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Cantor's Diagonal Argument: An Extension to the Socialist Calculation Debate

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07/30/2014Robert P. Murphy

 

Volume 9, No. 2 (Summer 2006)

 

The standard view of the socialist calculation debate is that Mises and Hayek at best demonstrated the  practical impossibility of socialist economy, but that the mathematical solution of economists such as Dickinson showed that “in principle” planners could achieve a rational use of resources without private ownership of the means of production. In the present paper I hoped to show that this view is incorrect, because (if seriously implemented) a socialist planning board would need to publish a list containing an uncountably infinite number of prices. As Cantor’s diagonal argument from set theory shows, it is demonstrably impossible to construct such a list. Therefore, socialist economy is truly impossible, in every sense of the word.

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Contact Robert P. Murphy

Robert P. Murphy is a Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute. He is the author of many books. His latest is Contra Krugman: Smashing the Errors of America's Most Famous KeynesianHis other works include Chaos Theory, Lessons for the Young Economist, and Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action (Independent Institute, 2015) which is a modern distillation of the essentials of Mises's thought for the layperson. Murphy is co-host, with Tom Woods, of the popular podcast Contra Krugman, which is a weekly refutation of Paul Krugman's New York Times column. He is also host of The Bob Murphy Show.

Cite This Article

Murphy, Robert P. "Cantor's Diagonal Argument: An Extension to the Socialist Calculation Debate." The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 9, No. 2 (Summer 2006): 3–11.

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