How would you respond to the money/incentive discourse going on with Brett?
i think both parties are sorta talking past each other in that brett is advocating some form of market socialism/social democracy and communists are defending a stateless, moneyless, and classless society where the means of production are held in common. this isnt really an easy debate to have as if we’re talking about the same exact system and simply choosing whether or not to include money after the fact.
i think on this point, communists tend to have especially weak arguments simply due to the convenient dismissal of money and all economic matters entirely in their end point, since they imagine they’ll solve all of these problems as if by magic and so the dirtier details aren’t important, being unique to less pure systems than theirs. a general ignorance of the economic calculation debate, which brett brought up (and which i sorta addressed recently), means that few if any are able to adequately address these historical issues, but that doesnt necessarily kill their points either. it also doesnt mean the argument is settled and money has won out. i think the question of whether or not this matter has been dealt with “sufficiently” by anyone, communist or otherwise, is going to largely be a matter of opinion.
brett is essentially correct when he says that meeting everyones needs isnt an incentive structure if its unconditional, but i think we can be more creative in this regard than markets (although he did mention some other ideas, which i agree are generally pretty piss-poor).
his proposal, if i understand him correctly, that a monetary incentive structure could and should still exist under conditions of a vague socialism has its own set of problems. he suggests that this would function after everyone else’s basic needs have already been met, and that money could still exist to make sure the dirty jobs get done. he echoes adam smith a bit in talking about how self interest can also work for the benefit of the public (brett still calls himself a liberal in the classical sense after all), but what goods would this money buy? luxury goods, presumably, since basic needs have already been met, but what about the historical movement from luxury to necessity, where things like cars and computers become transformed from symbols of wealth and power into every day use-values? at some point the current luxury goods might become commonplace through technological and productive advancement, making them fairly worthless compared to this newer much more powerful or scarce thing that becomes the new standard of luxury.
in fact, with further automation in production, many if not all of these goods may become cheaper and cheaper to produce until their marginal cost falls close to 0 (something we’re already seeing right now in today’s very capitalist economy), at which point the use of money becomes very different. we’re living in a world where machines can now reproduce themselves, but we dont utilize a lot of this power because it clashes with our ability to maintain a consumer base. we can’t replace workers with machines without affecting the realization of profits. if we can achieve a genuine form of socialism with worker ownership of the means of production, it will be in each worker’s self interest to contribute as little as possible toward these dirty jobs, and through this we will likely find the answer to many of these problems with changes in production, as has generally been the case in the past. but even if we dont, even if we just utilize the technologies we have right now in a more efficient way (and we can imagine that productive advancements in the form of “labor-saving devices” would be discouraged by those seeking more money and not wanting to compete with and be outmoded by machines, in many ways slowing down the economy more than it has to be), the costs of these luxury goods, unless artificially propped up, would likely fall drastically.
in this sense, i think brett’s answer to a lack of incentive in society depends on something that will undergo its own crises and, in the end, introduce the same problem. if things become free– or even nearly free –in a money economy, where is the incentive to do dirty jobs for money? if everything is either provided for free as a necessity or as an easily reproducible product, and nearly everything else can be produced and sold for next to nothing, is anyone going to want to work for even more money, especially if they feel like the work is degrading and not worth their time?
the answer depends on whether or not needs are met for free and if the money only exists for those that do the extra work, creating a market economy inside of an already existing socialist one.
if this isnt the case, i.e., if money exists in the entire economy and everyone gets a basic income or something like that but you can get extra if you do dirty work, the issue remains. the incentive problem reemerges when luxury goods become so cheap that theyre accessible to everyone (almost certainly a near-immediate transformation if we assume any meaningful change in production)
but if this is the case, then we have a very confusing-looking socialism where the dirty work will certainly get done (not that it wouldnt otherwise), but there is definitely room for criticism of this type of system, especially regarding its implications. effectively withholding products from everyone except for those willing and able to work for them (done by some entity, the state i presume) in order to ensure that the dirty work gets done is an interesting progressive way to introduce and enforce new hierarchies in society based around access to luxury goods. maybe this could be justified, since poverty would be abolished, universal contentment would overtake the species, etc, but how would this monopoly on distribution conflict with the communal ownership of production? would it be communal ownership at all, or only social ownership through the state? why would i do dirty work when a 3d printer or even a full-scale factory can produce things for next to nothing? would 3d printers and factories be barred from my personal usage in this way? would i be cut off from particular means of production in order to ensure that i dont steal goods meant to be given to those more valuable dirty workers? how would this change my relationship with production? can we even separate production from distribution this cleanly in the first place, attempting to pull the two apart and address problems in each separately? will brett ever stop trying to resurrect john stuart mill? etc etc etc.
theres a lot of uncertainty in that and i dont think this is a sufficient response to communists, or even austrians for that matter, regarding problems of economic calculation. and this is all without ever even questioning money itself as a means of accumulating and hoarding value, potentially in a way that could reintroduce material inequalities in very non-socialist and reactionary ways.
these are just some basic problems i spot immediately, and i havent gone into much depth (although others have), but i remain convinced that communism is the best alternative and that any money economy is going to have to carry all the burdens of money with it. in brett’s proposal, it probably becomes a redundant and crisis-ridden medium. he might disagree with me, but he does that a lot so im used to it. i also know hes not terribly interested in debating this, so this is isnt to get some response out of him. ill forever be hated on the tumblr left for having the audacity to think that brett is tolerable, and i think there are more important things than the issue of money, especially since, as i already said, we have two very different end goals in mind. but even for communists interested in transitioning to that end goal, i think this is a discussion we ought to take more seriously than we usually do.
also no one on this website knows what socially necessarily labor time is.