State and Market in Development: Synergy or Rivalry?

By Louis Putterman; Dietrich Rueschemeyer | Go to book overview

4
Some Thoughts on Plan and Market

ALEC NOVE

In rejecting Lenin it is not necessary to embrace Milton
Friedman.—Boston Globe

The Marxist-Leninist vision of socialism (or communism) is bankrupt. In my own work,1 I sought to show that Karl Marx’s ideas on a socialist future were essentially of a romantic-utopian nature. It is true that he nowhere systematically set out his ideas on that subject; his great work was called Das Kapital. Nonetheless, he and his followers did sketch out certain features of what they believed to be a socialist future: abundance, no markets, no money, no wages, no “commodity production” (i.e., production for exchange). The division of labor would be overcome; the state would wither away. The administration of men would be replaced by the “administration of things.” True, this would only happen after a transition period, but even during this period, as can be seen in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme, many of the features of full socialism would be present, although at first the slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” would have to be replaced by “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.” Such vital questions as opportunity-cost (i.e., the cost of alternatives foregone), the need for guarantees against abuse of power, labor incentives, and, above all, alternatives to the market as a coordinator of economic activity were almost totally ignored. As Friedrich Engels remarked in his Anti-Dühring, “Everything will be simple without the so-called value.”

This is not the place to undertake a detailed critique of these conceptions. I will only stress one quite fundamental error: the belief that the task of replacing the market by the deliberate decisions of the “associated producers” would be “simple and transparent.” Already in 1908 the Italian economist Enrico Barone warned that it would be very complicated. All Soviet experience confirms this. There are hundreds of thousands of enterprises (in

-39-

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