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GA Cohen, 'Why Not Socialism?'

Princeton University Press, 2009; 83pp; £10.95

The late GA Cohen opens this tiny monograph (barely 10,000 words, if that) with a simple thought experiment. Imagine a camping trip where one of your fellow campers is very good at fishing but demands that he should have better fish to eat than the rest of you in recognition of his abilities. A cache of nuts is discovered, but only Leslie knows the trick to crack them open – however, she wants to charge for sharing this information.
It sounds crazy, of course, because most people instinctively adopt socialist values of equality and community when they go camping. Should one – and could one – try to run an economy on these lines? Cohen believes that we should, and though he concludes on a Rumsfeldian note that “we now know that we do not now know how to do that”, he also writes that the “right conclusion is [not] to give up”. Pricey, but worth reading.