Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

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

The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Tags Calculation and Knowledge

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 numerous books: Contra Krugman: Smashing the Errors of America's Most Famous Keynesian; Chaos Theory; Lessons for the Young Economist; Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action; The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism; Understanding Bitcoin (with Silas Barta), among others. 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.