousness?" ). Here is what Fred says:
"Joseph has already, more or less accurately, described the key features of Ben's current article--the one written after Joseph's description. 1) Ben has no means for coordination of economy in his future society. 2) Without these means (assuming for a moment that such a society could exist, which is impossible, and also assuming that human capacity for social organization would bear some resemblance to what history has so far shown), forces similar to contemporary market/capitalist mechanisms would assert themselves in economic decisions.
"Joseph notes one of the most basic problems of Ben's 'free' economy, which shows it to be worse than current capitalist economy--the skewing of consumption decisions and therefore allocation of productive resources, towards use value, utility or usefulness of products. Whether it's 'poisoning Bangladeshis' or, say, the choice of a diamond drill when several hardened steel drills would provide more use relative to the costs of supplying either type of drill; ignorance of the costs involved in alternative inputs will lead to consumption decisions that waste and destroy wealth.
"'Cost' here is used to mean proportions of scarce inputs to production--labors, products, environmental sources. Productive resources at any given time (before infotopia) are finite, while the expansion of human needs will remain insatiable; the comparison of cost to use is essential to allocation of productive resources in a way that produces the most wealth.
"In infotopia, Ben substitutes the regulatory role of capitalist value (which does not measure any concrete component of cost, but through exchange and price fluctuation, adjusts production to somewhat take account of costs), with simply general information about products ('this product kills X number of Bangladeshis'). This is not sufficient cost information to allow coordination of economy.
"First of all, the total information of specific costs of each product is for all intents and purposes infinite, since the interconnections of inputs to previous inputs, etc., goes on and on and the qualities of resources and labors at each stage and for each rival input at each stage, multiply tremendously. Second, cost information is relevant to a consumer (industrial or final) only if it defines the relative costs of one product to every other one that he may choose. And the cost of the product he produces, must be defined relative to every other product that any consumer of his product might choose.
"The mechanisms of value, for better or worse, link each producer to every other one in world economy, in definite proportions. If these mechanisms are to be reformed or replaced, some means must be utilized to coordinate the different producers in proportions corresponding to the proportions of human needs to be created and met. And these needs can be maximized only if the consumer compares not just the different needs he may fulfill, but compares the different needs and the costs of fulfilling each one.
"The consumer at any unit cannot possibly know all the specific variations of the qualities of labors and resources for the rival inputs he chooses from, and the specific variations for the rival inputs chosen by each of the suppliers of his inputs, etc., etc. And this specific information is useful only if it gives the consumer a conception of relative costs of all products. Only with an estimation of cost equivalences (of types of labor, environmental usage, health and safety), and addition of each portion of cost at each production unit, will a consumer have the ability to rapidly substitute inputs with an informed judgment of the cost/benefit ratio of each input he may choose from.
"This is not to say that there is some simple or absolute measure of relative costs. There can only be alternative social structures for interpreting and gauging these costs, and relaying this information among units; and a resulting improvement or setback to the maximum expansion and meeting of human needs. ---Nor is this to say that a single numerical index will necessarily be an adequate or efficient way to symbolize and transmit cost information. ---Nor is this to say that cost equivalence is the only economic structure needed to guide economy. Regarding consumer decisions, the expansion of concrete qualitative descriptions of costs, including via political and educational channels, would be important. ---Nor does this suggest any particular structure for renumerating or otherwise regulating work.
"I am not putting forth some alternative framework for economic reforms. I am suggesting that Ben has thrown out any means of coordination of economy, and this is silly. Ben says it is necessary to explain how an alternative society would produce more wealth than contemporary society does. I agree. But he has completely failed to do this. ..."
Personally I often tend to find what Fred writes difficult to follow but I think we can figure out here what Fred is saying. Fred is asking: how is the guy using the drill to know whether he should use a diamond drill or hardened steel drills ?
If the drills themselves have no cost to the worker -- then how can he gage whether or not he will make the best decision (or even, at worst, consume more wealth than he creates) were he to use a diamond drill ? Fred is not arguing that the worker involved does not give a shit about maximizing social wealth. Fred (at least here) gives part of my argument the benefit of the doubt (ie: that the worker is motivated to make the decision best in accord with the needs of society) and instead argues simply from a single perspective -- a decision needs to be made that requires information -- where will the relevant information come from and how can it possibly be integrated ?
The Tragedy of the Commons
In economic theory such an argument is often referred to as "the Tragedy of the Commons" . In essence such an argument holds that if resources are made available to people for free -- then they will be treated as worthless and wasted (and will eventually be used up) and social wealth will be squandered and distributed much less efficiently than if people had to pay for them. Put in other words, it holds that people are selfish and everyone will try to take more than their fair share from the common pot -- if they can get away with it. And hence that the idea of a "common pot" is a starry-eyed dream and not too realistic.
But the "common pot" is actually one of the central ideas of communism. And if we are real communist theoreticians then we must reply to the "tragedy of the Commons" argument.
Joseph's central planning
Of course Joseph has a reply. You simply have a "general authority" dole out from the common pot to insure that each allocation of resources is wise. You remove the decision from the hands of the machinist on which drill to use. You "kick the decision upstairs" . Yeah, that's the ticket ! You just make a central plan on how to distribute all the goods and labor and everything else and then nothing gets wasted or duplicated (with needless competition) and there is no "anarchy" because everything has been neatly planned. Some super-smart central planning agency (with help from various layers of sub-agencies and so forth below it -- and helpful suggestions from workers -- Joseph will not allow the masses to take independent economic action but he will let them make suggestions to the proper authorities) figures out "everything" including exactly how many left-handed screws of a certain size will be needed for the entire economy. And then everybody else simply follows the plan. Hey, what's the big problem, anyhow ?
The problem is that as soon as the economy becomes sufficiently complex -- such planning always breaks down and proves to produce far less wealth than even ordinary free-market capitalism. This, in a nutshell, is why the Soviet Union was sunk in the face of competition in the world market from the U.S., Europe and Japan. This is because real economies always involve developments that are not susceptible to accurate prediction and such super- centralized planning ends up overlooking important developments and proves to be inflexible. From the high perch of the central- planner -- maybe the plan looks brilliant . From the workers' eye view on the ground, however, it ends up looking pretty stupid . Trying to run a complex economy in a modern society on the basis of such a central plan is more or less equivalent to trying to fight a war on the basis of a plan where the outcome of each battle has been predicted in advance.
In a real economy in a modern society, many decisions need to be made on the spot by people "on the ground". Parallel decision- making must be made by participants who use their brains to analyze local conditions . I have gone into this more elsewhere (ie: TCE) and will not repeat myself here (if any in the xmlp find this insufficient or unclear -- write to me -- the rest of the world has long known all of this). In fact corporations in the free-market economy of today -- are finding that they must learn how to "push decision-making downstairs" because otherwise decision-making is too slow to avoid the cruel fate of being eaten by their competition.
Of course if any planning agency could plan the entire economy -- it would be Joseph's "general authority" -- which has already accomplished the amazing trick of being a non-governmental government elected without elections from political parties without politics.
How a complex adaptive system deals
with "the Tragedy of the Commons"
So how do I believe our worker in the future would decide whether to request diamond or hardened steel drills ? (Or -- somewhat equivalently -- how does our consumer decide whether he wants a concrete or asphalt driveway ?) One key issue, as discussed above, is that, in a communist economy, the decision would be "pushed down" as far as is both practical and possible. This is because the worker at the point of production (or the consumer at the point of consumption) is "closest to the action" in terms of weighing and evaluating the local conditions and the real needs - - and the real point of all this is to develop methods of harnessing the brainpower of those at the points of production and consumption (ie: utilizing "distributed intelligence").
The merger of work with its measurement
In some ways the idea of "pushing down" decision making is analogous to current developments in the "quality control" function in modern capitalist manufacturing and service operations. It used to be, for example, that in a factory, one worker might assemble two parts together and another worker is assigned the exclusive function of verifying that the right parts have been put together in the right way. The reason for the division of labor, under capitalism, is obvious. The first worker may not have any real incentive to do the job right (if he thinks he can get away with it). After all, the capitalist factory is exploiting him and he will likely be aware of this exploitation whether at a conscious or unconscious level -- and may have an incentive to try to "cheat the system".
However, even under capitalism, many companies, under the pressure of competition, are experimenting with methods of combining the "work" and the "quality" functions into the same person. The reasons why are profound and go far beyond the labor savings of a separate worker. The development of labor productivity requires that the path of information flow between the action/behavior and its measurement/perception/feedback be as short and direct and free and unimpeded as possible . The speed and bandwidth of this information path should ideally be infinite. The two ends of the information path should ideally merge into the same point. Put in less theoretical terms: it is the guy who does the actual work who has the greatest potential ability to understand what is really going on . If he can be motivated to do so -- he will always be able to do a better job of insuring real quality -- than some person attempting to make a "measurement" of quality based on some formal or informal checklist of specifications (some of which are invariably important and some of which are bullshit).
And the merger of work with its measurement -- and the impact of this on labor productivity -- in its most general theoretical sense -- is the fundamental lever -- the driving necessity which will lead to the overthrow of capitalism . Under capitalism, it is the "market" which measures the value of work (ie: economic activity). But the capitalist market cannot handle "externalities" (including not simply things like pollution -- but the inevitable division of society into antagonistic classes, corruption of all political systems, war and militarism, the wastage of human and material resources, the constant pumping of insincerity into the culture and popular consciousness, ignorance, injustice, oppression, etc) -- cannot measure the real cost to society of economic actions and direct these actions to fully benefit society. And just as capitalism cannot direct economic activity to best serve the interests of the workers (and society as a whole) -- so also -- any central planning mechanism that "kicks decision- making upstairs" will tend to lengthen the information path or impede the flow of information between "hand, eye and brain" (ie: between economic activity and its measurement/feedback mechanism) and become a fundamental barrier blocking the development of labor (and consumption) productivity .
It is only under communism that the authentic merger of work and its measurement can take place -- and external carrot/stick/measurement dictate by the market/plan can be replaced by internal measurement and guidance -- and the incentive to try to "cheat the system" and implement the philosophy of "better to look good than to be good" can truly be overcome.
I explore these questions in "TCE" but for now -- we must return to the question raised by Fred: how is the worker to know which drill he should use ?
In the discussion below, I will treat this decision as if it were being made by the individual, since most often it is individuals that make decisions. But we also know that important decisions must in some way be guided by the collective. The worker as an "isolated atom" would never be able to know what to do. With consultation with other workers, however, with guidance from the rest of society, he is empowered. But how can this consultation and guidance take place ? This, ultimately, is the question raised by both Joseph and Fred. How is the worker supposed to measure the benefit to society of his decisions ? How is the guy supposed to know what to do ?
I think there must be two parts to this answer. First, we can look at what information the worker will have on hand to help him make the best decision. Secondly, we can look at the self- correcting mechanisms inherent in the economy that will come into play to restore an equilibrium if the worker (or workers) begin to make too many poor decisions.
1) The information indices
Under capitalism the worker (or his foreman, who is often the person making the decision) has all the relevant information about the drill summed up in a single number -- the cost of the drill in terms of the universal money commodity. The foreman simply has to calculate the extent to which use of a diamond drill will allow him to lower his labor costs and compare this number to the price of the diamond drill (we will leave the costs of steel drills out of this equation because they are so comparatively cheap). This is an easy method and one well-suited to capitalism.
In a communist economy the decision must also be easy to make. In fact it must be easier -- because the more complex an economy is -- the greater will be the proportion of the total economic activity consumed in making such decisions. The decision must also be better than that made under capitalism. One of the problems with the money system of making decisions is that the money system cannot take into account the "externalities" (ie: the true social cost flowing from an economic decision, whether it be pollution of the environment, depletion of a resource or a change in the conditions of child-care at a factory that will impact the emotional development of the workers' children).
So under communism, the decision on whether or not to use a diamond drill must both (a) be faster and easier to make and (b) better reflect the real costs (or impact) to society -- than under capitalism.
Perfect is the enemy of good enough
But at the same time we should rid ourselves of a fallacy that seems to occur at this point. We are not talking about a system that will make the very best decision. Such a thing would be impossible. Fred has pointed out why. The information required to make the best decision is essentially infinite . In theory we must recognize that every particular situation is in some respects unique. You cannot, as the saying goes, step in the same river twice (because it has changed, is no longer quite the same river as when you stepped in it the first time). Using a diamond drill on a Monday may not be quite the same as using one on a Wednesday. Using a diamond drill made in Pittsburgh may not be the same as using one from Bangladesh (even if the drills are identical -- because, for example, there may be a push to use products from less developed parts of the world such as Bangladesh -- as part of speeding up development there and creating a less imbalanced world economy).
So we must rid ourselves of the fallacy that we must make the very best decision. Because the information required to do so (not to mention the computation required to analyze and integrate this information) is infinite. Rather -- the issue is that we simply require a system that will make better decisions than are possible under capitalism . In fact, as communism continues to develop, humanity's abilities to collect and integrate information to make economic decisions will, we can safely predict, develop in ways beyond the powers of our limited imaginations.
Easy access to indices
So what information will the worker (under communism the decision-making will be "pushed down" to the worker but will be assisted by communications technology and the free flow of information) know about the diamond drill ?
Well first let's consider the various indices. In short, there will be a lot of information easily available to the worker -- and while only a small portion of it will turn out to be relevant -- let's survey what will be out there. Access to this information might be as easy (or easier) as scanning a bar-coded part number glued onto the handle of the drill and looking at a graphical display on a computer monitor (I will try to discuss this with examples of present-day technology but we can also keep in mind that technical people are telling us that eventually computer monitors will be embedded in people's watches and glasses and that the cost of this technology will be close to zero).
Labor time indices
Well first might be the labor time index. This could be a composite of various sub-indices. Essentially it would be a number representing the number of human labor hours contained in the diamond drill. Of course any such number must to some extent be a fiction, an estimate (but we don't need a "perfect" number, only one that is "good enough"). Anyone interested would be able to "drill down" into the number representing labor hours for the drill (this would be as easy as clicking a spot on the graph with a mouse) and the components of the labor hour composite index could be displayed. Labor time could be viewed in categories such as skilled vs. unskilled labor, geographical dispersion of the labor, and so forth (remember what we said earlier -- there may be a push to use products from developing regions such as Bangladesh).
Such information as described above would be relatively easy to collect and integrate in a modern economy with advanced computer and communications technology. The hardware and software infrastructure would already exist and be as ubiquitous as electricity. The vast majority of the "work" to collect and integrate the information would be accomplished automatically by software. What would be difficult (the hard part) is making the estimates accurate -- but as we pointed out above -- the estimates can serve their function quite well even if they are not completely accurate.
Environmental indices
A second kind index might be an environmental index which could be a composite of several factors. Three factors come to mind most immediately. (a) ecosystem destruction, (b) environmental pollution and (c) depletion of non-renewable resources, such as petroleum. This index (or indices) would not necessarily come in the form of a number (ie: like money or labor hours) but might come in the form of something like a grade, or a rating within a range. For example, the highest grade would promote usage, and the lowest grade might simply be: a skull and crossbones symbol - - meaning: do not use -- this product poisons people, puts excessive stress on an ecosystem, is being boycotted, or is a product of a grouping with which we are "at war". Now this brings us to an interesting question: Who (or what) would assign the ratings ?
Joseph's binary logic
applied to pollution from hamburgers
By Joseph's logic all ratings would be assigned by a single general formal authority in a non-political way. A rating of "yes" would mean that you can use something, and a rating of "no" would mean that you can't (ie: that the product is banned). Hey -- what could be more simple ?
But real life is often a bit more complicated. Joseph acts like a charlatan when he asserts that all such decisions are binary and easy to make. "This product will poison hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh. Ban it. This paint contains lead. Ban it."
But real life throws up many situations for which the boundaries are less clear. It is reported, for example, that a good portion of certain types of air pollution in the Los Angeles basin (possibly as much as 50%) is caused by particulate matter from the cooking of hamburgers in fast food joints. This air pollution undoubtedly shortens the life of a great many people and can even be considered a form of gradual poison. Now should we ban hamburgers in LA or not -- oh Great and Wise Joseph ? You've already got the comrades in LA pissed off at you plenty. If you forbid them from eating their favorite hamburgers -- they may break from your influence entirely.
Who decides how serious pollution from hamburgers really is ? Under Joseph's system we cannot predict whether hamburgers would be banned but we do know that such a decision will be made by an infallible general authority (doubtless in consultation with a group of infallible experts) in an atmosphere completely devoid of all politics or all conflicting human interests -- and that there will be no need for the masses to worry their pretty little heads about the matter.
In real life a range of compromises and various kinds of trade- offs always come up. Can emission control devices be installed in fast-food restaurants ? More important, can a health campaign mobilize energy existing in society to persuade the masses to eat less red meat and less fried foods for health reasons ? [...]
Who assigns the ratings ?
Since Joseph's general formal authority will not actually be able to provide the ratings -- who will ? The short answer here is: anybody who wants to. All sorts of rating groups would have an incentive to emerge and play a role because influencing consumption and production decisions would advance one or another set of politics, policies, principles and agendas concerning how society shifts and allocates its resources. Many rating groups may be attached to economic, cultural or political trends but others might not. Of course any ratings group that wishes to attain influence in affecting decisions would have to strive very hard to make ratings that conform to the broad, common, present and future interests of the majority of society -- and hence to win respect for its ratings over time.
Other kinds of indices
And this brings us to the fact that all economic, cultural and political agendas revolve around production and consumption decisions and so all trends would wish to influence these decisions. And any trend which wanted to influence -- the worker who is trying to decide whether or not to use a diamond drill -- would have some means to play a role in assigning a rating to it in some way. I hope readers will forgive me for not being more specific at this point. Sketching out how some of these developments are likely to emerge is useful in assisting ourselves to visualize some of the ways in which future communist society may function. At the same time, the sketches I have created here are limited by the nature of speculation and can, at best, be only a poor and pale foreshadow of actual practices that may emerge.
Indices which indicate what others are doing
Finally, we can mention one final kind of index -- one which will be the most important index most of the time to most workers. Decision-making takes time. Under communism decisions need to be made in a way which is better than under capitalism -- but they also need to be made in a way which is at least as fast (and in fact faster). Every time a worker wants to make a decision over what kind of drill to use he will not want to drill down into a immense assortment of indices, information, fact and opinion of various shades. This would be like reading all the polemics which Joseph and Mark and myself hurl at each other. This would paralyze the economy much more than the strikes and boycotts of which Joseph is so much afraid.
The quickest and most effective way to make a good decision in such circumstances is to simply "look around" and see what others are doing. Workers and consumers will not see themselves as isolated atoms in a sea -- but will harness the decision-making brainpower of others. It will not be necessary that a lot of time, effort and energy be poured into each and every decision. Because so many economic decisions are similar to each other -- it is only necessary that a very small percentage of the decisions are carefully and consciously thought about -- for these types of arrangements to serve the needs of the masses far better than capitalist market methods (because in practice, using a diamond drill on a Monday is pretty much like using one on a Wednesday -- most of the time).
In general, as under capitalism, most people, most of the time, will carry out activity in "the usual and accustomed" manner -- and this will tend to work out just fine. This works because information and brainpower would be effectively shared -- those times when workers and consumers do spend some effort carefully weighing options and priorities are the moments when intelligence and consciousness enters and shapes the production and consumption processes -- and there would be little need to constantly reinvent the wheel every time a worker needs to pick up a tool.
Therefore the most practical and time saving of all indices are those that indicate what is being done by other people in similar circumstances, and what is being done by people whose principles, values, judgment and opinion you trust and respect. And this, also, will be available, to a large and practical degree, when our worker wands in the engraved bar-code on the diamond drill.
2) The self-correcting mechanisms
Now so far I have only sketched out some of the ways in which a worker may make a decision over whether to use a diamond drill or several hardened steel drills. And the methods I have described could all play a role and could all be useful. But the real test of any system of doing things -- is to examine what kind of self- correcting mechanisms come into play when things "go wrong" . If diamond drills continue to be scarce (note: they may not be because techniques are currently being worked on that would make diamond coatings cheap enough to put on razor blades) and workers use them as if they were plentiful -- then eventually things get out of equilibrium. At a certain point a shortage of diamond drills asserts itself. The worker reaches for a diamond drill and the bin is empty.
Our question is this: how does the out-of-equilibrium situation (ie: the diamond drill crisis) come about and how is it resolved in a way that keeps everything smoothly functioning and brings about a transition to a more stable equilibrium (ie: where diamond drills are reserved for situations where they are really needed and are not squandered by people who are either selfish or ignorant) ?
Different kinds of out-of-equilibrium conditions
In complex systems in real life -- equilibriums are constantly being broken and re-established on a new basis. This would be happening constantly in a communist economy. Actually the situation described above (the diamond drill crisis) is only one of four kinds of out-of-equilibrium conditions. The four different conditions can be categorized by what the nature of the "correct" solution would be:
     Problem:     Not enough diamond drills 
 1)   Solution:    Consume less drills
 2)   Solution:    Manufacture more drills
     Problem:     Too many diamond drills 
 3)   Solution:    Consume more drills
 4)   Solution:    Manufacture less drills
I will deal mainly with situation (1) above and describe how diamond drill consumption would be lowered such that those consumers who actually have the greatest real need for diamond drills would get them. Readers will probably be able to picture how the other situations might work:
2) Diamond drill consumers organize to either increase the productivity of diamond drill production or get more capacity on-line.
3) Diamond drill producers conduct a campaign to "advertise" (maybe not the best word to use since it implies commercialism) the usefulness of their drills
4) Diamond drill producers realize there is not that much need for their drills and a portion of drill production capability is liquidated (and skilled labor and resources are freed up to be distributed amongst a host of worthwhile and deserving projects).
For the sake of simplicity I am leaving out those situations that involve combinations of the above and also situations that interact with other kinds of products. Rather, let's go back to situation (a) and consider it in more detail.
The Congress of Diamond Drill Producers Confronts
the Congress of Diamond Drill Consumers
In the above whimsical sub-head I outline my solution to the diamond drill crisis. Of course it appears to me to be somewhat unlikely that there would actually exist congresses of diamond drill producers or consumers (or even joint congresses of diamond drill producers and consumers). There would, after all, be a very large number of different kinds of products and services and putting together an actual congress for each and every one of them would imply quite a bit of work.
But if we step back a bit I think we can see that I am using a general method -- of considering the actions of mass organizations and meetings of various kinds. And in particular, when we consider the possibilities opened up with the development of cyberspace -- we see that it would be relatively easy to have meetings in cyberspace which do not require that all the participants actually be either in the same place or the same time in order to do the same kind of work that would be accomplished at a congress. Hence we could have virtual congresses or cybercongresses or, if we use the kinds of names that have actually come up, we would call them forums .
Workers who produce these products, whether we are talking about drills or diamond films, would have little difficulty tracking the usage of the offspring of their labor. Computer technology makes it very easy to create data bases to collect statistics and usage patterns for such things. It is very good at these types of things. The modern economy is moving in the direction of becoming transparent . This means that by and large workers will know what becomes of their products. They will be able to talk directly to those who fail to properly appreciate their efforts. The workers who misuse diamond drills may find video-mail marked "urgent" awaiting them when they show up in the morning. The v- mail would be from a group of diamond drill producers and would require a response. The world is becoming transparent and it is becoming interactive .
And in a world where there are no commodities -- this does not mean that there is no exchange whatsoever. The exchange that will exist is the exchange of production for consumption . And high-quality production will insist on high-quality consumption.
I produce a diamond drill -- and I allow you to have it and in exchange for this you consume it wisely -- you do not squander or waste or throw away the fruits of my labor -- because if you do - - we are going to have a little talk about it -- and adjustments (of whatever kind are necessary) -- will be made . And this is the bottom line .
It is under capitalism that the worker is alienated from the product of her labor. Under communism the worker has an interest in the wise consumption of her product and she will take action to defend her interest . And anyone who fails to appreciate this would find himself wishing he were someplace friendlier -- like standing between a lioness and her cubs -- because the products of the workers' labor will be the products of the workers' lives -- and the parental interest of the workers will occasional make itself felt with an insistence that cannot be ignored. ----//-//