The End Of Money? Part 2 – A NEW LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE

 

 

Who controls your future?

In part 1  http://internationaltimes.it/the-end-of-money-part-1-the-cost-of-everything-the-value-of-nothing/ we considered how a parallel non-monetary system could relieve us of dependency upon money and current neoliberal policies of the wealthy elite, or ‘1%.’  But how can it be practically done? What form of currency will be used for exchange of goods and services? How will it immediately mobilise a mass market that gives every individual an automatic right to economic security, deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and replace minority politics, taking back control of the economy and our futures?

Karl Marx and prof Harry Cleaver of Austen University Texas both explain how capitalists’ paranoia towards market control results in them undermining that very control. This is done in both micro and macro economies, as Marx’s labour theory of value proposed the workers ownership of the “means of production” and Cleaver outlines all the ways employees constantly rupture the power employers hold over them, through trades unions and personal waste of employers’ time or labour; all creating a bottleneck of conflict. Neoliberals effectively corked that bottle by effectively exploiting free or undervalued labour, to sustain a global economy that runs on vast fictional wealth that is predominantly debt.

So much of 21st century’s now historic reality would have been considered fiction or abstract if it were proposed in the previous century. We need no further explanation of the insanity of this age. But this is the language of oppressors – speak and behave so outlandish and impose it on your opponents without listening and the reasonable will be left speechless at your audacity, but they will not topple it. This is what now governs domestic and global political relationships. The audible language is irrelevant when money does the talking. Diplomacy is almost defunct or subterfuge. Fake. So much so that people in general feel powerless against this tide of right-wing bigotry. But we are not powerless.

Investigators always say “follow the money” and this is what capitalists will always do. They are all subservient to it, not masters of it. “If the populace wants their own enterprise to be free from coercion then they must – (if a unit based accounting system of money is to be used, it does not have to be) – have the definition and structure of money be such that it only represents that enterprise, as an after the fact abstract record keeping representation on a ledger, and the units themselves are NOT things of value all by themselves. In this way then the populace regains its ability to say “No!” Marcus O’Heffernan – Money Systems Transparency Alliance (MSTA)

The value paradox

With a Parallel Non-Monetary Economy of the ‘99%’ it is possible to contemplate a NEW Labour Theory Of Value (note: not New-Labour) separate to the monetary economy, that will overturn the oppressive process of neoliberalism without prejudicial application. It dissolves the necessity for ‘ownership of the means of production’ and the endless conflict that Prof Harry Cleaver describes as ‘rupturing the dialectic’ between employers and the labour force. It can accommodate ownership, shared-ownership and exploration of public and non-ownership policies in a far broader and flexible way.

The word ‘value’ in this concept is a little misleading as most economists and exchange systems require a value to be placed on, or expressed through, any medium of exchange. The value of material objects, in most cases, replaces the value of people and beneficial outcomes. Fundamental to our freedom from the controls of money is getting our heads around this concept of value and how it ties our hands when it comes to commerce.

When people barter they decide on face value whether something is worth what they wish to exchange for it and this is to their personal taste, not something calculated. This is true for free-sharing networks too. It will differ from person to person but the exchange commodities are still objects of whatever random value they decide upon. So the idea of exchange not requiring corresponding value is nothing new. But for a ‘currency’ to be freely exchangeable and transferable globally, there needs to be some form of agreed unit. As long as people insist this unit has to have any material value it will create the same dynamics and issues of worth and exchangeability, that money produces. It will also perpetuate the same issues of accessibility, volatility and exclusivity and their knock-on effects to the labour and monetary markets.

But there is another way to value nothing. What if production costs are reduced to zero? What if formal employers no longer need to pay employee wages? What if taxation becomes redundant? What if the need for profit-maximising, costly mercantilism and migration are eliminated?

For multi-nationals to expand they have to become local: Amazon pick up agents on your doorstep; businesses and products available on-line in every country, in every language; McDonalds and KFC in every town etc. Localised costs and taxation are what prevent such businesses operating in localised settings, unless there are loopholes for them to claim their tax status elsewhere, through centralised administration. Some do not even bother, where it is political suicide for a government to legally impose proper taxes. This is a significant imposition used by corporations, all based on the power of nothing. A bluff. So, if the Parallel Non-Monetary Economy (PNME) made all the above possible overnight, all businesses would wake up to reassess what form they can take and what their best commercial strategy would be for accessing such a vast awaiting market.

Many experts have examined the feasibility and implications of a zero-monetary-cost society. So, why do we not have one? We do. It already exists as an intrinsic part of the monetary market but remains invisible in the balance sheets. It is only accounted for in costs saved and they do not have to be shown, just as lost potential revenue, or a bad transaction or policy that inhibits profit is never shown. So why should free labour be a positive influence on monetary profit, yet the people who provide it and the labour itself not be valued in any sense at all?

Some would view that labour as supplementary and as we have stated, although significant, it only supports monetary capitalism, enabling formal employers to leave the vast majority of people unemployed, or to de-value that labour and undermine their rights. Yet this process affects all people, whether employed or not, or well paid or not. Turning a blind eye to it, is the same denial of the potential economic value of existing unpaid and abstract labour, as well as its externalities upon the population and businesses. It sustains the blinkered inhibiting of potential wealth, even in monetary terms.  So, it isn’t such a stretch to imagine what the effect of 100% zero-cost employment would have on the monetary market. But how does it replace it and at the same time return economic prosperity to the masses?

Taking back control with nothing

The answer lies in Marx’s principle of eliminating the divide between formal and ‘abstract’ or informal labour; what some call social capital. This is much more than self-care, care of others, child-care and care of the elderly; the work Harry Cleaver describes as time spent in preparation for formal work, rest, health, education, travel, feeding, clothing, maintaining a home, treating illness. All of these activities that constitute a form of work or labour – and are currently a cost to the employee – become earning activities under the PNME, as it costs no money. Payment is never deducted from any other account. This would accommodate a Universal Basic Income, for those most dependent and reduce a welfare state by approximately 90 to 95%. The figures are conjured from nothing and have a value of nothing, merely for the purpose of any transaction for goods or services.

To illustrate: if you have a locker with a combination lock that contains food and someone is willing to work to obtain that combination, there is no need to associate a unit-value (say of labour-time) to that numerical combination. The figure is abstract. The code could be an image or hieroglyphics. The owner gets what they want, then gives the labourer the pass code. In effect, like in barter, it becomes the choice of the individuals involved and is highly flexible. But the principle can apply to a unit of the PNME. Instead of leaving it to individuals to decide, communities or whole nations can decide upon what figures labour generates in valueless units associated with any rate of labour, of any level of expertise or priority to the community. In this way we can reassess the value and terms for work we feel is pivotal to our functioning – health, welfare and social work, hygiene, food production, transportation, energy, conservation, education etc. We can then alter the periods necessary to earn sufficient for individual employment choices and what incentivises less palatable tasks (cleaning drains etc.) and employ beyond optimum staff working less hours.

The PNME conjures these figures out of nowhere, from nothing, to reward this activity as a spendable income. It is not a hand-out from a centralised body. It requires no distribution. It is an automatic individual right that is simply generated by computer, using a combination of biometrics, block-chain and other technologies and statistics. This can be facilitated globally and monitored if needs be by random members of society rotating in that capacity. It never ever mixes or is exchanged with money and even when it trades for goods and services has no value. It amasses in non-monetary accounts, parallel to monetary accounts, awaiting the function of exchange for goods and services.

So, this is very similar to the way monetary capitalism now already works. But it crucially removes the concept of value from the equation and thus removes the concept of cost, making all labour profit.

This alters the dynamics between business owners and employees, in a similar but more flexible risk-free way to how cooperatives work; both employer and employee having a stake in its profitability. It makes formal labour negotiable and infinitely flexible, as labour constitutes a profit for any employer, not a cost. So, any number of employees can be accommodated and the more people employed the more profit a business makes, just by earning a premium in their PNME accounts for employing the system. It inverts the neoliberal process. And only because the 99% can offer them this market, without needing money.

Abstract Values

As a valueless numeric unit associated directly with the activity of an individual, it never deducts from anyone else’s accounts. It simply functions as a conduit for exchange parallel and separate to any monetary value system. For this reason a unit can be determined by international accord to make the global economy uniform and eliminate issues of exchange rates, profit maximising, economic migration and protectionist political manipulation.

Some readers have called upon me to define what such a virtual numerical currency would be called, or what ‘value’ should be associated with it. This would be wrong on three counts: 1 – it makes people dependent upon me for a definition, so it would be my system, not a collective achievement; 2 – it makes it something that is given to them, rather than something determined by education on the potential provisions and expertise; and 3 – it negates the power of collectivism that supports how the PNME becomes a shared impersonal, inalienable human right for everyone, globally set in law.

But another point brought up by Markus O’Heffernan is cogent here; that the unit decided upon must relate to something outside of itself, as a value, or it runs the risk of leading people back to a ‘valuation’ system and becoming a commodity open to abuse. Something tangible to people’s existing reality does not mean it needs to be anything material. It can remain abstract and based merely on various measurements. But for the purposes of accounting, yes, it must be calculable and those calculable factors can be generated diversely to suit different functions, they do not have to be one thing. So, using variable biometrics, GPS tracking, block-chain technology, practical records and established statistics, society can decide for each form of labour what will be acceptable measurements or units transferable to the abstract numerical system, whether that be physical labour, time, or other variables and combinations.

For example, it is easy to calculate how much ‘work’ a student exerts in learning; whilst it is far more difficult to assess how much work a parent does in caring for their child. Some of these factors are unnecessary to calculate specifically and can be tackled by statistics. The work of a writer in researching and writing would be a tough one to calculate, but computer records usually show activities or can be made to. But how does one account for thinking time? Most health and fitness can be monitored and tracked and it will be for society to decide what proportions are appropriate levels that constitute rewarded maintenance. This would differ for a professional athlete of course. I believe these objects are not insurmountable and some of them not necessary to calculate, as if we need to quantise and qualify every Joule of energy we expend. Statistics are already used in very blunt ways, to account for some activities that are agreeable to society. The basic or living wage, cost of living etc. Since the whole parallel non-monetary economy can be run on valueless abstract numeracy, it is immediately accessible to every person. It will pay a refugee mother for feeding and clothing her family; pay a migrant worker a fair wage; pay students for learning; pay junior doctors to work maybe thirty hours per week instead of fifty.

Yet accounting is only a means to an end, to make a palatable transition away from money in a way that does not require a giant leap of faith into an unpredictable system. The PNME unit does not need to be a set numerical value for all forms of labour, or time. The rate of numerical figures earned can be tiered to accommodate different expertise, risk and scarcity without impacting negatively on the rights and accessibility of other people, but it does not mirror any monetary valuation. It empowers all with economic security, but maintains a certain amount of disparity across the population. Initially it must do so to be more profitable than the monetary market, convincing monetary capitalists of wealth they are missing out on and using their greed to invest in the PNME and its green agendas. Also, this is a system people will feel is easier to adopt. Further down the line it can explore the idea of equality, by not discriminating between various forms of labour, as people expand the opportunities open to them and the accounting becomes almost an irrelevance. But, for now, we are talking about replacing an existing functioning system that is based on prejudicial possession.

The technology exists; the agencies that can facilitate examination of this process and determine its functions exist; the industries exist; and there exists a single organisation that could be used to roll this out globally. So, firstly, it should be examined and the projections put before conference attendees and memberships of these organisations that run into the tens of millions. Then it can be placed before national populations for adoption. This constitutes an instantaneous economy-altering mass market. (The Facebook group ‘The Parallel Non-Monetary Economy of the 99%’ lists such organisations).

There is far more to the Parallel Non-Monetary Economy than simply replacing the need for money. This will become apparent very quickly as function and the value of people replaces any monetary consideration. It does not interfere with the Fourth Industrial Revolution but employs it in research and development, to create The Fifth (Eco) Industrial Revolution, based on advancement in every field; rapidly rebuilding devastated societies; facilitating the forming of autonomous civic State organisations; moving away from inhibited party-political structures and agendas; enabling cessation of international conflicts that are created by economic disparity. It can sustain economies and people through any crisis and maximise global cooperation in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic no longer inhibited by political and fiscal policy or monetary dependency.

Money does not need to become obsolete, even if it becomes redundant. But the value of ‘nothing’ – really of people and their labour – vastly outstrips the value of money.___

 

For talks, video, discussions, articles and specific details on how the Parallel Non-Monetary Economy can alter employer/employee dynamics; political representation; the monetary economy – investment, profit, production, quality, research and development, the service-sector, State obligations, the fossil fuel industry, legality, inflation, deflation, interest rates, debt and taxation etc. please consult the website and chapters 4,5, 11 to 18 of the book ‘A Chance For Everyone: The Parallel Non-Monetary Economy’ – Kendal Eaton (Sounding Off UK Publications 2020).

 

Kendal Eaton. http://achanceforeveryone.com

 

 


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