One of the many pipe-dreams of capitalist politicians and economists is to be able to plan the smooth and even growth of national economies without the disruptive cyclical phenomena which have been part and parcel of the system in the past.
Despite Keynes and his economic theories and various pseudo-socialist governments throughout the world, who claimed that they could produce a planned economy from which stop-go (as downturns and upswings in economic activity have come to be known in Britain) would be obviated, the capitalist system is still working in the same way it has always worked. Marx described the various stages of the industrial cycle of capitalism, ranging from a state of stagnation to one of intense activity, over a hundred years ago, and it is a description still valid today.
Even the new pseudo-science of econometrics and the development of data and statistics collection and forecasting techniques have failed to eliminate the anarchy from capitalism. The information merely enables the economists to get some idea when the next downturn in the business cycle will occur, but not to prevent it, as post-war events have clearly shown.
An example of the impossibility of planning capitalism was recently illustrated by a report that a five-year plan drawn up by the budget and economic planning ministry of Italy had in effect become a four-year plan and might even become a three-year plan, because of the slow growth of the economy. Obviously there is no point in planning resource application in other sectors of the economy if the output of those sectors upon which they are dependent for growth is incapable of meeting their requirements. It seems that the planners are without a clue to achieve this and may even be regarded as playing a game of chance in drawing up plans on the basis of information which is usually useless before it has left the planner’s desk. A suitable name for an economic planner’s game of chance would be “planners’ roulette”. The fault, however, lies not with the planners, but with the economic system which they are trying to plan and with the economic forces which drive it along.
Goods and services under the capitalist system are produced not to satisfy human needs, but for sale in order to realise profit, for a market. For a variety of reasons, the size of the market is constantly fluctuating and it should be obvious that under such conditions planning is impossible.
The recent rise in unemployment levels and the problem of over-capacity in many industries, viz. textiles, shipping and steel, would support the conclusion that economists do not know where to start. Do economists plan over-capacity and unemployment? One of the aims of planning was to eliminate just this problem and yet clearly they have been unsuccessful. They have been forced to change their plans to conform to the changes in the market; the market has not been controlled to conform to their plans. The housing problem, too, is an area in which governments have intervened on a large scale, but here they have been just as unsuccessful in solving the slum problem and homelessness; the situation is as bad as ever.
Economists claim to be scientific in their outlook and yet if scientists in the natural sciences had such a failure rate in their researches in understanding the world, then the outlook would be pretty bleak for the human race. Most of the economists’ claims ultimately rest upon the false premise that an exchange economy is the only, and indeed the best, way of organizing the production and distribution of wealth. Socialists repudiate this notion emphatically. But more than this Socialists advocate an alternative society based upon production for use. Capitalism has generated a vast, world-wide productive network of industries and a technology capable of producing wealth on an unlimited scale, if it were unrestricted by fetters of the market economy. Only when there has been a world-wide social revolution and the means of production have passed into the control of the whole of society will real planning be possible, a system of planning into which no other factor but human need enters.