[OPE-L] Lange's vindication

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sun Apr 22 2007 - 07:02:07 EDT

The quote from Oskar Lange is not silly. There is much more to economics
than Marx accomplished in his writing, and Marx concentrated mainly on
defining the capitalist mode of production and its long-term developmental
tendencies (even that he did not finish). It is silly to think Marx had an
exhaustive theory of capitalism.

However, actually Oskar Lange himself was also critical of neoclassical
economics, insofar as it badly defined price behaviour and the human
response vis-a-vis prices. Lange aimed for an integration of classical
political economy, which provided theoretical foundations, and modern
economics, which provided a much more refined knowledge of market

The trouble with the doctrine of "market socialism" is that it is an
economic theory only propagated mainly by academics who are not economists.
It lacks:

- an assessment and critique of the historical experience of social
- a profound theory of property rights and law
- a profound theory of political processes, including bureaucratization.
- a profound theory of market functioning
- a profound critique of democracy
- a profound theory of market functioning
- a theory of socialist forms of association

So the "market socialism" is more a slogan touted by academics, than a
profound theory with substantive content.

People like Roemer seem to be very "rigorous" theorists, but in reality they
commit very elementary errors in conceptualising even the simplest notions.
"Analytical Marxism" was originally a product of Stalinists who realised
that their crude dogmas were absolutely no match for English logical
empiricism, and then began to apply the tools of British analytical
philosophy to their beliefs. You have a Marxist concept, you try to fix its
meaning precisely, and then you try to establish exactly how it relates to
other concepts.

In the history of Marxism, there is a traditional hostility to markets in
general. Markets are supposed to be bad things by definition, if Marxists
are to be believed. Marxists will maintain this, even as they consume and
enjoy meals, housing, holidays, cars and even yachts bought in markets with
their rich academic salaries. Some Marxists indeed call for "a struggle
against the law of value" or the "value system".

But why are markets in general bad? There is no real explanation, except
that some Marxists reach the conclusion that "direct allocation according to
need is superior and preferable". Now obviously it is true - any child knows
this - that if you can get your needs met directly through appropriating
something for free, this is preferable to having to earn money and going to
a shop to buy something, at least provided that the direct allocation takes
less time and is of the same quality and quantity. But if that is all you
can say about it, it's a very primitive socialism indeed. In fact it is not
socialism at all, but a free rider theory, a theory about how people should
work for you instead of you working for them.


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