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How Much Planned, How Much Not?

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I'll treat you today, dear reader, to another blog post inspired by shenanigans over at Yahoo!Answers.

Someone asked, "Can anyone philosophically justify the existence of private property?" Some further explanation indicated that he had titles to land especially in mind.

For the record, my answer was what regular readers of this blog would likely expect.  

The pragmatic answer is surely best: those social institutions are right which work, over time and on the whole. Private title to land is justified, if at all, only on that basis. Whether it IS justified by practical consequences is a fascinating empirical question. Consider Richard Pipes' book on this question, for example. That is much more interesting than trying to parse the differences between Locke and Rousseau on some primordial appropriation.

But I'm bring this into Jamesian Philosophy Refreshed today because of another commenter. He ignored the specific matter of land and gave us a little lecture about democratic socialism. He seemed mostly concerned to rebut what he saw as the false stereotype that socialists are advocates of large central bureaucracies. Here is his final paragraph (out of seven):

 Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.

I thought that last bit was a nice little concession to the power of these barely-mentioned "market mechanisms" (like what? freely moving wages and prices?). So I followed up with a comment on that comment, thus:

 So market forces are only of value at the retail level? Should a constitution protect them there?

I'm curious how he thinks the distinction can be maintained, or if he's thought about it at all. The fellow who posted this DSOC stuff calls himself "Mr. Interesting." Additional exchanges might justify that name.  


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