Albert Replies to Horowitz
[ZNet Editors Note: This is part of a ZNet debate with David Horowitz found here.]
The essay Horowitz is referring to is titled "Is Socialism Still on the Agenda?" It was written on request for the magazine New Politics and is available online at http://zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/18547 As part of a larger argument, the essay addresses the old Soviet economic system, calling it "Socialism 1," and noting that it ought to be off the agenda on the grounds that it is horribly authoritarian. Horowitz doesn't bother indicating that I reject the system and ignores that my reason for doing so implies that other authoritarian economic institutions should be off the agenda as well, such as corporations and the IMF. I wonder, does he favor authoritarian approaches to economic decision-making and allocation?
My essay also notes that centrally planned socialism can be economically successful regarding matters of productivity and other material indices. Horowitz might be surprised to learn that even Western economists realize and admit this about centrally planned models. He is right that my essay argues that comparing the
But none of this was particularly important to the real purpose and focus of my essay -- the parts that Horowitz doesn't wish to insult his readers by addressing -- which were my rejection of the Soviet and Yugoslav and any centrally planned or market socialist model for their social effects and class structures, including a brief enumeration of the damning failings of central planning and markets.
The closing paragraph of my essay may help folks understand my positive allegiances a bit better than Horowitz's reconstructions...
"For the economy I want workers and consumers to have control over their own economic lives. I want everyone to have fair conditions that fully utilize their talents and potentials. I want incomes that accord with the efforts people expend in their labors. I want what is produced, by whom, under what conditions, and with who consuming the result--all determined in accord with enhancing human well-being and development and all decided by the people involved and affected. I want an end to hierarchies of power and wealth and to class division with most actors subordinated to an elite few. To accomplish all these ends I favor the institutions of participatory economics -- worker and consumer councils, remuneration for effort and sacrifice, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning. If someone should demonstrate that those institutions somehow fail to accomplish necessary economic functions or have social or personal by-products that outweigh their benefits -- I would simply return to the drawing board. Exploitation, alienation, poverty, disempowerment, fragmenting and debilitating labor, production for the profit of a few -- much less harsh homelessness, starvation, and degradation -- are not like gravity. They arise from institutional relations established by human beings. New institutions, also established by human beings, can generate other vastly superior outcomes. Defining and working to attain those new institutions ought to be our economic agenda."
So, David, how about if we debate the above enumerated desires. You can start off by pointing out which you reject, or which you think are unattainable, much less which reveal to you my "colossal ignorance." Is it people controlling their economic lives? Is it having incomes that accord with effort and sacrifice? Is it having human well being and development as the aim of economic activity? Is it ending subordination of the many to the few? Is it having democratic councils, balanced job complexes, or participatory planning? By all means, let's find out who really is colossally ignorant and/or transparently opportunist, as the case may be.