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Last Knight Live Blog 18 Kraus

January 7, 2008

Chapter 11 of the Last Knight is devoted to the intellectual origin, development and main themes of Mises’s second major book, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. Socialism offers a comprehensive analysis of the intellectual case in favor of socialism as economic and political ideal. The book presents and examines virtually every major argument for socialism, ranging from the Marxist claim of the inevitability of its coming through the development of material forces of production to various socialist critiques of certain allegedly deplorable elements of capitalism that by implication might contribute to the case for socialism.

Mises’s analysis is so devastating that any honest reader will come to the conclusion that despite whatever pictures of brotherly love and unbounded prosperity people might imagine in connection with socialism, its actual character turns out to be the very opposite. Socialism cannot create; it only destroys what was previously created by capitalism. Socialism is not a higher state of human development. It is even worse than feudalism; it is institutionalized universal slavery.

The following quote from the book summarizes the nature of socialism:

In fact Socialism is not in the least what it pretends to be. It is not the pioneer of a better and finer world, but the spoiler of what thousands of years of civilization have created. It does not build; it destroys. For destruction is the essence of it. It produces nothing, it only consumes what the social order based on private ownership in the means of production has created. Since a socialist order of society cannot exist, unless it be as a fragment of Socialism within an economic order resting otherwise on private property, each step leading towards Socialism must exhaust itself in the destruction of what already exists.

The specific avenue through which the destructionist element of socialism becomes visible is, of course, its utter incompatibility with the requirements to maintain and enlarge the division of labor. The extent of success and happiness of an individual, and by extension of the society at large, is inseparably connected with the material means of human survival and development expressed in the ability of the individual and the society at large to produce wealth. But the production of wealth requires that individuals have the best incentives as well as live under the most favorable psychological, cultural and institutional environment. Socialism destroys or makes the development of all that simply impossible because it enslaves the individual, stifles his initiative, deprives him of the physical means to take care of his own life, corrupts or weakens his individuality, makes it unfit to survive in the social context.

The great merit of Mises’s Socialism is that it delivers a comprehensive picture of destructionism of socialism in all of its dimensions – psychological, cultural, and economic. It is a must read.

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