Marx vs. Hayek, conscious action vs. utopianism

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Thu Nov 10 23:59:22 MST 1994


Tom, the all-caps are hard to read, like someone shouting. Can you reply in
little letters like other folks do?

It's late, so I'll be brief. The quick response to Andrew on which you
comment here was meant to restate some basic points rather than to push
things forward. Sometimes that is worth doing.

You say mainly two things:

1. Market socialists cannot rely on a democratic state partly because the
problems I have noted with democracy are universal and partly because
markets create problems for democracy, mainly through generating inequality.

I agree about the former worry, but of course planned socialism has no
advantage there.

As to the latter I have responded elsewhere about some mechanisms MS can
use. Firms will be smaller for reasons explained, books can be opened,
decentralization can work for MS as well as for PS.

For some functions, e.g., providing public goods, it doesn't actually
matter if the state is all that democratic as long as the goods really are
public and needed and wanted by all, e.g. roads. So a state which is not
so democratic or even undemocratic--I don't advocate this--can help solve
collective action and public goods problems. Mussolini, it is said, made
the trains run on time.

Finally, one thing to note is that with regard to efficiency (i.e.,
solving the economic problem I state below, which you accept the
formulation of), the only thing that PS has to rely on is in effect the
state at all its levels, whether or not planning institutions are
officially part of the state. So problems with democracy and efficiency in
the state are really quite pressing for PS. MS of course has the market
(or markets) in addition. As ever the question is comparative.

2. My second point is this. You complain my standards of modeling are too
absurdly exacting to be met. This is not so. A lot of folks do meet them:
Schweickart, Albert & Hahnel, Mandel, Roemer. Modeling doesn't require
that you write the laws for societies that don't exist, but that you
specify their institutions in enough detail to be able to say how they
might work under resaonable assumptions about behavior. You can do
this--all the writers I mentioned do--in less than a page. I have myself,
or we wouldn't have had anything to talk about.

Does your commune model do this? No. Look at my statement of the economic
problem. How does the model solve that problem? All the model says is that
people in workplaces and local communities elect lowly-paid recallable
delegates with mandates to represent them in legislative+executive
councils for local self-government, which then elect delegates to higher
bodies, etc. (Incidentally indirect representation past the local level is
not so obviously such a democratic idea.) The question remains how the
councils at any level find and process the information they need to plan
and how they present these plans for democratic approval, etc.

Actually my guess is that your idea is essentially the same as Albert and
Hahnel's, although you say it is not. What's the difference? Just that
your basic units are workplace-based instead of neighborhood based? Is
that what you meant by calling them too middle class? (A view you
attributed to me and which I repudiate.) I don't see how that makes a
difference in answering the objections to A&H which I posted here on the list.

3. I will say apropos of your feminism posts that you are so far out of what
I would consider to be in line and get so hot under the collar about your
views that I do not want to talk about that stuff with you anymore. I do
not think it productive.

So, ta for now.

--Justin Schwartz

On Thu, 10 Nov 1994 tgs at cunyvms1.gc.cuny.edu wrote:

> JUSTIN,
>
>
>
>
> TOM HERE.  GOT MY MOJO WORKIN (MY LINE ITEM VETO)  READY TO ROLL
>
> YOU RESPONDED TO THIS MESSAGE FROM ANDREW:
> >
> > this will be very short.
> >
> > On Mon, 7 Nov 1994, Justin Schwartz wrote:
> > > > earlier, Justin Schwartz also wrote this:
> >
> > > > > ... the planning crowd has not produced attempts
> > > > >to answer the Mises-Hayek critique (MHC) of planning. They prefer to
> > > > >attack markets instead.
> > >
> > > Well, look at how Andrew and Tom behave.
> >
> > Let me confess that I have never read any Hayek, had never heard of Mises
> > before joining this list, and have no grasp of the intricacies of the
> > MHC. I do think that I have a vague grasp of the MHC, however, from
> > Justin's descriptions of it.
>
> It's time to start. This problem is THE central problem for socialist
> theory. I refer you again to a good short discussion in Scott Arnold, Karl
> Marx's Radical Critique of Capitalist Society, Oxford 1990, 243-66.
>
> >
> > I feel however, that it is not really a critique of communist planning as
> > much as it is a critique of economic planning given many assumptions,
> > such as that the production of resources can be understood from a solely
> > economic perspective. If the entire political and social structures were
> > transformed would the MHC apply anymore?
>
> No matter how the political and social structures are transformed we need
> to be able to solve the following problem, as stated by Albert and Hahnel,
> who are democratic planners:
>
> Find out what goods and services people want
>
> Find out what work people are willing to do
>
> Find out the ancillary costs of matching work to satisfaction of demand,
> and which costs people will bear
>
> And devise some means of getting a match among these things.
>
>
> A NEAT AND USEFUL SUMMARY
>
>
> Markets do this by letting individuals register their consumption
> preferences in purchases and their labor preferences in taking whatever
> jobs are available that best match their production preferences. With a
> capitalist labor market this last is a bit of a joke, but under MS, there
> is no labor market or structural unemployment.
>
> YOU HAVE A FAR MORE OPTIMISTIC VIEW OF THE MARKET THAN MCNALLY OR MYSELF,BUT
> WE'VE BEEN OVER THAT AND THERE'S NO POINT IN DOING IT AGAIN.
>
>  As to ancillary costs
> externalities, markets don't do so good, which one economic reason you
> need a government.
>
> HERE'S WHERE I FIND YOUR POSITION PARTICULARLY ONE-SIDED.  IS THIS NOT A
> DEUX EX MACHINA, THIS "GOVERNMENT"? HOW
> WILL IT BE STRUCTURED? IF CENTRALIZED, HOW WILL IT STAY FREE OF BUREAUCRATIC
> DEGENERATION?  IF DECENTRALLIZED, HOW WILL IT REMAIN FREE OF THE ANARCHY
> OF THE MARKET IT ATTEMPTS TO REGULATE?
>
> YOU ACCUSE THE DEMOCRATIC PLANNERS OF USING THE STATE IN PRECISELY THIS
> WAY--AS A DEUX EX MACHINA.  AREN'T YOU?
>
>
>
> Still, despite their deficiencies, markets solve the problem with some
> level of adequacy. Planning as we have seen it did much worse.
>
> AGAIN, WHICH PLANNING?  HOW WAS IT STRUCTURED? WAS IT TRULY DEMOCRATIC?
> YOU SEEM TO BE ARGUING THE REALIST POSITION: THE WAY IT WAS IS THE ONLY
> WAY IT EVER COULD BE.
>
> IT'S GETTING HARD TO WHET MY ARGUMENTS HERE.  YOU'LL HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN
> THIS.
>  If you want
> to argue that planning as it might be would do better, you have to explain
> how, and not just wave democracy (itself very problematic) as a magic wand.
>
> OK, BUT NEITHER SHOULD YOU.
>
> Mises and Hayek anticipated the problems with planning. They argued that
> you cannot know all the things a planner would have to know, whether that
> planner was a state planning board or a whole democratic citizenry.
>  Nor
> could planners keep track of changes in preferences for work, consumption,
> and willingness to bear costs. The upshot of that is planning, in their
> view, could not solve the problem as stated, and certainly not as well as
> markets. If the problem--I mean the economic problem, not the
> MHC--remains, and why wouldn't it? planners have to have a solution to the
> MHC.
>
> THROUGHOUT THE AGES, FROM DAVID HUME, TO THE
> POST-FRENCH REVOLUTION POSITIVISTS, ONWARD, CONSERVATIVES HAVE ASSURED
> HUMANITY THAT REALITY WAS TOO MYSTERIOUS FOR THEIR COMPREHENSION, OR THEIR
> CONSCIOUS PARTICIPATION IN CONTROLLING SOCIAL REALITY. BUT AS VICO SAID, IF
> WE CREATE IT (SOCIETY, I MEAN, WE UNDERSTAND IT)
>
>  If something in the transformation of social and political relations
> will provide a solution, I want to know what it is. Precisely and
> specifically what. Please tell me.
>
> I DON'T HAVE THE BLUEPRINTS DRAWN UP JUST YET, BUT I DO HAVE SOME GENERALIZED
> IDEAS--POWER SHARING AMONG DIFFERENT LEVELS OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT, CONSULTATO
> ION OF THESE WITH THE FACTORY COUNCIL SYSTEM, UNIONS AND POPULAR ASSOCIATIONS,
> ETC.  J. DAVID EDELSTEIN PUT A VERY ROUGH OUTLINE INTO ATC 34 OR 35. I'M
> SORRY IF THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO MEET YOUR EXTREMELY EXACTING SPECIFICATIONS.
> I THINK IT IS INDEED IMPOSSIBLE TO COME UP WITH YOUR SPECIFICATIONS, BECAUSE
> IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DEMONSTRATE UNTIL WE WIN THE REVOLUTION, GIVEN THE FACT
> THAT THE BOURGEOISIE DON'T TAKE KINDLY TO DEMOCRATIC PLANNING EXPERIMENTS,
> AND THE BOLSHEVIKS, WHO HAD THE CHANCE, DIDN'T TAKE TO DEMOCRACY.
>
> I DON'T THINK THAT WHAY I AM PROPOSING IS SO VAGUE AS TO DESERVE THE LABEL
> "MAGIC WAND".  AND I HAVE YET TO HEAR YOUR SPECIFICATIONS FOR YOUR MARKET
> STATE.  SO WHO'S CALLING THE KETTLE?
>
>
> --Justin Schwartz
>





     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list