The field of comparative economic systems excites the passions of men as well as stimulates their reasoning processes. This is neither avoidable nor, necessarily, lamentable. A particular economic system is inseparable from the political and social institutions that best accommodate it. But, as Alexander Pope has aptly put it, ". . .'tis with our judgements as 'tis with our watches; none run just alike but each believes his own." Assessment of the relative advantages or disadvantages of a particular form of total social order involves judgement, and it is not surprising that, viewing the world at large, the advantages of a particular order, to some, are more than offset by the disadvantages of that same system to others.
Nevertheless, it is apparent that in the highly complex world of the 1960's the economic aspirations of peoples and nations play a very important -- possibly determinant -- role in the social order they wish to maintain or create. The affluent free enterprise society of the United States is concerned with stepping up its rate of economic growth; an important issue is whether this objective can be attained without enlarging the role of government enterprise. The Soviet economy has attained a relatively high growth rate through rigorous central planning, but it has produced less consumer goods than the public apparently wants, and has demonstrated a persistent incapability of solving its agricultural problem. An issue confronting the Soviet Economy is whether these permanent disequilibria can be solved without placing greater reliance on the market mechanism. The newly created European Economic Community seeks the economic, and ultimately the politicial, unity of its six member nations. In the transition stage it has decided to lay heavy stress on the freely competitive market mechanism, no doubt in part to reduce the necessity of a highly centralized political authority, and the attendant reduction in national political independence which community-wide central planning would have entailed. The emerging nations of Africa and Asia are seeking, as an initial goal, acceptable standards of living for their impoverished populations. The economic system that offers the greatest promise for its attainment will in no small measure determine the political and social order these nations adopt.
The choices open to the "uncommitted" -- or for that matter the "committed" -- nations are all too frequently cast in terms of private competitive capitalism on the one hand or Soviet-type communism on the other. But a survey of prevailing economic systems reveals a much wider range . . .