By Enrique Lescure
Unlike Karl Marx, we very much advise that we should need to at least make rudimentary socio-economic recipes for the future. During Marx’s time, there was little in terms of knowledge regarding the effects that industrialism had on environment, to not say the least that the world at the period of 1848-1888 still was “sustainable” (in the sense that we used less than the world could renew).
As you may be aware of, the Earth Organisation for Sustainability has designed a basic blueprint for a new global socio-economic system, which is called Energy Accounting or simply “the Design”. This Design is developed partially from Distributed Systems Theory and partially from the proposals of Technocracy Incorporated in the US during the 1930’s. We do also aspire to test our system on limited scales in a series of tests.
As you all probably know already, Energy Accounting is a design that relies on assembling data on the Earth’s capability to renew its resources on a constant basis, use that data to establish a specific amount of energy credits, and then share out these energy credits to the people – or rather to each and every individual who contains their energy credits in a personal account. The individual then allocates their energy credits to things which they desire, and the things they desire are produced for them.
No, the truth is that it is a highly complex process, but given the global impact we as a species are weighing on our poor planet, I believe that most people can agree that our proposals (taken separately) have merits. It is still a bit early for people in general to accept that these proposals make a lot of sense taken together as well, but we’re heading in that direction technologically, which I guess is good.
Anyway, there are some things regarding Energy Accounting which I believe that I have not emphasised enough, and that is subsequently why this post exists. This post will not be a complete exposé, but rather will focus on one issue, namely how energy units are distributed out and what the difference is between public and personal use of energy credits.
It is highly suggested that readers are reading through the other articles regarding the topic of Energy Accounting, before or after having read this, whether you need to fresh up your knowledge or if this is an entirely novel topic for you.
Why Energy Accounting is a form of market economics
When we move away the basic income and the circular economy bits of EA, what we are getting is a form of self-regulated market economy where the externalities are internalised.
Conventional market economics can only approach environmental problems either by the Laissez-Faire approach (meaning that we need to wait until air and water are so scarce that there can be market for them where some people will be left out because their demand curves are too low) or by legal regulations (taxes).
Energy Accounting solves the problem of externalities by constant data gathering of crucial information regarding the planet’s state. This data gathering would be carried out by de-facto thousands of stations and project groups, who each and every one will add data to the overall energy survey.
These resources are later on distributed to the entire population of the survey area, where each individual is given both a basic minimum income and additional energy units according to their labour (there is also a debate on where the minimum level should be based and whether we should go for full egalitarianism, but that is a subject for another topic). As everyone have received their share of energy units, they can allocate these units to determine how the production of the entire survey area would be distributed and what industries would be subsidised. This would create a market where demand to some extent is determining supply (within the capabilities of nature of course).
Therefore, basic Energy Accounting as defined by EOS is a form of market economy. It is not a capitalistic market economy, but it is a market economy.
However, while markets are good to determine individual needs (if all people have decent demand curves), they are not so optimal when determining public needs. For example, people may not demand railway systems, but railway systems can improve the transport of other things that people need. Large-scale energy production, infrastructure, basic education and hospitals, to just a mention a few things, would need to have a basic infrastructure.
Infrastructure on some level demands public expenditure (no matter if the revenue is raised through taxes, raised through voluntary donations or is income from government owned natural resources).
Given that Energy Accounting is not designed to work with taxes, how should public utilities be dealt with? And is there a single recipe for dealing with public utilities?
The Public space in a technate
One thing which we assume is that all energy units will be distributed out to the people. There is however a slight problem with that, and that is that a modern society is incredibly complex. What gift economists and other anarchists are ignoring is that modern production often demands a lot of steps to extract or produce materials, assemble them and then transport them to consumers (and then recycle or upcycle them). By smart green innovations and holistic systems, we can reduce this complexity (to the price of another form of complexity, namely superior data algorithms), but if we are aiming for the production of energy, food and resources enough to feed large human communities, there would still need to be infrastructure.
We can reduce our needs for it, but even if most things are produced locally by the communities themselves, some back-up systems in the case of a disaster would be needed.
Another issue is the issue of fairness. Is it fair that an individual with heritable diseases should spend more of their energy units on things like medicines, medical care, wheelchair, eye augmentations (or glasses)? Should children (or the parents) devote more of their energy units for education services?
Therefore, as evidenced in the image above, when the Energy Survey for the period is made, a share of the energy credits will go to the infrastructure, so the infrastructure can provide the users with both basic services and maintenance, and provide the holons with the resource networks they need to produce the stuff that people are requesting.
Thus, it wouldn’t be like that people would first receive their share and be obliged to pay a part of it back in the form of taxes. Rather, the distribution between public and personal will happen when the total capacity has been measured by the Energy Survey.
Those who have looked at the figure above can see a third area, a green one. The question that follows is: What is it?
As previously written, the total share of energy units correspond (ideally) to the survey area’s capability to regenerate its biomass (for clarifying, the survey area might be the Earth). If all of those units are distributed out, either to the users or infrastructure, there is nothing that says that everything won’t be used up. Of course, most users will not be using up all their energy units during one period. Yet, by relying on such unreliable and fluctuating methodologies of regaining nature, we will basically make nature subservient to consumption – which is one of the foundational problems in today’s world.
Therefore, it is essential that a fraction of the energy units are left idle (that we are using for example 97,5% of what is within nature’s limits to provide instead of 100%, the percentile in itself is not as important as that is below 100%). This would ensure a slow but steady adaption from nature’s side, and that ecological diversity will eventually start to grow again.
Public vs personal, how to determine?
There are two ways to determine how much of the total sum of energy units should be distributed to any of the three areas mentioned above.
The first methodology is the technocratic methodology, which would mean that experts would determine the minimum and maximum needs for the infrastructure to operate and then extrapolate the needs from that. The second methodology is the democratic methodology, which would mean that the public themselves would determine how much would go to themselves as individuals, and how much would go to the infrastructure (including public institutions).
I would say that both methodologies are valid, but only if they are used in tandem with one another and a third factor. This third factor is of course the normative and ethical foundations of the Constitution, which outlines how resources may not be used (for example not be used in a way that destroys the environment or in a way that violates human rights). The figure below illustrates this interdependence.
However, that it is decided that a specific share of the common resource base would be used for infrastructure will not mean that this percentage will always be used for infrastructure. It also does not mean that the specific share in every region will be the same.
In regions with smaller infrastructural requirements (due to population size or other factors) or where the culture and sentiments are favouring self-sufficiency contra massive public infrastructure, there would be less distribution of energy units to infrastructural or public needs. Conversely in some other regions, the infrastructure might receive over 50% of the energy units.
Food: Public or personal?
One last issue before I wrap up this particular post. Food.
Why would it be a good idea to view at least some basic food as a public utility? The reason is that while a user generally can wait for a new garage module, a new bike or a new computer, all human beings require food. We can imagine that there would be holons that produce for example food on a daily basis, but for staple food (for example wheat or rice) there would be need for large-scale production in order to provide for a billion population of humans.
Therefore, it can be advisable to at least measure a part of the public energy credit usage as being directed towards food production. That would however not negate holons producing food autonomously.
The main issue to remember is that we soon will be nearly 10 billion human beings on this world. We would need to utilize our common resource base very wisely, and we must take into account that it would probably not be feasible to have all humans self-sufficient (though a higher degree of self-sufficiency and survivalism is probably necessary if we want to have a strong civilization).
Therefore, there needs to be an opportunity for a public sector administering basic infrastructure existing alongside the voluntary holonic initiatives which would form the basis of the Technate’s economy. The size of this public sector should be determined by the needs of the infrastructure, but also by the desires of the public, and be checked by the Constitution.
It should also be stated that the Technate in itself is perceived (even the blueprint) as a transitionary model towards yet a better and more sustainable civilization. This would mean that when you read texts by us, you should not imagine that we aspire to create a perfect society or some form of socialist or anarchist utopia. Rather, we are trying to create an alternative that can balance human needs with the needs of the environment and of future generations.
That is the great challenge of our era.