say that workers "own" the means of production is barely a
start; to decentralize economic decision-making is but a single good
real worth of an economic system is in (a) the
nature of work therein, and (b) how it rewards work
and distributes wealth.
gets some level of Basic Income from a public fund. The Basic Income functions
as a giant national social security, disability and pension fund. It
also functions as a program for unemployment and relief, and also income supplementation
for working people.
working in cooperative enterprises earns according to their
"share" of the enterprise, determined by hours worked, skill
level, seniority. The "Socialist Pay Law" states that
share may be more than six times the smallest share.
"Socialist Pay Law"--
mitigating pay inequity,
spreading the wealth.
The "Socialist Pay Law" is to the rest of the
world the most conspicuous and notorious feature of the Bergonian
system. It more than anything else in Bergonia scandalizes capitalists
in the US and elsewhere. Many Bergonians regard it as the finest
achievement of the Revolution. It, and the Basic Income, have
together enforced the socialist principle of Equality (see #2 the
In its first form, in
1936, the law limited the highest pay grade in a single corporation to
six times the lowest, so that the corporation president cannot make
any more than
six times the lowest paid janitor. (e.g. when janitor starts his first day
earning $16,000, the president
tops out at $96,000.) The NDP
sometimes campaigns to raise this factor, while the SFP
resists changing it.
The anarchists, of course, recite the slogan, "To each according to
his need, from each according to his ability," and argue that
everyone should all get the same pay. The socialist purity of this
idea resonates with many Bergonians, but everyone knows that wage
differentials will be around for a very long time. The prevailing
consensus is that the Socialist Pay Law works to keep the differentials in
check. Nearly everyone believes that this law helps retard the
formation of a new Bergonian ruling class. (Likewise T. Jefferson
& other founding fathers in the US believed formation of a new
ruling class would be retarded by imposing inheritance taxes.)
Some people once argued that in the case of
the federated corporations the Socialist Pay Law applied only to each
collective individually, and not the federated entity as a whole. This means that if the auto company president belongs to a management
collective and the janitor belongs to a "general services"
collective, then the president is not limited to six times the janitor's
pay. If this were so, then the managers and professional workers
could exploit the federated structure of the enterprise to give themselves
huge pay and start oppressing the common workers. But most people
descried this blatant loophole, and an amendment to the law in 1945
expressly stated that the "times six"
limit applies to everyone working within a federated collective.
would be analogous to having the President of Ford Motors making only
$96,000 a year, which to a Bergonian seems mighty good.
The next step occurred in 1952
when Congress applied a "times eight"
limit to the entire nation, so that the President of the
Commonwealth makes $120,000 while every beginning full time janitor and
laborer in the nation
makes at least $15,000.
Managers of all organizations get
even in Bergonia. The perks often reward the chief in excess of the
"times six" rule, but janitors in socialist corporations have
more votes than presidents, and the janitors have four opportunities a
year to provoke the governing assembly of all workers into limiting the president’s perks or
trashing management altogether. Nevertheless, playing with perks is
a major, frequent abuse, as is unauthorized use of corporate property
for individual benefit. (Old fashion graft and stealing are
infrequent but hardly unknown).
SFP has proposed an amendment to the Socialist Pay Law to include the
value of perks in applying the "times six" limit. The NDP
opposes it, or counters that if the perks are going to count, the rate of
times six should be changed to seven or eight. In fact, Berg bosses
do fly around, have meetings at resorts (yes, there are, after a socialist
fashion, resorts in Bergonia), and some of them are attended by fawning assistants who
pick up the dry cleaning.
But a problem at least as serious is that the workers themselves
are at fault for creating too many
perks for themselves, and thus risking insolvency. A day-care center,
convenience store, recreational club and tavern are all nice things for a
factory's workers to provide themselves, but disaster results if a corporation tries
to count these items as anything other than part of the "workers
portion." If nothing else, the tax authorities perform excruciating
How workers get
paid in a socialist cooperative enterprise.
A socialist accountant starts off with his
collective's gross revenue, and then proceeds to subtract from it the
enterprise's costs, consisting of the cost of procuring materials,
equipment, energy and outside services, and paying debt
The remainder is designated "labor’s portion"—the
portion the workers divvy up among themselves.
This portion is subject to taxation. Bergonia has eschewed all individual
income taxation (save for the self-employed)-- therefore the tax burden rests heavily on
the collective enterprises, so that each pays a flat rate percentage net income tax on
The collectives also pay a percentage of labor’s portion to the
national pension and health funds.
taxes, the remainder of "labor’s portion" is paid
out to the workers according to their individual shares in the
Most cooperatives rely on "schedules" to compute each worker’s share
of "labor’s portion." There is a great deal
of socialist controversy about how to comparatively pay different
workers-- how much to depend on whether to pay workers according to skill or
or some other criteria.
There are many collectives who pay all their
workers equally; they are called "Pure Red" or
"Scarlet" collectives, but
most use a schedule of some sort to differentiate pay.
Most schedules differentiate
pay on the basis of both skill and seniority. They start by assigning 1.0
share to a beginning worker making minimum wage (as set by law) for unskilled labor.
Separate schedules exist for each kind of industry, craft or
Each craft, trade, profession or
"job" is assigned to a grade based
on a four-fold criteria of "skill, education, risk and effort."
The schedule then sets for each grade a share for entry level work,
and then recommended increases in shares based on seniority. Each schedule typically delineates 16 to 20 pay grades ("share
grades") within the range of 1.0 to 6.0.
These schedules are recommended to the collectives by their syndicals,
to which the collectives belong. The syndicals typically establish
sitting committees to engage in regular review of the schedules with on-going consultations with the various
member collectives, and these deliberations of course must be public.
The schedules are subject
to the Socialist Pay Law. Hence
the range of 1.0 to 6.0 for "share
The practice of work
sharing reduces the differentials based on job position and
skill. In the military-style capitalist corporation, every worker
has a specific job, usually a very limited function with very precise
duties, performed repetitively. No one colors outside the
lines. In the socialist/syndicalist collective, the workers have
every reason to share work and rotate responsibilities. While it is
difficult to expect plant workers and clerical workers in the front office
to trade work, there is no reason why all the plant workers can't rotate
production, maintenance and grunt work, and there is no reason why the
workers can't rotate bookkeeping, filing, accounts receivables and
payables and the like. Of course this practice depends upon the
workers teaching each other and consulting each other. In this way, more workers
acquire more skills in ways that minimize the differences between them--
and increase the worth of each member.
It happens therefore that the most
significant differences in pay often depend on seniority.
This may be offensive to many socialist and anarcho-syndicalist thinkers,
but in fact the older workers tend to dominate the collectives and thus
have been able to succeed in this. Many Bergonians accept the
argument that a worker with many years experience with a collective has
invested his life in the collective and deserves something more for
that. They also accept that the older worker's experience and
accumulated knowledge is an added benefit deserving of additional
The monthly pay-out:
Workers obviously cannot wait until the end of the fiscal accounting
period for their share, so the corporation gives each worker a monthly
figured against each worker’s share. A reckoning is made at the end
of a period (usually a quarter).
Of course this pay-out must be figured realistically, with
a wise eye on the corporation’s income stream. Hopefully management has
correctly figured out the workers' shares as a cost of doing business and
priced the product accordingly. The pay-out is usually set in accordance
with national and regional pay guidelines, again recommended by the
syndicals. When collective and enterprises price their products and services,
they typically use the guidelines in
computing what capitalists call "labor costs."
Hopefully, when the periodic reckoning is made, the
workers will have a surplus to share-- the socialist equivalent to a
"bonus" or "profit sharing." But when bad
management or bad times reduce income, the reckoning will reveal a shortfall, and
the unlucky collective will have to drop workers’ wages for the next period in order
to earn back the shortfall. Besides figuring out how to reduce costs, the only other alternative
collective is approach one of the development banks for a loan, but the bank
will likely stick its fingers into the collective's affairs. (Banks
the world over suck.) Either
way, workers pay suffers. It is at such times that an angry assembly
will give management the boot.
The bottom line is that if a corporation does badly, its workers suffer
income decreases. If it does
well, the workers see higher pay and bonuses. Since nepotism is
encouraged in Bergonia, the health of the factory, shop or office affects
a worker’s father, brother, or nephew as well, and one will tend to work
harder when working with family The wage system puts all workers in
the same boat.
low cost of living in a socialist society
Whenever a citizen questions whether he
makes a lot of money or not, he has to consider what his bucks
will buy. A big income is not so big when the cost of living is
sky-high. Some people who make modest incomes have more
disposable income because they also have few expenses. In
Bergonia the modest common incomes go comfortably far because the cost of living is
in some fundamental ways so cheap.
In theory the cost of
goods & services in capitalist economics are so inflated by the
charging of surplus value-- the capitalist's profit-- and because of
the superfluous costs cause by market inefficiencies. Such
inefficiencies include (a) the extravagances of unfettered management
(e.g. ridiculously opulent headquarters, huge expense accounts), (b)
massive costs incurred by sales, sales commissions, massive
retailing and mark-ups, and (c) the insane costs of obsessive advertising and
packaging. On top of everything else, (d) the system of
private property forces everyone to pay for everything up front,
requiring the payment of cosmic amounts of interest.
Socialism is supposed to drastically
reduce all this dumb waste. Socialism in its most basic forms
immediately reduces the costs of producing & delivering goods
& services by socializing what are expensive commodities in
capitalist economies, such as land, health care and insurance/risk
management, things that bedevil a businessman in a capitalist
In most capitalist
countries a person pays enormous amounts for housing-- the rule of
thumb in the US is "one-quarter of your income," though
many poor people spend a much greater proportion. A person who
rents must pay whatever the market mechanism allows a landlord to
charge. To classical economists the market works
mysteriously yet rationally to allocate scarce resources with
optimal efficiency, but there is nothing rational about the commodity being
allocated by the housing market, which is the arbitrary private ownership of
land-based property. If the citizen buys his home, he struggles against the
market to do so. Worse, the home-buying citizen also has to pay enormous
amounts to a bank, because he never has on hand the sky-high
purchase price. One buys a $100,000 house by paying an
additional $100,000 in interest to a lender. On top of all this,
he pays property taxes to the state.
In Bergonia the
leasehold comes as
almost a right, though how leaseholds get allocated is as
controversial as anything else there. A citizen leases and
acquires a permanent family right by paying a combined tax-and-lease
payment to the county or city. The citizen
therefore need not leverage the payment of a huge
complete cost up front, and therefore never needs to become
enthralled to a usurious bank for the privilege of owning a home. The Bergonian
system is as if the government acts as a seller
who provides owner-financing for the purchase. Generally the
cost of housing comes to less than 15%.
Americans also get to pay sums for insurance, including health, auto and fire insurance. In
Bergonia the socialization of risk has sanitized the risk process of
the pollution of profit motive, and this has greatly cheapened the
cost of insurance.
workers get paid in a socialist cooperative enterprise.
a worker, everyone a citizen" -- the equalization of respect and the
universality of work.
low cost of living in a socialist society.
work week and overtime.
Economy graphically illustrated
a guaranteed income for everyone.
This scheme, formally called the
"Universal Basic Income," has within Bergonia been the most
controversial of the socialist reforms, even more than the Socialist
Pay Law. But the majority of people regard it as their
essential safety net.
Simply put, it is a
given to almost every adult in the country. The pay
that a person earns
from his or her work comes in addition to the basic wage.
This is not a dole. For
able-bodied adults it is not enough to live on, but just a basic supplement
to regular income. Any able-bodied adult who does not
belong to a collective or otherwise have work may collect this income, but
work is a requirement. Anyone
not with work must go to the local Labor Registry,
where work is provided.
disability get considerably more money than the
worker's supplement-- they get an income
fully sufficient for life, since they are not expected to work. As
in all other modern societies, people often decry how many deadbeats and
pretenders try to get disability-- unfortunately any benefits program will
attract fraud, but the problem both in capitalism and socialism is
typically not as bad as the majority of
hard-working adults think it is, especially if the system (a) organizes
medical examinations and diagnoses properly, (b) involves mildly disabled
people in retraining and reeducation.
People over the age of 65
likewise get considerably more money-- it is the national unified
retirement fund that provides a minimum security in old
age. One can make increased voluntary contributions
to personal interest-bearing accounts in order to assure a better payout in
retirement. Here the Basic Income serves the purpose of
both a private pension and Social Security. Since there is no stock market
in Bergonia, nearly all investments in Bergonia are quite
conservatively predictable in nature. All voluntary
contributions are handled in the form of bonds, annuities and certificates of
Much of the Basic Income Fund money is allocated to the
Development Funds, which lend money to collectives for new
enterprises and new equipment. Like most things Bergonian, the
voluntary contributions and investments are collective, rather than
individual. Many syndicates and collectives have pension funds invested into
the Basic Income Funds, as do many professional associations,
syndicates and government agencies. The Basic Income Fund offers a great many "collective
annuity" products for the collectives.
A supplemental amount of income is
also paid to people with
children. There is no marriage penalty. Certain fines
can be deducted from the basic wage, as can child support from
In the first few years after the Revolution citizens
walked to the socialist banks to collect their payment in the form
of cash and food coupons. People suspected of
counter-revolutionary activity and allegiances (ex-capitalists and
ex-Kilitan) sometimes had to go the Police station and get their
payment from a probation officer. By the early 1940s all
political discrimination had ended, the food coupon system was
abolished, and the system was becoming regularized with a national
system of bursars who issued checks. By 1945 most people's
checks chose to have their basic income automatically credited to
their checking accounts. This system encouraged the popular
use of banks, which in turn generated funds of capital for new and
expanding cooperative enterprises. Now everyone receives their basic income
on the first of every month by direct deposit into a checking
account. The hippies, gypsies, drifters, hermits and marginal
types tend to live with cash, but even they much go to a bank to
collect their income.
fund is generated from taxes levied on the net income of collectives
and other business entities, prior to payment of the "workers'
portion." It also receives some revenue from the tax
on energy, which is a fairly decent way to broadly and evenly tax economic
activity. Americans tend to see this as a huge scheme combining
of Social Security, disability, unemployment and welfare.
The cost of guaranteeing income to the
entire population is considerable, and the Fund is very large. It
might be said that incomes are modest in Bergonia. They are modest
because of the high contributions from productive enterprise into the
Basic Income Funds and into the Health Funds. Bergonia's welfare apparatus suffers
from the same graying demographic trends that threaten old age pension
plans in the capitalist countries. Fortunately the cost is
ameliorated by the fact that it is cheap to live in a socialist society.
Some web resources on the Universal Basic
is a British website advocating
automatic, unconditional and non-withdrawable income for every
citizen, paid for by reducing tax allowances and means-tested and
Income Grant, an American website, presents proposals and discussion,
and contains a fine summary of the different types of guaranteed
European Network, an English language site featuring European
discussion about this important idea.
Philosophica underpinnings of a "Social
a worker, everyone a citizen" -- the equalization of respect and
the universality of work.
Respect is an issue that perplexes hierarchies;
it softens relations between the ruled and the rulers, and in many way it
enhances performance of the ruled. But rulers fear the
underlying message in a relationship based on respect, that message being
that since all men are worthy of respect then no man is any better than
the one he bosses.
The first seeds of respect were ironically
sown within the
hierarchical system. The basic form of hierarchy began with no
more than fear and desperation on the part of the servant and an
expectation of being obeyed on the part of the ruler. The ruler,
becoming vain-glorious, and perhaps confusing his mastery over the human
with godly mastery of the universe, demanded more than obedience from his
servants. He demanded homage, which of course he could obtain only
through the disciplines of ritual and spectacle. The homage given to
the ruled became more that just another required act, since ritual homage
allowed the servant to buy into the ruler's power.
It took centuries for human hierarchy to evolve from
pharaohs and other sun-god-kings to elected presidents; the evolution comprised of a very gradual
process of laying down the whip and rewarding obedience, and a concurrent
bargained-for process of obedience becoming based on heartfelt loyalty
rather than fear. The process resulted in growth of mutual respect
between ruler and ruled, so that they became more as equals, until the
executive became the republican first-among-equals. History
fabulous regressions from the evolutionary progression. Republics
have many times let the first-among-equals becomes emperor.
theorists are ever so concerned about restraining the power of the state, and the
liberal ones among them wish to do so by prescribing respect for the
subject, the "citizen," by the state.
John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin & other
definers/defenders of the modern liberal state make much ado about the
duty the modern state owes to each citizen. But such men never take
the idea of equalization of respect to its logically distilled end-- which
is libertarian socialism. It is impossible for the "liberal
state" to treat all its citizens with respect when it is legitimizes
and subsidizes wage slavery, institutionalized price gouging and other
exploitative devices. Capitalism (see Richard Sennett)
presumes to give each man respect while maintaining ridiculous degrees of
inequality in wealth and power, and subjecting the lower classes to the
currents and pressures of market forces. For all the conservative
lies, capitalism cannot equalize respect, and indeed the entire
conservative worldview is based on "respectable" people looking
down their noses at their inferiors. For them, there is always the
problem of "those people."
In both theory and practice, capitalism pits every man against
every other man, and so anyone who receives anything for free is
reviled. It is the jealousy of the inmates in a work camp who didn't
get the extra scraps, the very thing the guards encourage. Thus any humanitarian impulse to public welfare is rather
negated by the contempt the recipient gets from the working public and
also from himself. The assumption in capitalist society is that
people on public assistance are freeloaders and slackers, although the
nature of work in capitalist society (e.g. fast food wage slave) can make
living on the dole look good. The truth is however that the majority
of people on welfare in the US have ever wanted to live on it forever, even after the system
disarmed the clientele and made it helplessly dependant.
The body of a democracy is healthy only
when every part of it enjoys equal respect. (Even the asshole
deserves respect.) When everyone wins the
assumption of respect, then true equality is achieved, and the likelihood
of sectarian, class or other group alienation is reduced. Respect of course is
absent when one group in society regards another as objects, and this is
of course the ultimate evil within both capitalism and racism. Of course
any set of rulers who regard the ones they rule as objects deny
them respect, and of course the integration of the ruled into any
decision-making affecting them gives them respect.
However democratic formalities are no
substitute for genuine regard, even in an authoritarian setting. A
commanding officer, a teacher or coach, or a priest or zen master who
loves his student is sometimes not restrained from barking orders or from
even using the whip. Of course the most absolute form of authority in
human life is also the most loving relationship--that between parent and
Berg Soc wants everyone to work, to
contribute, and so the mandate is for a full-employment society, even if
work is spread a little thin at times. But respect in Bergonia means
more than, or at least something different from, the respect an individual
earns in capitalist countries of "making something of
himself." Bergonians are not so individually heroic, and find
respect in other ways that subtly affect public policy. For example,
respect is found nesting within a collective, belonging to a neighborhood
or group or club, in personal bearing, education, and grandeur of style,
and in personal verbosity. Obviously the standard for gauging
respect differs from culture to culture, and is a matter of cultural
values. The Potlach made destruction of wealth respectful, while
the Calvinism portrayed by Max Weber made piling up wealth respectful.
Thus capitalist assumptions about the inevitability of greed should be
received with extreme caution, no less than any other assumptions about
what make people tick.
Week and Overtime
Since 1974 national laws have restricted the
work week to thirty-six hours a week. Any work over that must be paid
time-and-a-half. Workers often want overtime. Some (e.g. the SFP) argue that worker self-rule means
that Congress should allow workers to work longer hours in their own
industries if they want, but this
gives some workers power to hog up all the work, and most Bergonian
socialists think the available work should be spread around so that no one
is unemployed. Sometimes
national labor policy must trump workers’ own preferences, in this
case to protect minorities of workers, avoid the abuses of apprenticeship
(where senior workers force underlings to work long hours), and reduce the
intensive competition that will corrode the quality of life.
the first four hours spent in on-the-job council and committee meetings are
counted as overtime, enterprises effectively reward the workers who want
to participate-- e.g. they pay themselves to participate in management of