Building the cybernetic commune

In this post I will propose some bottom-up strategies for establishing a global cybernetic commune. I believe these ideas are quite distinct from both the anarchist and Marxist-Leninist traditions, hence why I'm writing this post to hopefully get constructive criticism so these ideas can be developed further.

The bottom-up case

The case for a bottom-up approach is that it is difficult to experiment with different forms of planning and democracy under duress. A system born in peace time has more time to work out both of these things properly. The idea is to have the system grow in a viral fashion at a moderate pace. A sort of "cold" revolution rather than the violent "hot" revolutions we often see historically. I suspect these ideas are useful also in dire circumstances.

In its initial stages, the system consists of isolated pockets connected by planning and a political structure. These pockets can reside anywhere in the world. As the system grows, the pockets merge, creating greater and greater cells. The end goal is that the entire world economy is connected to the system. This is necessary in order to be able to deal with the environmental challenge, and to be able to deal with fossil fuel states like Norway and Germany. Or in Marx' terms, to deal with the anarchy of production.

The reason that I think this strategy can work is due to the rising popularity of worker co-ops. While cooperatives are generally associated with market "socialist" ideas, and econophysics tells us market socialism is ultimately unworkable, co-ops slot quite nicely into a cybernetic planning system. That way co-ops don't need to compete with each other - instead they can share resources and perform all sorts of internal accounting tricks without involving the market. This should result in a kind of "comedy of the commons" effect - the more workplaces that connect to the system, the more everyone in the system benefits. I see similar effects in the free software world.

Bootstrapping

Autarky is the situation where an economy is self-reliant. As the goal is incorporating the entire world economy, at some point autarky must be achieved. This means to be able to produce all essential goods from scratch, to have functioning healthcare, schools, waste management, elderly care etc. Once the system is in a position of autarky it is self-justifying. It is also free to pursue its goals more aggresively.

Autarky is very similar in concept to bootstrapping. A bootstrapped system is one that is able to reproduce itself. Once bootstrapped, the commune has responsibility primarily to itself.

Tit-for-tat

At some point there will come a time when the authorities in the various host states will start noticing the communards in their midst. It is at this point that it will become apparent whether these states and their functionaries are friendly or hostile. This may not be immediately obvious, and it may be necessary for the commune to perform a bit of intelligence gathering, PR, lobbying and so on. So long as the state does not aggrieve then all is good. But should the state choose to be hostile, then the commune must be prepared to defend itself. Once hostilities seize, then the commune should also be conciliatory. In game theory this is known as the tit-for-tat strategy, which is known to be highly effective.

Another reason why friendly relations are useful is because eventually much of the functionality of the extant states will be rolled into the commune itself. Therefore it makes sense not to needlessly antagonize the people employed in the various departments of each state.

Law

The commune will inevitably need a justice system to handle internal affairs. I can't say too much on the subject of law since it is not my area, but it is important that outside forces be prevented from interfering in the commune's affairs. For example if the commune decides to evict members that engage in actions counter to the goals of the commune, it should not be possible for such former members to then sue the commune. If former members better themselves then they should be let back in, in line with tit-for-tat.

A recent example of what can happen if outside interference is allowed is here in Sweden where Transportarbetareförbundet has been sanctioned for excluding members active in SD, our largest reactionary political party. The fact that our unions must bend the knee to the state in this manner is indicative of weakness.

Taxes

Every society capable of reproducing itself needs to support its non-working and less-working members. This includes children, the sick, the elderly, people with certain disabilities and so on. This is one of the functions of the tax system, at least here in Sweden. Since the goal is autarky, so too must the commune have its own "tax" system. The exact shape of such a system is a whole series of posts unto itself, as is the entire problem of renumeration, which ties into the entire debate about value. But I'll make this observation:

Taxes may be used to encourage work in less attractive or dangerous fields like sewage or deep-sea welding, by increasing renumeration for work in these fields. Such increases would need to be funded by the tax system. The end result of high renumeration for unpleasant or dangerous work is that workers in those fields need to work less than average.

How much of a surplus that should be produced for this "tax" system, and how it should be distributed, is something that could be decided for example through annual plebiscite. Which brings us to the next and last section.

Democracy

When it comes to democracy I have for quite a few years toyed with the idea of simply drawing representatives by lot. The reason for doing this is to get rid of political parties, and because it is a straightforward way to represent the masses. The last point can be argued from statistics.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn quite recently that this is an old idea, most notably practiced by the ancient Athenians. We can improve on this system by making all people in the system eligible for the lottery. Cockshott & Cottrell also propose a system like this. I would add that it is important that the system be opt-out, meaning everyone is part of the draw by default. An interesting side effect of casting this wide a net is that children may be appointed as representatives. This is not as crazy as it may sound; out of the mouths of babes often times come gems..

I realize there are many practical problems with this style of democracy, and I again direct the reader to the writings of the classical philosophers on the issue. Perhaps a kind of multi-house solution would work better, where one house is drawn by lot, another is composed of experts and a third house holds representatives of certain minorities that require special representation. This is part of the reason why I started this series of posts saying that I can't get into how exactly policies are decided upon, since I simply don't know what will work best. Whatever the political constellation, it must be in line with science and it must be able to overcome the anarchy of production, or else the future of our species will be barbarism.