Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Unfeasibility and Inevitability of Socialism

Among the eight articles I made based on Mises' "Planned Chaos", the only one I could not recover is the seventh, "Hitler and Nazism". Even a Filipino version of it is missing. I have no more energy left to rework that article. 

The present article is the 8th and last article. It is about the unfeasibility and inevitability of socialism. It's a combination of sections 9 and 10. 

The title is confusing. It is contradictory. How can you maintain the inevitability of something unfeasible? If one of them is true, the other is false. They cannot be both true. 

The Unfeasibility of Socialism

The unfeasibility of socialism is based on the idea that the method adopted by socialist thinkers is inapplicable to social sciences. This method as exemplified through Soviet revolutionary experiment was considered an evidence of the success of socialism. However, the method used in Soviet experiment was derived from the natural sciences and cannot be applied in the field of economics, which Mises categorized under the science of human action.

The science of human action cannot be manipulated towards a desired single end. It is complex. It is a historical experience of intricate phenomena. As such, it is open to diverse interpretations. Its legitimate use can only be found on the basis of a particular theoretical construct. 

According to Mises, if there is one thing that history tells us, it is this: “that private ownership of the means of production is a necessary requisite of civilization and material well-being” (p. 35).

He further claimed that human civilizations have been based on private property and none could identify any historical experience that other social system works. 

However, for socialist intellectuals, the historical evidence in favor of private property is insufficient on the ground that humanity has already advanced. Since this is the case, sticking with a system that worked in the past can no longer be justified. This kind of reasoning can only be sustained on the basis of aprioristic thinking. For socialists, the viability of their system cannot be discredited by human reason. Actual and global experience of socialism is the only way to test its feasibility. 

Mises raised two primary objections as to the feasibility of socialism:

First, in socialism, economic calculation is impossible. This is due to the absence of market prices. Prices are missing “for the factors of production are neither bought nor sold” (p. 36). Because of such absence, planning for the future and determining the result of past action is impossible. Socialism in this way “will operate in the dark” (ibid.). It will waste both human and natural resources. It will result to nothing, but chaos and poverty. For Mises, the primary problem among socialist thinkers is economic ignorance. As such it is intellectually bankrupt and its “claims are as vain as those of the astrologers and the magicians” (p. 37). 

The second objection to socialism is in terms of its efficiency compared to capitalism. It is less efficient and will only destroy human economic activity. 

Of course, socialists have their own way to explain the “alleged” bankruptcy and still to maintain their idealism. 

The Inevitability of Socialism

Since the feasibility of socialism cannot be maintained, it is therefore not inevitable. The claim to socialism’s inevitability is due to the absence of “decided opposition”. “Civilian courage” is largely missing, that is, the courage to resist a popular movement. 

For Mises, the way to fight socialism is not by attacking its minor features such as its stand on divorce, birth control and other anti-Christian tenets. “Painstaking study” is required. 

The role therefore of the intellectuals in this conflict is vital. Mises described this role as follows:

“The Socialist propaganda never encountered any decided opposition. The devastating critique by which the economists exploded the futility and impracticability of the socialist schemes and doctrines did not reach the moulders of public opinion. The universities were mostly dominated by socialist or interventionist...The politicians and the statesmen, anxious not to lose popularity, were lukewarm in their defense of freedom...It was this defeatism that made the rising generation believe that the victory of socialism is inevitable” (p. 39).

“It is not true that the masses are vehemently asking for socialism and that there is no means to resist them. The masses favor socialism because they trust the socialist propaganda of the intellectuals. The intellectuals, not the populace, are molding public opinion. It is a lame excuse of the intellectuals that they must yield to the masses. They themselves have generated the socialist ideas and indoctrinated the masses with them. No proletarian has contributed to the elaboration of the interventionist and socialist programmes. Their authors were all bourgeois background. The esoteric writings of dialectical materialism of Hegel, the father both of Marxism and of German aggressive nationalism, the books of Georges Sorel, of Gentile and of Spengler were not read by the average man; they did not move the masses directly. It was the intellectuals who popularized them “ (pp.39-40).

“The intellectuals alone are responsible for the mass slaughters which are the characteristic mark of our century. They alone can reverse the trend and pave the way for a resurrection of freedom” (p. 40).