Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 6 No. 3 (Summer 1992)


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Market Socialism: A Case for Rejuvenation

Article Citation

Bardhan, Pranab, and John E. Roemer. 1992. "Market Socialism: A Case for Rejuvenation." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 6(3): 101-116.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.6.3.101


In this paper, we will outline a feasible economic mechanism of "competitive socialism." Our claim is that competitive markets are necessary to achieve an efficient and vigorous economy, but that full-scale private ownership is not necessary for the successful operation of competition and markets. Contrary to popular impression, this claim has not yet been disproved by either history or economic theory. It is the failure of both the political right and the left to disentangle the concepts of private ownership and the competitive market that has led to the premature obituaries for socialism. In the second section, we look at the question of the "soft budget constraint" as an agency problem under market socialism. We then propose two variants of a bank-centric system of insider monitoring as a viable solution to the agency problem. The next section discusses the essential problem of political accountability and the difficulty of credible pre-commitment in avoiding the soft budget constraint problem, and suggests ways of minimizing this problem in our proposed system. We then conclude by addressing some of the other standard objections to a proposal for market socialism.

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Bardhan, Pranab (U CA, Berkeley)
Roemer, John E. (U CA, Davis)

JEL Classifications

P21: Socialist Systems and Transitional Economies: Planning, Coordination, and Reform


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