Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday, Robert A Dahl, Democracy, Liberty and Equality

Robert A. Dahl, Democracy, Liberty and Equality, Norwegian University Press, 1986

Worker Democracy

Worker democracy can work. Would workers take all revenue as pay or would they invest as needed The Mondragon cooperative was owned by workers--increased at 8.5 percent year and improved market share from one to ten percent. They invested four times the average rate for firms and cooperatives voted to increase their capital contributions. Mondragon also educated its own employees so they could become managers. Each cooperative decides on the ratio of pay between executives and workers. And Dahl observed that the worker-managed cooperatives of Yugloslavia. But in contrast producer cooperatives were short lived in the late nineteenth century, giving this idea a bad name.

Our proposal here is not socialism, but that workers and investors share revenue and control. Organizations such as library and universities spend eighty percent of their income or government funds on the employee salaries and benefits. (I just read in Queens Gazette that the Queens Public Library spends eighty per cent on employees. My University is a little bit more than eighty percent.) On the other hand, chemical processing plants pay only ten to fifteen percent in wages. Midway, Neogenomics that tests for Cancer has fifty percent of its revenue going to workers. Capital intensive industries would of course have most of the revenue going to the investors on a share basis, so it is neither socialist nor on the other hand advocate firm owner control. (This is an issue raised by Benjamin Ward in his book on Socialism and article on "Illyria" loosely based upon Yugoslavian experience. I recall he was concerned that a worker-managed firm wasting the capital. I will put out a Thoughtful Thursday when I get some books out of storage after I was forced to move.)

And the socialists in Denmark proposed a payroll tax was invested back into the employee's firm giving them a vote but limited to fifty percent to protect he conventional owner. He reports that worker-managed firms are more productive than conventional managed firms.

But not all socialists believe in workers. There is a contrast between the Fabian socialists and the old Labor Party of Britain and the Syndicalist. In the 1920s, the webbs said that each nationalized firm should be appointed by a mixture of workers, the administrators and the consumer community. But by 1932, the British Trade Union Congress called for business to be run by Government appointees. Advisory Boards would represents interests of both consumers.


True federalism is different from delegation. A political subunit or school district may have total autonomy to handle education matters with the larger commonweal having upper categories. If this is in the constitution and considered a right like free speech, then it is true federalism as opposed to administrative convenience of delegating responsibility. Citizens are represented in all fields, at the local level for education, at the national level for everything else.

What Dr. Dahl ignores is that federalism is not clear cut. Yes the Constitution might declare local control for education? And national or federal control for such things as foreign policy. What happens if the National Government signs a treaty that limits educational autonomy? The United States has concern over Madrasah's in Pakistan and Pakistan created an education board--so this is not far fetched. And, of course, the United States Federal Government has forcefully integrated American schools.

So, in setting up a government, what rights should individuals or schools or states be given? This is a difficult problem for constitutional courts, and one that might be abused either way. I propose a 100% rule. A law that affects a local area requires approval by x%+y% = 100 where x is the pass rate at the local level and y% is the pass rate at the federal government. When there is a conflict between the federal and state or local aegis, the percentage at the higher level voting down the law as repugnant, e. g. the federal government saying this "education" is religious indoctrination must be larger than the percentage that passed it. Thus if a locality votes 99% that its education should do t would need at least a 99% vote at the national level, or the sortition jury hearing the case in the national court, to overturn it.


This is another book I borrowed from the Columbia University Library. Dr. Dahl proposed at the descriptive level that there are many elites that control government rather than just a narrow one at the top. Wikipedia article on him used the term "dean of American political scientists"

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