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The Case for Market Socialism

By       Message Allan Goldstein     Permalink
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   But some force has to push the other way, or a society that is coming apart at the seams will rip irretrievably, into two highly unequal, warring camps.

   That used to be the job of the unions.   But we barely have unions anymore.   The great masses of factory workers are gone forever, a distant memory.   Now we have a dispersed workforce, all on their own, against the unchecked power of globalized markets.   It's not a fair fight.

   This is an unsustainable state of affairs.   When societies get this top-heavy one of two things eventually happens.   They reform, or they crash.

   We don't want a crash.   A crash leads to societal war, and wars are horribly destructive and uncontrollable.   You start out with hyperinflation until it takes a billion marks to buy a knockwurst.   There are riots in the streets, fistfights in the Reichstag, and you wind up with Adolph Hitler.   That's a crash.

   Or, you suffer a terrible depression.   Strikes are violently suppressed.   There are riots in the streets and, at the last possible moment, you wind up with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   That's reform.   Reform is better.

   But the reform we so desperately need can only come from people, organized into a big, insistent, group behind a powerful new idea.   Here's one: When the game's not working anymore, change the rules.

   I have an idea for a new set of rules: I call it Market Socialism.   How does it differ from old, failed socialism?   Market Socialism isn't a call for redistribution.   It demands a fair original distribution of the wealth created by our capitalist economy.

   The old socialists thought they could abolish the markets and command the economy to do what they wanted.   But you can't do that, and if you try, you wind up telling people what they can do, down to the smallest details of their lives.   Thus socialism became tyranny.

   But it is totally unnecessary to command an economy on the granular level in order to produce just results.   You might as well command an acre of ground to produce wheat (they tried and wound up having to import wheat from us.)

   The markets are expert at innovating ways to get more wheat from that acre, where they have failed is in providing enough people with the wherewithal to buy bread.

   What are the particulars of Market Socialism?   I don't have a manifesto.   What I have is a first principle.   The markets exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

   Market fundamentalists would say that's an impossible dream.   As if there was only one possible way for the markets to operate.

   Nonsense.   The markets are not some heavenly ordained thing, created perfect and whole from the day of conception.   The markets, capitalism and economics are human constructs.   Contract law, monetary policies, trade agreements, common stock corporations, and a thousand other particulars of market capitalism as we know it have been constructed through the centuries.   We made the markets; we can change them.

   Market socialism seeks to change the rules about work and money.   It lets the markets be the markets.   But it sets some parameters.

   Work cannot equal poverty; every job must pay a living wage.   Market Socialism demands that every law, every tax and every regulation for our economy be written with two goals in mind.   Create all the wealth we can, and spread it around as widely as possible.

   Market Socialism is only an idea.   Its methods and particulars are still to be determined.   But if enough people are inspired by that idea, the programs will follow. We know what the goal is: a decent living for those who live and work, today and tomorrow.

   Market fundamentalism is taking us further and further from that goal.   But we're not slaves of the markets; we can get there if we have the will.   And Market Socialism is the way.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)

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