Socialism With Labor Time Vouchers

This is my attempt to make an objective summary of a debate which was conducted late 2004 - early 2005 in the World in Common forum. -- M.L.

Two alternative concepts of how labor and distribution should be organized in a socialist society The FREE ACCESS proposal The LABOR TIME VOUCHERS proposal
     
Thesis Socialism requires free access to all goods and services, and work should be voluntary. Socialism requires vouchers based on personal work time to be used as credits for consumption.
Typical organizations which have advanced these viewpoints The World Socialist Movement The Socialist Labor Party of America
Freedom Voluntary work and free access to wealth would preserve individual freedom of choice. Consumption credits based on work time would preserve individual freedom of choice.
Viewpoint about the need to abolish money and the wage system Labor vouchers would not be significantly different from money and wages. Labor vouchers would be qualitatively different from money and wages.
Justifiable reason for a socialist system to measure work time and consumption levels For efficient administration of time, resources and inventory control. ... that, and also to restrict personal consumption according to personal work time.
Debate about production levels relative to work time The development of modern industrial methods, particularly in the area of automation, has been so rapid that the production problem is now solved. The need for labor will be further reduced by the discontinuation of capitalism's waste (militarism, speculation, advertising, etc.). Socialist production will be sufficient and society will be prosperous, with a vastly reduced need for labor time. Despite automation, individuals in a socialist world would still have the personal desire to work less and consume more. Free access could result in unsustainable levels of consumption. Voluntary labor might not be provided in the skills and durations needed. Consumption must be limited to a measurable amount that is proportional to individual work time.
Opinion about transition, and influence by arguments given by Marx at the end of his pamphlet Critique of the Gotha Programme Compared to 1875, "all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly." Society is ready to realize the goal: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." No transition period is necessary. The first phase of socialism requires vouchers "when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society." After socialism has already been established, free access may be considered.
Scientific socialists do not make unverifiable claims about "human nature" Proponents of vouchers make an unwarranted assumption. Proponents of free access make an unwarranted assumption.
Learning from actual experiences with free access People have adopted forms of free access several times, not only in tribal and pre-modern societies but also in the industrial age. Little or no data, except regarding primitive societies, temporary experiments, utopian communities.
Learning from actual experiences with voluntary labor Observing community volunteers, emergency responses, etc. verifies that humans are social animals. Intrinsic enjoyment of work is cited by many scientists, artists, and others. We lack evidence of volunteers in factories, mills, and other "basic industry" sectors, including "unpleasant work".

Work in Progress -- Started January 6, 2005 -- Last Revision January 9, 2005

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