Comment 30031

By LL (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2009 at 15:45:42

Naturally, demand has to be shaped and communicated by the consumers. I'm actually really excited about the revolutionary potential of consumer freedom. Some of the most vibrant projects of the grassroots-activist communities involve the democratization of consumption: food co-ops, community shared agriculture, community gardens, transit users' groups, car share co-ops, co-housing collectives, squats, social centers, non-profit bike shops, dumpster diving, Food Not Bombs... the list goes on. Some of these projects are highly developed in cities that are less conformist than Hamilton.

Possibly, this could lead to a more organized direct-democratic system on the demand side of the economy - perhaps something resembling the "consumer councils" that Michael Albert advocates in his participatory economics model.

I think something like that would be much more free and ecologically sustainable than either a mass market or a command economy. In capitalism, atomized individuals face highly organized institutions. Guess who has the advantage?

In 2006, capitalism spent $420 million on advertising. This is a huge allocation of resources from mostly highly centralized hierarchies to "persuade" people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do. A growing proportion of this propoganda is covert, aimed at young children, and based on the latest technologies of psychological manipulation.

I understand many people think that human freedom consists of all-out competition in the pursuit of quantitatively more stuff. I say that's the freedom of bacteria. Human freedom requires a context that's more social, rounded and qualitative. When someone "freely chooses" to drive a Hummer through downtown, this socially and ecologically harmful choice is rationalized on the basis that the individual "owns" the vehicle. The problem is that s/he doesn't "own" the air that s/he is polluting, nor the public roads on which s/he is crowding out smaller vehicles. This is "freedom" at the expense of others' freedom - not really freedom at all but domination. I say that there is a lot of that phenomenon in capitalism. That's why the demand side needs to be organized democratically. Consumption is inherently political.

In my world though? I think you're inviting me to make a utopian statement, which I have no problem with. As an anarchist-communist, in "my" world goods would be distributed communistically - "to each according to need". (Careful: "C"ommunism isn't "c"ommunism.) Thats how humans have distributed goods for most of our existence. But the praxis of trying to create a better world could unleash any number of interesting possibilities.

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