[OPE-L] Primary bads: pollution and smoke puff over your face.

From: Alejandro Agafonow (alejandro_agafonow@YAHOO.ES)
Date: Fri May 18 2007 - 06:17:42 EDT

Dear Paul and Jerry:

Cockshott on 05/17/2007: Take the example of food production or the production of intoxicating substances like, whiskey, tobacco and cocaine […] With these products it is possible to ascertain scientifically what human needs are, and to plan production in accordance with these needs.
Within mixed economies “primary goods” represents a de-commodified sector (socialized) and under Market Socialism it would be far bigger. It just backs the thesis that I’m not against planning per-se. What about the consumables you are thinking about? To my knowledge, neither Market Socialist nor “egalitarian liberals” (rawlsians) have deepen very much on this but it isn’t crazy to think about this consumables as a sort of “primary bads”.
Jerry on 05/17/2007:  I'm not really comfortable with the process you are suggesting.  What to produce should be decided by the people themselves rather than an elite -- in this case, the "scientists".
Nevertheless, I share the caution of Jerry. Would we agree that a cigarette smoke puff over your face is something that everybody has a right to be prevented from? This right says nothing about the right of smokers to have a smoke. Even more, to deal with this problem safeguarding the bigger quantum of freedom for everybody, we would have to distinguish something like hard and soft “primary bads”. The last example is a soft one and we shouldn’t prohibit per-se cigarette consumption but we certainly should discourage its negative externalities.
Beyond the disgusting smoke puff over your face, we would think about encouraging the smokers’ responsibility. Due to the medical evidence of cigarette harm and the costly health system financed by everybody in the case of public schemas, it is not unfair to ask smokers contribute more with the financing of the system, with money in the case of Market Socialism or with labour tokens in the case of Labour Time Accounting Socialism. Smokers would still being free to have a smoke but we have minimized harm for people choosing not having a smoke. Something different happen with an inherited illness, for example. Nobody has voluntarily chosen it so everyone has to contribute with its financing.
Cockshott on 05/17/2007: A similar situation exists with fossil fuels, individual choice, guided by the law of value, is causing excessive consumption of them. Restrictions expressed  in-natura  on the production of these products are necessary.
Two things have to be distinguished here. One is the pollution caused by an overuse of fossil fuels, something that also rest in the terrain of negative externalities and it only could be aggravated in the scenario of low relative scarcity fuels. The other thing is that in a scenario of high relative scarcity fossil fuels, prices would act automatically as a rationing devise discouraging its overuse.
The last thing was part of Ludwig von Mises’ criticism back to the 20’s. Labour accounting couldn’t ration non-reproducible resources, i.e., goods that labour has not produced. You and Allin have accepted it cleverly building a solution: “[…] the planning authority could make it a principle that whenever it employs technologies that consume non-reproducible resources, it invests in research into the production of substitutes.” (pp. 10) Cottrell, Allin y Paul Cockshott (1993) “Calculation, Complexity and Planning: The Socialist Calculation Debate Once Again”, Review of Political Economy, Vol. 5, Nº 1, pp. 73-112.

Best regards,
Alejandro Agafonow

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