Socialism - Economics


See also: Socialist economics and Production for use

The original conception of socialism was an economic system whereby production was organised in a way to directly produce goods and services for their utility (or use-value in classical and Marxian economics): the direct allocation of resources in terms of physical units as opposed to financial calculation and the economic laws of capitalism (see: Law of value), often entailing the end of capitalistic economic categories such as rent, interest, profit and money. In a fully developed socialist economy, production and balancing factor inputs with outputs becomes a technical process to be undertaken by engineers.

This is contrasted with capitalism, where production is carried out for profit, and is thus based upon indirect allocation because the production of utility is an indirect process. In an ideal capitalism based on perfect competition, competitive pressures compel business enterprises to respond to the needs of consumers, so that the pursuit of profit approximates production for use through an indirect process (competitive pressures on private firms).

Market socialism refers to an array of different economic theories and systems that utilise the market mechanism to organise production and to allocate factor inputs among socially owned enterprises, with the economic surplus (profits) accruing to society in a social dividend as opposed to private capital owners. Variations of market socialism include Libertarian proposals such as mutualism, based on classical economics, and neoclassical economic models such as the Lange Model.

The ownership of the means of production can be based on direct ownership by the users of the productive property through worker cooperative; or commonly owned by all of society with management and control delegated to those who operate/use the means of production; or public ownership by a state apparatus. Public ownership may refer to the creation of state-owned enterprises, nationalisation, municipalisation or autonomous collective institutions. The fundamental feature of a socialist economy is that publicly owned, worker-run institutions produce goods and services in at least the commanding heights of the economy.

Management and control over the activities of enterprises are based on self-management and self-governance, with equal power-relations in the workplace to maximise occupational autonomy. A socialist form of organisation would eliminate controlling hierarchies so that only a hierarchy based on technical knowledge in the workplace remains. Every member would have decision-making power in the firm and would be able to participate in establishing its overall policy objectives. The policies/goals would be carried out by the technical specialists that form the coordinating hierarchy of the firm, who would establish plans or directives for the work community to accomplish these goals.

The role and use of money in a hypothetical socialist economy is a contested issue. Socialists including Karl Marx, Robert Owen, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and John Stuart Mill advocated various forms of labour vouchers or labour-credits, which like money would be used to acquire articles of consumption, but unlike money, they are unable to become capital and would not be used to allocate resources within the production process. Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky argued that, following a socialist revolution, money could not be arbitrarily abolished. Money had to exhaust its "historic mission" (continue to be used until it became redundant), and then would be transformed into bookkeeping receipts for statisticians, and only in the more distant future would it might not be required even for that role.

"I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate (the) grave evils (of capitalism), namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society."

Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?, 1949

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