One of the major obstacles associated with socialist or communist systems is the Economic Calculation Problem. If we no longer allow a “free market” to decide what is produced and at what price, then how do we decide how to direct a society’s limited resources and labor?
Central planning where a small group of government workers decides how to develop manufacturing and allocate scarce resources does not seem to be practical using known methods.
Additional problems that a centrally planned system might face include:
1. Dissatisfaction with life being common amongst participants when only a small number of elites are tasked with designing a society while the vast majority simply execute their designs. Often people want to feel that the world is changing based upon their own designs.
2. The lack of niche products and services being produced by the society.
3. Problems with understanding what a society would like the workers and resources to be focused on in a way that ranks priorities.
Is there a way to solve all of these problems without the accumulation of private wealth? Perhaps a solution would be to allow any participant to suggest products and services using a kickstarter-like platform where payment for working on those projects and funding for those projects would be made using something I call “public wealth”.
Unlike private wealth, public wealth would differ from traditional money in the sense that it would not be exchangable for benefits that only go to you exclusively. Public wealth would only be usable to fund projects proposed by the community where the products and services produced by those projects would be made available to all participants on an equal access basis. In addition to this, public wealth could only be earned through active labor as opposed to private wealth which is often acquired through passive means such as charging rent, holding equity as a passive partner, or loaning money with interest.
Under one instantiation, products could be made available for loaning where each individual would have an equal number of lone credits. Loaning a new item could cost two credits while loaning a used item could cost a single credit. Consumable items could be available equally through a monthly equal allotment of consumable credits. The credits for loanables and consumables could be intentionally higher than an individual is expected to use but still limited in order to keep people from abusing access to consumables or loanables. Unused consumables or loanables credits could be converted periodically to public wealth that could be used on the kickstarter-like system. Medical supplies could be made available with prescription without subtracting from loan credits or consumable credits such that both sick and healthy participants have approximately equal access to loanable and consumable items. Services could be rendered on a first come first serve basis or through random lottery.
In a private wealth system, one of the primary benefits of amassing a large amount of wealth is the power to influence what a society produces. This incentive could be preserved in a public wealth system. The work necessary for creating products and services could be rewarded with public wealth that could then be used to influence what the society creates in proportion to the amount of public wealth one has accumulated.
The projects on the kickstarter-like system would be created by any participant in the system. They could visit offices where they could consult with a specialist about the resources available to produce a product, service, event or civil society organization. The specialist could help them identify what resources would be necessary to produce the project and what level of public wealth credits would be required for the community to be able to go through with the project. The raw resources used for a project could be priced by the community by following the prices in some external market or through internal auctions.
Labor could be incentivized by offering public wealth where the amount being offered would be based on public records of historical trends for every job that has ever been compensated during the history of the system. Information about the cost of related types of labor being done in an external market could also be used to create a compensation offer. Each distribution or manufacturing center could be operated as a workplace democracy.
Resources that the community can not produce itself could still be made available by arranging for the sale of resources to an external market, such that the desired resource could then be purchased from the external market.
If a project receives enough public wealth from the community, then the project is produced. The specialist that helps to facilitate placing the project on the kickstarter-like system could receive public wealth at the point a project is funded and at the point a project is delivered. This should incentivize the specialist to vet and prepare the project proposals effectively. If a proposal is denied by one specialist there should be an appeals process where the project idea can be presented to another independent specialist.
Project proposals could also include plans to produce excess items for sale in the external market in order to expand the resources owned by the community. Items that are loaned and consumed by the community at high rates could lead to a reorder process. This system could include a public voting mechanism to establish the priority for each item in the system. Scarce resources would first be allocated to higher priority items.
Each time an item is produced and distributed a public wealth cost could be calculated for the item. This cost would include all of the different components going into a project from throughout the supply chain. At each step of the supply chain, public wealth would be transferred in exchange for a component of the final product. When an item is distributed it could be assigned to a particular ID and the public wealth cost for the item could be credited to the account of the distributor. The distributor could then decide how much to reorder using the public wealth they have accumulated and their estimate of future demand.
Like manufacturing centers, distribution centers could be launched using the kickstarter-like system. Members of the community could decide which items to make or carry in their manufacturing or distribution centers, how to stylize the centers, and how to advertise the centers. In this way the system would allow for a type of free enterprise without the need for private wealth. Rent and utilities could also be paid in public wealth. Distribution or manufacturing centers that are not able to cover the costs of operations could be scaled back or shutdown, which would open up some of their resources for other projects.
Public impact bond like payments could be made to those that find a way to improve the manufacturing abilities of the community in a way that decreases the delay in producing an item or decreases the public wealth cost of producing an item.
If the public wealth cost of an item should exceed the amount per item that was stated in the kickstarter-like system by a certain percent, then the project could be posted again to the kickstarter-like system so that the community could vote on if it would like to continue to produce the item given the new higher cost.
P.S. I am an Anarchist who believes that consensual adults that are not being coerced in unethical ways should be allowed to engage in voluntary exchanges. Public Wealth Communism may be most useful when applied to voluntary communes. A plurality of voluntary communes that are attempting to attract and retain participants may encourage the communist system to continue to evolve and may guard against authoritarian take overs.