Von Mises 1922 book Socialism, reviewed in the abstract both here and here, has probably not been bettered or even equalled, in its biting, apposite and irrefutable economic deconstruction of 'Socialism' which includes its variants, Modern Statism, Democratic Socialism, National Socialism or Fascism, and Marxism. Under the rubric of 'Socialism' fits many related theologies, all of which possess two prime motivations; 1. the control of property and production; and 2. the creation of the communal, which is ruled by the elite. The whole point of Socialism, which finds its expression today in every major state as some form of what I term 'Statism' or the management by the state of every key political-economic and social process, is to manage society, individuals, and the minutiae of everyday existence. It is thus an anti-humanist, anti-individualist cult and culture centred on power and control. But it is very seductive as Von Mises admits:
Whatever our view of its utility or its practicability, it must be admitted that the idea of Socialism is at once grandiose and simple. Even its most determined opponents will not be able to deny it a detailed examination. We may say, in fact, that it is one of the most ambitious creations of the human spirit. The attempt to erect society on a new basis while breaking with all traditional forms of social organization, to conceive a new world plan and foresee the form which all human affairs must assume in the future—this is so magnificent, so daring, that it has rightly aroused the greatest admiration. If we wish to save the world from barbarism we have to conquer Socialism, but we cannot thrust it carelessly aside.
Socialism is indeed barbaric. It is certainly not magnificent. Destroying free-will, humanism, rationality and dispensing with natural-law rights is the surest path to tyranny, cult control and destruction. At the core of the immorality of Socialism is according to Von Mises, the economic destruction wrought by all its systems of implementation. Thus a country like the US, which does possess a modicum of capital-market freedom, is beset by programs, markets and relationships in the political-economy which are entirely socialized. Housing, public schools, pensions, agriculture, health [it is a myth that the US has a market in health care], telecoms, the media, finance, pharma, welfare, subsidies, Green technology...the list is nigh endless of American socialization. The costs in economic calculations are massive. The cultural, moral and general social costs are higher still.
In Chapter One, Von Mises lays bare the inherent irrationality of Socialism's economic program by discussing private property and the distortions caused by the forcible redistribution philosophy of the Socialists. In order to sell Socialism its followers and political masters always engage in the usual mind-numbing rhetoric of fairness, equality, and compassion. In order to level society and create a shared-communal paradise, it is mandatory that the Socialists steal private property and redistribute the proceeds. This theft can be enacted through the tax system; outright state ownership of land and industry; or arbitrary rules, regulations and fees levied on those who are deemed to be too prosperous or powerful. This is violence. But even violence can be achieved 'peacefully' in modern states under the guise of some rhetoric. But it is still state sanctioned violence and coercion:
Violence and Law, War and Peace, are the two poles of social life; but its content is economic action....All violence is aimed at the property of others. The person—life and health—is the object of attack only in so far as it hinders the acquisition of property....To prevent them one does not require a whole legal system....Thus it is no accident that it is precisely in the defence of property that Law reveals most clearly its character of peacemaker.
Laws exist to protect private property – or appear too. But the state oftentimes trumps these laws and in Europe and Canada there is no Constitutional right to private property. The right to private wealth is enshrined in legal tradition, but this tradition has and will be usurped by the state and Socialist powers when convenient. Changes in the tax code, payroll deductions, eminent domain, land development which suits the powers at large and their friends, even union pensions paid by the tax system, are all examples of what is essentially the illegal and quite coercive theft of private wealth to further Socialization.
Culturally the Socialists must blame the 'market' for any real or imagined injustices. Thus the cultural degradation of all that is private, individual, self-created or self-determined. Only the communal can exist, because only the commune has the 'moral' authority to engage in theft and redistribution, a theology supported by such intellectual luminaries as the Obama, the UN, and the Club of Rome:
The last resort of the critics of the liberal ideal of society is to attempt to destroy it with the weapons it itself provides. They seek to prove that it serves and wants to serve only the interests of single classes; that the peace, for which it seeks, favours only a restricted circle and is harmful to all others. Even the social order, achieved in the constitutional modern state, is based on violence.....The free workers of the liberal society are nothing but the unfree of feudal times. The entrepreneur exploits them as a feudal lord exploited his serfs, as a planter exploited his slaves. That such and similar objections can be made and believed will show how far the understanding of liberal theories has decayed. But these objections in no way atone for the absence of a systematic theory for the movement against Liberalism.
Indeed. The ignorance about how the modern world was created and what orthodox Liberalism or modern Conservatism [in all their many guises] truly mean is astounding. The orthodox Liberal conception of social life and economics is premised on the division of labour. This has resulted in urbanization and a highly developed and variegated political-economy. For Socialists the division of labor means exploitation and inequality. This merits a redress in their view, as Von Mises cautions:
Our whole civilization rests on the fact that men have always succeeded in beating off the attack of the re-distributors. But the idea of re-distribution enjoys great popularity still, even in industrial countries...Even if one could demonstrate that common property was once the basis of land law for all nations and that all private property had arisen through illegal acquisition, one would still be far from proving that rational agriculture with intensive cultivation could have developed without private property. Even less permissible would it be to conclude from such premises that private property could or should be abolished.
The Socialist obsession with owning and controlling private property is one of the cornerstones of any socialist system. Property includes of course all private wealth. The ownership of both property and industrial and commercial production of any variety is absolutely essential for the Socialist. The only disagreements within the Socialist movement are how to acquire these powers, how fast, how incremental or monumental should be the coercion used by the state, and whose wealth is targeted with what rhetoric. Those differences should not however, hide the malicious intent of the Socialist program.