Economic Democracy

I recently read David Schweickart’s seminal article on Economic Democracy.

This article resonates with some core intuitions about the global “better place” I’ve been envisioning lately.  Of course, I’d like to bring the 1992 article into 2010 both theoretically (e.g. via Hardt/Negri’s intuitions about “intellectual labor” in the digital age, Clay Shirky on “cognitive surplus,” etc.) and practically (e.g. new tools available to us 2010ers:  hmm….  THE INTERNET?  Smartphones?  Social networking websites?  RSS feeds?  …and eventually, perhaps, a free, universal, interactive, online education platform on which I’m delighted to be collaborating).

My own thoughts have been drifting this week toward some of the larger sociopolitical implications of some recent conversations on free universal education–specifically, the broad and very practical relation between education and economy (compensation, employment, food and shelter, etc.).

Along these lines, I’m interested in thinking toward a blueprint for a system which promotes long-range economic peace-of-mind for world-citizens pursuing world-betterment through their intellectual labor.  This system would, at very least, streamline the ability for the multitude to not only applaud each person’s socially-valuable use of cognitive surplus…but also to somehow (materially) reward it.[1]  I’d like to work toward, as a transitional phase, supplementing nation-state governments (even democratic ones) with international, neo-Schweickartian economic democracies.[4]

In a world where “factory” production (that historical Marxist whipping-post)[2] is increasingly roboticized, the main “intellectual” work of each world-citizen might be:  to become broadly well-informed, politically-active, and socially responsible with her time and resources.[3]  Admittedly, that’s a tall order.  For instance, for free universal education, it means you can lead a horse to the freshest water in the world, but….

Collectively, we are capable of organizing into worker self-governments…especially as intellectual workers.  Such thoughts tend truly toward a brave new world:  fully transparent, fully connected, fully self-governing.  Responsible, anyone?

[1] I say streamline because something like this already exists and we call it “market.”  I envision something more economically democratic.
[2] Schweickart’s analysis employs familiar socialist “factory” and “production” lingo we might consider dated in a digital age.  Two notes:  First, I’d like to update it via Hardt/Negri (see above).  Second, I deeply appreciate the historical value of workers’ movements during the last two centuries.
[3] First issue:  I’m assuming at the outset that we’re already also expecting and allowing people to be fully desiring-humans in their use of recreation, sex, and drugs, (as well as thoroughly responsible in their stance toward religion)–by, at the very least, abolishing arcane norms/expectations/laws surrounding these areas.  Second issue:  How can we world-citizens engender responsibility in our multitude?
[4] The clearest path to economic democracy seems to be digital.   Currently, we endure an ostensible political democracy and a grossly disparate economic oligarchy.  Historically, in developed nations, the latter seems par for the course.


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