This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The Future We Want Ed. by: Sarah Leonard & Bhaskar Sunkara

When I was a fourteen-year-old recovering from a bad bout of asthma (we had no health insurance and my parents would not apply for Medicaid), I was thinking in my sickbed about the house of the future.  It would be designed to make recycling easy – and why stop there – it would have facilities to grow food, including creating beef muscle tissue without the cow (we can do that now) so that everyone would have what they want to eat, not what the collective told them to eat.  It would be built by workers laboring cooperatively and paid equally.   People work until they paid back the labor hours that went into constructing the house, plus enough for a lifetime dividend – although most things would be done cooperatively so there would be little need for money.  I called the concept Inter-Independence.

This was needed because we were (and are) fowling the earth, raping the land and on the verge of nuclear annihilation (this was 1977). That is how I became a cooperative (and democratic) socialist. I have written several essays related to this and will look at the various chapters of the book through that lens, so I make no effort or claim to summarize the discussion of the book so far by our Book Club.

The Introduction was an interesting statement of the problem and call for a solution, although it was light on demands – although the succeeding chapters had some of these.

Working for the Weekend showed the need for full-employment – the real definition not the neo-liberal one found in government reports and political debates.  Back when worker pay matched productivity we had wage and price control and a 70% marginal tax rate on the wealthy.  Nixon junked the first and Reagan  the second.  We can’t go back, but we can pursue worker ownership and control, i.e., cooperative socialism.  As for the workday, I like 6.5 hours for 4 days and Fridays off.  Who’s with me!  I also want to shift lesser educated workers to mandatory paid training so that no one toils at a bad job because they are less than fully literate.

Socialist Education raises some interesting points, although I temper any analysis of U.S. educational attainment with a desire to compare the US to the EU as a whole, with their member states compared to our states.  Some American states would be at the top – others worse than anyone else in the world.  Of course, if we were really socialistic, teachers and parents would control individual schools, not the central neo-liberal administration.  High School students would be paid to attend (and unionized) and parents who have not attained full literacy would, as above, be paid to go to school.  Going away from property taxes (or even a land value tax) and toward income tax or Value Added Tax funding would be required for goals so large.

How to Make Black Lives Really Truly Matter highlights Dr. King’s admiration of Henry George, with his citizen’s dividend and land value taxation.  Though George had at times been supported by socialists, the vision as it now stands is heavy on liberty and light on government – which is fine when cooperative socialism is achieved, although by then it won’t be needed. We can (and do) have a Universal Basic Income for Kids in the Child Tax Credit, although it is not generous enough and should be paid through wage or VAT taxes as an offset.  Also, land value taxes cannot be federal without an amendment. This is mostly a state proposition.

Sex class is a wonderful essay that highlights, among other things, the injustice of having women work as caretakers for children while their own children do without or are cared for by relatives or neighbors.  It calls for collective community-controlled living arrangements – and I am all for that – but in the cooperative, not the geographical town or city.  I am also all for men being able to stay home as their wives work – indeed more men doing this removes competition for management and executive positions (although I would eventually make such positions electoral and force the incumbents to bid salaries down in open auction in advance of the election).  I would also provide easy access to child care at school and university for teen and twenty-something parents.
The Green and The Red covers the water front on the environment, going back to the New Deal and up to the problem of carbon emissions and overconsumption by America and the West.  Moving toward a shorter work week will help part of this (see 26-hour suggestion above) as well as decreasing consumption.  Note that consumption is the balm for the working class which has prevented a Marxian revolution for all these years.  Owning a home where you grow your own food will, by nature, lead to less outside work as good production takes time.  Fusion powered electric cars do the rest (preferably with central computer control to end most accidents).

Red Innovation demonstrates how much real progress was publicly funded and expropriated by the capitalists, who use technology in their war with labor and against poor nations.  Instead of making a technology a public resource, I would emphasize innovation in cooperative enterprises, giving innovators a bonus and – to the extent the innovation lasts for years – stock, rather than paying engineers and scientists higher salaries but keeping all the gain from innovation in the hands of the capitalists.  Innovators would be able to retire earlier – with more shares quicker in the cooperative and forgiveness of some of the home mortgage debt.

The Cure for Bad Science seeks to make science more on real-world applications.  After two years of doctoral work in political science building to what would have been a career writing more about mathematics than politics and how to help the polity find better solutions, I have to agree.  I would fund science with an excise tax on anything developed with public funds – with a high enough rate to keep research flowing.  I would also find scientists among those who never got a chance for an education – again, through paid remedial education, either publicly or through cooperative socialist employers (in lieu of taxes).

Finding the Future of Criminal Justice was provocative, especially the suggestion to abolish the police. I would more transform them by dealing with crime as a mental health problem – treating some and separating the rest from society in long term care (i.e., the sociopaths who have been dangerous).  Pimps should also get mandatory treatment or be locked up, with the trafficked women just getting treatment.  Legalizing drugs almost goes without mention – and crime committed while high will especially be a mental health issue.  The truth is that the war on drugs has been the war on black male voters, although they can’t help but lock up white trash meth dealers too.   A police state is needed when on part of society demands another behave – when society lacks the General Will Rousseau wrote about.  It’s time to end the police state. Disarming police and getting the guns also goes without saying.  All the guns, including those used against snitches.

After Gay Marriage wonders what is next, especially for Trans people and for those who don’t want to marry.  In some areas, progress has been made and forgotten about until something happens and many places still have domestic partner provisions, although not all.  I would answer that Employment Non-Discrimination should be next on the agenda.  Hopefully cooperatives won’t have these problems.

Small, Not Beautiful talks about business size.  I agree.  Bigger employers and cooperatives are often better for workers (even if CEOs are overpaid – not a problem for cooperatives).  If we ever do pass a Value Added Tax, it should include provisions forcing larger firms to pay the tax benefits to its 1099 contractors and to bring franchises into the larger organization (or at least allow franchise employees to divert their Social Security employer contribution to buy stock in the larger enterprise).  The use of franchising to avoid unionization must end and cooperative socialism will end it. Smallness is not a boon.  It is the flaw in Distributism, which would throw out our technological civilization in a mistaken search for progress.

The Red and the Black gives one of the best explanations of the differences between capitalism, socialism and the  problems of the Soviets that most of us have read.  Instead of a fund to invest in firms, I would use Social Security employer taxes (credited equally) to buy employers out and have a percentage of that as an insurance fund to pay off employees and retirees should a covered business fail.   Cooperative employees would have make v. buy decisions to see what gets made internally, what the cooperative buys and what members buy (and with how much money).  In what would be a free market for labor, everyone would have an equal base wage – with adjusting stock grants for education, innovation and longevity – which must be compensated as part of the supply cost for labor (and the preference for leisure as one gets older).  The last piece is probably what Marx was searching for in the labor theory of value.

Coda has interesting suggestions, but I suspect it was pre-Bernie.  I have some too. Again, on education, I would compare EU members to US states for apples to apples.  I would transfer state and local government pensions to Social Security.  I would regionalize the states into 7 regions, mostly autonomous.  Of course, there will always be differences between ALEC states (or regions) and Blue states, or regions, even if they year all states go blue, which could happen. We need a special emphasis on outreach in ALEC  states, even though it would be dangerous sometimes.  I would nationalize (or regionalize) Medicaid and Social Security Part D.  Public unions should lead the fight for a seven hour work day (to start).  Lastly and again, I would pay poor people to get educated and trained and insure them through the training provider’s health policy.


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