In the science fiction novel 'Blue Mars' by Kim Stanley Robinson, (Bantam Books 1996) the peoples on Mars won their independence from Terran control, circa 2100, and now they are drafting their first constitution. Page 141:
So he [Art] went back to the big table, ready to tackle the next worst problem. That brought him back to earth again. There were a hundred next worse problems, all small until you actually took them on, at which point they became insoluble. In all the squabbling it was very hard to see any signs of growing accord. In some areas, in fact, it seemed to be getting worse. The middle points of the Dorsa Brevia document were causing trouble; the more people considered them, the more radical they became. Many around the table clearly believed that Vlad and Marina's eco-economic system, while it had worked for the underground, was not something that should be codified in the constitution. Some complained because it impinged on the local autonomy, others because they had more faith in the traditional capitalist economics than in the new system. Antar spoke often for the last group, with Jackie sitting right next to him, obviously in support. This along with his ties to the Arab community gave his statements a kind of double weight, and people listened.
This new economy that's being proposed,
he declared one day at the tables, repeating his theme,
is a radical and unprecedented intrusion of government into business.
Suddenly, Vlad Tanaleev stood up. Startled, Antar stopped speaking and looked over. Vlad glared at him. Stooped, massive-headed, shaggy-eyebrowed, Vlad rarely if ever spoke in public; he hadn't said a thing in the congress so far. Slowly the greater part of the warehouse went silent, watching him. Art felt a quiver of anticipation; of all the brilliant minds of the First Hundred, Vlad was perhaps the most brilliant. [snip]
What you said about business and government is absurd,
he stated coldly. It was a tone of voice that had not been heard much at the congress so far, contemptuous and dismissive.
Governments always regulate the kinds of business they allow. Economics is a legal matter, a system of laws. So far, we have been saying in the Martian underground that as a matter of law, democracy and self-government are the innate rights of every person, and that these rights are not to be suspended when a person goes to work. You -
he waved a hand to indicate he did not know Antar's name
- do you believe in democracy and self-rule?
Antar said defensively.
Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?
Antar repeated, looking more and more annoyed.
Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their workplace? In politics, we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what to pursue- control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism.
That is what capitalism is a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives labor, under duress, to feed rulers who do no real work.
Business leaders work,
Antar said sharply.
And they take the financial risks-
The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the privileges of capital.
Yes yes. Don't interrupt me. Management is a real thing, a technical matter. But it can be controlled by labor just as well as by capital. Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past laborers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce. No! The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all. That is why it was able to turn so quickly into the metanational [multi-national] system, in which democracy grew ever weaker and capitalism ever stronger. In which one percent of the population owned half of the wealth, and five percent of the population owned ninety-five percent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.
So. We must change. It is time. If self-rule is a fundamental value, if simple justice is a value, then they are values everywhere, including in the workplace where we spend so much of our lives. That was what was said in point four of the Dorsa Brevia agreement. It says everyone's work is their own, and the worth of it cannot be taken away. It says that the various modes of production belong to those who created them, and to the common good of the future generations. It says that the world is something that we all steward together. That is what it says. And in our years on Mars, we have developed an economic system that can keep all those promises. That has been our work these last fifty years. In the system we have developed, all economic enterprises are to be small cooperatives, owned by their workers and by no one else. They hire their management, or manage themselves. Industry guilds and co-op associations will form the larger structures necessary to regulate trade and the market, share capital, and create credit.
Antar said scornfully,
These are nothing but ideas. It is utopianism and nothing more.
Not at all.
Again Vlad waved him away.
The system is based on models from Terran history, and its various parts have all been tested on both worlds, and have succeeded very well. You don't know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it. But most of our micro economy has been in successful operation for centuries in the Mondragon region area of Spain. The different parts of the macro economy have been used in the pseudometanat Praxis, in Switzerland, in India's state of Kerala, in Bhutan, in Bologna Italy, and in many other places, including the Martian underground itself. These organizations were the precursor to our economy, which will be democratic in a way capitalism never even tried to be. A synthesis of systems.
Antar's objections did not seem like much. Metanational capitalism's track record at this point did little to support it; in the last century it had precipitated a massive war, chewed up the Earth, and torn its societies apart. Why should they not try something new, given that record?
Someone from Hiranyagarba stood and made an objection from the opposite direction, noting that they seemed to be abandoning the gift economy by which the Mars underground had lived.
Vlad shook his head impatiently.
I believe in the underground economy. I assure you, but it has always been a mixed economy. Pure gift exchange coexisted with a monetary exchange, in which neoclassical market rationality, that is to say the profit mechanism, was bracketed and contained by society to direct it to serve higher values, such as justice and freedom. Economic rationality is simply not the highest value. It is a tool used to calculate costs and benefits, only one part of a larger equation concerning human welfare. The larger equation is called a mixed economy, and that is what we are constructing here. We are proposing a complex system, with public and private spheres of economic activity. It may be that we ask people to give, throughout their loves, about a year of their work to the public good, as in Switzerland's national service. That labor pool, plus taxes on private co-ops for use of the land and its resources, will enable us to guarantee the so-called social rights we have been discussing housing, health care, food, education things that should not be at the mercy of market rationality. Because la salute non si paga, as the Italian workers used to day. Health is not for sale!
So nothing will be left to the market,
No no no,
Vlad said, waving at Antar more irritably than ever.
The market will always exist. It is the mechanism by which things and services are exchanged. Competition to provide the best product at the best price, this is inevitable and healthy. But on Mars it will be directed by society in a more active way. There will be not-for-profit status to vital life-support matters, and then the freest part of the market will be directed away from the basics of existence toward nonessentials, where venture enterprises can be undertaken by worker-owned co-ops, who will be free to try what they like. When the basics are secured and when the workers own their own businesses, why not? It is the process of creation we are talking about.
Jackie, looking annoyed at Vlad's dismissals of Antar, and perhaps intending to divert the old man, or trip him up, said
What about the ecological aspects of this economy that you used to emphasize?
They are fundamental,
Point three of Dorsa Brevia states that the land, air, and water of Mars belong to no one, that we are the stewards of it for all the future generations. This stewardship will be everyone's responsibility, but in case of conflicts we propose strong environmental courts, perhaps as part of the constitutional court, which will estimate the real and complete environmental costs of economic activities, and help to coordinate plans that impact the environment.
But this is simply a planned economy!
Economies are plans. Capitalism planned just as much as this, and metanationalism tried to plan everything. No, an economy is a plan.
Antar, frustrated and angry, said,
It's simply socialism returned.
Mars is a new totality. Names from earlier totalities are deceptive. They become little more than
theological terms. There are elements one could call socialist in this system, of course. How else remove injustice from economy? But private enterprises will be owned by their workers, rather than being nationalized, and this is not socialism, at least not socialism as it was usually attempted on Earth. And all the co-ops are business small democracies devoted to some work or other, all needing capital. There will be a market, there will be capital. But in our system workers will hire capital, rather than the other way around. It's more democratic that way, more just. Understand me, we have tried to evaluate each feature of this economy by how well it aids us to reach the goals of more justice and more freedom. And justice and freedom do not contradict each other as much as has been claimed, because freedom in an unjust system is no freedom at all. They both emerge together. And so it is not so impossible, really. It is only a matter of enacting a better system, by combining elements that have been tested and shown to work. This is the moment for that. We have been preparing for this opportunity for seventy years. And now that the chance has come, I see no reason to back off because someone is afraid of some old words. If you have any specific suggestions for improvements, we'd be happy to hear them.
He stared long and hard at Antar. But Antar did not speak; he had no specific suggestions.
The room was filled with a charged silence. It was the first and only time in the congress that one of the issei had stood up and trounced one of the nisei in public debate. Most of the issei liked to take a more subtle line. But now one of the ancient radicals had gotten mad and risen up to smite one of the neoconservative young power mongers who now looked like they were advocating a new version of an old hierarchy, for purposes of their own. A thought which was conveyed very well indeed by Vlad's long look across the table at Antar, full of disgust at his reactionary selfishness, his cowardice in the face of change. Vlad sat down; Antar was dismissed.