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Social Choice and Beyond
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Social Choice and Socialism
Mood:  hug me
Now Playing: Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane
Topic: Social Choice
What are the differences between social choice and socialism? One huge difference involves property ownership. In socialism the means of production are publicly owned. How much more than the means of production is up for grabs. For instance, would apartment buildings be publicly owned? Probably. Property ownership would be limited to personal items but would probably include cars and maybe even private houses.

A social choice based economy, on the other hand, need not have any restrictions in terms of property ownership. It could be a mixed economy with some private and some public ownership like most advanced capitalist economies. It is only the relationships among workers and property owners that are regulated in a social choice based economy at least in preferensism as we have described it. Property would be an input to the system much as work would be. However, property owners would have no more power in determining the outcomes of the system than workers since power is not determined by anything other than "one person, one vote." Each person's input to the system represnts one unit of generalized voting power where a vote consists of a list of preferences and each preference would be a combination of inputs and outputs. For example, a preference might consist of a willingness to work 30 hours a week in a certain line of work, a willingness to rent out a storefront that is privately owned by the citizen in the example and an outcome consisting of a reimbursement of $5000. per month.

In this example the citizen in question is both a worker and a property owner. Whether or not the citizen would obtain this particular preference would be determined by the preferences of other citizens. The goal in terms of society is to maximize satisfaction or utility by matching inputs with outputs to the greatest possible degree. The criticism of utilitarianism which demands the "greatest good for the greatest number" that you can't maximize two things simultaneously is really bogus since, in any imaginable society, there would be a large number of ways that utility could be maximized, and the one that would be chosen would be the one such that a measure of equality was maximized as well.

So society would try to maximize every individual's satisfaction or happiness or utility or whatever you wanted to call it treating each citizen equally and, consistent with maximizing overall satisfaction, maximizing equality of outcome as well.

In socialism workers are treated as a block. In preferensism each citizen is treated as an individual with individual outcomes reflected by his or her preference list. It is only the relationships between individual citizens that are important not whether they are property owners or workers. There are no inherent restrictions on property ownership. Only the relationships among individuals are regulated to produce the "best fit" in terms of work-consumption preferences. The demand for consumption is balanced by the supply of work and property.

Posted by jclawrence at 3:35 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 4:33 PM PST

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