Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Economy Of The Solar Commonwealth

In "Lodestar," David Falkayn says:

"'Civilization needs more than the few monopolists we've got.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), pp. 633-680 AT p. 638.

Ten years later but in the same story, Coya Conyon, reflecting on the Ythrans' adaptation to Technic civilization, thinks:

"...this was before that civilization was itself overwhelmed by laissez-faire capitalism -" (p. 647)

Still later, in Mirkheim, one cartel, the Home Companies, is integrated with the government of the Solar Commonwealth while its rival cartel, the Seven in Space, controls extrasolar governments.

So what do we have here: laissez-faire, monopolies or cartels? I think that the answer is: all three, over time. There is a causal sequence:

free competiton
competitive reinvestment
declining rates of profit
economic slump
larger corporations buying the assets of bankrupted companies
restored rates of profit
renewed investment
growth of monopolies
cartels formed by monopolies controlling different sectors of the economy

Falkayn comments at the "growth of monopolies" stage. Ten years later, Coya harks back to the "free competition" stage. Later again, the Polesotechnic League has reached the cartels stage. And Anderson, unlike Asimov, presents a plausible account of an economic system rising and falling. In Mirkheim, what could be more prosaic than the issue of whether trade unions should control employees' pension funds?

(viii) The Solar government will:

"...put the administration of private pension funds credited to employees who were citizens of the Commonwealth under the control of their unions." (7)

Van Rijn objects because unions are tied in with government and he does not want the latter running his business. My first thought was that workers' elected representatives should control how their pension money is invested. But, of course, it matters how democratic the unions are. Anderson shows union leaders as big investors fully co-operating with management to control the workforce. (2) My experience of work tells me that rank and file shop floor workers often need to organize both against management and against the intermediate social layer of trade union bureaucrats, many of whom are not elected officers but professionals employed by unions.
-copied from here

Van Rijn is on one side of the argument. I would, with some reservations, be on the other. And that is what happens in real societies. Each of us argues that the other's policies would be disastrous.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I favor van Rijn's side of this debate. And I don't agree with Coya about it being somehow bad that Technic Civilization was "overwhelmed" by laissez-faire free enterprise economics at the time Ythri was modernizing itself. That was when the state was as decentralized as possible. By the time of "Lodestar," that was no longer so because cartels such as the Home Companies and the Seven in Space were arising. And the Home Companies were more and more willing to accept dictation by the state.

And the unions were also cartelizing, another bad sign. Old Nick had no objection per se to unions as long as they were "honest greed." And not controlled by the state. As for professional administrators de facto taking over unions, I don't see how any large organization can avoid having some of bureaucracy. There would still be a need for an ADMINISTRATIVE staff.