Robert Peter Burns
rburns at chaph.usc.edu
Tue Nov 14 23:23:57 MST 1995
Okay, here's something better--more efficient and feasible
than a totally planned economy, more likely to gain and
retain the support of the working class, and yet something
that still requires a lot of class struggle to achieve.
We need to distinguish "market forces"--the atomistic,
anarchic determination of investment and the structure
of production, on the one hand, from "market exchanges"
on the other--the use of flexible, non-centrally determined
money prices as a mechanism of distribution of a range of
goods and services, and as a source of information about
costs and demand. Socialism requires the abolition of
the former but can coexist with the latter. My position
would be, therefore:
1. There should be planning of the aggregate level and
composition of *investment* by democratically accountable
public agencies, with the aim of ensuring full employment
and adequate productivity and infrastructure improvements
2. There should be a large nonmarket based public sector
for education, health care, social services, parks
and other leisure facilities, libraries, public transport,
etc., and an income-support system to ensure decent nutrition,
housing, etc for all those unable to support themselves
through employment, as well as a decent minimum income for
those who do.
3. Major industries in the transportation, energy, and
telecommunications sectors should be publicly owned.
Individual enterprises in other sectors should be worker
self-managed but "socially" owned, with ownership rights disaggregated
and distributed between the workers, democratically
accountable investment agencies, and local, state, and federal
government. Small private cooperatives and self-employment
should also be permitted.
4. Where it operates, the market should be held in check by
regulation covering matters like workplace health and safety,
product safety,and environmental protection, and by a progressive
taxation system to finance the nonmarket sectors of the economy.
In this system, enterprises would have to produce and price their
products within the parameters laid down by the aggregate and
sectoral investment plans. Though plan and market would check and
balance each other, politics would definitely be in command through
public control over investment and regulation of production units, and the
the counterweight of the tax-financed nonmarket public sectors.
Democratically accountable investment agencies would monitor firms
and appraise individual investments not simply on the basis of
enterprise profitability, but using "social return" criteria to take
care of major externalities <e.g. pollution>, monopoly power, and
community and local needs. Investment and production would not be
determined atomistically, but in a conscious coordinated way. But once the
plans had been set, enterprises would not be under centralized
operational management, but would respond autonomously to the
pattern of demand that resulted from the plan, with those responding
effectively having some financial incentive to do so. But the
tax and public provision system would act as a powerful redistributive
mechanism to offset large inequalities. And in any case there would
be no income merely from owning private capital, so that would lessen
inequalities in the first place. Imagine Swedish social
democracy transformed into socialism by adding investment planning,
social ownership, workers' self-management, instead of it being
thrown to the dogs of global capitalism. Wouldn't that be worth
fighting for? Wouldn't that be attractive to workers?
For how a model like this would work, and its many advantages over
both capitalism and total central planning, see D. Schweickart,
AGAINST CAPITALISM, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
If this is *still* too market-oriented for you, then try P.
Devine, DEMOCRACY AND ECONOMIC PLANNING, Polity Press, 1988
Peter Burns SJ
rburns at scf.usc.edu
PS--the answer to the famine question from Markets#1 is:
Mao's China <1959-1962--at least 20 million dead>
PPS--Oh my God, I've just remembered I said I wouldn't
post on market socialism again! Will you forgive me?
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