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Part Six: The Hampered Market Economy > Chapter XXVII. The Government and the Market

1. The Idea of a Third System

Private ownership of the means of production (market economy or capitalism) and public ownership of the means of production (socialism or communism or "planning") can be neatly distinguished. Each of these two systems of society's economic organization is open to a precise and unambiguous description and definition. They can never be confounded with one another; they cannot be mixed or combined; no gradual transition leads from one of them to the other; they are mutually incompatible. With regard to the same factors of production there can only exist private control or public control. If in the frame of a system of social cooperation only some means of production are subject to public ownership while the rest are controlled by private individuals, this does not make for a mixed system combining socialism and private ownership. The system remains a market society, provided the socialized sector does not become entirely separated from the non-socialized sector and lead a strictly autarkic existence. (In this latter case there are two systems independently coexisting side by side--a capitalist and a socialist.) Publicly owned enterprises operating within a system in which there are privately owned enterprises and a market, and socialized countries, exchanging goods and services with nonsocialist countries, are integrated into a system of market economy. They are subject to the law of the market and have the opportunity of resorting to economic calculation.1

If one considers the idea of placing by the side of these two systems or between them a third system of human cooperation under the division of labor, one can always start only from the notion of the market economy, never from that of socialism. The notion of socialism with its rigid monism and centralism that vests the powers to choose and to act in one will exclusively does not allow of any compromise or concession; this construction is not amenable to any adjustment or alteration. but it is different with the scheme of the market economy. Here the dualism of the market and the government's power of coercion and compulsion suggests various ideas. Is it really peremptory [p. 717] or expedient, people ask, that the government keep itself out of the market? Should it not be a task of government to interfere and to correct the operation of the market? Is it necessary to put up with the alternative of capitalism or socialism? Are there not perhaps still other realizable systems of social organization which are neither communism nor pure and unhampered market economy?

Thus people have contrived a variety of third solutions, of systems which, it is claimed, are as far from socialism as they are from capitalism. Their authors allege that these systems are nonsocialist because they aim to preserve private ownership of the means of production and that they are not capitalistic because they eliminate the "deficiencies" of the market economy. For a scientific treatment of the problems involved which by necessity is neutral with regard to all value judgments and therefore does not condemn any features of capitalism as faulty, detrimental, or unjust, this emotional recommendation of interventionism is of no avail. The task of economics is to analyze and to search for truth. It is not called upon to praise or to disapprove from any standard of preconceived postulates and prejudices. with regard to interventionism it has only one question to ask and to answer: How does it work?

  • 1. See above, pp. 258-259.