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Public Wealth Communism
Jason C. Stone   Jun 26, 2019   Medium @jasoncstone  

One of the major obstacles associated with socialist or communist systems is the Economic Calculation Problem. If we no longer allow a “free market” to decide what is produced and at what price, then how do we decide how to direct a society’s limited resources and labor?

Central planning where a small group of government workers decides how to develop manufacturing and allocate scarce resources does not seem to be practical using known methods.

Additional problems that a centrally planned system might face include:

1. Dissatisfaction with life being common amongst participants when only a small number of elites are tasked with designing a society while the vast majority simply execute their designs. Often people want to feel that the world is changing based upon their own designs.

2. The lack of niche products and services being produced by the society.

3. Problems with understanding what a society would like the workers and resources to be focused on in a way that ranks priorities.

Is there a way to solve all of these problems without the accumulation of private wealth? Perhaps a solution would be to allow any participant to suggest products and services using a kickstarter-like platform where payment for working on those projects and funding for those projects would be made using something I call “public wealth”.

Unlike private wealth, public wealth would differ from traditional money in the sense that it would not be exchangable for benefits that only go to you exclusively. Public wealth would only be usable to fund projects proposed by the community where the products and services produced by those projects would be made available to all participants on an equal access basis. In addition to this, public wealth could only be earned through active labor as opposed to private wealth which is often acquired through passive means such as charging rent, holding equity as a passive partner, or loaning money with interest.

Under one instantiation, products could be made available for loaning where each individual would have an equal number of lone credits. Loaning a new item could cost two credits while loaning a used item could cost a single credit. Consumable items could be available equally through a monthly equal allotment of consumable credits. The credits for loanables and consumables could be intentionally higher than an individual is expected to use but still limited in order to keep people from abusing access to consumables or loanables. Unused consumables or loanables credits could be converted periodically to public wealth that could be used on the kickstarter-like system. Medical supplies could be made available with prescription without subtracting from loan credits or consumable credits such that both sick and healthy participants have approximately equal access to loanable and consumable items. Services could be rendered on a first come first serve basis or through random lottery.

In a private wealth system, one of the primary benefits of amassing a large amount of wealth is the power to influence what a society produces. This incentive could be preserved in a public wealth system. The work necessary for creating products and services could be rewarded with public wealth that could then be used to influence what the society creates in proportion to the amount of public wealth one has accumulated.

The projects on the kickstarter-like system would be created by any participant in the system. They could visit offices where they could consult with a specialist about the resources available to produce a product, service, event or civil society organization. The specialist could help them identify what resources would be necessary to produce the project and what level of public wealth credits would be required for the community to be able to go through with the project. The raw resources used for a project could be priced by the community by following the prices in some external market or through internal auctions.

Labor could be incentivized by offering public wealth where the amount being offered would be based on public records of historical trends for every job that has ever been compensated during the history of the system. Information about the cost of related types of labor being done in an external market could also be used to create a compensation offer. Each distribution or manufacturing center could be operated as a workplace democracy.

Resources that the community can not produce itself could still be made available by arranging for the sale of resources to an external market, such that the desired resource could then be purchased from the external market.

If a project receives enough public wealth from the community, then the project is produced. The specialist that helps to facilitate placing the project on the kickstarter-like system could receive public wealth at the point a project is funded and at the point a project is delivered. This should incentivize the specialist to vet and prepare the project proposals effectively. If a proposal is denied by one specialist there should be an appeals process where the project idea can be presented to another independent specialist.

Project proposals could also include plans to produce excess items for sale in the external market in order to expand the resources owned by the community. Items that are loaned and consumed by the community at high rates could lead to a reorder process. This system could include a public voting mechanism to establish the priority for each item in the system. Scarce resources would first be allocated to higher priority items.

Each time an item is produced and distributed a public wealth cost could be calculated for the item. This cost would include all of the different components going into a project from throughout the supply chain. At each step of the supply chain, public wealth would be transferred in exchange for a component of the final product. When an item is distributed it could be assigned to a particular ID and the public wealth cost for the item could be credited to the account of the distributor. The distributor could then decide how much to reorder using the public wealth they have accumulated and their estimate of future demand.

Like manufacturing centers, distribution centers could be launched using the kickstarter-like system. Members of the community could decide which items to make or carry in their manufacturing or distribution centers, how to stylize the centers, and how to advertise the centers. In this way the system would allow for a type of free enterprise without the need for private wealth. Rent and utilities could also be paid in public wealth. Distribution or manufacturing centers that are not able to cover the costs of operations could be scaled back or shutdown, which would open up some of their resources for other projects.

Public impact bond like payments could be made to those that find a way to improve the manufacturing abilities of the community in a way that decreases the delay in producing an item or decreases the public wealth cost of producing an item.

If the public wealth cost of an item should exceed the amount per item that was stated in the kickstarter-like system by a certain percent, then the project could be posted again to the kickstarter-like system so that the community could vote on if it would like to continue to produce the item given the new higher cost.

P.S. I am an Anarchist who believes that consensual adults that are not being coerced in unethical ways should be allowed to engage in voluntary exchanges. Public Wealth Communism may be most useful when applied to voluntary communes. A plurality of voluntary communes that are attempting to attract and retain participants may encourage the communist system to continue to evolve and may guard against authoritarian take overs.

Jason C. Stone holds an M.S. in Computer Science from The University of Texas Dallas. His professional work experience includes software development, network security and digital forensics. He is an amateur inventor with a focus on additive manufacturing, personal-scale technology, intelligent systems and distributed systems. His philosophical interests include anarchism, communism, ethics, technology, and the interaction between science and spirituality.


I just wanted to add a few thoughts I had after posting this article:

1. New Public Wealth could be issued in the form of a Universal Guaranteed Income. This could be part of controlling how much Public Wealth is in circulation and would give everyone a chance to vote on projects. Public Wealth that is used to purchase basic resources from the community pool could be destroyed or reissued as part of the UGI. Workers could still earn extra Public Wealth for work they perform.

2. Reputations could be tracked by the kickstarter-like system to help others make decisions about how likely a project is to succeed.

3. Respected members of the community could give endorsements to projects if they feel the project is important and has a good chance of success.

Some additional thoughts:

1. Public wealth through the kickstarter-like system could primarily be thought of as a replacement for investments and loans. The public-wealth taken in could be for setting up the manufacturing equipment and initial purchase of consumables and salaries for a fixed amount of product or service to be produced.

2. Items could be “priced” in terms of consumable credits or loanable credits in proportional to the pubic wealth marginal-cost of producing each new instance of the product or service (i.e. does not include the cost of setting up the production).

3. Non-consumable items (e.g. furniture, machinery) could be rented using public wealth in order to encourage enterprises to relinquish control of the items if they are not being used productively. Buildings, land and utilities could also be rented or monitored and purchased with public wealth in order to encourage enterprises that are not producing enough items that the community is consuming to cut back, close down or change what they produce with the resources already controlled by the enterprise to something the public does desire. If the enterprise required new equipment beyond what they can acquire with their public wealth, then they would need to go back to the kickstarter-like system for additional funding with a description of the new products they intend to create. Substantial deviations from the product categories approved by the kickstarter-like campaign that allocated the public wealth costs for setting up production may always need to go back to the community for approval to make sure the production capacities are being used in a way the community approves of.

4. Instead of going back to the kickstarter-like system when the public-wealth cost of an item is increased above a certain percent, the consumable and loanable costs could simply be adjusted in proportion to the new public wealth expense.

5. Lowering the public wealth cost of producing an item could lead to increases in volume, where the excess public wealth could be distributed like profit sharing to the workers in the enterprise. However, information about how the costs were lowered should be made available to the community and in some cases social impact bonds might be paid if the costs of producing an item can be reduced demonstrably even if the idea is not generated by someone working within an enterprise. The bond could be paid out as a percent of the savings for a fixed duration or for so many units, etc.

6. A “socialist” but not fully “communist” version of public wealth could be implemented by paying UGI and salaries in both public wealth and private wealth - where public wealth is used by the community to construct the means of production and attract labor using the kickstarter-like system. Like the communist arrangement, non-consumable production items could be rented to make sure they are not going unused. Before items are sold to the market, workers could earn only public wealth or some amount of private wealth could be generated by taking pre-orders from the kickstarter-like system.

7. To compete with socialist communes that allow for storing private wealth, communist communes could allow a “cash-out” for those who wish to leave the commune where the total amount of public wealth they generated during their time at the commune has the amount of consumption they performed subtracted and then the remaining portion is paid to them in a private wealth currency at some exchange rate. There could be penalties for quitting and rejoining the commune to prevent people from cashing out and then immediately rejoining. The penalty could require some portion of the private wealth payed out to them or some wait period before they can rejoin.

Delegation of some public wealth to individuals that one trusts for making decisions about technical infrastructure decisions could also occur using a liquid democracy type system. It could be done as a recommended “voluntary tax” or using other methods.

Under the communist arrangement, in order to improve your quality of life you need to work to improve everyone’s quality of life, since goods and services would be available on an equal access basis.

Participants could still be free to use their personal loneable and consumable credits however they wish - which might include special parties, meals, artwork, items created from feedstock (e.g. 3D printed) or by hand using consumables. They could also reward one another with boosts to reputation scores, endorsements, introductions, awards, publications, delegations and funding for future kickstarter-like projects.

To encourage innovation and optimizations in labor cost:

1. Inventors could register their invention with the commune, where for so many years they may be guaranteed a fixed amount of public wealth per good or service delivered or some fraction of the public wealth value of each good or service delivered that is based on the invention. However, they may not be allowed to exclude anyone in the commune from using the invention.

2. Those wishing to take a job could make an offer for how much public wealth they would be willing to accept for doing the job. This could be a standard part of the kickstarter-like system where the project is not funded until all roles have been filled and the total amount of public wealth needed for the project - including the labor costs - has been collected. On an ongoing basis, any individual in the commune could offer a lower public wealth amount to perform any job in any enterprise. If the offeror is found to be capable of performing the job, then the incumbent could decide to work for the amount the offeror has offered to do the job for or they could relinquish the role to the one making the lower offer. The workplace democracy could be allowed to override these decisions if they fill the new applicant would not be sufficient for the job. Information about making an offer and then not being competent enough to perform the job or backing out once the position is opened for you could be included in one’s reputation score.

Since all goods and services are offered on an equal access basis, being replaced by someone able and willing to do the job for less public wealth should not be a large inconvenience and one’s abilities may be better used by the commune on a different role or project. Seeking the maximum public wealth offering for jobs one is able and willing to perform may be a good way to perform the work the commune most desires for you to perform.

Although someday computer algorithms that schedule the use of resources and labor may be possible in a communist/socialist society, this technique is easy to implement and understand - even for participants without special technical knowledge. It also allows individuals to propose projects and select their work. Plus, the scheduling activity takes place in a transparent way that could help share information and reduce corruption.

Public Wealth Communism may initiate a new field in economics that explores monetary policy, cybernetic feedback mechanisms, and the social dynamics involved in allocating the means of production in a distributed way.

Public wealth can only be used to fund the creation of new projects or the expansion of old projects. Since each individual will be receiving some public wealth in the form of a UGI and each worker will be receiving additional public wealth for work they perform, Public Wealth Communism may tend to be even more entrepreneurially oriented than traditional capitalism.

Also, there may be cybernetic feedback loops that could be created that communicate to the participants how their decisions affect the shared resources. These feedback loops might create a guide for actions that optimize the economy beyond what traditional capitalism is often able to achieve.
Feedback loops might include things like:

1. Histograms of the total amount of public wealth that a particular project accounts for.
2. Histograms of the public wealth price for a product or service.
3. Histograms for the percent of a resource that each of the components going into a product or service is consuming.

It’s important to note that Public Wealth can only be earned through active labor and not through investments, rents, loans, or inheritance. This means that although inequality may develop in the distribution of public wealth, it should be much less inequality that we see in capitalism. Also, since having public wealth is based on performing work the community values, having a large amount should correlate with being a valuable contributor to the community and with having some competency in assessing the merits of project proposals.

Additional Thoughts:

1. “Quadratic voting” can lessen the influence of any one individual on a particular projects funding, thus, requiring a larger percent of the commune to contribute to each project in order to achieve funding.

2. Items that are loanable may depreciate on some schedule. At the point of total depreciation they may become consumables.

3. Children could receive their consumables, loanable and public wealth UGI in smaller amounts that gradually fade into the full amounts as they age.

4. Those interested in capitalism could work at the interface between the commune and the external market.

5. Those that find the commune completely unacceptable should be allowed to leave the commune. They would lose equal access to the communes benefits. In some arrangements they may maintain access to a private wealth UGI and other benefits from a Co-Federation that the communes are embedded within. Those that are members of a voluntary commune would dedicate their universal benefits to the commune. Those that live outside the communes would be allowed to receive their benefits directly. Communes may feel an ethical obligation to sell necessities to those outside the commune at reasonable prices.

6. Software could be available to make it easy to organize a new commune and invite members who could form their own voluntary agreements with one another.

7. I call enabling people to leave a voluntary community by giving them guaranteed benefits - like private wealth UGI, universal health insurance, universal educational benefits, and software for making their own voluntary communities - ENABLEISM. Enableism not only respects one’s right to leave a voluntary community one does not consent to, it enables one to do so.

For those interested in how we could derive the resources for providing universal guarantees in an “Enableist” pluralist society with voluntary communes, you might find this other article I wrote interesting.

If you would like to talk about more ideas related to Left-Libertarianism (Libertarian Socialism) check out Holon!

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