Democracy and Planning: [WAS] Re: Young Liberal Fascist (XII)

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Tue Feb 13 05:19:21 MST 1996

Brian, you came in late. I am a market socialist. I've been defending the
points you raise below at some length in a socialist context. The debate
seems to be over for the present, but if you are interested, ask Chris B
in London how to get it  the archive. Or read, e.g., David Schweickart's
brief account of MS in the Fall/Winter 1992 issue of the Rev. of Radical
Political Economics. Of course I believe in more planning than you do. And
I agree that the market by itself is anti-democratic. That's one reason
I'm a socialist and not a defender of capitalism. But I also agree that
market constraints are probbaly economically necessary. --Justin Schwartz

On Mon, 12 Feb 1996, Brian Carnell wrote:

> At 07:56 AM 2/12/96 -0800, Peter wrote:
> >How about: different parties coming up with alternative
> >plans for the level and composition of investment and
> >public expenditure, and then having a national vote
> >on it.  Also, in the process of formulating these
> >alternative plans, a broad process of consultation,
> >public hearings, and input from workers' and consumers'
> >councils and their democratically elected delegates.
> This is the *worst* sort of application of democratic theory (although I do
> concede that it is indeed "democratic" socialism).
> This would remove the main benefit of the market system -- that it can
> quickly and simultaneously try many solutions to the same problem, with only
> the best/cheapest solution finally emerging as the most successful.
> For example, the status of computer operating systems is now in flux.  While
> I suspect in 5 years we will all be using some variation of Windows NT,
> there are plenty of groups and corporations working on alterative OSes, many
> of whom will fail miserably because they will be unable to capture market
> share, but a few that might depose Microsoft.
> In your democratic socialist vision, this competition would be eliminated.
> Instead we would have consortiums and individuals offer plans of what they
> would do.  Then we would vote on a few of those plans and implement ONLY
> those plans democratically approved.  But since we have only imperfect
> information about the future, we risk ignoring the most profitable and
> effective solutions to problem.
> This is exactly the sort of problem the Soviet Union constantly ran into
> with technological progress.  It committed its entire economy to a few
> solutions, and when it guess wrong it paid heavily.  You are of course not
> proposing that we run our economy like the USSR, but you are still adopting
> the position that we should artificially limit production and investment to
> a few basic ideas.
> This history of technological progress especially is a history of a few
> individuals or corporations who overcame the huge consensus that their
> ideas/inventions/techniques would fail.
> If you have any sources for how a socialist economy overcomes the problem of
> imperfect knowledge about the future, I'd be *very* interested in it.
> >PS When are you going to answer the 3 posts I
> >sent you explaining why libertarianism is hogwash
> >Mr Carnell?
> Oh yes, I will answer them.  I liked the title -- at least you don't beat
> around the bush.  I don't know when I'll be able to answer them, but it is
> on my list of things to get done before the end of the month.
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Brian Carnell
> briand at
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