Richard Wolff rwolff at
Sat Jan 14 08:36:53 MST 1995

	Perhaps I was not sufficiently clear in my comments on the
problem of "efficiency" measurements per se. Not only will socialist
economies generate different efficiency criteria than capitalist
economies, but the key point is that we are always talking about criteria
(plural) within as well as between socialist and capitalist economies.
There is no one criterion - neither labor hours, nor profits, nor
anything else that can claim some ultimate, last instance, foundational
ground as "right" for any economy.
	In other words, efficiency - being in principle unknowable and
unmeasurable because of the infinity of ramifications of any economic
institution or act under consideration - always depends on (is relative
to) the subset of costs and benefits visible to the eye of each distinct
beholder. Thus, in Ron's "socialist economy", different socialists (as
well as others) will view costs and benefits differently and so reach
different conclusions about the desirability (to them) of alternative
institutions or actions. No absolute standard of efficiency exists that
can or will resolve such differences; that is the meaning of the
epistemological critique of absolutist theoretical frameworks as that
critique applies to the "efficiency" issue. Only if some viewers' notions
of what strikes them as "efficient" can be imposed by them upon everyone
else will there be "an" efficiency standard - and that not because some
one standard has been found, but only because alternative standards have
been suppressed or represssed.
	I do not read Marx as having insisted or unambiguously affirmed
that ONE standard exists - only that it is unwarranted to approach a
socialist society with the standards prevalent within a capitalist one.
It is a question of struggle - as, in the end, it always has been - among
endlessly shifting, changing concepts of what is and is not desireable
(read "efficienct" if you like that synonym better). And I see no
advantage in pursuing the fruitless quest for an anchor, some final
absolute measure of social life that will end the constant flux,
magically resolve the changeability of everything (including what is
thought to be "efficient"). So people will struggle over what to do
economically, rather than religiously appeal to an absolute standard of
what is right....i.e. efficient. That would strike me as progress from a
Marxian perspective.

Rick Wolff


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