Steering the Economy

It is a myth sedulously propagated by people with a vested interest in the status quo that we only have a choice between a state-planned economy, as in the old Soviet Union on the one hand, and a free-market capitalist economy, as in the USA , on the other.

In the first, Soviet-style system, the government takes all the decisions as to investment, the distribution and training of labour, the direction of research in industry and the universities, where people live and what they eat.

In the second, free-market model, the government’s role is limited to regulation of  a few  forms of business conduct and the maintenance of the legal system, principally that relating to companies, patents and contracts.

In practice both systems have departed significantly from these models under the spur of dire emergencies such as war and famine in the case of the Soviet Union, and electoral and consumer group pressure in the case of the USA.

An alternative to both these models is what may be termed “economic design”.

By design, we tend to mean the arrangement of things for a purpose. So in stage design the props are physically arranged to create the effects required by the playwrite or their present-day interpreters. In engineering design, materials are designed or chosen to carry specified loads, in dress design materials are chosen and cut to achieve a pleasing visual effect, and so on.

A more searching analogy for economies is ship design. Ships have a fundamental purpose: to transport passengers and goods across the sea in the face of unknown  storms.

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