German philosophers such as Otto Neurath were promoting the idea of continuing socialist central planning after World War I. Their proposals for socializing the postwar economy prompted Ludwig von Mises to expose the destructive nature of socialism using logic and science. His book, Socialism An Economic and Sociological Analysis, is a classic. In the Preface to the Second German Edition, written in Vienna in 1932, he described the history of Socialism and the characteristics of socialists.
Mises defines Socialism: A government “policy which aims at constructing a society in which the means of production are socialized.”
Early European socialists were localized. They looked at exchange of goods beyond their small borders as harmful. Later they expanded the idea to national and, eventually, a world view. Schemes of “Utopian Socialists” did not “withstand the criticisms of economists and sociologists,” as von Mises noted. By the 1850s science had demonstrated the worthlessness of Socialism “by means of strict logic and its supporters were unable to produce a single effective counter-argument,” wrote Mises. Then Karl Marx appeared. He devised a three-element scheme to defend Socialism against the logic that debunked it.
Marx and Engels “denied that Logic is universally valid”; it was merely an “apology for Capitalism,” they said. Second, they declared that “the aim and end of all history” was the socialization of the means of production by expropriation. Finally, since Socialism was inevitable its nature would not be determinable. Denial, revision and obfuscation of truth were foundational for Marxist doctrine; in von Mises words: “arbitrary, unconfirmed and easily refutable dogmas.”
The terms Socialism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism and Nazism have all been used interchangeably and these dogmas have many similar characteristics. For example, in full power and authority they all become totalitarian regimes—political authorities that exercise centralized and absolute control over all aspects of our lives.
Mises wrote that the (temporary) success of Marxism “is due to the prospect it offers of fulfilling those dream-aspirations and dreams of vengeance which have been so deeply embedded in the human soul…It promises a Paradise on earth…full of happiness and enjoyment, and—sweeter still to the loser’s in life’s game—humiliation of all who are stronger and better than the multitude.
“Logic and reasoning, which might show the absurdity of such dreams of bliss and revenge, are to be thrust aside. Marxism is thus the most radical of all reactions against the reign of scientific thought over life and action, established by Rationalism. It is against Logic, against science and against the activity of thought itself—its outstanding principle is the prohibition of thought and inquiry, especially as applied to the institutions and workings of a socialist economy.
“The Bolshevists persistently tell us that religion is opium for the people. Marxism is indeed opium for those who might take to thinking and must therefore be weaned from it.”
Mises referred to the “sterility” of socialist thought. But he believed that more than scientific inquiry into the problems of Socialism was needed to counter the idea.
The socialist mentality rests on moral superiority. Advocates believe they are good, noble and moral; pioneers of necessary reforms. They see themselves as unselfishly serving people—and all humanity and, above all, as “zealous and courageous seeker(s) after truth.” But they are madly intolerant toward anyone who measures Socialism “by the standards of scientific reasoning.” So they personally attack opponents as their enemies.
“Marx and Engels never tried to refute their opponents with argument. They insulted, ridiculed, derided, slandered, and traduced them, and in the use of these methods their followers are not less expert. Their polemic is directed never against the argument of the opponent, but always against the person.”
Mises describes these assaults on defenders of Capitalism. To the Socialists they become champions of an “evil principle,” mercenaries “serving the egotistical interests of a class, a menace to the welfare of the community.”
Socialists arrogantly (and wrongly) assume that the question of whether Socialism or Capitalism better serves the public welfare is settled (an earlier manifestation of the modern Socialist declaration that the “science” of manmade global warming is “settled”). Mises notes the truth, that “only by scientific inquiry could the matter be decided.”
Socialists can “find no answer to the criticism to which science subjects their doctrines.” Mises reasons that “conflicting views must be examined in the light of sober science: righteous indignation and jeremiads (moral prophecies of doom) take us nowhere.”
Mises’ observations of Socialist thinking and tactics in 1932 can be seen in modern America. Socialists today reject scientific inquiry, but their responses are angry emotion. They have no logical argument to support their views; only “moral pathos.” Sadly, even our Christian churches arouse feelings that continue to spread suspicion, and even hostility, toward Capitalism.
In the Epilogue of his book (first published in 1951), von Mises noted that “papal encyclicals blame capitalism for the spread of irreligion and the sins of our contemporaries, and the protestant churches and sects are no less vigorous in their indictment of capitalist greed.”
Recently, Argentinean Pope Francis has spread Socialist doctrine. He misguidedly supports the political theory of manmade climate change, he defames Americans as unchristian who oppose the illegal invasion of our country from Central American Indians, and clearly he doesn’t understand the critical incontrovertible value of Capitalism in providing the best system to help the poor become more prosperous. Hypocritically, he doesn’t criticize evil totalitarian and theocratic regimes in Cuba and Iran that hold their citizens hostage and in poverty.
Mises’ Introductory Remarks in his Epilogue notes the irony that despite “the anti-capitalistic policies of all governments and of almost all political parties, the capitalist mode of production is in many countries still fulfilling the social function in supplying the consumers with more, better and cheaper goods.”
Finally, he cites the reality of proof that Capitalism remains the best economic system for the welfare of all mankind.
“It is certainly not a merit of governments, politicians and labour union officers that the standard of living is improving in the countries committed to the principle of private ownership of the means of production. Not offices and bureaucrats, but big business deserves credit for the fact that most families in the United States own a motor car and a radio set (1951). The increase in per capital consumption in America as compared with conditions a quarter of a century ago is not an achievement of laws and executive orders. It is an accomplishment of business men who enlarged the size of their factories or built new ones.”
One must stress this point, wrote von Mises, because many people tend to ignore it. Thus, the evils of Socialism continue to be spread by ignorant, vindictive people who dream of revenge against those who they personally blame for their failures and perceived abuses.
Last November editors at Investor’s Business Daily illustrated the problem we have with American Socialism—now firmly entrenched in our highest levels of government. The editorial titled “Orwellian Lie: Socialism Is Capitalism” noted comments from President Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders.
Their rhetoric and proposals clearly show they are Socialists, but they dare not admit it publically. Obama has said, “I actually believe in the free market.” Sanders, the only admitted Socialist-Democrat in Congress, said, “To me, what democratic socialism is about is to maintain the strong entrepreneurial spirit that we have in this country.”
IBD editors succinctly described the danger we face from the insidious evil of Socialism in America: “The fact that Obama and Sanders think we’ll so easily believe ‘socialized medicine is a marketplace’ and that ‘wealth distribution helps business’ is a chilling commentary on how the free can be tricked into tyranny.”