Capital was defined by Karl Marx as follows: “It only creates some surplus value because it cannot create infinity at once; but it is a constant movement to create more of it. ” Such constant movement not only widens the gap between rich and poor, but will inevitably exceed the limits of the Earth’s ecological carrying capacity.
If we want to fight for an ecologically compatible, non-capitalist economy, we must first be clear about what this can really be. Karl Marx argued that in order for an economy to produce the results that society desires, it must be planned. What did he mean by planning? An “association of free people,” he writes, should establish the “proportions” of the economy in the “right” relationship “to different needs.” Who should plan? It proposes councils of individual communities of society elected by all citizens, and not the central state, as in real socialism. It is a planning concept that the defenders of the capitalist market economy as such would not criticize at all. Only the Marxian idea of planning does not go far enough for them. The fact that Marx, they would argue, does not make the state a central subject is already a step in the right direction. However, the community is still too far from citizens to really know their “different needs”. No, only the local market can do that, ideally right outside the front door or on a computer screen today.
Reflect on Marx
But there is a mistake in this, because in addition to the proportions in place, for example, how many buns the Berlin Kantstraße needs, there are also large proportions of the society as a whole. Individual buyers have no influence on them. Thus, in Marx’s time, the proletariat did not have enough food, so it could buy a disproportionate amount of brandy. Marx analyzes it this way: If no one else responds to the needs of citizens in a planning manner than competing capitalists for sale, then only “exchange value”, which is the opposite of the planning instance, the overriding principle. It causes pure coincidence and repeated crises. The topicality of the analysis is striking. Today, it is no longer just about the relationship between people with lower incomes and their food, but also about ecologically significant proportions.
For example, how are citizens’ needs met, partly for cars and flights, for “Individual Motorized Transport” (MIV), and partly for Public Transport (PT) such as buses and trains? This ecologically proportionate proportion cannot be regulated in the market within the reach of the citizens. It should be possible for the whole of society to make decisions. The correct answer to the question posed by Marx as to how an “association of free people” can determine the “proportions” of an economy in a “right” relationship “to different needs” would then be: in general economic choices.
Let’s put it into practice. The voting society first expresses its willingness to stay within the boundaries of ecologically sustainable production and consumption within the first free choice. She then takes a few steps – within a range she decides – to reinvent her life within such boundaries. This decision requires not only “less” quantitatively but also qualitatively: what needs do we actually ascribe to ourselves? We may discover that the ecologically disastrous consumerism we now live in does not satisfy them at all. Could it be that in a society that really allows us to meet our needs, we need far fewer products? But we don’t want to be told what it should be. Proportions are selected within a fixed total amount of product – which ultimately means: total amount of pollution tolerated or general damage: private transport to public transport, vegetable products to meat, and so on.
Requirements. But which?
The market economy would not need to be abolished for this reason. For Marx, the market economy and the capitalist market economy were practically the same thing; the market, he argues, is regulated by exchange value, and insofar as it permeates the economy as a whole – that is, it also turns labor into a commodity – necessarily depends on the pursuit of competing suppliers for “infinite surplus value,” that is, the logic of capital. But that’s not true, because you can also turn it around: if delivery companies are prevented from striving for infinity by setting limits, both for individual sectors and for the entire market, they cannot act with capital. logical way. Of course, no state that is itself interwoven with capital in many ways, such as through dependence on debt, will not set such boundaries. However, the boundaries that society as a “free association” sets for companies through elections can be enforced.
If there are still markets, we will still have to deal with workers and companies. But companies don’t have to be private companies. The most powerful that are organized as publicly traded corporations today should no longer be. Others can stay that way if they don’t attack the borders. Even super wealth, which is never based on the own merits of the rich and is therefore completely undemocratic, should no longer exist (in the US in the 1960s it was still taxed up to 90%). Working women are no longer a class in the Marxist sense: if they have a high basic income, they only accept work that seems good to them.
The general choice of the proportions of the markets in detail is a complicated matter. A whole line of research would have to work that out. Only one element was raised: How would the vote take place? Parliaments elected as we know them would continue to exist; Like the rule of law, like the separation of powers, it is a democratic achievement by which no one should be left behind. But their disadvantage is obvious: when I cast my vote to have a say in the composition of parliament, it only means that I am answering questions asked by others. Namely, large parties, and in fact, as political science teaches, are the leaders of the state.
We are not yet so democratically constituted as to not only decide on answers, but also on questions. For this reason, the answers we are allowed to give in parliamentary elections do not really go beyond obedience. Because I can and I have to choose between several methods in the company, when my boss orders me to repair the computer. It is still a lot of democracy, because we ourselves choose who instructs us. It must also be borne in mind that not all citizens today would be able to ask the most reasonable questions on all issues that are important for the reproduction of the community. But none of this changes the fact that it is precisely on this line that the strength and joy of democracy increases or decreases.
But there is one area and it is no coincidence that this is the most important area where everyone could also decide on issues: their own economy. What’s mine? Not that I choose between “offers.” I was told I could “freely” choose between BMW and Opel. But only when that is meant to be a question am I economically free. Because if a question seems unclear to me – this is the rule – I can reject it and replace it with another, my own. I don’t want to decide between BMW and Opel, but between cars and good public transport! Even then, it is not obvious that people choose more ecology, but now they know: if we learn ecologically, it is not for nothing, but it is realized economically.
There will be election programs that will recommend this or that to citizens, and this is important because we need a proposal and a public debate. But none of the programs were selected. Rather, individuals will seek advice from their circle of friends and acquaintances and decide for themselves how much they can influence suggestions. Ultimately, everyone decides on their wallet. In this way, the mediated, socially chosen economy emerges as the sum of all individual decisions. It also differs from the parliamentary elections in that there is no majority formation that violates the will of the minority. Because even if I want to continue using the car, even though most of them have not decided to do so, I can do it. Ecologically, it would gain a lot. And companies, don’t they already say that they only produce what has been selected? In the economics I have outlined, it will be true.
This text works Michael Jaegers a new book that has just been released by Metropolis Verlag: Economical proportions choices. For a market economy without the logic of capital. 237 pages, € 24.80