a few remarks

Sam Pawlett rsp at SPAMuniserve.com
Sun Sep 5 02:01:56 MDT 1999

Chris Matthew Sciabarra wrote:
 I've not seen any evidence that an advanced industrial and
> information economy can be run without a price mechanism.  This is not
> asserting what I'm trying to prove.  The burden of proof is on those who
> assert the positive:  that planning CAN work.  I simply refer to the
> historical evidence that planning can't.

N&S.Korea, USSR, Poland, Hungary, Madagascar, S.Yemen, Mauritania,
Vietnam, Taiwan,
China,Britain, Nicaragua 1979-92....all worked. Some better than others.
The reasons that some of these societies collapsed was not because of
the failure of planning but for political reasons, they were either
conquered or their elites decided they would we better off under
capitalism where even the pretense of the idea of equality and producers
control of production is non-existent. The reasons why planning worked
in some places and not in others are various too.

> Chris:  Not at all; take a look at War Communism.  It is a portrait in chaos.

 The failure of War Communism can have many different explanations.
Different historians
explain it differently. Trotsky in _Revolution Betrayed_ is most
persuasive, IMO.

 >The market has surely proven its ability to deliver the goods.

 Delivered what kind of goods and to whom?

> I'd maintain, however, that the injustices and structural inequalities that
> we see are not an outgrowth of market distributions, but of state
> intervention on behalf of "capitalist" interests, causing all sorts of
> monopolistic rigidities and inefficiencies.

Perhaps in some cases, not in all. When it comes to income and resource
distribution, the
market is blind. A pareto-otimal outcome may be one where I have
everything and you have nothing.

> Chris:
> I think the price mechanism is connected to private property, yes.  But I
> do not think -- in principle -- that it is impossible for prices to
> function in a system where certain private property is owned by worker
> collectives.  Private property, in my view, introduces an element of
> accountability that public property eliminates.  The "tragedy of the
> commons" occurs when individuals profit privately from all the resources
> they drain, while not absorbing the costs of their usage.  Those costs are
> borne by the "commons."  The destruction of public resources -- everything
> from rivers in the United States to Lake Baikal in the Soviet Union -- is
> possible precisely because the property is not privately owned.

 No, the destruction is because the factories etc. doing the polluting
are not publicly owned and part of a democratic planning mechanism. The
problem of the commons assumes privately owned factories and a publicly
owned environment without ever explaining how society got to that state
of affairs in the first place. It is an ideological construct. There are
a few areas like the ocean fisheries here in Canada where a  commons
type problem exists. But the problem is not that the oceans and schools
of fish can't be privatized but the fish boats are privately owned and
the rapacious profit motive and capitalist competition that governs all
of social and economic life under present day capitalism. John Roemer
has a (somewhat) interesting paper on _A Public Ownership of the Problem
of the Commons_.

  As for
> war, monopolies, economic stagnation, and class warfare -- they are not the
> result of an unfettered market, but of violent state intervention into the
> market.

  Libertarians always say this but never provide any empirical evidence
to back this claim up. State
intervention is often undertaken to quell threats to capitalist property
rights and the current distribution of income and resources. Why did the
U.S. seek to overthrow Grenada, Cuba, Nicaragua....? There is also the
Lenin/Luxemborg theory of imperialism where fights over control of
resources and markets leads to war, that's not just the states control
over resources either. Capitalist firms are closely bound up with the
state, needing the state to solve a prisoner's dilemma among the
capitalist class while forcing the working class to defect.(I do think
game theory can be useful in helping to clarify things.)

> Chris:  When Marx and Engels say that the results will be strictly intended
> by the producers, they mean, by implication, that there will be NO
> unintended consequences.  Jon Elster says, quite correctly in my view, that
> Marx was a master of describing capitalism as a system of unintended
> by-products.  For Marx, by contrast, communism enables the proletariat to
> bring into existence that which it intends, rather than having the system
> generate consequences that nobody intends.  We move from an "invisible
> hand" to a very visible hand -- the hand of the proletariat, guiding and
> controlling social production.  I don't think this is possible -- because
> unintended consequences are a result of our sociality, not a result of
> capitalism.

  Elster also argues in _Cement of Society_ among other places that
basing a social/political theory on univeral market exchange where every
social relationship is a kind of market transaction (some sociobiology
for instance) and on rational choice is bound to fail. More of a move
towards an organicist conception.
  Unintended consequences occur within a context of structures,
institutions and constraints. The desirability of the order created by
the unintended consequence of human action depends on the institutions
humans adopt and the alternatives and constraints they face. The goal is
to mold the structures etc. so as to make the "spontaneous order"
desirable from *all* points of view. Capitalism, from the point of view
of teh proletariat, leads people by the invisible hand to create a
perverse and repugant order.
Now how would Mises like that? Bring on the anti-capitalist

Sam Pawlett

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