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The 12 reforms (basic version) [beta 4]

[Sounds like I should have a new plank: X. Religion has no special civil status. UPDATE Guess not. --lambert]

It's been pointed out that the 12 Reforms haven't received the attention that the 12-Point platform has; this is understandable, since the 12 Points are about concrete material benefits. The 12 Reforms, by contrast, are about putting in place the systemic changes that will make it possible to bring about the 12 Points; their benefits are dispersed throughout the political economy.

Here are the 12 Reforms again. I changed #1 because why should we keep fighiting the Net Neutrality battle over and over again? We only have to keep fighting it because the Comcasts and the Time-Warners of this world would love it if net neutrality went away. So make their control of the Intertubes go away instead!

1. Net Neutrality The Internet as Public Utility
2. Fairness Doctrine
3. Local Ownership of Media
4. Public Campaign Financing
5. Electoral Integrity
6. Self-Organizing Web-Based Citizen Deliberation
7. MMT Macro-economic Policies
8. Preserve and Expand the Commons
9. More Co-operatives, Fewer Corporations
10. "Fiat Justitia. Ruat Caelum."
11. Strategic Non-Violence
12. Points and Reforms Are Indivisible

So, please give the 12 Reforms some serious attention. Note that since the 12 Points don't get passed if systemic changes don't happen, if there's a big missing piece, there will be big problems!

#12 I struggled with especially. The goal here is that everything pass. We don't want the fucking legacy parties cherry-picking the Points or the Platform, or getting a revolving hero to sponsor one item which, sadly, will get watered down or fail.

We want it all. That is what #12 is intended to convey.

On #10, the latin translates to: "Let justice be done, even if the heavens fall." It's why we should put bankers in jail even if they whine that "the economy" (their economy) will be hurt. I prefer this wording to an "equal rights" or "restore the rule of law" formulation because (1) the meaning is very fierce, (2) the justice connotation, and (3) I have to admit I like the Latin tag. It's a conversation starter. I added quotes to it.

#11 is something anybody who supports the 12-Points and 12 Reforms (which are indivisible) has to sign onto. Strategic to get rid of the "Holier than thou" considerations black bloc assholes -- sorry for the redundancy -- like to throw around. But also making available the panoply of Gene Sharp's methods. (In this connection, note especially that #6, taken to an extreme, is a form of parallel sovereignty).

So have at it!

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Peter L.'s picture
Submitted by Peter L. on

I advise against point #7, or at least the way it is phrased.

I am assuming that point #7 could be spelled out along the following lines: given that MMT demonstrates that the US government is not, nor need be, constrained by revenues, a government fiscal (and monetary) policy should be developed that is equitable and fair for the population.

However, I see a big problem with the assumption that an accurate understanding of money, taxes, and banking implies any particular policy. I think this is something people who are labeled MMT might sometimes confuse. I listened to a Bill Mitchell talk where he assumes that MMT leads naturally to policy recommendations, like a full-employment program. This is a mistake. I get the sense most people "doing mmt" do---sometimes---tend to be clear that the description and theories of money, taxes and banking do NOT imply a particular public policy directly. Other times, they speak loosely, and imply that a fair, equitable full-employment program (for instance) is a kind of natural consequence of MMT theory and description.

As a thought experiment, suppose a neo-conservative had an accurate understanding of MMT. He or she might then come to the following “natural” conclusions: (1) the size of the US military is not constrained by financing, therefore the US military can and should expand up to the limit set by real economic constraints; and (2) even better, the US military can project power to gain control of key resources, which in turn alleviates real economic constraints on US military power, say by requiring all commodities contracts be settled in US dollars (thinking of Michael Hudson's analysis). Domestically, the size of the prison complex is also not constrained by financing, thus people who argue that incarcerating people is “costly” just don't understand MMT. Superfluous people can be incarcerated, as long as contractors and prison guards are willing to accept US dollars. We just need to be concerned that we have a sufficient non-incarcerated population to produce enough stuff to prevent dangerous inflation. Problems solved!

So . . . I say all this because I think it is important that the reforms clearly indicate the appropriate value judgment.

For a clumsy statement one could rewrite # 7 as: Marco-economic policies designed to reduce wealth and income inequality.

Submitted by lambert on

MMT does not in itself support them, any more than an accurate understanding of plumbing ensure the actual installation of a bathroom.

But I think in this context what you write:

....MMT demonstrates that the US government is not, nor need be, constrained by revenues....

is sufficient. That's the only reason to have it, but it's a big big reason (and is a handy device to remove neo-liberal infestations where found.

The point does one thing only, and that thing is critical to do.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Peter L.'s picture
Submitted by Peter L. on

With respect to #9, I would go with: Democratize the workplace! Or Participatory democracy in the workplace!

In line with my last comment, I would always try to make the value judgment behind the reform as clear as possible.

Submitted by lambert on

The points are the concrete material benefits with the over-riding value that people shouldn't be treated like garbage and thrown away ("public purpose").

These reforms are the mechanisms to get to the Point. So, frankly, I'd like to keep them as cool and neutral-sounding as possible (or seemingly value neutral) and if not neutral, blazingly obvious, even tautological.

On #9, for good or ill, this is a reformist platform. I don't see capitalism going away anytime soon. I want to encourage co-ops (workplace democracy) not mandate them.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Being repetitive, I'm going to repost my comment of last Tuesday on the previous post, since it seems to go with this discussion. As you see, my reaction was similar to Peter L.'s on the MMT and more cooperatives. It hints at an "We've found THE secret to improvement" that political history is littered with. And on cooperatives vs. corporations -- the elites have managed to do away with all the mechanisms of accountability under which corporations were formed. While "workplace democracy" has come to be identified with cooperatives, it can also be promoted within a capitalist corporate structure. This would be a good thing, to fight back against the very recent notion that corporations' only purpose is shareholder profit.

I'm still thinking about things, but here's the comment from last Tuesday:

Some suggestions:
5. Change "Electoral Integrity" to "Vote by Paper Ballots, hand-counted."
9. Change "More Cooperatives, Fewer Corporations" to "Workplace Democracy." This advocates not only for the cooperative structure, but changes in work laws at the corporations that remain. "Democracy in the Workplace" is marginally clearer but longer.

6. Web-based deliberation and 11. Strategic non-violence seem to me more about the organizing individuals than public reforms that need public action. The major plank that I think is missing is a call to end Incarceration Nation. Lambert sees it as included under "End the Wars," but given the injustice and brutality of our prison system, I wish it were stronger. I've thought a lot about how to reword "Strategic non-violence" to address the state violence that has metastasized over the last 20 to 30 years in the U.S., but haven't come up with anything.

I'd ditch MMT as a reform. I don't believe that if we could only convince the powers that be of MMT, they'd suddenly see things our way. They are perfectly willing to print all the money in the world to bail out banksters and blow helpless foreign civilians into a rose mist, regardless of their professed economic theory. In a political document, it's just a convenient distraction from what we want to do together as a nation.

It's probably too late to throw in a new reform, but I'd go for "Shorten the primary season." The primaries need government to run the electoral process, so government can set the schedule. I'd like to see a month or less separate the first primary from the final election; that would give plenty of time for a run-off and the printing of final ballots. The endless campaign is a means of keeping everyone focused on the horse-race, the personalities, everything but the issues.

Vicus delendus est.

Submitted by lambert on

1. The problems/good ideas for "Electoral Integrity are so vast that restricting the point to paper ballots makes no sense. That will be a bullet point on the overlay.

2. I know what co-operatives are. I'm not sure I know what "workplace democracy" is, if it's distinct from co-operatives. Tilting policy in favor of co-ops and letting them duke it out with the corps seems sufficiently reformist to me. When you say "changes in work laws at the corporations that remain," I don't know what those changes are.

3. I think "Web-based deliberation" is essential in the same way that net neutrality/public utility internet are essential. There has to be a platform that permits some level of independence in process and content. Note that at its utmost extension, this plank becomes Gene Sharp's Method #198: Dual sovereignty and parallel government .

4. On MMT, you write:

I don't believe that if we could only convince the powers that be of MMT, they'd suddenly see things our way.

Quite simply, this is straw manning. Where do I make this claim?

They are perfectly willing to print all the money in the world to bail out banksters and blow helpless foreign civilians into a rose mist, regardless of their professed economic theory.

True, but irrelevant, modulo the distracting "print money," which implies there is some modern currency that is not fiat. Today, all created ("exogenous") money is "printed."

In a political document, it's just a convenient distraction from what we want to do together as a nation.

Let me rephrase this:

Political documents should not include statements about the origins of money, even such statements are true.

Obviously the populists disagreed. I'd further urge that that in fact there are few things more political than the creation of money; witness the entire debate on deficit and "running out of money" and who that gets leveraged to screw. When presented with the 12-Point Platform, that's going to be the first reaction of every third (and first) rate pundit in the land, along with everybody who listens to the teebee. It's essential to take on the lie that "we can't pay for it" head on and dispose of it. Any political program that does not do that isn't serious.

5. On strategic non-violence, I don't see why that's in a different category from electoral integrity or online deliberation. They are all reforms in the way we "do politics."

NOTE If you don't take "we can't pay for it" on, you get garbage like the PPC budget, which lets demolishes elsewhere.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

One form of workplace democracy is in Germany, where workers (unionized, no less) are part of the Board of Directors and share governance power with the owners of capital. This, in a "capitalist" economy. Though for all we know, the likes of Ken Langone or Koch believe that this makes Germany "socialist."

It might be helpful to define what "capitalism" within the context of your Points and Reforms; one progressive's "reform" might be another progressive's "revolution." Just highlighting an ambiguity that could get in the way of projecting a clear message, and thus weakening the strength of this whole programme.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Have I kept my penchant for argument cleverly hidden? Comment to continue below after I've fixed myself some popcorn. . . . OK:

Am I more ignorant in politics and economics and slower in thinking about them than the target audience for the platform and reforms? If so, there's no doubt good reason for sweeping phrases such as "Electoral integrity" which refer to problems and good ideas so vast that they will need a bullet point on an overlay. I rather assume that they won't be the voter ID laws which 34 states have passed. I have been opposed to state legislatures' passing series of laws designed to restrict voting under the rubric of electoral integrity, so I guess I just carried the negative connotation over to the phrase. It's a good phrase, which is why it's a double-edged sword that can cut two ways. The overlay will reassure me of which way this reform will cut.

I don't know what cooperatives are, outside of some grocery stores that existed back in the 70s and 80s, but didn't make a real go of it around where I live. I've read about and seen a decent documentary (years ago) on Mondragon, back when I was working with some nonprofits trying to expand worker ownership. But this was in a state that didn't recognize the worker-owner structure, so that there had to be workarounds to get things set up as a proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. Legally I think things have changed. I've read other stuff like Richard Wolff's Democracy at Work on cooperatives, but I haven't watched the Bill Moyers program Shift Changefrom last year on how cooperatives work. I don't know how much governance effort is required of each worker, whether a worker can retain ownership in the cooperative if he decides to leave with all the implications for mobility involved there, and so on. This just gets to my point that I think I've probably looked with interest at cooperatives more than most of the target audience for the political platform, and yet I can't really envision cooperatives becoming an option for a significant proportion of Americans within the next generation or two. Workplace democracy does mean things to me, such as extension of civil service style protections to all workplaces, so that all workers have rights to due process in job actions and free speech; robust union protections; inclusion of workers on corporate boards as is done in Germany, as Rainbow Girl suggests; and cooperatives as well. I agree that a test of each of the 12 reforms should include whether it means anything to its target audience, so if they don't know what "workplace democracy" is, but do understand cooperatives, I'd say the more limited point with a longer time frame is probably better.

Web-based deliberation is fine. We've seen this year how great big web projects are. Like buying an airplane ticket. I worry a little about its leaving out people who are not comfortable with white collar office type tools, but I probably just know too many of those people.

You rephrase me on MMT as "Political documents should not include statements about the origins of money, even such statements are true. " What I really meant was "Political documents should not depend upon statements whose truth is irrelevant." I don't care whether MMT or Keynesianism or alchemy or any other explanation about how we produce and allocate resources is true; I do care about the humanity and effectiveness of that production and allocation. I don't know why my statement that you regard the MMT as a means of conversion is a straw man, while arguing that it's a crucial point of conversion. Nobody gives a flip about the deficit. If they did, even the first- and third-rate pundits would attack the military spending and the low high-income tax rates. But if you think that MMT is the ticket to convincing them you're serious, I can see why it's important to you.

Strategic non-violence is in the same category as online deliberation, but in a different category from electoral integrity. You might want to categorize the reforms as those that require legislative action and those that citizen groups want to undertake themselves. As I understand the reforms, citizen groups/parties should agree among themselves to practice strategic non-violence and to deliberate online. There is no legislative action needed for these reforms. Electoral integrity, I take it, includes some legislative action that will be necessary. I do see those as categorically distinct.

Well, I've finished my popcorn and this has gotten way too long.

Vicus delendus est.

Submitted by lambert on

... I keep getting to your comment just when the clock is ticking for me to go on to a new task. Let me try to answer:

1. "Electoral integrity." On Voter ID, my answer would be let people use their account statement at the Post Office bank. Do that at the Federal level. In a way, I'm a child of the Clinton Impeachment/Florida 2000 saga, which I view as a slow-moving coup. There is so much to reform that pulling out one point -- like paper ballots -- does violence to other reforms. I don't see an alternative here to a big bucket of a category with a lot of points on the overlay.

2. On "co-operatives" vs. "workplace democracy" ... Basicallly, I want to encourage what Gar Alperowitz says is good. Where I'm from, co-ops are something concrete that people do, like Fedco; the hippies came up here in the 70s and set them up as civil society institutions. So I know what I'm getting into, more or less. I don't feel the same about "workplace democracy," but that could be just me. What method would you suggest to adjudicate?

3. MMT. It's critical to be able to take on the neoliberal discourse that money is (and of right ought to be :-) scarce. Only MMT can do this. I agree with you that most people don't care. But we need to be able to take about a big club to beat up the pundits and water cooler guys who make that point.

4. Strategic non-violence. The Advanced version has categories. Perhaps I need to say who needs to adhere to the principle?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

At this point I'd be basically repeating myself, though with incredibly clever and persuasive elaboration. Most simply, for a political action document I'd go for specific easily graspable reforms arguing for legislative action rather than more ambitious reforms that need extra pages of explanation. If you want to mix it up some more on the specific points, I'll almost certainly respond to any opening.

Submitted by lambert on

was what I addressed. And I guess I don't see a reason to restrict to whatever legislation the legacy parties have in the hopper. If we're talking model legislation, that's the kind of thing that organizations behind a lot of the points do.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

The first version was punchy, the sort of thing you could use in a speech. With each revision it becomes more intellectualized and less marketable. We need something we can use in a crowd. No taxation without representation, Liberty, Equality, Fraternaty, Bread, land Peace, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria.

In a revolution the majority does not win, the most well organized and disciplined group wins. Therefore we need something punchy, Medicare for All is punchy, the current list is not.

Submitted by lambert on

These are the structural reforms. It's hard to make infrastructure punchy.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi