final words, for now...
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
cms10 at SPAMis2.nyu.edu
Sun Sep 5 19:31:32 MDT 1999
... I hope. I'm really, really deeply involved with editing the final
draft of my next book, for which I have about 4 weeks to deliver to Penn
State Press. I would like very much to stay here... and to continue
chatting, and will surely be lurking for a while, but I'm not entirely
convinced that my presence is wanted here, given that Carrol Cox states
that "This exchange exhibits vividly the point Jim Craven made -- that
not much useful can flow from the presence of a libertarian, and a
scholastic libertarian at that, on the list." I had thought that some
useful things were being stated already. John Stuart Mill once said that
if you favor a certain doctrine, it is always good to come up with people
who will criticize it, just to keep you on your toes. That observation
goes both ways, in my book, and that's why I've always surrounded myself
with people who criticize me and my convictions.
Sam Pawlett points to state capitalist systems, and also asks about Coase
on planning and externalities. I can only say in response that the "state
capitalist" systems he refers to are almost all going thru convulsions at
this point. The fact that some are able to sustain certain industrial
sectors for a time does not mean that they are stable economies. And they
still have an international market to which they refer.
I think it was Oskar Lange who once said that as long as socialists had at
least ONE capitalist market to refer to, they'd be alright. The point is
-- what happens when socialists get their way, and destroy all semblances
of markets and prices? The fact remains: markets are needed somewhere in
order for planners to do what they do. If it were not for the black market
"tolkach" entrepreneurs in the former Soviet Union, there would have been
far worse problems than shortages.
As for Coase, it is my understanding that the Coase theorem shows how
externalities can be internalized by the creation of private property
rights where they aren't... which is why his original article spoke of the
I don't disagree with Sam's discussion of US militarism on behalf of
capitalists. My point is that this state intervention is what makes the
injustices possible. The libertarian viewpoint is an answer to the
one-sided perspective put forth by Engels, and adopted by all too many
socialist theorists, who said that monopoly, booms and busts, and other
crises are brought about strictly by economic factors. "At no point
whatever are robbery, force, the state or political interference of any
kind necessary," he said. This economism is empirically false; the state
is always involved -- and has always been involved -- in the process.
It was not my intention to twist Michael Perelman's words; I was simply
trying to point out that the Austrians differ from their neoclassical
rivals. I also believe that their theories are even more appropriate to
the current information economy because they are deeply aware of the role
that information plays in the market system.
As to whether or not an experiment in libertarian free markets or any other
socio-economic system is possible without interference from the US
government... let me say this: As radicals, we are all allowed to dream.
The fundamental question is simply this: whose dream is more realistic?
The libertarian one -- which requires the presence of markets and prices;
or the socialist one -- which requires their absence. I think everybody
knows my answer to the posited alternatives.
Anyway, I would like to stick around -- but I will simply be unable to
answer 6-8 replies to my posts every day. I just don't have the time. I
realize that by being here, I invite these responses. So, I'll do my best
to keep abreast of the dialogue -- and try to minimize my posts for the
next month or so... the book -- and the publisher -- won't wait.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Visiting Scholar
NYU Department of Politics
New York, New York 10003-6806
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