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November 15, 2012


Luis Enrique

sometimes I think you underestimate the potential dysfunctionality of workplace democracy, which might be increasing in scale.

why isn't Nationwide better, for instance? It's not paying dividends to greedy shareholders, nor, one presumes, outrageous bonuses to its banksters. So why aren't the interest rates it offers better than the competitions? Why are its systems so clunky compared to its mainstream rivals?

Luis Enrique

I should say, I think you're quite right about the status quo bias, although when you ask "imagine a world in which most national economies where heavily centrally planned..." it would be easy to argue central planning was inefficient if the few non-centrally planned economies looked much more successful. We might have a status quo in which most national economies are capitalist, but the few that aren't don't look so great. This is important.


@ Luis - I don't know whether Nationwide's systems are clunkier than its rivals. But I do know that if it weren't for massive state aid to shareholder-owned companies, many of those rivals wouldn't exist.
I should add that even if worker democracy does morph into capitalism, this isn't a disaster. Wouldn't it be better to have a capitalism that's (ex hypothesi) demonstrably better than socialism, rather than one that owes its existence to path dependency, state aid, ideology and the power of extractive institutions to perpetuate themselves?


"why aren't the interest rates it offers better than the competitions"

Anecdata here says they are.


"The key feature of a left-libertarian economy is that workers will have more choice where or whether to work; this is because there'll be (initially!) a large coop sector and a citizens' basic income which gives workers an outside option."

I don't think the left-libertarians in this instance believe in a citizens' basic income: they are market anarchists who happen to believe their their favoured system will have left-wing rather than right-wing outcomes.

Re Nationwide discussed above: they used to have the highest interest rates about a decade ago but nowadays I believe they're not as competitive.


@Luis, Nationwide isn't a co-op, it's a mutual. This means that democratic power rests with the depositors and borrowers, not the workers.

Though votes are not proportional to financial interest, this ownership regime is closest to standard shareholding in that authority ultimately rests with the providers of capital (mortgagees provide capital in the form of property collateral).

Doly Garcia

"To attract workers to less pleasant working conditions, they'll have to either pay higher wages or employ mindless drones."

You are happily assuming that most workers will prefer the non-hierarchical workplace. I wouldn't be so sure. Certainly, having a horrible boss is quite nasty. But having a nice one can be preferable to, say, a democratic governance where people are constantly bickering.

I'd say that the fact that hierarchical organizations are found everywhere strongly suggests that most people don't dislike hierarchy as such very much, they just dislike certain types of people when they reach the top of a hierarchy.

David Ellis

Socialism is about social ownership not sectarian workers' co-operatives or workers' ownership of individual enterprises. Lenin said when this was proposed as part of NEP that the October Revolution was never intended for that. We need social ownership but workers' democracy with worker-elected and accountable management in every workplace but with the industry itself accountable to society as a whole.


""why aren't the interest rates it offers better than the competitions"

Anecdata here says they are."

Indeed, they top Moneysupermarket's tables for Easy Access and Junior ISA accounts, the latter at a 650% premium to bank rate. Quite hard to carp at that although, to be fair, their customer service (imhe) is shocking.

Of course, as FATE says above, Nationwide is a mutual not a partnership. There is very little to suggest that either a mutual or a partnership is ipso facto actually run any better than other types of organisation, but it is very good for competition that they exist. Competition is the primary driver of all improvement, though to say that is probably heresy on a site like this.


There is no incompatibility between hierarchy and worker democracy. The directors of a hierarchical firm would be elected in a worker democracy. Please, no more red herrings.

jon livesey

This is a completely pointless discussion. Capitalism is what emerges when you allow people to invest - or not invest - their own money. Any other system has to be imposed by Law and often by force.

Eventually capitalism re-emerges. It always has, and always will.

I hope the weather is nice today in Cloud Cuckoo Land.


I am not familiar with left-libertarianism.

Is it similar to libertarian communism and/or socialism from below?

Alex SL

This is especially so because by the time people are smart enough to want a left-libertarian economy...

As a left-cynic, I'd say if your ideology depends on the assumption that people aren't, on average, morons, you are in trouble.


"Could it be that opposition to such economies is motivated in part by the sort of status quo bias that causes us to prefer present evils over potential alternatives?"

Absolutely. I actually recently had a discussion on twitter about this very issue, and somebody said 'yeah, ever had an annoying coworker? Imagine if they were your boss!"

Obviously they wouldn't be your boss; they'd be your equal in a democracy. But the obvious question is: imagine if your actual boss was an arsehole, which many of them are!?

People also ask difficult questions about anarchist communes "what if a child is born into an abusive commune" etc., ignoring that the same logic applies on a massive scale under capitalism.


What shares are you talking about? A worker owned company does not need shares, because shares make no sense in such an environment.

In a worker owned company decisions are made by democratic elections where every employee has one vote. If he leaves the company, he looses his right to vote.

Your way of thinking is the way of thinking of people who are not used to work for their own living but depend on others to do the work for them. Only in such an enviroment you need shares while others, those who do the work, still do not need them, as we all can see today. Shares are only needed, when you want to participate from other peoples work. But I do not consider this desire to be left-libertarianism.

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