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Part Five: Social Cooperation Without a Market > Chapter XXV. The Imaginary Constuction of a...

3. The Praxeological Character of Socialism

The essential mark of socialism is that one will alone acts. It is immaterial whose will it is. The director may be an anointed king or a dictator, ruling by virtue of his charisma, he may be a Fuhrer or a board of Fuhrers appointed by the vote of the people. The main thing is that the employment of all factors of production is directed by one agency only. One will alone chooses, decides, directs, acts, gives orders. All the rest simply obey orders and instructions. Organization and a planned order are substituted for the "anarchy" [p. 696] of production and for various people's initiative. Social cooperation under the division of labor is safeguarded by a system of hegemonic bonds in which a director peremptorily calls upon the obedience of all his wards.

In terming the director society (as the Marxians do), state (with a capital S), government, or authority, people tend to forget that the director is always a human being, not an abstract notion or a mythical collective entity. We may admit that the director or the board of directors are people of superior ability, wise and full of good intentions. But it would be nothing short of idiocy to assume that they are omniscient and infallible.

In a praxeological analysis of the problems of socialism, we are not concerned with the moral and ethical character of the director. Neither do we discuss his value judgments and his choice of ultimate ends. What we are dealing with is merely the question of whether any mortal man, equipped with the logical structure of the human mind, can be equal to the tasks incumbent upon a director of a socialist society.

We assume that the director has at his disposal all the technological knowledge of his age. Moreover, he has a complete inventory of all the material factors of production available and a roster enumerating all manpower employable. In these respects the crowd of experts and specialists which he assembles in his offices provide him with perfect information and answer correctly all questions he may ask them. Their voluminous reports accumulate in huge piles on his desk. But now he must act. He must choose among an infinite variety of projects in such a way that no want which he himself considers more urgent remains unsatisfied because the factors of production required for its satisfaction are employed for the satisfaction of wants which he considers less urgent.

It is important to realize that this problem has nothing at all to do with the valuation of the ultimate ends. It refers only to the means by the employment of which the ultimate ends chosen are to be attained. We assume that the director has made up his mind with regard to the valuation of ultimate ends. We do not question his decision. Neither do we raise the question of whether the people, the wards, approve or disapprove of their director's decisions. We may assume for the sake of argument, that a mysterious power makes everyone agree with one another and with the director in the valuation of ultimate ends. [p. 697]

Our problem, the crucial and only problem of socialism, is a purely economic problem, and as such refers merely to means and not to ultimate ends. [p. 698]