I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. Life has been busy and posting has been on the margin. After starting Socialism by Ludwig von Mises though, I can’t help myself. I’m reading Mises as part of a class on the history of economic thought. Socialism was first published in German in 1922. Over 80 years later his message is one that’s fresh and resonates with the times.
Section 1 of chapter 2 could be quoted in its entirety but a snippet will suffice:
It is the aim of Socialism to transfer the means of production from private ownership to the ownership of organized society, to the State…Limitation of the rights of owners as well as formal transference is a means of socialization. If the State takes the power of disposal from the owner piecemeal, by extending its influence over production; if its power to determine what direction production shall take and what kind of production there shall be, is increased, then the owner is left at last with nothing except the empty name of ownership, and property has passed into the hands of the State.
From his introduction with echoes of Bastiat:
The habit of talking and writing about economic affairs without having probed relentlessly to the bottom of their problems has taken the zest out of public discussions on questions vital to human society and diverted politics into paths that lead directly to the destruction of all civilization. The proscription of economic theory, which began with the German historical school, and today finds expression notably in American Institutionalism, has demolished the authority of qualified thought on these matters. Our contemporaries consider that anything which comes under the heading of Economics and Sociology is fair game to the unqualified critic. It is assumed that the trade union official and the entrepreneur [along with bankers and lawyer politicians] are qualified by virtue of their office alone to decide questions of political economy. “Practical men” of this order, even those whose activities have, notoriously, often led to failure and bankruptcy, enjoy a spurious prestige as economists which should at all costs be destroyed. On no account must a disposition to avoid sharp words be permitted to lead to a compromise. It is time these amateurs were unmasked.
And comments from his Preface to the 2nd English edition in 1950 speak to our quadrennial elections:
The great ideological conflict of our age must not be confused with the mutual rivalries among the various totalitarian movements. The real issue is not who should run the totalitarian apparatus. The real problem is whether or not socialism should supplant the market economy.