The Clare Spark Blog

May 12, 2018

Ludwig von Mises’s Socialism

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von Mises SocialismI have some agreements, disagreements, and there are open questions regarding the renowned economist’s book denouncing the socialist movements of the nineteenth century and then, the Soviet revolution of 1917.

Agreements: 1.von Mises is a fan of science and Enlightenment. And yet, he does not denounce religion, but rather complains that “socialism” is a form of religion. But, like the 18th Century Enlighteners, he has standards, and affirms the meritocracy. (This separates him from populists.)

2. von Mises is appalled by the repressiveness of Big Government (socialism and communism).

Disagreements 1. Affirming supply and demand (the free market), von Mises favored open borders. This is an outmoded standard, taken up by liberals and globalists. von Mises’s standard made sense at the time he was writing this (in the early 20th century), but would he have agreed with the multiculturalists? Perhaps he would have, as he affirmed (somewhat?) the validity of racial and gender differences.

2. von Mises includes in one bag, social democrats (following FDR’s New Deal) and communists. I agree that Big Government/bureaucracy) is a bad thing, but have taken pains to distinguish liberals from communists (especially following the Popular Front Against Fascism (1935). Liberal anticommunism still prevails. Liberals of course co-opted some socialist demands, but distorted them, especially in their avid support of labor unions (also criticized by 1930s radicals).

3. The Enlighteners were empiricists, yet von Mises provides no facts to support his thesis that capitalist institutions do not exploit the workers.

Open question: Is Nazism to be grouped with Socialism? von Mises, using the standard of state control of prices and interest, said yes. Since he did not treat the cult of the Leader (or other cultural factors), I remain unconvinced.

December 26, 2017

Were Nazis “Socialists” (2) (UK)

For part one of this series see

Opinion is sharply divided on this question, partly because libertarian conservatives tend to believe, following Ludwig von Mises SOCIALISM, that Nazi wage and price controls qualified Nazism as a socialist-type government, along with “interventionism” or “the third way” as a compromise between free markets and state planning. Indeed, Hitler himself talked of such a compromise during WWII, but with an emphasis on equal opportunity for the superior balanced rationalist (like himself):

[Hitler:]The English have to settle certain social problems which are ripe to be settled. At present these problems can still be solved from above, in a reasonable manner. I tremble for them if they don’t do it now. For if it’s left to the people to take the initiative, the road is open to madness and destruction. Men like Mosley would have had no difficulty in solving the problem, by finding a compromise between Conservatism and Socialism, by opening the road to the masses but without depriving the élite of their rights. Class prejudices can’t be maintained in a socially advanced State like ours, in which the proletariat produces men of such superiority. Every reasonably conducted organization is bound to favor the development of beings of worth. It has been my wish that the educative organizations of the Party should enable the poorest child to lay claim to the highest functions, if he has enough talent. The Party must see to it, on the other hand, that society is not compartmentalized so that everyone can quickly assert his gifts. Otherwise discontent raises its head, and the Jew finds himself in just the right situation to exploit it. It’s essential that a balance should be struck, in such a way that dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives may be abolished as well as Jewish and Bolshevik anarchists….(Jan. 27, 1942, Trevor-Roper translation from Martin Bormann’s notes)

[Clare:]Of course, von Mises did not consider Bolsheviks to be anarchists; rather he wrote that Socialism, inspired by Marx and Engels, had infected European sociopolitical movements (including all manifestations of the welfare state) with anti-capitalist rules and sentiments.

Such a free market orientation would freak out current day “liberals” who might be expected to emphasize the destruction of the “independent” working class, who New Deal Democrats would prefer as trade unionists. Thus it is not surprising that post-Popular Front leftists would argue that Hitler was anything but a Socialist, having done in “Jewish Bolshevism.” (Moreover, leftists would emphasize the “cultural” over “economic” factors that have been missing from liberal polemics, perhaps to ingratiate themselves with the victims of the Holocaust. For a partial correction, see

Not so fast, insisted von Mises, for “Socialism” was roughly synonymous with “Fascism.” (He viewed Socialism and Fascism as overlapping but distinct authoritarian movements in his SOCIALISM, first published in English 1936, then revived after the war partly by libertarian conservatives.)

Finally, the question of whether or not Nazis were Socialists is complicated by the desire of leftists/liberals to tar the “alt-Right” with the Nazi connection. For the increasingly statist left, the free market is generically the wellspring of Nazism, even going after the President.

Boulder Weekly: Trump with supposed Hitler salute

And so it was in the arguably fascist 1930s.

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