[OPE-L:2736] Re: socialism and planning

Sun, 28 Jul 1996 11:55:27 -0700 (PDT)

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Duncan wrote in [OPE-L:2735]:

> Hayek's point, however, was at a different level, and in my view raises a
> question that socialists need to think about very hard. As I read his 1938
> essay (which I think is actually the best exposition of the issues), Hayek
> sees markets not as allocational devices (in fact he is not very
> interested in the concept of efficiency) but as information processing
> devices. For him the issue of the market is to put individuals in a
> position where they are forced to divulge their private information
> through their transactions in the market. Thus Hayek seems to have raised
> more sharply the problem of how a central planning mechanism, no matter
> what its political structure, gets the information on the basis of which
> it can make coherent decisions.

An interesting point .... In so far as gathering, tabulating, accessing,
and exchanging information are concerned, what about the advent of
personal computers? For instance, Windows, Mac, and IBM platforms already
support many extremely capable and easy to use and easy to learn
accounting and data base software applications which are in my view
already within the intelligence and capability of most literate factory
workers. Product code bars also make it easier to maintain accurate
inventory control and information, etc. etc.. I think you raise a real
issue, but I think it is a problem which can be overcome with the
technology that either exists now or is about to exist soon and a
commitment to democratic decision-making and participation. The Internet
as well has great potential for exchanging information and more reliable
communication related to planning.

Of course, I may be over-estimating the pace or capabilities of the above
developments. What do our computer gurus on the list think about this?

> I don't relish the
> idea of trying to run a modern industrial economy on the basis of
> democratic participation and control over every level of the economic
> process. It seems to me that there has to be some articulation between
> effective political processes that can democratically evolve general
> priorities and principles of allocation and the actual process of
> production and distribution.

A large degree of decentralization is required *for* democratic
participation and efficient planning, IMO. I think some of the above
comments have relevance for this question as well. Hayek assumed that the
market was the only efficient way to provide accurate information.

> I've often given this type of answer myself, but I don't really believe in
> it any more. I think the historical experience of the USSR was very much
> bound up with the lack of any coherent understanding of the problems of
> economic management with which the Bolsheviks started in 1917. (I think
> the political failings were probably more even more acute, but the
> economic and political systems very much intertwined.)

Well ... if we want to examine the historical experience of the problems
with management in "socialist" countries, we might want to also access the
experiences beginning in the late 60's in Hungary and the experience of
"self-management" in the former Yugoslavia.

In OPE-L Solidarity,