Questions About Market Socialism

Questions About Market Socialism

David Miller’s “A Vision of Market Socialism” (Summer 1991) is a thought-provoking contribution to Dissent’s ongoing discussion of this topic. He deserves our appreciation for the way in which he specifies five basic socialist values and then defends his model with reference to these values. Particularly useful are his points (a) that there are tensions among the values and (b) that no single model of socialism can express or promote all five values to the same extent. Accordingly, those of us who advocate one or another variant of a socialist market economy must recognize that, in giving priority to such goals as democracy, freedom, efficiency, and consumer satisfaction, we may have to sacrifice to some extent a traditional socialist goal such as “the conscious direction of social activities toward common purposes” —since the achievement of this goal would require consensus and central planning but would reduce the scope for democracy and personal freedom. Similarly, there is a conflict between reliance on competitive markets and traditional socialist conceptions of community. We are faced with difficult choices—and Miller is entirely correct to insist that, in the real world, trade-offs like these are inescapable.

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