An Argument for a Mixed Economy Supporting Welfare Services from Martian SF

Yesterday I blogged about a passage in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars, in which one of the future colonists of the Red Planet at a constitutional congress advocates the transformation of businesses into worker owned co-operatives against a supporter of free enterprise capitalism. The Martians have also been supplementing standard capitalist economics with a gift economy similar to that used by some indigenous cultures today. One of the other delegates at the congress objects to part of the character’s proposals on the grounds that they would be moving away from this part of their economy as well. Vlad Taneev, the character advocating the co-operatives, responds thus.

Vlad shook his head impatiently. ‘I believe in the underground economy, I assure you, but it has always been a mixed economy. Pure gift exchange co-existed with a monetary exchange, in which neoclassical market rationality, that is to say the profit mechanism, was bracketed and contained by society to direct it to serve higher values, such as justice and freedom. Economic rationality is simply not the highest value. It is a tool to calculate costs and benefits, only one part of large equation concerning human welfare. The larger equation is called a mixed economy, and that is what we are constructing here. We are proposing a complex system, with public and private spheres of economic activity. It may be that we ask people to give, throughout their lives, about a year of their work to the public good, as in Switzerland’s national service. That labour pool, plus taxes on private co-ops for use of the land and its resources, will enable us to guarantee the so-called social rights we have been discussing – housing, health care, food, education – things that should not be at the mercy of market rationality. Because la salute no si paga, as the Italian workers used to say. Health is not for sale!’ (p. 149).

To the objection that this will leave nothing to the market, Vlad replies

‘No no no,’ Vlad said, waving at Antar more irritably than ever. ‘The market will always exist. It is the mechanism by which things and services are exchanged. Competition to provide the best product at the best price, this is inevitable and healthy. But on Mars it will be directed by society in a more active way. There will be not-for-profit status to vital life support matters, and then the freest part of the market will be directed away from the basics of existence towards non-essentials, where venture enterprises can be undertaken by worker-owned co-ops, who will be free to try what they like. When the basics are secured and when the workers own their own businesses, why not? It is the process of creation we are talking about.’ (pp. 149-50).

A few paragraphs later the character also urges the creation of strong environmental courts, perhaps as part of the constitutional court, which would estimate the costs to the environment of economic activities, and help to co-ordinate plans impacting the environment. This is based on a clause in the Dorsa Brevia document, the initial constitutional agreement on which the Martians draw in their attempts to formulate a full constitution. This clause states that the land, air and water of Mars belong to no-one, and they are merely its stewards for later generations. (p. 150).

As I said in my previous piece about the fictional economics of this future Mars, it’s refreshing to see an SF writer proposing a form of socialist economics, when so many other SF writers advocated those of libertarian capitalism, like Robert A. Heinlein.

Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t promised complete industrial democracy, but he does intend to give a measure of it to workers in firms with over a certain number of employees, as well as restoring union and other workers’ rights.

As for combining competition with socialism, the 19th century socialist, Louis Blanc, who believed that the state should combat unemployment by setting up state-funded worker’s co-ops, which would then use their profits to buy up the rest of industry, said that it was like combining eunuchs with hermaphrodites. But as it is set out here, it could work.

And we definitely need for housing and health care to be taken out of free market economics. The sale of council houses to private landlords and management corporations, and the Tories’ ban on any more being built, has contributed immensely to the homelessness crisis now afflicting Britain. For all that the building companies are supposed to build a certain number of ‘affordable housing’, in very many cases the majority of homes built are for the top end of the market with only the minimum number of homes for people on modest incomes being built.

And the privatization of the health service has created a massive crisis in healthcare in this country. And it is done with the deliberate, but very carefully unstated intention of forcing people to take out private healthcare insurance as part of the process towards full privatization.

It’s time this was halted, utterly and forever. And only Corbyn can be trusted to do this, as New Labour were as keen on the idea as the Tories.

And the Italian workers’ slogan is excellent: La salute non si paga – ‘Health is not for sale’. This should be our slogan too, printed on leaflets, on placards and T-Shirts and made very clear, every time we protest against the Tories and their privatization of modern Britain’s greatest achievement.

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2 Responses to “An Argument for a Mixed Economy Supporting Welfare Services from Martian SF”

  1. joanna Says:

    Hi Beastie I know this off topic but this left me incredulas, I have lost your email address.

    Larraine Lusty
    2 days ago
    @Joanna well have you lived in the UK lately. I think no a so therefore it do not give you licence to a true insight. Yes you are allowed an opinion but such a negative and mis formed opinion has no substance. I bet that your country has the same issues. I m not saying that the UK fab or best but at least the UK are has improved and its out there for EVEYBODY rich poor no matter of age or religion ability status additionally its free to everyone furthermore atleast the UK is reying to improve this yes it needs to expand especially with today’s society which I can say with a clear true conious. Finally in my own opinion I think if you really cared about the state of people’s mental health in the UK you would not going around adding stress to people in the UK who have mental issues by attacking the country in which they live, furthermore look in your your back garden to see how green the grass is. In in my opinion you sound very aggressive about the whole clip. I think you may need some help for a mental well being like attending Anger management sessions and I do have knowledge and wisdom studying dealt and worked people with these issues. You see you also show anger towards the Princess for morning sickness. You see she a first time mom don’t people forget what’s it like. 1. People always go on about morning sickness and how bad it is but its really a good sign of high hormones and a healthy child. 2 When your having your first you never experienced it so don’t have the experience of how to deal with the best way for yourself. I have 4 beatiful children and the 1 st won was the worst morning experience of morning sickness due to I had worked out about what works better for me and I bet most people if they think about that’s true. 3. It’s her first child come even thous its hobble when its your first you feel that your part of the club. The only

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks for this, Jo. I’ve sent you an email replying to this and giving my email address.:) Best wishes, Beastie.

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