In the academic social sciences, in the United States at least, these questions scarcely exist. When this year’s Nobel Prize winner in economics [MIT economist Paul Samuelson] considers the range of possible economic systems, he sees a spectrum with complete laissez faire at one extreme and totalitarian dictatorship of production at the other. Assuming this framework, the relevant choice for policy today is to determine where along this spectrum our economy should properly lie.10 No doubt one can place economic systems along this scale. There are other dimensions, however, along which Samuelson’s polar opposites fall at the same extreme: for example, the spectrum that places direct democratic control of production at one pole and autocratic control, whether by state or private capital, at the other. In this case, as so often, the formulation of the range of alternatives narrowly constrains the relevant choice for policy.
10. Paul Samuelson, Economics, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964), p.39