Proposal for a new social contract
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25-08-2011, 08:55 PM (This post was last modified: 25-08-2011 09:10 PM by Peterkin.)
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
(25-08-2011 08:12 PM)Zach Wrote:  I guess I have two main concerns.

I think it would require a lot of planning to ensure that the public sector is self-sustaining and functions independently of the private sector. I don't know how you'd go about planning that, and it's probably beyond the scope of this topic. It's just something that would have to be addressed if this idea were ever pursued.

Look at it this way: Everything in large-scale human endeavor requires planning. The pyramids, the moon shots, election campaigns, making a movie, waging a war, preparations for a disaster. We are very good at planning and have terrific tools. In order to patrol and regulate and safeguard the economy now, the government has to put a lot of people and equipment into planning and tracking. Take the ones who are currently tracking money (every form of financial transaction that the government needs to be aware of) and put them on tracking the practical needs of real people. That's actually a lot easier, because nobody's motivated to lie about how fast they go through a pair of socks.
Remember, too, once the system is in place, most planning would be done locally.
If you break the project down to component tasks, it's not so daunting.

Quote:The second concern is the public sector controlling things that many would prefer to remain private.

Like, private ownership of water and prisons? Cut down all the trees you want, drill holes in the ocean, blow up the underground rocks - never mind long-range consequences. Sure, some people get big profits out this very bad idea, but it's not doing society any favours. The greedy-guts won't like the transition, but the transition won't take place, anyway, until after their kind of economy implodes. The next generation of entrepreneurs will have different - maybe more limited, but also far less risky - opportunities.

Quote:Would this involve the government owning all land, food, and other resources that fulfill basic needs so that it can distribute them to everyone who needs it even if it doesn't require all these resources to meet everybody's needs?
I prefer to think "control" rather than "own". Yes, i think it would have to control all those things, for sustainability and environmental protection. (We're already in deep shit, because governments haven't been doing this!)
As i understand it, the government would make sure basic needs are met, and there is sufficient reserve for fluctuations. Only after that would it allow the private sector to use surplus resources, on some kind of trade for services arrangement.

Quote: Could someone in the private sector open a clothing store, start a restaurant, or build and sell fancy houses?

I imagine that's exactly what the private sector would be expected to do. Supply the non-essentials. Print and exchange money, set their own value and exchange rate on products and services that people don't need, but want enough to work extra for.
Probably, some people would be content with the basics and spend their leisure time playing, making art, studying or traveling, or just lolling. But a lot of people would want toys, fancies, delicacies, fashions, pricy entertainments, and so on. They could spend their leisure time working for the private sector to earn those extras. Same enterprises, but more choice for the average person.

It's not the mean god I have trouble with - it's the people who worship a mean god.
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26-08-2011, 04:46 AM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
Science fiction writers have all the freedom to think and imagine. They are so far out of the box that everything becomes possible. By placing their story in the future (like the 24th Century in Star Trek) they can create a sane society based on two assumptions:

- advanced technology able to produce plenty for our real needs
- intelligent organization, based on co-operation

Now, in the 21st Century, we have the first, but not the second assumption satisfied.

If we had the intelligence and the will, we could have paradise on Earth right now.

Human needs are so easy to satisfy. Have you heard of Scott Nearing? He was an American University professor who started a very successful homestead in the 1930-s, almost completely self-sufficient, living in healthy comfort to an age of 100.

I realize that humanity is not ready to give up old bad habits at once. The system I was proposing is a transitional system where you can sort of eat your cake and have it too.

Yes, the government would have to control all the natural resources (as I listed them in the OP) as the common birthright of all citizens. Yes, the government would control all the industries and agriculture that is needed to satisfy basic survival needs of every citizen.

Their task is only this: make sure everybody has adequate food, clothing, housing, health care and education. Once this is assured, people are free to pursue luxuries. Due to our advanced technology, participating in the public sector would not take more than 2-3 hours a day. After that, citizens are free to be capitalists and have fun with banks and interest rates and mutual exploitation, to their hearts content.

As I said, it is a transitional system where both our emotional needs are satisfied: freedom from, and compassion for, one another.

Don’t hold your breath to see it happen though!

Not in the near future. Peterkin is right: the current system has to implode before a new one can be born.
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26-08-2011, 08:19 AM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
(25-08-2011 08:55 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  Like, private ownership of water and prisons? Cut down all the trees you want, drill holes in the ocean, blow up the underground rocks - never mind long-range consequences. Sure, some people get big profits out this very bad idea, but it's not doing society any favours. The greedy-guts won't like the transition, but the transition won't take place, anyway, until after their kind of economy implodes. The next generation of entrepreneurs will have different - maybe more limited, but also far less risky - opportunities.

No, that's not what I mean. I mean public control of food preventing people from selling food that caters to demands not deemed essential, and other similar, superfluous use of resources left over after essential needs are met.

Quote:As i understand it, the government would make sure basic needs are met, and there is sufficient reserve for fluctuations. Only after that would it allow the private sector to use surplus resources, on some kind of trade for services arrangement.

I'm not sure how it could distribute these resources to the private sector. Something like that seems(at least to me) to be begging for corruption and greed to interfere.

Quote:I imagine that's exactly what the private sector would be expected to do. Supply the non-essentials. Print and exchange money, set their own value and exchange rate on products and services that people don't need, but want enough to work extra for.

I love the idea of ensuring every person's basic needs are protected and allowing anything above that to be taken care of by private markets. It seems to eliminate one of the biggest problems of a capitalist system while keeping so many of the benefits. But I think people should have the option of getting something from the private sector instead of the public sector, such as food. Maybe they want to eat at fancy restaurants or shop at a local farmer's market instead of taking advantage of the free food from the public sector. This seems incompatible with the government owning/controlling all land and food(I'm not saying that there isn't a solution to this, I'm just not seeing it yet).
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26-08-2011, 08:52 AM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
Zach, your questions (to Peterkin) are good and valid ones. I will wait to see how (s)he answers them -- (s)he seems to have a pretty good grasp of the concept.

I only want to add that you will never have a perfect system. There will always be some level of graft and corruption. There are ways of minimizing it, but eliminating it completely is impossible. Not having money in the public sector is great help.

In past socialist/communist experiments, attempts at distribution were always tied to bureaucratic measurements of individual needs and rigid safeguards to make sure nobody consumed more than their share. This method was based on two assumptions:

1./ assumption of insufficient resources and technology
2./ assumption of desire for a ‘perfectly just’ system

So the system became a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape, inefficiency, waste and injustice. See Soviet Union and East Europe under ‘Communism’.

Assumption 1./ is no longer valid at our level of technology.

Assumption 2./ we can live without -- making sure that nobody cheats would cost way more than what we lose by tolerating some cheaters.

If the government reaches the goal of providing basic survival necessities for the entire citizenry, it will be a great improvement over what we have now.

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26-08-2011, 09:31 AM
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
(26-08-2011 08:19 AM)Zach Wrote:  No, that's not what I mean. I mean public control of food preventing people from selling food that caters to demands not deemed essential, and other similar, superfluous use of resources left over after essential needs are met.

I see no reason that surplus productive land (once nature preserves and water table are assured) can't be worked on a private basis, with land-holder (entrepreneurs who lease acreage from the government) hiring part-time employees and selling their product for money in their own markets, and to private restaurants.

One potential problem i would be concerned about here is workers on the public farms bringing equipment and material over to their private job. Also the factories, construction sites, etc. Since it's the same people doing two jobs - moonlighting is hardly a new concept! - oversight could be difficult.

Quote:I'm not sure how it could distribute these resources to the private sector. Something like that seems(at least to me) to be begging for corruption and greed to interfere.

For sure, that's another vulnerable point. But if the transaction is in real things and services, not money, cheating is harder. It's easy to hide a million dollars in government-size electronic bookkeeping than it is to hide a crane or truckload of turnips on real real estate. Sweetheart deals, unreported perks, favours and mutual back-scratching.... bound to happen; not all of it is preventable.

My solution lies mainly in the selection of government officials and functionaries. I recommend short tenures of office for all able citizens - maybe drawn by lot, like jury duty. So nobody gets too comfortable or too powerful. Civil service does require continuity and stability, so that's where i would expect to see graft. Some safeguards could be built into the system. I imagine Disney Corps has similar problems and has figured out how to deal with them: no reason the public sector can't learn from the private.

Quote:.... But I think people should have the option of getting something from the private sector instead of the public sector, such as food.

Sure, why not? Just because it's free and wholesome doesn't mean you have to eat it. Put in your three hours a day, then off you go to work for the luxuries.... if that's the way you want spend your only precious life.
Most people would probably do a little of that, as an occasional treat, but i think they'll find the price of "instead" too high, in terms of family-time and the pursuit of personal interests.
Both/and is better than either/or.

Though i can predict a number of potential trouble-spots - well, what's new about that? When we eliminate need- and inequity- driven crime, we are left with the relatively small incidence of voluntary crime. (This is probably a whole different topic.) A much reduced police force can deal with that, while more specialized law enforcement could concentrate on the public-private interface abuses.
But who polices the police? (Oh, my poor head!)

It's not the mean god I have trouble with - it's the people who worship a mean god.
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26-08-2011, 09:57 AM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
I want to add, for emphasis, that the government controls ALL natural resources (land, air, water, mineral deposits, etc). They keep it in trust for the citizenry.

They use whatever part of it is needed to satisfy basic needs and then can and will lease the rest to the private sector, in exchange for goods and services the private sector can provide, like fixing roads, providing computers, maintaining buildings, etc., etc.

The exchange will have to be negotiated and long-term contracts can be drawn up between the government and the private sector entrepreneurs.

Private companies can use these resources, according to clear guidelines of sustainability. They can not sell or transfer any of it, can not speculate with it, if they go bust and stop operating, these resources will go back to government control and can be leased to some other private company.
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26-08-2011, 09:58 AM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
Then it looks like it's all a matter of planning a workable system.

I also like the method for selecting government officials. Shorter terms and fewer incentives to act like politicians is always a good thing Smile
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26-08-2011, 10:46 AM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
Thanks, Zach, it looks like you find the proposed system worth considering.

I am surprised (and disappointed) that others in the forum did not respond to it -- maybe the OP was too long and scary.

I have used a short and organized summary on other forums before, so I will copy it here, just in case it creates some interest.

Here it comes:

ASSUMPTIONS
1. Most human beings are not suicidal and/or criminally insane.
2. Most humans are basically co-operative (rather than competitive) given a chance.

FACTS:
1. Lots of pain and suffering, poverty, destitution, hunger and homelessness exists (read up on statistics if you wish).
2. Lots of very rich people around
3. Lots of wasted resources: material and man-hours
4. Lots of outright destructive activities (destroying a competitor with all his resources)
5. Lots of people employed in unproductive jobs, mostly to do with money (creating, counting, guarding, reporting, shuffling, corrupting, etc)
6. Horrendous amount of resources are wasted by military and police to protect and expand existing system
7. Trend is discouraging: cutting services, increasing pain and suffering

OBJECTIVES:
1. Eliminate hunger
2. Eliminate homelessness
3. Provide medical help for everyone
4. Provide education for everyone
5. Make new system stable, reliable and sustainable

PROPOSAL:

1. Create a first tier economy to assure Objectives.
2. Make sure every citizen participates in it (contribute to own benefits)
3. Use existing technology to produce enough to satisfy every citizen (see objectives)
4. Make produced goods/services available without restriction (no money needed)
5. Restrict (democratically elected) government’s role to organizing, allocating and. safeguarding first tier economy, as well as preventing violent or fraudulent crime.
6. Allow creation of second tier economy, with total freedom, to produce anything they wish, trade, use money, etc., as long as they do not harm/corrupt first tier economy, do not harm people, environment and animals.
7. Keep second tier economy completely isolated from first tier to minimize corruption

ALTERNATIVES:

1. Accept facts (see above) and ignore its victims
2. Try to make tiny improvements to current system, while sliding backward.
3. Try alternative systems that were tried and failed before
4. Try something never tried before
5. Consider alternative proposals, admit good part and try to improve it to make it work
6. Come up with your own and see if it would work.
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26-08-2011, 01:24 PM
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
[Image: 820ff0a9-6b82-4086-b568-0dce4b50e561.jpg]

Kidding... Smile

Anyway...
I really like the idea and I would concur but I have some thoughts.

How can you assure the quality the government delivers in his services.
Take health care, for example, you cannot force someone to be a good doctor. you can't just make everyone a nurse. How will you motivate people?
Lets say I am a bright young guy, and I want to become a doctor. What path do I follow? When It turns out being a doctor wasn't for me, can I just quit that job and go for something else after all that effort the public sector has put in my training? Do I have to work for only 3 hours as well? If not, where's my incentive?

Observer

Agnostic atheist
Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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26-08-2011, 02:08 PM
 
RE: Proposal for a new social contract
(26-08-2011 01:24 PM)The_observer Wrote:  I really like the idea and I would concur but I have some thoughts.

How can you assure the quality the government delivers in his services.
Take health care, for example, you cannot force someone to be a good doctor. you can't just make everyone a nurse. How will you motivate people?
Lets say I am a bright young guy, and I want to become a doctor. What path do I follow? When It turns out being a doctor wasn't for me, can I just quit that job and go for something else after all that effort the public sector has put in my training? Do I have to work for only 3 hours as well? If not, where's my incentive?

Thank you for the vote Observer but, being Canadian, I do not qualify.

As far as your questions are concerned, the answer is a complex one.

Try to imagine living in a world where almost all anxiety disappeared. You don’t have to worry about losing your job, paying the bills, feeding the children, getting medical help, having and education, able to go on a vacation, pursue your hobby, being helped when you are sick and being able to retire when you are old and tired.

All of this is taken for granted.

You are required to work 2-3 hours a day in a job that you chose, trained for, are good at. You are surrounded with colleagues who are similarly relaxed, efficient, competent.

What is your motivation?

You love your life and, since you are not working for money, you are doing as good a job as you know how. Your motivation is pride and the respect of your fellow workers.

If you don’t like your chosen profession, you experiment with different skills and decide what you would like to do next. You can have further education at any time during your lifetime, you can retrain to do other things. The system supports you during retraining because it is society’s interest that you do what you are best at and enjoy doing.

Nobody wants you to do shoddy work, just because you are bored or frustrated. If you did, everybody would be harmed by the result.

Some people may try 3-4-5 different things before they find the one they enjoy most and are best at. Many people will stay with what they trained for at the first time. It all works out statistically.

In a money-based economy, most people’s aim is to acquire the largest amount of money, in the shortest possible time, with the minimum of effort, by whatever means, not necessarily honest and productive ones. This includes many non-productive, shoddy or downright destructive methods.

If money doesn’t exist, then the aim is to produce the best quality, most durable, useful products with minimum resources wasted, best methods and technologies used.

In a sizable society (like a country) the distribution of individual talents, interests and skills over the population should cover society's needs. Not much external motivation is required other than letting people be themselves and allowing talent to thrive. Everybody is good at something. It will all work out.

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