a few remarks

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Wed Sep 8 14:29:04 MDT 1999

>>> Chris Matthew Sciabarra <cms10 at is2.nyu.edu> 09/04/99 07:17PM >>>

Charles: Marxism doesn't propose your Central Planning Board that destroys
the means by which information is generated in order to make any decisions.
Marxism proposes a planning by democratic centralism that perserves the
infromation necessary to make a plan that will meet the needs and wants of
society better than capitalist price mechanisms or the market. You have not
made an argument that such a Marxist planning is impossible in principle.
You merely assert without proving it that your idea of it would destroy its
means of information. It sounds like a sort of "Heisenberg uncetainty"
principle of the economy. In trying to measure or know, the observer
impacts its object of observation, distorting the measruement.  I remember
getting to this point of the argument with Justin Schwartz.

Chris:  Ah!  Justin!  Good man!  Anyway, what Marxism proposes -- and what
has happened historically are two entirely different things.  My view is
that the utopia that Marxists want is one that destroys the price
mechanism.  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.


Charles: No, the burden of proof is on those who assert the price mechanism can work,
because , in fact, it has not worked in history.
(See , for example. _Capital_, on the problems with the market in actual history).
Capitalism doesn't work.


  I simply refer to the
historical evidence that planning can't.


Charles: But there is also historical evidence that it has.

Hunters and gatherers planned for 100's of thousands of years. That is a much longer
success record than the market.


I realize that the 20th century
models are vastly different from what Marx proposed... but what Marx
proposes does away with ALL markets and prices.  At least the 20th century
models had  international and "black" markets that they could refer to.

Chris (quoted by Charles): Prices have an epistemic function; where there
are no prices, there is
Charles: This is begging the question, circular. You are asserting what you
have to prove, by argument and evidence.

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


Charles: This is , excuse the expression, **((*)%$^^ing outrageous. Capitalism, trying
to keep the price mechanism in place, commits chaos on socialism, and you claim it as
test of the ability to plan. Get out of here !

Not only that we won the Civil War with War Communism. The plan worked. We tamed the
goddamn captialist imposed chaos.



Charles: This is a social economy. This subjective mystery cannot be a
basis for refuting its viability because this subject must come out with
it's wants if its wants them fulfilled by his or her co-producers. This is
a free asSOCIATION of producers, not a self-absorbed bunch of Robinson Crusoes.

Chris:  Yes, a social economy indeed.  But sociality entails individuals as
surely as individuals are social beings.  You cannot do away with
individual contexts in coming up with your plan.  Unfortunately, in the
20th century, those who sought to do away with individual contexts simply
tried to do away with the individual person.  I'm surely not of the belief
that this is what you would want; I know that such barbarism is not what
Marx envisioned either.


Charles: Define "individual contexts". The individual context is the social.


Charles:In actual history, prices have been the result of a social
interaction termed the market or commodity exchange.  What are the
different things the prices communicate to different people ? Why does
central planning have to eliminate this communication between people ? as
to who needs and wants what and therefore how much we should make etc. ?
But the central planning has another social mechanism for decison-making.
In fact, it is more social than the actually and historically exiting price
mechanisms, which rely on private appropriation while production is social.
The social appropriation with social production removes critical
contradictions from the decisonmaking by private appropriation.
That is with the actually existing price mechanisms the decisonmaking is
concentrated privately, not socially,contra your utopiam price mechanism
scenariio above. In other words, we want to destroy the price mechanism
decision making. What the evidence of history shows us is that the things
decision makers, people , know under the price mechanism is not a knowledge
of the whole ,but of the part, the private. Actually, it is under the price
system that people cannot know the whole, but only the part, not under a
socialist planning.  I can see accounting, cost accounting. You have to
count, and keep track of things.

Chris:  I think of the market as a kind of dialogue -- in which social
knowledge emerges thru the interactions of market participants.  By
contrast, Central Planning is a monologue:  it is something dictated by a
central planning organism to the rest of the economy.


Charles: I think you are thinking of central planning incorrectly. There is no reason
in principle that it must be based on one way communication, i.e. orders.


 People do learn
about the whole through the price mechanism, but it is the whole -- as it
pertains to their own context of knowledge, goals, and experience.  I doubt
that we'll convince each other on our different visions here, and I don't
want to bore everybody with long dissertations by a libertarian on the
price system.  But I still believe that the burden lies on the central
planners.  The market has surely proven its ability to deliver the goods.


Charles: NO IT HASN'T. It does not deliver the goods to the poor , the reserve army of
the unemployed, the 200 million estimated to be thrown into poverty by the latest
capitalist world crisis. You have a fantastic version of the actual record of the
market. You totally ignore Marxism's criitque of the market.


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.


Charles: This is straight up bourgeois economist lying. You might as well be Milton
Friedman. Give me a break.

Jim Craven predicted this.


My reading of history (_Capital_. etc) is that it is exactly the price
mechanism/market that causes chaos, shortages, wars and economic stagnation
- for the working class and masses. That's why we want to try something
new.  Are you saying the price mechanism is independent of private property
? If so, you have not said how. Price mechanism has been identical with the
market in history.
On this point , Rand, Hyek et al seem quite irreconcilable with Marx, and
this is central point.

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.  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


Charles: You deny central conclusions of Marxist economics. There is no synthesis of
Marxism with what you are saying. It is like a synthesis of Marxist economics and
essentially anti-Marxist economics: an impossibility. Your thesis is irreconicilably
antagonistic to Marxism.

You sound like Ayn Rand :>)


Charles: >From the market to the Marx-it !

Chris:  I think you have a slogan, Charles!!  :)

Charles: Yes, I've had it for 15 years.


Charles: What you say above seems very different than this. They are not
equivalent. You had said:
"The problem is that Marxists think they can run an economy as if they knew
every last detail, and as if
they can transcend all the "unintended consequences" of human action. "
Engels says nothing about transcending all the unintended consequences of
human action. Nor does Marx in your quote below.

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


Charles: I don't think Marx thought  the capitalists do not intend the many negative
consequences of their actions. The capitalists know quite well that their wealth and
power depends upon the poverty and weakness of billions of people.


 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

Charles: Capitalism "lies"when it "says" the negative results are unintended. The
legal aphorism is that one intends the necessary and foreseeable consequences of ones
actions. After all of this time, the negative consequences of the market , the price
mechanism are foreseeable. Also, Marx explained the whole thing to them. "They" have
knowledge. "They" cannot plead ignorance.

Our goal in a phrase is "the abolition of private property".


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