A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on. Unless directly responding to the OP, all discussions of nuclear power, MMT and conspiracy theories should be directed to sandpits (or, if none is open, message boards).

14 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. These comments are speculative. I make no hard and fast claims or conclusions yet.

    Question: Are all economies in fact command economies?

    Is a false dichotomy raised when it is claimed that socialist economies are command economies and market economies (or mixed economies) are not command economies? Socialist and capitalist economies are definitely different types of economies but they are both command economies (in my contention) if the term “command” is to mean anything in human affairs. It is simply that in each type of economy the methods of command are different and those who issue the commands are different, i.e. they are people of different groupings and classes.

    The first issue we need to consider is communication, command and control in groups of people, i.e. in society. It is clear that communication must occur first. For information and commands (commands are one category of information) to be transmitted, communication must occur first. There must be signals which can be perceived by other persons. Commands can be issued easily but successful commands are only those that generally feasible, specifically executable and actually complied with.

    Any economy is only imperfectly commanded by humans. To impute perfect command, one would have to impute perfect knowledge, perfect commands and perfect compliance. One would also have to impute, as it were, the perfect amenability of nature and natural forces external to human actions and wishes. But force majeure and overpowering events of nature are always forces to be reckoned with in the economic realm.

    If we exclude from consideration force majeure and events of nature as external causes which can influence an economy, then we are left with the arena of human agency (and the internal dynamic or emergent behavior of the system itself). Where human agency expressed as actions is effective in causing events in the economy in particular, and in the biosphere in general, the outcomes can be categorised as intended consequences and unintended consequences. A series of logical fallacies are involved, in my opinion, in the “strong claim” that the capitalist economy is not a command economy i.e. that its outcomes are not humanly “commanded” in a tleast some sense but somehow (organically?) arise. There is a sense in which a “weak claim” to non-agency can be made. This weak claim sense will be examined below.

    To claim that a capitalist economy is not “commanded”, that it is not a “command economy” is to imply somehow that its outcomes are both an effect of human agency and not an effect of human agency at the same time. This is not quite as absurd as it sounds and leads to the “weak claim” for non-agency. We certainly do try to effect outcomes in a capitalist economy with our actions. Individuals and firms make decisions presumably mainly out of financial self-interest. Managers in firms issue commands to workers. Commands of all sorts certainly occur. At this level there is agency and command. Societies make decisions about their institutional make-up, for example market setups, perhaps by democratic or by other means (authoritarianism, sectional interest lobbying, corporate power, bribes and so on). Societies make governance decisions. These are all commands and executed commands when they are feasible, executable and complied with.

    The best arguments in favour of using markets and market behaviour, would have to be made in the light of the potential for markets to produce certain types of emergent behaviour. These arguments would have to further posit that we are able to design markets to produce certain desired emergent behaviours AND that this is the ONLY way we can get these desired (emergent) results. In other words, the indirect path via designed markets which then leads to the desired emergent results would have to be not replicable or surpassable results-wise by any direct method such as direct allocation of resources by democratic, s*o*c*i*a*l*i*s*t*i*c or technocratic criteria (separately or combined).

    The above argument in favour of markets would seem to propose that via a “hands-off” and indirect “quasi-command” method we can get better results than with a hands-on, direct command method. In an age of less knowledge, poorer communication, less scientific and technological development and less democratic governance development, it might have been true that markets were the best way to transmit signals to organise economic behaviour. It is arguably very doubtful that this is still the case. The argument for the superiority of markets over other methods now possible may indeed be an obsolete argument.

    The argument in favour of markets proposes that we don’t know how to efficiently allocate resources directly (via social-democratic-technocratic decisions for example) but we do know how to devise a kind of quasi-autonomous auto-mechanism (the market) which will auto-allocate efficiently for us as we use it. Expressed in this manner, I think this allows us to become just a little sceptical about such an odd-seeming claim. Before and within that market mechanism, we still issue many commands.

    By commands (issued as decrees and laws) we set and reset the particular market mechanisms in question. Most firms, apart from relatively rare worker collectives, work internally by command not via any “automatic” mechanism like an internal market. They have owners, managers and bosses. Their structures are the sine qua non of hierarchical, authoritarian and command driven structures. When we view matters in this light, we are justified in asking is not the market economy also a command economy? Does it not have those who issue commands and direct resource allocations in many ways (within the firm for example) and is the market itself truly a non-command system or rather a pseudo-automatic system with the real manipulating commanders hidden behind the market apparatus of their choice and working rather like the Wizard of Oz behind his screen with his megaphone and levers?

  2. I may well be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Economic History is not given the importance it deserves. I mean by this the role that it could play in political discussion and evaluation of public policy.

    Two separate examples come to mind. Firstly, it seems to me that the experiment represented by neoliberalism has been long running and the predicted results are pretty much what has happened. This faith seems to me to have been an escalator for the and the plunge into the dark for the many. Secondly, it should be possible (and maybe it is) to go to a website to draw the data that shows the change in the over employment structure by selecting years, perhaps at ten year intervals, from the 1940’s.

    As voters, we all have our personal agenda, and issues related to income and issues related to income and economic well being should be able to assessed on the basis of evidence.

  3. Wmmbb (All),

    I’m a little concerned that economic history is a vehicle for justification one way or the other. The central argument in economics is unsettled: what is the purpose of economics?

    1) A social science (political economy) that describes human behavior in a monetary economy, regardless of policy wants or demands, so that we construct institutions that provide the least resistance to cooperation. (The german Austrian school)

    2) A means of extending the rule of law (moral cooperation) to economics (production distribution and trade): the discovery of rules which determine policy actions. (Chicago and the freshwater school)

    3) A means of justifying discretionary action independent of rules. (Krugman and the Saltwater school) I include our host John Quiggin in this group.

    The first is the least hubristic, the second more so, but allows planning, the third most hubristic, least moral, and least trustworthy.

    Discretion is for choosing flavors of ice cream. There is no room for discretion in law or economics.

    Curt Doolittle
    The Propertarian Institute,
    Kiev, Ukraine

  4. @Curt Doolitlte

    It is not correct to say that the central argument in economics is ‘What is the purpose of economics?’ That makes as little sense as saying that the central argument in history is ‘What is the purpose of history?’ or that the central argument in botany is ‘What is the purpose of botany?’ or that the central argument in psychology is ‘What is the purpose of psychology?’

  5. While we’re talking about what a bunch of fascists the ALP is….

    It is important to remember that they haven’t just recently or accidently become that way.

    The Guardian’s “First Dog” openly borrows from “The Piping Shrike” about the ALP’s determined plunge into the cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees cess-pit, alledgedly in pursuit of imaginary voters who do not exist outside of rigged internal ALP “polling”.

    They note that in 2002 the ALP adopted its meanest refugee policy in recent history and:

    “Labor went on to lose the next election with what was then the lowest primary vote in the post-war period.”

    Then in 2010 the ALP went even harder on refugees and:

    “…went on to achieve what was then Labor’s second lowest primary vote in the post-war period.”

    Still not satisfied, the ALP went all out total mean fascist on refugees in 2013 (sending everyone to, what became, death camps) and:

    “was promptly rewarded with what now stands as the lowest ever primary vote in the post-war period.”

    I know there are at least a couple of Die-Hard ALP Zombies looking on who cannot tolerate the concept of internal dissent or external criticism, so I’ll point out that the title of the ‘Piping Shrike’ piece is “Unity Is Death”, and just leave it there.

    What a stooge outfit that mob has become.

  6. w.r.t. Megan

    fascists … cess-pit … die-hard zombies … stooge.

    More excrement from our vomitorium.

  7. Of course there was one election in the last 20 years that the ALP went to the electorate with a much more humane refugee policy – 2007.

    They won in a landslide and, for only the second time in history, unseated a sitting PM.

    Now if Labor weren’t controlled and blindly supported by such faceless and inhumane fascists, imagine how popular they might be with the real people of Australia. They might even win an election rather than just waiting for the government to lose one.

    Of course then the CIA would have to intervene, but it would be fun to see a political party in this country at least just try it for once.

  8. Forget the ALP Megan, they are hopeless. Look for a positive party on this issue and support them.
    An interesting exercise would be to analyse the myths of current mainstream refugee policy and put forward suggestions for a humane and logical policy.

    What do you think of the Green’s policy?

  9. True, the Greens are far better on refugee policy than the duopoly. But one has to avoid allowing the ALP to use them as catchment and run-off for votes. Optional Preferential voting would be good to avoid that trap.

  10. @Megan

    But they had a zombie for a leader in 2007 – Kevin Rudd. Not that I hate him or anything but for sure he was a zombie married to a greedy grasping neo-liberal. The problem is we do not need inspirational leaders who change our way of life too quickly and for reasons that a lot of people don’t understand, yet.

    I think the Labor party have done very well to overcome the need to have a leader who sets the agenda and woos the people with emotion.

    I think the attitudes and values that appear to have guided this process of coming to an agreed set of aims that the ALP produced this time, was something new and is to be admired as a process of arriving at a foundation for a good government that can and will work pretty well for this country and all of it’s people.

    And, I am pretty sure that the ALP are going to win this election hopefully without the triumphalism and hubris that marred previous election victories.

  11. geez, Megan, don’t mean to be overly pedantic but i don’t understand why you capitalised “Die-Hard” & “Zombies”. its so-o-o kind of 18th century. or is it by analogy to “Left faction” & “Right faction”? otherwise, yeah, i agree. -a.v.

  12. @Megan

    Pure unadulterated destructive sectarianism. Preferential voting leads to proportional representation.

    Only ignorant fools destroy their own vote.

  13. I am not sure if anyone has read my original post. It’s “notes towards” considering the so-called market economy as just another kind of command economy.

    If anyone has read it, I am surprised I have not been pulled up over my rather simplistic and literal definition of “command” in “command economy”.

    Clearly, the term “command economy” means “centrally commanded economy” and/or “centrally planned economy”. There is ostensibly one locus of command be that a dictator, a party in a one party system or usually a bureaucratic apparatus under the control of the single party.

    The opposite of the command economy is not a completely uncommanded or unplanned economy. It is economy governed by various interacting loci of control in political and financial terms (checks and balances in a sense) and in conjunction with these by the market system which supposedly, in a sense, harnesses distributed group knowledge, and distributed group intelligence.

    I still question the notion that the market is a better way to harness group knowledge, and group intelligence than direct worker democracy and direct citizen democracy. I stick, at least provisionally, to the reasoning outlined in my original post.

  14. The ALP cheer squad had a meme they ran very hard on in the 2013 Australian election:

    “Abbott would be worse!”

    The concept was ‘cleverly’ designed to take the voters’ attention away from how awful and despised the ALP was and focus it on an even more negative, unknown, spooky future that might lie ahead under Abbott.

    It worked wonders – for Abbott.

    Ever since Abbott was elected the ALP has totally agreed with, endorsed and enabled almost every single legislative and executive policy the LNP has come up with.

    The ALP stands for absolutely nothing at all any more (if it ever did stand for anything in recent memory) apart from wanting to win the next election.

    I offer, for free, therefore the winning strategy the ALP should take to the next election.

    ALP policies must be identical to the LNP’s (OK, that’s done), and the ALP cheer squad must push the meme:

    “Shorten would be worse!”

    Can’t lose!

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