Hayek or is the market eternal?

Paul W. Cockshott cockshpw at wfu.edu
Wed Oct 19 14:56:02 MDT 1994

Chris writes:
 Hayek NEVER saw computerization as the
 ESSENCE of the problem.

I am not claiming that Hayek saw 'computerisation as the
essence of the problem', but he did assert that the number
of simultaneous equations to be solved made effective planning
technically infeasible.

The specific reference here is to p. 43, and more particularly to
note 37 on pp. 212--213, of  The Counter-Revolution of Science.
In the note, Hayek appeals to the judgment of Pareto and Cournot, that
the solution of a system of equations representing the conditions of
general equilibrium would be practically infeasible.

If Chris accepts that Hayek was mistaken on this then we are
begining to make some progress.

It is vulgar economics that asserts that the economic categories
of bourgeois society - prices, profits, capital and wage labour
are eternal. Marxism asserts that they historically bound to
specific forms of property relations. Hayek attempts to give
certain reasons why the market must be the eternal condition of
economic rationality, principally his arguments come down to
the difficulty of gathering dispersed information that he
asserts is largely subjective, and then the impossibility
of doing anything useful with the information once it is

I have disputed both these points, and in response Chris shifts
from arguing why the market is eternally needed to merely asserting
it as an axiom.

 It is the market that supplies the
 context within which any data has any meaning.  In the
 utopian world of Paul Cockshott, the market is gone, prices
 are gone, and economic calculation is suddenly "solved" by
 advanced computer technology.

The point is to establish why the market is necessary to give
data meaning. This can not be done by simply assuming it to
be the case. Does he really believe that 'any data' has only
meaning in a market context?

If so that is quite a remarkable claim.

To return to Hayeks example of shipping or travel agents, I would
say that the data on American Airlines computer that I am going
to fly with them tommorrow has definite non-market meanings. It
means to me that I will be transported accross the Atlantic,
and my desire to travel is by no means contingent upon a market
existing. To me, the purpose or meaning of an airline is transport.

For its shareholders of course that is a side issue. Transport
only has meaning if it brings in a profit. To them we can say only
the market gives data meaning. But the objective of socialism
is to replace production for profit with production for need.
It is satisfying peoples needs that should give meaning to economic


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