(A Rough Draft)
Critique of a “Resource Based Economy”, The Venus Project, and The Zeitgeist Movement from a the perspective of a Libertarian Municipalist who is for Post Scarcity Economics
The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement have put together some useful information about economics. However, the movement falls short on its ends and means. This is in part due to a lack of political vision of an RBE, which is reflected in the lack of political practice put forward by TVP/TZM.
Before I begin the critique I would like to mention a few things to ground my critique in a charitable and honest frame: TVP/TZM have some important economic, technological, and behavioral insights that most people into socioeconomic systems can learn from. TVP/TZM is strictly educational. Many people critique TVP/TZM for being purely educational rather than the education they provide. I think both critiques are valid. TVP/TZM doesn’t even have a broad idea of how to create the new society in the shell of the old, however it is clear there is a desire to do this within both organizations. TVP/TZM focus on ends rather than means. It is when means and ends meet in harmony that we are able to actually achieve desired ends. I have been active in TZM for many years up until recently. I have met a lot of good people within TZM, and think it does a lot of good things education wise. But aspects of the vision of an RBE are flawed, and the “educational reductionism” of TVP/TZM is flawed.
I want to critique the “train of thought” (RBE), and the practice of TZM/TVP. These critiques will be separate yet interconnected, for practice and theory are intertwined.
Critique of RBE:
When RBE advocates say they are antipolitical or apolitical you should believe them. They do not advocate for any political structure. In fact they both rely on the economic reductionism that is throughout Marxist analysis. The economic foundationalism (rather than a foundherentism of politics/economics) is throughout the entire analysis. It does not just reject the state, it rejects politics. The decision making process for when there are incompatible preferences has been missing from TZM before and after Peter’s economic calculation lecture. The delegation of power towards engineers and specialists doesnt even have a political assembly that can delegate such a council, which is in part why people often assume engineers/specialists would control such a society. Given the lack of politics in an RBE’s prescriptions, we are left with vague decision making processes. And no Peter’s lecture does not solve this issue at all. It showed multi hours of avoiding the question of political decision making processes. RBEs are economies without polities. There is an inconsistency with the prescription of “no laws” + outlawing the market and the state. This is a “meta-political law” against political laws except itself. We must separate hierarchical “politics”(statecraft) from non hierarchical politics. They are incompatible and antithetical to one another. TVP/TZM members and anti political anarchists often conflate statecraft with politics, and in doing so conflate the non hierarchical management of the city by the citizens to hierarchical management of the city by some form of rulership.
Jacque Fresco has often advocated for “no laws” and says that laws do not solve social problems. Jacque is on to something in the sense that no law in and of itself ensures the preconditions for that law to be followed. However, this is not why we need no laws, but a plurality of laws that harmonize to create conditions of freedom. Laws such as “no markets, no states, no revenge” are only successful to the degree that the preconditions needed for them are allowed to flourish. This is not a reason to give up on law, but to embrace the concept of laws and find out what laws make sense for a non hierarchical society. We need laws to bind our political decisions so that conditions of freedom are generated, maintained, and made more resilient. The theory of law and political decisions are absent throughout the theory of an RBE. To be fair, A “Resource Based Economy” is just that: An economy. There needs to be a polity, political decision making processes, and political laws that come into unity with a post scarcity economy rather than an economy in a vacuum.
In an RBE, there is an interactive resource calculator that allows people to makes demands within economic limits or laws that are guided by ecological principles. This is rather inconsistent with the “no laws” prescription but it is clear that a RBE advocates economic laws but not political laws. However there are issues with this interactive resource calculator: What if there are incompatible preferences? Certainly the use of liberatory technology and a value system shift away from conspicuous consumption and resource library systems would minimize such incompatible preferences, but they will still come up. Also there are decisions that are not purely economic; There are questions that are political. What will the city look like? How will we maintain the city? What will the relationship be between the polity and the economy? What laws should we have? What institutions will govern the commons? How? The polity should be entirely integrated with the economy. Confederated sub municipal and municipal assemblies that are directly democratic can be used to make and administer non hierarchical laws, determine preferences that are compatible and incompatible, and find out how to solve incompatible preferences. This polity would then decide how to manage areas of the city held in common as well as the resources that are held in common through a common usership system bounded by ecological principles. This would compliment the post scarcity economy, and allow for non hierarchical power to come into existence as opposed to ignoring the question of political power altogether, or even worse wanting to do away with it. Rather than trying to abolish political processes (processes for management of the city by the citizens) and by extension ignoring the question of power, we should ask “what kind of political processes are consistent with non hierarchical principles?”
Not every decision is purely quantitative. Not every decision is purely economic. Decision making can be assisted by experts in relevant fields and computers rather than taken over by them. Optimum technology and placement of technology for various metrics should be available to people making decisions. Also, there are different desirable metrics, and we are going to need to choose between them sometimes as much as we might desire every single one of them to be made as optimal as possible. Majority preference within free associations allows us to solve disagreements in a way that doesn’t allow everyone to have the equal right to be dictator over every decision being made, and in a way that makes it so power flows from the bottom upwards, rather than from the top downwards.
The qualitative freedom created by non hierarchical constitutional direct democracy is more important than vague concepts of “maximized efficiency” (as important as technical efficiency and “resource efficiency” is) considering such an end is even attainable. Policy decisions should be in the hands of the people, and since many RBE advocates think so as well, these concepts should not be considered incompatible with their desired ends.
Constitutional direct democracy, far from the mere “least bad” way to organize, is a realm of freedom. It allows people to make decisions over their lives and their city bounded by certain rights and obligations without rulers. It is a realm of deliberation, education, consociation, and community. It is also developmental in the sense that it doesnt call for some magical end to political disagreements. It calls for an ongoing political process that doesnt have a final ending.
Critique of TVP/TZM:
Due to a lack of directly democratic political theory, TVP/TZM lacked a directly democratic structure. It had a structure of volunteer work, and the equivalent of a confederal council of admins. The confederal councils were not appropriately delegated from the bottom up. To this day there is no directly democratic body to delegate such power. Policy decisions are not made at the lowest levels within a platform(or agreed upon principles), instead there is nothing but a platform, volunteer work, DIY projects, and a confederal council.
TZM/TVP focus on educational tactics. Many people will critique education in and of itself as a tactic rather than the content of TVP/TZM’s education (critique of the actual theory rather than the theory of spreading theory). Many people in “radical” communities will be against education. I have had many post rational anarchists tell me how “theory is not radical” regardless of the content of the theory. I find this to be an error in their thinking through creating a false dichotomy between theory and practice. However, if there is nothing but educational projects without any political process for both means and ends, then there are no material changes directly part of the organization. The only material changes will be indirect through inspiration.
TVP/TZM rely on an educational reductionism. The content they put out, outside of the lack of political systems, is useful. Information on human cognition/behavior, flaws of markets/states, the alternative of a post scarcity economy are all sound ideas. A post-scarcity group should be a dual power (or strive to create a dual power) created to decenter power while meeting needs, and building the very institutions that can exist during and after a transition from hierarchical to non hierarchical systems. This process would be demonstrative and educational for those involved and those not involved. Even if TVP/TZM would have failed at creating a directly democratic structure within communities, they could have at least created a microcosm of what a directly democratic structure would look like within the movement (and they could have helped be educational platforms for spreading such constitutional directly democratic politics).