The Makers-again: or the need for keynesian management of abundance

Michel Bauwens asked me to clarify how my analysis differs from Kevin Carson’s wonderful review of Doctorow’s The Makers. Even though we are discussing a fictional example- the New Work boom of, approximately 2015-2020- this is, I think a useful exercise because it allows us to think about what kinds of economic regulation might or might not be compatible with an economy of abundance.

Kevin Carsons hypothesis about of the end of the New Work boom focuses on an oversupply of capital:

“The problem with his “straining a billion bits of krill” investment model is that those hundreds of thousands and even millions of ventures, cumulatively, weren’t enough to soak up even a large fraction of all the capital lying around waiting to be invested. So the overwhelming majority of available capital still sat idle without any productive outlet.

However an oversupply of capital is only that in relation to an insufficient demand. The reason why hundreds of thousands or even millions of ventures can not prosper is that there is insufficient demand for their products. This suggests that an economy of abundance (also a relative concept- the old industrial economy was surely an economy of abundance in relation to the old artisanal economy) needs a Keynesian regime of regulation. That is, the state or some other state-like actor must install a mechanism for the redistribution of value that guarantees a sustained demand for new products. To accomplish this entails two things. First, to redistribute the new value that is generated away from the restricted flows of corporate and financial rent that circulate among Kettlewell and his investors and to larger swats of the population (thus activating the multiplier effect !). Since the Maker boom builds on highly socialized, or even ubiquitous productivity, it seems logical that such a redistribution takes the form of some kind of guaranteed minimum income. Second, the state (or state-like actor) must guarantee a direction of market expansion that is sustainable in the future. In our present situation that would probably mean to offer incentives to channel the productivity of a new maker culture intoproviding solutions to the problem of transitioning to sustainability within energy, transport and food production systems. This would, no boubt open up new sources of demand that would be able to sustain the new economy of abundance for a long time, and after that we can go into space ! Without such a Keynesian governance, a future economy of abundance is doomed to collapse, just like the industrial economy of abundance collapsedin 1929.

2 Comments The Makers-again: or the need for keynesian management of abundance

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    From Kevin Carson, via email:

    I agree with Adam that the problem is the capitalist
    value form, and the difficulties of adapting the system of exchange to
    the technologies of abundance.

    But rather than a basic income (the demand side), I’d prefer to focus
    on the supply side: eliminating the artificial scarcity component of

    At the same time, most of the problem on the demand side can be
    addressed by some other expedients:

    1) the use of work-sharing and shorter work weeks to evenly distribute
    the amount of necessary work that remains;

    2) the rise of extended family or multi-family income-pooling
    arrangements, cohousing projects, urban communes, etc.;

    3) a shift of consumption wherever feasible, from the purchase of
    store goods with wage income, to subsistence production or production
    for barter in the household economy using home workshops, sewing
    machines, ordinary kitchen food prep equipment, etc. If every
    unemployed or underemployed person with a sewing machine and good
    skills put them to full use producing clothing for barter, and if
    every unemployed or underemployed person turned to such a producer as
    their first resort in obtaining clothing (and ditto for all other
    forms of common home production, like baking, daycare services,
    hairstyling, rides and running errands, etc.) the scale of the shift
    from the capitalist economy to the informal economy would be

    4) the promotion of local alt currency and barter networks taking
    advantage of the latest network technology, and of mutuals as
    mechanisms for pooling cost and risk.

    Suppose the amount of necessary labor was only enough to give everyone
    a twenty-hour work week–but at the same time the average rent or
    mortgage payment fell to $150/month and anyone could join a
    neighborhood hospital co-op for a $50 monthly fee, and a microfactory
    in the community was churning out quality manufactured goods for a
    fraction of their former price.

    Putting it all together, the answer might be 1) for people to transfer
    as much of their subsistence needs out of the money economy as it’s
    feasible to do right now, and to that extent to render themselves
    independent of the old laws of economic value; and 2) where exchange
    value and scarcity persist, to restore the linkages of equity between
    effort and purchasing power.

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