Just a comment...

Paul W. Cockshott cockshpw at wfu.edu
Wed Oct 19 07:24:09 MDT 1994


Chris says that his only objective in using Hayek to attack Marx
is to seek the truth. Well, who among us believes themselves
to be motivated by a love of lies. The point remains that Hayek
is a current pinnacle of what Marx called vulgar political economy
and if one holds to that, one is forced to attack Marxism, since the
purpose of vulgar political economy has always been to defend the
bourgeois social order.

First Chris said that Hayek did not think that the problem of
socialism is the impossibility of one mind comprehending the
details of the economy. Then when I show Hayek saying just that,
Chris says that we must take the good with the bad, the late with
the early Hayek, perhaps he did say all these things before 1955
but we should not place too much emphasis on these youthful writings.

Then the key issue was not the impossibility of calculation of
a plan, but the irreducibly subjective character of knowledge.
Since this could not be captured by any formalised decision procedure
and thus automated, there was no alternative but to use the
market to capture the information.

When I point out that  the very areas that Hayek holds out as
paradigmatic examples of the subjectivity of knowledge have now been
computerised, he shifts his gounds again and says that the computerisation
only works because these areas are embedded in a market.
But this was not the original argument. Originally the assertion
was made that a market is needed because so much knowledge is
subjective and uncapturable. But if this original justification for
the market is abandoned, then what is the basis for the assertion
that airline booking systems only work because they are within a
market economy.

There is no reason why a similar flight booking system could not
be made to work even better in a socialist economy. For a start
one could get over the incompatibility of the software systems
that are currently operated by competing airlines. The information
systems that exist today are designed to tie you in to one airline
with the result that you may have to follow the most tortuous route
from start to destination. Create one integrated flight booking
system for all flights and the passenger will get a better choice.
The other functions of such a system - providing objective information
on flight loadings, calculating the optimum scheduling of flights
at minimum cost etc, will work equally well under communism as under
capitalism -- costs would just be computed in labour hours not
dollars.

Chris is right that arbitrage operations can only be computerised because
they are in a market economy, but for the simple reason that they are
an unproductive overhead of the market system that will perish with
it.




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