February 13, 2011

LvM Quote of the Day

I had the ruby slippers all along. Lew Rockwell's site -- which I have maligned over the years -- has the complete text of Ludwig von Mises's "Socialism." I had been highlighting sections on my Kindle to share with my ThreeSources brothers and sisters but had no way to copy. After finishing the book yesterday, I now find the text online. I may go back and post some favorites in lieu of a Review Corner. I can review corner it in two sentences: It is the best book ever written. Five stars.

Today's LvM QOTD is from the conclusion. Near and dear to all ThreeSourcers, the struggle of ideas and the path forward. I think you'll hear a bit of Ayn Rand and some Michael Novak in there:

Nor have these disciples of Liberalism been any more fortunate in their criticisms of Socialism. They have constantly declared that Socialism is a beautiful and noble ideal towards which one ought to strive were it realizable, but that, alas, it could not be so, because it presupposed human beings more perfect morally than those with whom we have to deal. It is difficult to see how people can decide that Socialism is in any way better than Capitalism unless they can maintain that it functions better as a social system. With the same justification it might be said that a machine constructed on the basis of perpetual motion would be better than one worked according to the given laws of mechanics--if only it could be made to function reliably. If the concept of Socialism contains an error which prevents that system from doing what it is supposed to do, then Socialism cannot be compared with the Capitalist system, for this has proved itself workable. Neither can it be called nobler, more beautiful or more just.

It is true, Socialism cannot be realized, but it is not because it calls for sublime and altruistic beings. One of the things this book set out to prove was that the socialist commonwealth lacks above all one quality which is indispensable for every economic system which does not live from hand to mouth but works with indirect and roundabout methods of production: that is the ability to calculate, and therefore to proceed rationally. Once this has been generally recognized, all socialist ideas must vanish from the minds of reasonable human beings.

LvM Quote of the Day Posted by John Kranz at February 13, 2011 10:44 AM

I had hoped another would comment first, for my first thoughts were decidedly critical. I admire and welcome what appears to be a new 3Srcs franchise, the "LvM QOTD" and did not want to argue with the very first installment.

With time and reflection, and reading some other paragraphs from the linked pages, I believe I can offer an integration with Objectivist thought instead of a disputation.

LvM offers a case for the impossibility of Socialism as an economic order among men that is apart from the Objectivist denunciation of altruism. Setting aside the issue of altruism for now... [to paraphrase Mises] Socialism cannot be realized because it lacks the ability to calculate and plan ahead, which is necessary for every economic system in which one is not required to produce his own food. What LvM might have overlooked here is the fact that, some men do not aspire to anything greater than a hand-to-mouth existence. Similarly, some men are not "reasonable human beings."

The men who continue to advocate a socialist economic order are these men. They want to "live simply, that others may simply live." They attempted this in the sixties with communal living and to the extent they left others alone, they were free to do so. Unfortunately they came to believe they have some moral prerogative to force all other men to follow them "back to the caves."

There's more to it than this, of course, but it does seem to me that LvM doesn't fully address the problem of the non-productive or the non-reasonable man.

Posted by: johngalt at February 16, 2011 3:39 PM | What do you think? [1]