Definition and limitation
An association is an organisation of consumers, traders and producers whose goal is to influence the prices in such a way that all parties can get on well with them. An association is thus a coming together of different, unequal interests.
The attempt will be made through such a connecting of the economic actors to bring as many experiences as possible together so as to shape the economy actively. In order to determine the prices the judgement of a single individual is as a matter of fact not sufficient. Here a collective judgement is necessary. This is common to both the economical and the legal sphere. It is different in the spiritual sphere, where the individual can also make pertinent judgements on its own.
Unlike cartels and agencies associations do not work at the expence of the consumers, who are then directly involved in all decisions. Thus the present cartel- and monopoly laws, which aim to protect consumers interests through government intervention, will be made superfluous. Associations will accomplish this within the economical sphere.
On the other hand the purpose of the associations, contrary to cooperatives, is that the consumers do not try to take over the direct control of trade and production. It is not a matter of a change of domination, but rather of a balancing of the economic interests through fair agreements.
Tasks and means
In order to adapt the supply of goods and services to the needs of the consumers, so that these may afford to buy the desired products, the associations may influence the number of employees in a particular branch. If a product is too cheap for the producers, its amount must be reduced. The producers will then be needed in other branches, where products are too costly because of insufficient supply. The structural changes will thus be consciously carried through by the economic actors themselves, without waiting for the market to do it from itself (as in the present theory) or to give the task over to an overloaded state (as in the present practice.)
Moreover the so called monetary policy belongs to the tasks of an associative economy. It must keep a watch on the worth of the currency, so that it doesn't disturb either the import nor the export. Associations let money grow old as fast as the means of production do, in order to dynamiccally adapt the amount of money to the actual economy. If the means of productions fall out completly, tehre is nothing left anymore to exchange. Money loses its worth. Both, means of production and money, must be renewed in due time to retain their value. Money has a running time.
It may happen that separate businesses try to act outside of the associations. As long as this doesn't disregard any common agreements, one may not fall back on state power to bring these businesses back to a common level. Instead the associations that are at hand will have to count with their economical power and resort to the only justifiable force in economy: a boycott. A boycott, in contrast to a strike, spares the consumers who are the actual motive behind the whole economical process.
Ways towards association
An association is in the first place a web of connections. Rudolf Steiner therefore suggests that associations should not be founded but rather combined. This means that under certain conditions no new enterprise be founded, but rather that the existing enterprises should be brought together.
However small such an association may be, its main priority lies to begin with always in the bringing together of unequal interests. Nowadays the attention is onesidedly concentrated on the producers; and it is in the first place a matter of confronting consumers interests. Those who want to change this state of affairs have no other possibility than to compel the big combines to change their policy through a wide spread boycott and by giving their money to producers that are more cooperative.
The existing associative attempts, as for instance with Demeter, still suffer under the arbitrary selection of consumer representatives and under the absence of other producers. In an association it is also a matter of getting competitors of coming together under the supervision of the consumers. This wider perspective must always be present and every opportunity should be used to make it possible, otherwise the so-called association would turn out to be an instrument to bind the consumers.
An indirect way to associative economy as suggested by Steiner consists in the founding of trade groupings, who strictly avoid all questions of wages and other financial questions in order to develop a strong vocational ethos among its members. The ambition, that is otherwise concentrated in economical competition, will thus be once again focussed on that to which it belongs: pure expertise, that is on the spiritual. It would then no longer oppose the associative character of the economy.
Author: Sylvain Coiplet