This week The Socialist Review, the full colour supplement to the Socialist Worker, has an article in it outlining the benefits of ‘Planned Democracy’ as opposed to the free market. What is ‘Planned Democracy’ then?
Put simply it’s the new label for what used to be called Marxism/Communism/Socialism/Totalitarianism. During the 20th century these ideologies gave us Stalin (perhaps 20 million dead), Pol Pot (up to three million killed out of a Cambodian population of about 10 million), Mao Zedong (perhaps 20 million killed in his Great Leap Forward) and Kim Il Sung (3 million killed in the Korean War), some of the most bloodthirsty killers in human history, so its not surprising that those who follow this violent creed may want to re-brand it. Of course, modern socialists will tell you that those mass murderers ‘weren’t real socialists’ and that Planned Democracy will be nicer all round, but closer investigation reveals that, just as you cant have an omlette without breaking some eggs, you cant plan a democracy without breaking some heads.
Planned Democracy proposes to plan the economy, but think about that. Every single time you choose to take a bus instead of walking, getting a cab or getting a train you make an economic decision. Every time you buy lager instead of cider, you make an economic decision. Choose energy saving light bulbs over Osram, PS2 over X Box, own brand bread over Kingsmill, a holiday in Skegness over a holiday in Bridlington, or a house in one area over another, all of these are economic decisions. If you want to plan the economy, you have to plan all of this. Is it possible to plan each and every decision of each and every person within an economy?
Lets look at whether planning the economic life of a nation is even desirable. Look at the Soviet Union for an example. The Politburo decided that it was most important to build machine guns to shoot Hungarians in 1956, tanks to kill Czechs in 1968 and helicopter gun ships to kill Afghans in the 1980’s. As a consequence, the resources of the state, ie all industrial capacity, were directed towards accomplishing this goal in accordance with the Plan. The Plan, sadly, placed less importance on what the Soviets might need to eat and so agriculture was placed below armaments with the effect of people having to queue for hours to buy a potato. The wait for a car or telephone lasted years (unless you were a member of the Politburo). Life under someone else’s plan was, for the majority of Soviets, miserable.
The very phrase ‘Planned Democracy’ pre supposes the existence of a plan. This in turn pre supposes the existence of someone who is drawing up this plan and if this plan is nothing less than a plan for the economy in which we all live and function, it confers a tremendous amount of power on the planners. A question mark surely has to hang over anyone who seriously believes that society should be micro managed according to their priorities.
Besides, what if I disagree with the plan? A plan, after all, only works if everyone sticks to it and they will only stick to it if they are made to. On D Day it is pretty certain that most of the soldiers would rather not have been the front line troops in the invasion plan but they knew that if they didn’t go along with their allotted role they would be court martialed. To look at the history of socialist plans we see the Five Year Plans of Stalin and The Great Leap Forward of Mao and we see the horrible fates that awaited those who didn’t follow the plan. Starvation, imprisonment, deportation and death.
So, even if you can get past the colossal arrogance of someone thinking they can plan a nation’s economic life, you then have to wonder whether such a Herculean task is possible. If you accept both of these propositions, you have to make allowance for those that don’t; the anti social minority/bourgeois/counter revolutionaries etc. These are the fine threads by which Planned Democracy hangs.