Lange Model for Pareto Optimal Socialist Economic Planning or Market Socialism

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From the Wikipedia:

"The Lange model (or Lange–Lerner theorem) is a neoclassical economic model for a hypothetical socialist economy based on public ownership of the means of production and a trial-and-error approach to determining output targets and achieving economic equilibrium and Pareto efficiency. In this model, the state owns non-labor factors of production, and markets allocate final goods and consumer goods. The Lange model states that if all production is performed by a public body such as the state, and there is a functioning price mechanism, this economy will be Pareto-efficient, like a hypothetical market economy under perfect competition. Unlike models of capitalism, the Lange model is based on direct allocation, by directing enterprise managers to set price equal to marginal cost in order to achieve Pareto efficiency. By contrast, in a capitalist economy, private owners seek to maximize profits, while competitive pressures are relied on to indirectly lower the price, this discourages production with high marginal cost and encourages economies of scale.

This model was first proposed by Oskar R. Lange in 1936 during the socialist calculation debate, and was expanded by economists like H. D. Dickinson and Abba P. Lerner. Although Lange and Lerner called it "market socialism", the Lange model is a form of centrally planned economy where a central planning board allocates investment and capital goods, while markets allocate labor and consumer goods."



Murray Rothbard:

"The Lange-Lerner-Taylor solution), acclaimed by virtually all economists, asserted that the socialist planning board could easily resolve the calculation problem by ordering its various managers to fix accounting prices. Then, according to the contribution of Professor Fred M. Taylor, the central planning board could find the proper prices in much the same way as the capitalist market: trial and error. Thus, given a stock of consumer goods, if the accounting prices are set too low, there will be a shortage, and the planners will raise prices until the shortage disappears and the market is cleared. If, on the other hand, prices are set too high, there will be a surplus on the shelves, and the planners will lower the price, until the markets are cleared. The solution is simplicity itself!

In the course of his two-part article and subsequent book, Lange concocted what could only be called the Mythology of the Socialist Calculation Debate, a mythology which, aided and abetted by Joseph Schumpeter, was accepted by virtually all economists of whatever ideological stripe. It was this mythology I found handed down as the Orthodox Line when I entered Columbia University's graduate school at the end of World War II — a line promulgated in lectures by no less an expert on the Soviet economy than Professor Abram Bergson, then at Columbia. In 1948, indeed, Professor Bergson was selected to hand down the Received Opinion on the subject by a committee of the American Economic Association, and Bergson interred the socialist calculation question with the Orthodox Line as its burial rite.

The Lange-Bergson Orthodox Line went about as follows: Mises, in 1920, had done an inestimable service to socialism by raising the problem of economic calculation, a problem of which socialists had not generally been aware. Then Pareto and his Italian disciple Enrico Barone had shown that Mises's charge, that socialist calculation was impossible, was incorrect, since the requisite number of supply, demand, and price equations existed under socialism as under a capitalist system. At that point, F.A. Hayek and Lionel Robbins, abandoning Mises's extreme position, fell back on a second line of defense: that, while the calculation problem could be solved theoretically, in practice it would be too difficult. Thereby Hayek and Robbins fell back on a practical problem, or one of degree of efficiency rather than of a drastic difference in kind. But now, happily, the day has been saved for socialism, since Taylor-Lange-Lerner have shown that, by jettisoning utopian ideas of a money-less or price-less socialism, or of pricing according to a labor theory of value, the socialist planning board can solve these pesky equations simply by the good old capitalist method of trial and error.

Bergson, attempting to be magisterial in his view of the debate, summed up Mises as contending that "without private ownership of, or (what comes to the same thing for Mises) a free market for the means of production, the rational evaluation of these goods for the purposes of calculating costs is ruled out…" Bergson correctly adds that to put Mises's point

- somewhat more sharply than is customary, let us imagine a Board of Supermen, with unlimited logical faculties, with a complete scale of values for the different consumers goods', and present and future consumption, and detailed knowledge of production techniques. Even such a Board would be unable to evaluate rationally the means of production. In the absence of a free market for these goods, decisions on resource allocation in Mises' view necessarily would be on a haphazard basis.

Bergson sharply comments that this "argument is easily disposed of." Lange and Schumpeter both point out that, as Pareto and Barone had shown,

- once tastes and techniques are given, the values of the means of production can be determined unambiguously by imputation without the intervention of a market process. The Board of Supermen could decide readily how to allocate resources so as to assure the optimum welfare. It would simply have to solve the equations of Pareto and Barone.

So much for Mises. As for the Hayek-Robbins problem of practicality, Bergson adds, that can be settled by the Lange-Taylor trial-and-error method; any remaining problems are only a matter of degree of efficiency, and political choices. The Mises problem has been satisfactorily solved."