There is no alternative to the market economy!
Or why Karl Marx was a failure [being a reply to Robin Cox who writes in here as Hood1. He was in the SPGB but he is now a statist who thinks he is an anarchist].
The economic calculation argument [eca] that quite phenomenally Robin Cox still does not understand, despite decades of studying it, is what best indicates that there is no alternative to the market economy. Robin imagines that he does supply a way how free access might work but he shows no sign of even understanding that a method of social cost is needed but he does show plenty of ignorant protest against the fact that the economic problem is demanding, that it makes him feel insecure and the like, all of which leads the reader of his posts in here to think that he is merely attempting to wish the economic problem away.
Robin makes a lot of fuss about being an anarchist but he also seems to go along with ideas like democracy that are a form of government and government implies a state. It is mere chance that consistent pristine liberalism is anarchy, it is the liberalism rather than the incidental anarchy that matters but it is also a mere fact that men like Bakunin were de facto statists.
Karl Marx set off on a tricky premise when he defined a commodity as production for use as well as exchange, as it saddled him with the true idea that production for profit was thereby always for use too, as he perversely wanted to contrast production for profit to production for use but he could not coherently do that given his definition of a commodity. That is the main reason his quest failed logically but his system of ideas was also short on referring to external facts too but instead it made false assumptions like labour power and surplus value.
I think Sean is a bit over the top in this class idea that he uses to reply to Robin with, though it is true that there is a class that gains from taxation and the class of actual taxpayers lose out by taxation but this is not by a struggle, or even by a natural clash of interests but rather by most taxpayers agreeing, more or less, to aid some of the gainers, like the unemployed or the sick, whilst maybe not even realising that all who work for the state are also thereby gainers, but then nor do those who do gain that way fully realise that they gain. They think that they are also taxpayers. Most people are confused over taxation and they tend to think there is something like a mixed economy that we all need, or that the late USSR was a command economy guided by the state. Many replies to Robin here indicate that they think that. Robin tends to think it himself, too, despite citing Paul Craig Roberts who knows better. Anyway this is class business is not a clash of interests but an agreement of nearly all the public that we need a state. In other words, this is all a matter of enlightenment rather than one of a clash of interests or a Romantic class struggle.
A free trade liberal outlook is not one whit naïve but Tories usually think it is so and Karl Marx was basically a Tory, as was the other statists who call themselves anarchists. The Tory, William Godwin, was at least clear on that. But other Tories around 1800, like Coleridge, also had communistic ideas.
The main thing about the ruling class is that they are ignorant. So the best paradigm for anarcho-liberals and also for classical liberals is the Enlightenment outlook rather than Romance.
The law courts do not need to be in the hands of the state. Ditto with anything else that is in the hands of the state today. It can all be privatised if we need it in the post state society and the state has nationalised a few things that we will still need after the state disappears, but note that war exists only owing to taxation. As Richard Cobden said, there is no incentive to war in free trade. Anyway, everything socially useful that is now held by the state can be privatised completely.
It is true that we need to have something to trade with if we are to indulge in trade. But we all find it easy to get a start unless we err by pricing ourselves out by asking too much in wages to begin with but only the state dole supports that sort of folly today. The jobs out there to be done are potentially infinite as J.L. Simon indicated in The Ultimate Resource (1981). Even the recent rise of India and China has boosted wages by their output that they export to the UK rather than caused a shortage of workers here. They are the top two populations so their rise being absorbed should puzzle those who think with Malthus and Keynes that jobs might be limited.
Society is exchange, as Riegel rightly says. But the free access fans want to overlook that fact. They seek to wish away the economic problem, as the economic calculation argument [eca] against the ignorant idea of free access indicates.
Socialists do not yet comprehend the economic calculation argument [eca] or, indeed, the economic problem that it indicates. If we have no economically efficient way of doing things, then any society will soon drift into famine. In the mass urban society with an advanced division of labour a social criterion of cost will be needed so that we can 1) cost what is taken from the stores, 2) cost any materials that we use in any investment and 3) see what any job we do will pay us. Free access rules out any such social costing, hence it is not a viable option.
Socialists tend to think the economic problem is a myth imposed by the capitalist class, or the rich. They imagine null set class struggle and other false ideas. They imagine clashing economic interest groups that lack any existential import. This all might seem a bit stark but it is, in their confused and ignorant way, roughly what they tend to think. The socialists might dress their ideas up a bit, but they basically think that the market is just so very wasteful that to do better than it in the new free access society of socialism is no problem. That is to err both on wastage and on what it takes to maintain society. They feel that socialism could hardly do worse but they have allowed their hyperbole, their lack of realistic perspective and the mere agreement of other socialists to carry them into some very unreal ideas. For once they have created their anti-capitalist ideas they tend to hang onto them as valued ends, or dogmas, rather than as the mundane truth, which is usually just a mere means to some end. Their ideas are usually not so good but they are, nevertheless, very pleased with them.
Money is the social criterion of social cost today and we use it to sort out effective demand. Deciding what we want to buy is calculating what we can afford by the use of money. On the face of it, we cannot do that, at all, with free access. That rules out any viable means of costing what we take from the stores. This is the first aspect of the eca.
Mises mainly writes, in Socialism (1922) and elsewhere, about how we cost new investments, such as building a new bridge or a new road, but there is also the third aspect of the eca, where we choose where to work and at what sort of work pays off best for us. I am not sure this ever could be done collectively, as costs are finally subjective as they, finally, relate only to the personal values that we happen to have at any one time but it is money what allows a price, a social cost, to emerge that is common to all, for even if it can be of different value to different people, it works for all, objectively, just as the names for colours does, despite differing subjective experiences of the phenomenon. The colour blind soon learn what to say with the common words that we all have for colours. The eca relates to the objective social need for prices, or some substitute, rather than directly to personal opportunity costs.
The best book to read on all this is From Marx To Mises (1992) D.R. Steele.
The USSR showed us that the market could be free of the state as the late USSR outlawed the market but that merely painted it black. It was abolished only de jure and not de facto. Similarly, with the black market in drugs in the UK today, which shows us that the drug trade cannot even be controlled by the state, not even within the state run gaols. One of Marx’s few true insights was that the market is anarchic; another is that the state is based on private property, rather than the reverse, and a third is that production for profit has to, thereby, be production for use too, but he was silly enough to think that we could have production directly for use in the mass urban society. The eca shows us that is not possible. We need a costing feedback mechanism from the wider society, like the price system, to sort the three aspects of the economic problem out.
Marx was also silly enough to think he could make out a sound case against profit but he failed badly in that utterly futile attempt. He lacked the wit to realise that his attempt was intrinsically futile and that his writings were incoherent, as he had already openly admitted that production for profit was for use. He did notice certain problems with his system of ideas but he rather hoped to solve them later on. The fact that he had admitted that production for profit was for thereby use too ensured that any attempt that he tried to show that it was, in some way, not for use, would be actually intrinsically incoherent by resulting in an analytic contradiction of production both for use and also not for use too. No wonder Engels had to bully him to get volume one of Capital out in 1867.
Meaning does not matter. As the old Roman, Martial put it, he means well is no good unless he does well. No Marxist has ever done well in realistically explaining free access, nor in criticising the market system either. It is the facts, or external reality, that matters, not mere meaning. The statists who think they are anarchists go way too much on mere meaning and agreement amongst themselves and far too little on the facts, especially in their falsehoods about the market. They seek to overlook that politics is intrinsically coercive and always a gratuitous attack on other people, especially in the form of their crass ideal of democracy. That dirty ideal introduces proactive coercion against others. From a liberal point of view it is usually quite immoral but it may be the least evil way of privatisation. So liberals may have to dirty themselves with it as a means of cleaning up society.
That the USSR was basically a market society was best explained in the book USSR Economics (1936) Michael Polanyi.
It is not the case that the employer, or the firm, has power over the worker for example. The sacking of a worker carries no more power than the leaving of any firm by the worker. Only the confused would think otherwise. J.S. Mill called for an end to the inept master and servant jargon in 1848 and he expected co-operative firms to arise but, like so many in the backward colleges today, he did not comprehend that most workers hate participation, and that is why they hate democracy. Robert Michels in Political Parties (1911) explains more of the faults of the dirty crass idea of democracy. It is about the best book on that ideal but Mallock has written a book that is almost as good: The Limits of Pure Democracy (1918).
A level playing field would cut down on the gains of trade greatly. Anyone who wants that is a fool.
It is a waste of time learning about the dead end outlook of Romantic Tory revolutionary socialism.
There never was anything real called labour power, still less surplus value. Marx failed as a thinker but not as an avid book reader and note-taker. As Tawney rightly said: “Karl Marx was the last of the schoolmen”. What little bit Marx added of his own to the many notes that he took was clearly false. The two cited ideas above, of labour power and surplus value, tend to exhaust what he added.
The very idea that there can be a choice of economic systems is silly. It was not too silly for Mises, sadly. Mises thought that it was wise to admit to a choice but to repeatedly say there was no third way. The eca, that Mises adopted and made his own, suggested there was no second way either. That there could only be one economic system at one time seems to be what Marx held too, though he did hold to many succeeding epochs. Marx would hold that when the possibility of the new society emerged, it would be so superior that the choice would be a no-brainer in that we could hardly imagine the public not opting for it. Then the market would cease to be an option. Communism would then be the only system we basically had to have. Orwell once explained this “choice” as between washing our socks by hand when there was a washing machine in the next room. However, this option never did emerge.
Moreover, Marx erred completely in what is often called his materialist conception of history. There never was the slightest hint of a new society developing in the womb of the current society and the whole idea concerning the null set meme of revolution was always pure Romance. In particular, the extent of monopoly in society is no more advanced today than it was before Marx was born.
When we get an increasing number of possibilities as we make technological and economic progress, the reliance on money becomes ever greater, as there are more uneconomic options to reject. Complex technology threatens the mass urban society with no end of very wasteful white elephants that current society might like but can still not yet afford. But this lack of affordability is not clear until we cost the options before us. The money system today sorts most of that out without anyone even realising it but a few technocrats see money as the barrier to progress. They thereby get it exactly wrong. Without rejecting uneconomic options society would rapidly be stampeded out by a herd of white elephants.
Marx thought that progress would throw up giant firms that would work out a non-money economy to manage their internal affairs as they developed into virtual cities and that, later, society could just adopt this new economy for planning from what was thrown up by the giant firms for their own internal [off market] economies, but in the event, no giant firms such as Marx expected ever emerged.
What happened instead is that diseconomies of scale were not overcome so the giant firms that Marx expected did not arise hence the new economic system he was expecting never emerged either. So there is no alternative to the market system today. There is nothing at all that the people might later adopt for socialism. Instead the firms reached a limit. They remained stable, or they contracted but they never became the large off market giants that Marx expected, owing to those underestimated diseconomies of scale. To repeat, things are no more advanced on the expected road towards monopoly and the new giant firms than before Marx was born. Indeed, it looks like there never was any such road ahead. The prospect of a post market society was all pure Romance.
The big firms have certainly not discovered a new way of making central planning work that can replace money as a means of economic calculation. However, the eca is not about central planning, as the ex-SPGBer, Robin Cox, who writes in here as Hood1, tends to think in his near total incomprehension of economics. It is about costing options not planning. But, contra Robin Cox and also most of the people who remain SPGBers [i.e. members of the Social Party of Great Britain] Marx was a central planner. He did fall for the tyro idea that planning just must be superior to anarchy. He is truly distinct from Bakunin but both are de facto statists. And as collectivists, they are Tories. Thus they are right-wingers in the pristine sense of being at home on the protectionist wing of the French Assembly of 1789.
Even Bakunin thought that Marx was a statist and thus that he was not in favour of liberty. If we have to conform to a central plan then we are clearly not free. Marx’s truly daft idea that the state is to do with classes rather than with a coercive central administration is something that Bakunin rightly scoffed at.
Why should anyone waste time reading buffoons like Prince Peter Kropotkin? He never did have anything realistic to say, be that in natural history or in sociology or politics.
There will not be any communism so there will be no free access. If there are no inputs to pay for what we take then there can be no social economy, if no social economy then no mass urban society. The eca explains the inadequacy of Marxism, and free access is completely inadequate.
Priced goods often out-complete freely given goods today, though Robin writes as if this in not likely. But the UK has had free access in the NHS since 1948 yet as soon as the 1950s it had some competition from private health care where many people were willing to pay again, despite thinking that they had already paid through taxation for the NHS. Similarly, all were forced to pay by taxation for price free access to education [though largely forced by the compulsory Education Act of 1870 to attend or to make other arrangements] but many thought it better to pay in addition for the Public Schools and other fee-paying schools. Almost any free lecture will attract way less to listen than a pop’ concert that costs over £50 to attend. We all know that the free is rejected for the cost of a fee in the UK since 1945 if not for way longer back. Well, all except Robin..
How realistic is this:
“You want cheese? Well, you simply take your cheese from the distribution point at which the farmer had deposited said cheese in just the same way as the farmer, while in town, decides to pick up that pair of stout boots he has been needing for some time”
If free access worked, as the SPGBers of the 1960s thought of it, and I think most of them did think in terms of a real end of scarcity, which none of them ever quite understood, but in which they were quite right to think that there would, then, be no economic problem at all; and if so then why would a farmer need to wait for some time for his boots. Why not right away? That Robin is utterly confused seems to be fairly clear. Scarcity does not go away with progress but instead advancing technology just makes the economic problem in society more complex, as saidabove.
Our common friend, Adam Buick, thought that I was saying, here that progress increased scarcity and he called it a clever-clever point back in the 1980s, meaning a paradox, I suppose, but I did say that the economic problem got more complex not that things got scarcer.
If we fail to cost our options then there will very soon be no cheese and no boots too but rather a famine that would take the human race to well under six million within a year. No nuclear war could be more of a menace to society. But it would take Almighty God in His full might to trick the human race to go as backward as Morris or Kropotkin were, or that Adam and Robin remain today. Marx was just as thoughtless as either of those two lots of two, but then so was many other nineteenth intellectuals, like John Henry Newman, who were equally unrealistic in most of their main ideas.
Economy requires inputs to pay for what we take from society: free access is anti-economics. Anti-economics leads to world famine. But this is no real danger, as most people can see that we do need to make ends meet. Most people will therefore see free access as completely unrealistic as an alternative to the price system. We can only maintain ourselves by costing our social options. We can only cost our options by using a criterion like money. Free access rules any immediate economy out but the UK state can maintain the NHS free access only owing to its taxation of the people working on market system.
The idea that the money society is wasteful shows a complete lack of judgement. We need sound money free of the current state national monopoly issue to get rid of the things that the Marxists think flows from the market, such as the credit cycle, or trade cycle. It does not flow from mere anarchy, as Marx and Engels thought, but rather periodic booms and slumps flow from state monopoly money, and the problem of war from crass politics. Politics is always hostile cold war towards other people as it is coercion that always threatens violence. With rival states, this can often break out into open war.
It is folly to say that money contributes nothing today even if we grant, as Robin wants us to, that we could have free access tomorrow. Clearly money has aided this great output that the Marxists say that we can all collectively inherit tomorrow. But being realistic about that, or about anything else, is lost on those statists who think they are anarchists.
I see that Robin is in a state of hubris whereby he simply does not see the force of many common sense objections to his ideas. He ironically thinks it is his critics that need to do some thinking. He feels it is his critics than need to comprehend his empty ideas whereas in fact it is he who needs to realise that they are empty.
The recommended book by David Ramsay Steele should have done the job for him, but it, oddly, failed. Robin has read it and much other stuff too but he fails to get the point for two major reasons 1) he thinks the market could hardly be more wasteful so free access just must be more efficient 2) he habitually takes the actual working of society for granted and tends, with current common sense, to credit science with progress and to feel free to scoff at the market; that he tends to think aids society not one whit but rather he tends to agree with technocrats who think that money hampers technological progress.
It is not the case that we lived in communism for most of the past. The late John Crump, another common friend, smashed that idea back in 1969. Primitive communism was a myth, as he rightly wrote in World Socialism’69. Property is haply older than modern man is. So is some form of trade.
Yes, we do not need money to interact freely but we do if we want to practise social economy in the wider world society. We have no exact idea what anything costs us just by inspection but money allows us to see whether we can, at least roughly, afford any investment option, or ware, or to take any job. It costs nothing to attend a monthly LA meeting money-wise, but in such money-free access, our opportunity cost is enough to allow us to gauge if we can afford to, or even if we truly want to, attend. The fact that we can see the meetings, when they are put up later on the Internet, gets the attendance down somewhat. But the LA has usually been a part of this limited free access production in society but this sort of thing has no chance of ever being the society wide norm of production throughout the world, as the eca explains.
If free access was an option as an economy, which most people know already will never be the case, even if they cannot explain why not, then it would not, as Robin imagines, get rid of politics but rather quite the contrary. His critics here are right that it is money that frees society from crass wasteful dysfunctional politics and the internecine warfare state. Money is anarchy, as Marx rightly saw. He wanted to end money just to allow the state control that he thought was desirable. It was anarchy, not exploitation, which Marx hated. In The Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) Marx makes it clear enough that he is not against exploitation.
Free access means that people will not be free of the state but dependent on it. Of course, here we can expect the silly idea that there will be no state in communism as there are no classes but the very plain fact is that there never were any classes such as Marx wrote about at any time. Not in his time, nor is there today. At no time has there ever been an economic interest relating to the three factors of production, still less the imaginary fusion of the null set economic interests of capital and land to result in two major classes, as Marx contended. But for a long time, there clearly has been the state.
The state does not rule by private property but rather it rules by authority, as Thomas Hobbes said. It uses its authority to legally tax private property.
It is true that communism cannot even compare to the market for the market exists but mass urban communism never has, and it never will do so. Freeing the market up is just a matter of eliminating the state. We can do that by an analysis of crass politics that shows up the fact that the state is very wasteful and good for exactly nothing. It is a perverse anti-social institution but its authority is traditional. Nearly all people think that such a well-established institution cannot be truly perverse in the way that the state quite clearly is. It is counter-intuitive that such a traditional institution could be internecine and negative sum, for why would people ever respect it if it were such? However, when the people realise that it is, in fact, that the tradition arose only from political boredom and apathy, then the state will soon be on the way out. Tradition has allowed the sleeping dog, the Jack Russell dog, of public opinion to lie still but when it wakes, then the rats that have gone into politics will soon be in great danger. They will soon feel the bite of public opinion.
Automation needs to be costed to see if it pays but the statists who call themselves anarchists have not the slightest idea of any costing which is why they are not one whit realistic.
It is enough for the ignoramuses who call themselves anarchists that many ordinary people today run down profits. They overlook that even Marx realises that production for profit is thereby for use and they assume that it holds back technological innovation when it actually sees to it that we only accept what technology that we can afford, for if it will make a profit then we can afford it but not if not. Entrepreneurs bear the losses though they can gain by production for profit, but that check allows us to dodge the danger of the technically possible white elephants.
Having wealth is generally a sign of past service to others in the market society for here we earn money by serving others. We all specialise on the division of labour so that we can serve others and that is how most people make a living on the market. But the people we serve, the customers who patronise us by buying what we produce, pay us for the service we do for them. It is not like the cant of us serving others, as we want to win their respect or esteem. That may fool the odd ignoramus but the general public will never credit it. As Adam Smith rightly said, it will not be from benevolence that we will depend on to get fed. Instead, we ensure that we are served by paying people to serve us.
Robin would do well to realise that many people, maybe even most people, could not give a damn about social esteem and respect. But as he clearly loves sheer cant, he will most likely find facing up to that fact rather unpleasant. Social esteem is a human need, forsooth.
We then get a paean about how we will be dependent when we feel free today.
How anyone could not doubt all this cant is the question, not whether anyone could ever think it feasible. But we are told that most we do today is unpaid by Robin, but why is that thought to be germane? This is called a subsidy to the market but how is that thought to be the case? A subsidy is a bounty put on activity from taxation but the market is not getting anything even remotely like a subsidy from non-trading activity. The idea that the market would collapse if we did not have non-market relations is very odd but it is true that we do not need to cost normal face-to-face activity but only our trading relationships. We can gauge whether our non-trading activities are worthwhile without using a social criterion like money. We only need to be paid when we do something for others who we do not know, not otherwise. Indeed, it makes no sense to pay ourselves for anything that we do for ourselves but we could do it if we wanted to do such utterly futile things. Ditto there is no need to use money to cost what we do for friends and family but we could do it if we wanted to perversely waste time.
Communism is not the wave of the future. It never was but it fooled more people up till 1940 than it has since. The SPGB even got up to 1100 in the late 1940s. They have declined ever since. Despite a bigger UK population, they will never see 1100 in the UK again.
The market is polycentric and on a local scale as in your local shops. The massive big firms maintain themselves by serving individuals. It is thus suited to meeting the needs of small groups.
It is just as well that Robin writes as an amateur. His perils of wisdom seem completely imaginary.
State socialism is not a contradiction in terms.
The state never did run capitalism. It taxed it but it never run it.
Yes, many non-Leninist socialists think the USSR ruined socialism but instead it aided it to be way more popular that it otherwise would have been and now the USSR is dead socialism will ebb more rapidly that it otherwise would have done had the USSR survived.
Wealth is usually earned from a contribution to people in society. So the esteem of the rich should not upset Robin so much if he truly wants to esteem those who serve others in society.
The output on the market is distributed according to those who serve other people the most. Profit flows from customer patronage owing to the satisfaction with the goods on offer to those who buy them. Profit is never anywhere near as much as the total wage bill. If the economic classes of Marx existed, as a class the proletariat would be the rich class, even if way poorer on the individual level. The masses are where the money is and that is why we have mass production: most industrial output goes to the masses. Marx had a patently false idea that wages were being driven down by capitalism but though the idea that the workers are being paid less today than in the early 1970s is popular with Robin and a few of his friends few can believe it. Like the falling rate of profit, Marx on increasing misery is so clearly false that even keen Marxists need to put a false gloss on it.
Profit is zero sum and is always peanuts compared to wages. It is earned by competition with other firms not by employing people.
Robin then tells us that the economic problem makes him feel insecure. We wants to forget about aspects of it like rent, whether he still has a job at the end of the month or how much he can afford to consume or whether he can pay off his mortgage but that is to wish the economic problem away but it never will actually go away. Scarcity is real, as is the problem of making a living. Robin imagines that we can all return to Eden. The fact is that we never were there. As said earlier, John Crump refuted the idea of primitive communism for the SPGBers in 1969.
Free access would give Robin death rather than insecurity if the masses could be ever encouraged to try it out, as ignorance of costs would give rise to widespread famine. But he imagines the problem of paying our way might vanish in a new fellowship. Yes, that is way too much to realistically ask for without costing options. The economic problem is here to stay. Friendship cannot remove it. It might motivate us but it is mainly a problem of discovering costs. Scarcity and alternative uses of the scare resources requires us to cost the options that we have but free access prevents that from happening.
I think Sean exaggerates the contribution to society of the law and also of religion too. The BBC 1997 news reports said of 1996 that only half of all crime of that earlier year was reported and that only 3% of the reported crime was cleared up. That suggests that most criminals soon know that they are not likely to get much opposition from the law. What Sean imagines that religion contributes to society he does not make clear but I would say it is, near enough, nothing. Most people who say they are religious act as if they were not.
The eca against free access is very distinct from the human nature argument or from one on incentives that W.H. Mallock made in his A Critical Examination of Socialism (1908). With the best will in the world, we cannot make free access work without costs but free access ensures that we will not have costs. I do not think that socialists have adequately addressed Mallock’s economic incentive arguments or his human nature arguments but they are, nevertheless, very distinct from the eca. The eca is the problem of how we could get the costing knowledge to make ends meet, no matter how much we wanted to do that. Mallock’s points are to do with mere motivation rather than the means of managing to cope without societal costs or prices.
The myth of the USSR as a radically distinct society no doubt does give crass politics a lot of meaning but quite a bit of what means to a lot of people is sheer hogwash. The great religions automatically come to mind as meaning without reference but lots of political creeds, like Marxism, are no better. There is lots of meaning in Robin’s outlook but it refers to nothing real. Description is usually only of any use if it describes real things.
I think many still over rate the politics of the USSR. Polanyi holds they never did determine production but asked the managers what they were doing and then told them to get on with it.
Why Robin thinks that free access was established in Aragon in the 1930s is not clear. But it satisfies him, if few others. Why does he imagine that it failed? Why did it not take over if it was so superior?
Anyway, none of this co-operation between the scientists or the hospitality that we might find in the desert, or at the poles, is really germane. We can afford to cooperate or to give hospitality only after we have sorted out how to make a living. Such things can only be afforded if we solve the economic problem, they cannot be the means of making a living, or of solving that problem, though. They do not allow us to cost the economic options that we face.
Like many vicars, Robin assumes totally unrealistic things, the vicar heaven, God and the like, Robin that we are in the post scarcity world, that free access is a possible alternative and the like. They both use that unreality to criticise society with. But this sort of thing amounts to mere moaning at reality for free access is no more an option than is heaven.
The state cannot co-ordinate society. There never was a mixed economy as the state is not economic. It is a wasteful institution. It merely mucks society up.
Robin knows full well that many in the LA used to be in the SPGB. He knows nothing about free access that we do not know. He ought to know that. Why he has posted in here as Hood1 is not clear.
What Robin calls black or white thinking is logical thinking that rules out maybes: the law of the excluded middle. It allows clear thinking. Maybe that is why Robin objects to it.
However, it is not the case that if you are not with the market that you must be a statist, indeed, you can be with the market and still be a statist, indeed, classical liberals are like that, but it is the case that if you are a statist, as Robin is, then you must be a statist.
Robin writes as if he is very confused on the state. He thinks that the state can only exist if there are big classes relating to the factors of production as Marx adopted but such economic interest groups have never existed yet the state does exist. The workers qua workers clearly have no common economic interests opposed to the capitalists [savers] and anyway the two classes largely overlap. It never was the case that the landowners had opposing interests to the capitalists that later on merged. All that is merely a false account written up by Marx that Robin adopts as pet dogma.
Robin does not reject the state. He imagines that he doers but he advocates it when you look at what he writes. He is in love with the crass ideal of democracy, for example. Yet that is a form of proactive coercion. It is a state if adhered to and Robin does adhere to the crass political ideal. Thus he is a statist who wants democratic government.
Robin thinks that money does no job of economic calculation today, he thinks that society does tend to make progress of itself and that it is science and technology that makes for progress, no matter if we have money or not, indeed, he thinks that money is not only wasteful but that there is no real reason why what is technically possible should not always go ahead. He fails to see the white elephant problem with modern technology that money aids people to sort out. He does not realise that most technically advanced options are bound to be very wasteful so they need to be rejected. He writes as if he has yet to even see that problem. Yet it is a danger to society that only money allows us to sort out.
What aids progress is the costing of options that money makes possible. Robin naively thinks that free access can just take this progress over but he overlooks that it will need to be maintained by social economy that will need to use money and that it simply cannot hold up without this social economy and feedback from the price system.
Sean is as naïve as Robin in thinking that the crass state can work as a coordinator and that it actually did so in the late USSR. Even Mises repeatedly wrote as if there was a choice of economic systems. However, his work on the eca shows there is exactly no chance of that. I notice all the other contributors here grant this most unrealistic idea too. In fact, the USSR merely painted the market black. It remained a market economy.
Robin is as confused over the eca as ever and he has been considering it since the 1970s. In that time, he might have read more than any other socialist on it, ever. In addition to all the books and articles out there, he has also read lots written to him, first by post and then by E-mail, not only from me but also from David Ramsay Steele. Quite a bit of this stands on the LA list but a lot was lost when the LA Lis-bot List closed and the LA had to move to yahoo around 2000.
We are told that computers now are efficient. Is Robin thinking that it is only just lately that his ideas have become viable?
Anyway, computers clearly cannot aid us to cost options in any way at all. Computers are not one iota germane to the eca problem. They cannot aid us in the problem of costing the economic options that we have all investment, in what we can afford to consume, or in where it pays us to work. The price system is a feedback costing mechanism that computers may aid but which they can never even begin to replace.
It is a complete mistake to think that free access can get going but that it only might not be so efficient as the use of money is. This mistake displays a lack of comprehension of the economic problem. The eca indicates that free access has no chance of meeting the economic problem. It rules out costing. So it is not an option at all. To try it out would immediately cause famine to arise. Free access abandons societal economy completely.
Robin reaches the acme of his crass stupidity thus:
“Knowing what these stock levels are also incidentally facilitates fine tuned economisation of resources as and when we need to without the misleading and unreliable information provided by so called market signals – prices”
After all this time, Robin still perversely denies that the price system aids us to sort the economic problem out and he foolhardily says here that prices give us dysfunctional information. This very clearly shows him to be a complete ignoramus; even after him doing decades of study on the eca. But then Karl Marx was a similar paradoxical example of a very widely read ignoramus.
The basic fact is that the mass urban society must retain the price system. There is no alternative. The choice of economic systems is like the choice of the colour of the pristine Model T Ford cars for we can have any economic system as long as it is the price system.
Robin is in hubris on human nature. He cannot get the better of the points that Mallock made on that basis in his 1908 book. The lack of incentives would mean that a rival system to the price system would be less efficient, if ever it was possible to cost options thus making it a possible option, which it is not. This may not be clear to Robin but it is to most people that Robin speaks to. Robin needs to face up his own personal failure with others on human nature and to ask himself why he has not made more converts to socialism against common sense against it made on human nature if he truly has such a knock out case against it.
I think Sean tends to exaggerate the length of time that the free access society could exist if God fooled the public into trying it out [as only God could]. As there is no God to do any such fooling of the public, we can be sure that it will never be put to the test. This is because it is very clear to most people, if not to Robin and the few who agree with him, that it is not a viable option at all.
Nothing even remotely relating to a sound argument has, so far, ever been put by Robin on the topic of free access. He ought to be able to realise that fact. There is no viable economic argument that Robin knows for Sean to learn. There is exactly nothing to free access.
In order to flush out the poor thinking that Robin has put into his backward ideas one has to grant a few impossibilities for the sake of the argument again and again. If we grant that the public would endorse this wishful thinking and there was an economy of free access to allow it to make a start, then does it follow that people will remain faithful to it, as Robin thinks? Or might it be possible that they might change their minds and then mess it up as Sean thinks? It certainly does not follow from a majority understanding it and wanting it that they will not later mess it up as Sean says, and Robin fools himself if he thinks it does. So the argument that Sean makes is not as bad as Robin thinks it is.
Again, the same old human nature argument was never truly knocked out by the SPGB, but Robin feels it was. He ought to read the Mallock 1908 book that I recommend above.
Why Robin feels that the work done outside the cash nexus is germane is never made clear in what he writes. We do not usually agree that a man is not lazy just because he gets dressed in the morning, do we? We only need paying for work done for others.
Robin asks Sean to accept his folly about human nature. But doing work around the house for the family is one thing and working on the complex division of labour, where one is more likely to feel the disutility of labour, is quite another thing. Robin is satisfied to counter the actual disutility of labour with the dogma that really labour is a great joy in life, to say that we would all get bored if we neglected it, but most workers feel that boredom is way better than the disutility of labour.
We do not truly work for employers today but rather for the customers.
But even if we grant this human nature argument to Robin, a thing he does not even begin to deserve, we still have the eca and that is a knock out argument. But Robin is the sort of person who goes on in his dreams even after he has been knocked out.
Robin does not like the discipline of working on the modern division of labour and he clearly wants to relax that a lot but he seems to imagine that output will remain unaffected as a result. If he only wants to work a few days a week he can get that at many firms today. But it will clearly result in less pay.
Robin imagines that all that socially useless work done by the banks will enable all of us to be way more relaxed at work and still achieve more output but he overlooks that in lacking money we will lack what money does; what we do will then no longer relate to what people want. Robin imagines that computers and stock control will do this for him but he has yet to realise that only a costing feedback mechanism like the price system can do this task of enabling effective supply and demand to arise for only prices allow us to sort out what we want given the cost of it. Free access does not give us the cost of it.
Sean is not way off beam with the USSR 1918-’21. Robin thinks he is as Robin has got used to the SPGB dogma that it needs to be a conscious majority. But a regime can try out an idea even if they do not agree on the prerequisites of it with Robin and the SPGB. I think that is what the Bolsheviks did, and famine did emerge as a result. Famine also emerged in China in the 1950s. If free access was not in both places, as a Bolshevik ideal, then both those famines may never have happened.
Robin says here that free access cannot be innovated in a backward economy yet he also says it was innovated in backward Spain of the 1930s.
People are never gong to feel secure about free access. There is exactly no reason why they ever should.
Capital does not presuppose wage labour. Contrary to the assumptions of Marx, all the workers could go self-employed with ease. Some authors, like Charles Handy, even expect that most people soon will. But most workers do not like courting for work. That is why we have firms to do that courting for most workers today. As this hatred of participation is not likely to vanish, Handy seems to be mistaken that self-employment will ever be the norm. But Robin is deluded on adopting Marx’s hopeless ideas for why that could not happen.
There is no mixed economy in the west. There never was. This is simply a false assumption.
The book by Adam Buick and John Crump was not so good. Paul Craig Roberts is good on the late USSR as he follows Michael Polanyi who used the eca to see that the USSR was a market economy, even though a black market economy.
The question from Michael C of the 13 December as to why Robin does not get a commune going is quite good. However, it would not solve the problem of war and of economic slumps that Marxism promises to solve.
Robin bases his idea that free access will be all right on his lack of proportion in what he thinks of as the waste of the market system but the market clearly works, even if we grant the false idea that it is wasteful, whereas free access is a mere recipe for famine. So there is no viable alternative to the market society with its anarchic price system. It will be here for centenaries to come.