Spreadsheets Can Not Replace the Market Process

by Nicolás Cachanosky

Argentina’s former economic minister, Axel Kicillof, became famous for his assertion that it is possible to centrally manage the economy now because we have spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel. This assertion comes from the mistaken view that the cost of production determines final prices, and it reveals a profound misunderstanding of the market process. This issue, however, is not new. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed the debate over economic calculation under socialism. The problem is not whether or not we have powerful spreadsheets at our disposal; the problem is the impossibility of successfully creating a centrally-planned market.

At the turn of the century Ludwig von Mises, Max Weber, and Boris Brutzkus independently offered critiques on the socialist commonwealth, understood to be a society where there is no privately-held means of production. Mises was simple and direct. Unlike families or small tribes, where there is intimate knowledge among members, a large society requires prices to organize efficiently.

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