Centrally planned economy

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Tue Jun 4 06:27:40 MDT 1996

Louis: This is akin to the vision of high-technology socialism that Edward
Bellamy promoted in "Looking Backward" and one that our anti-technology
leftists hate. I don't see high-technology as being key to the production
of consumer goods, but rather key to the intelligent use of resources so
we won't drive ourselves into ecological extinction. I am reading
William Ross's "News from Nowhere" right now which in a way is
antithetical to Bellamy's vision but was written in the spirit of Marxism.
Ross was fond of precapitalist societies leisurely pace and widespread
popular artistry and saw socialism as a way of recapturing that spirit. I
will have more to report later on.

On 4 Jun 1996, Chris, London wrote:

> An example that may help to think about the role of computers:
> In England there is an amazing centralization of capital in groceries.
> Half of all consumption of groceries, (food and household goods)
> is sold by just four supermarket chains. In the last 10 years they
> have all got computerised check-outs with optical character-reading
> of bar codes. "Just-in-time" ordering has put the chains in the best
> position to offload fluctuations in purchasing back to the suppliers
> who are already dependent.
> This provides a model for a significant fraction of the GDP of
> an industrialised economy. If the computer networks were unified
> under socialism, the system could still be flexible, and responsive
> to consumer demand. The system could be guided rather than controlled
> (eg to phase out CFC's).
> Could this still operate if the capital was totally centralized
> in one state monopoly even if there continued to be different outlets.
> Consumers would still be free to purchase or not purchase. As workers
> they would still be free to offer to sell their labour power to where
> ever they could be employed. Commodity exchange would prevail but
> the centralisation of capital could be in the state.
> Is this possible? Is it what we want? Is it happening now?
> Chris
> PS the new British lottery claims it has a computer system larger than
> the four main high street banks.
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