Episode 412: Why Socialism Will Never Work w/ Dr Joseph Salerno

Episode 412: Why Socialism Will Never Work w/ Dr Joseph Salerno

32 Minutes

Suitable For All Ages

Pete invited the academic vice president of the Mises Institute and professor of economics at Pace University in NYC, Dr Joseph Salerno, to come on the show. Dr Joe has been lecturing for a few decades on why socialism can never work building off of Ludwig Von Mises teachings. He explains it in a concise way and even communicates why the US government can’t avoid failure when you consider economic calculation.

Dr Salerno’s Mises.org page

Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth

Mises University

Link to Richard Grove’s Autonomy Course

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TGIF: Democracy Can’t Fix Socialism

TGIF: Democracy Can’t Fix Socialism

However you feel about democracy, it can’t fix what’s wrong with socialism. 

In theory, modern representative democracy — unlike ancient Greek direct democracy — means that people vote for so-called representatives to fill various executive and legislative government offices. Those officials then enact and enforce rules that people are expected to obey under threat of fine and/or imprisonment. 

In theory, socialism has mostly been understood as direct government economic planning through public, that is, state, ownership of the means of production. In no real sense can a public own — meaning control — factories, farms, etc. In reality public ownership means control by the collection of politicians and bureaucrats called the state. Thus socialism until recently has been understood to entail abolition of private property, money, and markets. Competition, cooperation, and exchange give way to monopoly, command, and compliance.

(For the record, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, socialism in some circles was an umbrella term for any “left-wing” alternative to [state or political] capitalism. Thus some left individualist anarchist libertarians, such as Benjamin Tucker and his compatriots, embraced the term while joining with other nonstate socialists to oppose corporatism, or neomercantilism, the alliance of state and favored business interests. In a linguistically more perfect world, socialism would denote the opposite of statism. In that sense, market anarchism is socialism because the arena of decision-making is society — the network of voluntary relations — rather than the state — the network of coerced relations.)

These days, at least in America, socialism no longer means only formal government ownership of the means of production and central planning. (It’s useless to complain: like it or not, words “move” and always have.) By socialism, Bernie Sanders and his followers intend it to mean a much bigger welfare state: “free” medical care for all, higher education, etc. Sanders says his models are in Scandinavia, but those are not socialist countries; rather they are highly market-oriented welfare states. At least these days, Sanders does not propose to abolish private property and markets. He does propose, of course, to interfere with market relations through taxation and decrees such as minimum-wage legislation. He seeks not to abolish markets but to forcibly modify their outcomes more to his liking. (Not that he deserves praise for that.)

Socialism (in the older sense) and welfare-statism, along with other forms of interventionism, for all their similarities and common shortcomings, are not identical, as Ludwig von Mises noted. (For the common shortcomings, find a copy of Israel M. Kirzner’s classic essay, “The Perils of Regulation: A Market Process Approach.” Also see Kirzner’s “Competition, Regulation, and the Market Process: An ‘Austrian’ Perspective.”) For example, Medicare-for-all and free college would be better described as welfare-statist because, as envisioned, the government would not own all the hospitals and colleges or employ the doctors, nurses, and teachers. The services would be regulated by bureaucrats and paid for by the taxpayers whether they like it or not.

I hasten to add that the difference I’m alluding to between socialism and interventionism is not moral but economic and institutional. Whether politicians and bureaucrats direct our behavior directly though government ownership or indirectly through regulation of nominally private arrangements makes little difference morally. Either way, our rights and freedom are violated.

Leaving the distinction between socialism and interventionism aside for now, let’s understand that socialism, however defined, would not have its intrinsic flaws eliminated by placing democratic in front of it, that is, by having officials elected. The reason is simple. If socialism were to have any chance of delivering on its extravagant promises, politicians, bureaucrats, and the public would have to know things that they could not possibly know. Here I invoke the rich critique of centralized power provided by Mises and F. A. Hayek. 

Mises showed, beginning a century ago, that the abolition of markets — which would necessarily include the elimination of authentic money prices — would bring chaos because the prices generated by people’s marginal decisions about scarce resources in markets are indispensable for economic calculation. Calculation is important because resources are scarce and we don’t want to waste them. Prices, which contain vital information, guide action throughout society. Without them, no one could make smart economic decisions for himself, much less for an entire society.

Hayek emphasized that central planners necessarily would be ignorant not only of prices but of the scattered, incomplete, and ever-changing underlying knowledge about supply and demand, including subjective consumer tastes. Specifically, he showed that much of the information that generates prices is not explicitly known data even to the relevant actors; we all possess tacit knowledge that influences our actions when we face unanticipated alternatives between two or more goods or courses of action. Not only is it the case that central planners could not know this information; we could not convey it to them even if we had a timely way to do so. Economic planning without true prices is like flying in a fog without instruments. The choice is between free pricing (which requires private property, markets, and free exchange) or what Mises called “planned chaos.”

Relevant to this discussion, Kirzner, in The Perils of Regulation, showed that a regulatory state would suffer from a similar “knowledge problem” as socialism. The regulators could not know what they would have to know to efficiently regulate an “economy” that accorded with the preferences of the individuals they ruled. Their ignorant interventions would distort prices, leaving the hampered economy less able to serve us. (In reality, there is no “economy”; there are only people who trade goods and services. We are the economy that demagogic politicians seek to regulate.)

So we ask: how could the knowledge problem be solved by democracy? As individuals, voters may know much about their own and their families’ situations, but how much do they know about their neighbors’, not to mention the rest of the country’s. I am certainly not qualified to choose among candidates offering competing plans for how much steel, aluminum, etc. should be produced next year and at what price, what kind of cars should be manufactured, or how much wages should rise. Are you? Freed markets (unmolested by politicians) do this reasonably well. And unlike politicians, markets constantly correct for errors.

Clearly, democracy cannot fix the economic flaws of socialism or interventionism. It can’t fix the moral flaws either. However you define socialism — unless it’s in the Tuckerite sense — it must entail state interference with peaceful cooperative interaction. (I reject the bogus distinction between personal and economic activities, just as I reject the distinction between personal and economic liberty. What’s more personal than our decisions about what to buy and sell?) Whether the intrusive government officials are elected or not makes no moral difference. Just as no autocrat ought to be able to tell me what peaceful actions I may and may not engage in, so no politician appointed by 50 percent plus one of voters ought to be able to tell me what I may and may not do.

I suppose the adjective democratic is meant to convey that the advocate wants socialism without the nastiness that Castro et al. brought with them: including the jailing in labor camps of various “undesirables” and enemies of the revolution, such as gays and independent-minded librarians. (It seems odd for Sanders to praise Castro for his literacy programs when the dictator also expressly rejected freedom of the press.) But as Hayek pointed out in The Road to Serfdom, what begins as democratic socialism may not stay that way. It could become autocratic socialism as the legislators talk endlessly about how exactly the economy should be planned or guided. After all, even if everyone believed that the government should plan society, it wouldn’t follow that everyone agreed on the plan’s details. So at some point an impatient president might decide to put a stop to the idle chatter and take matters into his own hands through executive order.

Democratic or not, socialism and interventionism are unfit for human beings. 

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

Year Zero 98: Isms and Regulatory Capture

Year Zero 98: Isms and Regulatory Capture

In episode 98 Tommy takes on the idea that any one ism should be argued as superior over another. When people argue capitalism v socialism v communism v progressivism v fascism they are forgetting that they are arguing in favor of forced integration or forced segragation. In a society founded on liberty people would be able to choose the ism that best fits them and the coercion that enforces and props up their preferred ism would be null and void.

Listen to Year Zero

The ‘Landlord’ is MY Employee

The ‘Landlord’ is MY Employee

Imagine having an employee whose job was to make sure you are safe from the elements and if anything stopped working in your dwelling, they had to fix it on what YOU paid them. What if you had a contract that stated if they didn’t provide these services in a set amount of time you could either, file a tort claim against them, or walk away with no repercussions and contract with someone else, or both. Would you consider it unfathomable if you were informed that some people were paying this person as little as $800 a month, even less? Some might call that near slave wages! 

For well over a century now, people referring to themselves as socialists and communists, have sought to demonize the “landlord.” These evil imbeciles have gone so far as to murder them en masse. A quick search of social media will find college students and their professors cheering on the ending of the lives of people who provide more service to humanity than they and their Gender Studies degree ever will. Even the term is meant to invoke a caricature of someone who controls your life and who you are enslaved to. This is of course nonsense. That any person with an IQ over 60 takes this term, and its cartoonish interpretation seriously, is a testament to the success of government schools and their indoctrination program which starts in the formative years.  

A quick breakdown as to the services provided by the one who is at your beck and call 24 hours a day, proves the cretin who vilifies them is an enemy of the survival of the species. 

Shelter 

“Mother Nature is trying to kill you.” That phrase is taken from the title of a Dan Riskin book  but I’m sure its origins are apocryphal by now. There was a reason our ancestors lived in caves, then huts, so on and so on. The natural elements of this planet could end their existence. Whether they lived close to the Arctic or on the equator, weather was the main threat to their lives. To have to bring up the last Ice Age to make the point is foolish.  

Not only climate but animals were also a threat to life and limb. The “landlord” provides safety to all who either cannot own their own land, or doesn’t want to. 

Food Storage 

One of the greatest dilemmas in history has been the preservation of our nutritional sustenance. A quick glance back gives you examples of people salting meats, placing their stock in cold streams and various other methods. They had to constantly innovate in a time of prehistoric and medieval technologies or else one of the main things they needed to stay alive could kill them.  

With the advent of modern refrigeration, this problem that lasted for millennia is all but solved. Almost all landlords provide one of these life saving devices with the property you lease from them. 

Safety from Predators 

When a libertarian is asked to give the elevator pitch for what they believe, many will say “don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.” No libertarian is deluded enough to believe that everyone will follow that standard so having a safe place for one’s person and property is essential.  

As has been discussed about our ancestors, a dwelling that protects both is vital for survival.  The service that the landlord provides, in the overwhelming majority of cases, is adequate for anyone’s needs. 

Luxury   

Having items in your home that simply make you happy is a relatively new idea for the masses. When the modern nation state was formed, only a small minority could have what are termed “luxury goods.” Usually, only the kings and their most trusted advisors could acquire these. In the last 100 or so years that has changed. Televisions, computers and the internet are common-place even in homes that many of the enemies of the “landlord” would consider low-income. These “treacherous” property owners will often provide these amenities in your contract along with marble floors, walk-in closets and even bidets. 

If one wished to be sarcastic, they may ask, “HOW DARE THEY?!” 

 

What is the alternative to this beneficial arrangement for all, central planning? Having the State build cookie-cutter dwellings for the masses? History has shown that “public housing” becomes run down and dilapidated in the absence of someone with a financial interest in keeping the property up to a certain standard. Mention the concept of “resale value” to a commie/socialist and I’m sure their wiring would malfunction as quickly as that of a New York City housing project’s. 

Private ownership providing a service, even in this system of crony-capitalism, is preferable to that of government control. The question must be asked to those who wish to see government, or centrally planned housing, whether they believe food should be provided in the same way. That should be a yes or no answer. If it is no, then why would they trust central planners with sheltering the masses? If the answer is yes, those who disagree would do well to separate themselves from these sociopaths sooner rather than later. 

Episode 336: Gene Epstein on His Debate w/ Socialist Professor Richard Wolff

Episode 336: Gene Epstein on His Debate w/ Socialist Professor Richard Wolff

84 Minutes

A Couple F Bombs

Pete invited Gene Epstein to return to the show to discuss his November 5th, Soho Forum debate, with Professor of socialist economics, Richard Wolff. They discuss some of Wolff’s arguments in favor of the debate resolution, “Socialism is preferable to capitalism as an economic system that promotes freedom, equality, and prosperity.”

Gene is the Director of The Soho Forum debates series and former economic editor for Barron’s Magazine.

Link to the Debate

The Soho Forum

Gene on Twitter

Lions of Liberty Podcast

Link to Richard Grove’s Autonomy Course

‘They’ll Never be Communism in Murica’

‘They’ll Never be Communism in Murica’

Yeah, about that. 

The average social media patriot is enamored with pointing their finger at the stage full of democratic presidential candidates and hurling accusations of them desiring socialism and communism in their “Free Murica.” There’s a huge problem with their allegations in relation to them not wanting communism; it’s already here, and has been for over a century. 

Looking at the “Ten Planks of Communism,” as laid out by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” may set off alarm bells in those who actually pay attention to what the State has been doing, with their consent.

1. “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes” 

Can anyone deny that this has been, at least in the most shadowy ways, implemented? If one were to explain “eminent domain” to someone who has no education in government policy they’d probably think you were making it up (in reality, this is all made up). That the State can decide that land you “own” needs to be appropriated for its purposes or, in many cases, have been lobbied by a private company to seize said property, would cause looks of confusion upon the faces of those who weren’t indoctrinated to accept it as justified. 

The word own in the previous paragraph is quoted due to the reality of property taxes. Many have argued that their existence is proof that you never own your property. Some have tried to use gymnastics to get around this argument but normally end up injuring themselves in the process. Recently, a 79-year-old veteran was evicted from the home he inherited from his parents, who had bought the house in the 1930s. The home had been paid off long ago, yet, he was still required to pay “property taxes” on   it. Property tax is any tax on real estate or certain other forms of property. The proceeds from property taxes represent one of the principal sources of income for local and state governments in the U.S. Basically, it works no different than income tax. You have something, the State charges a fee for you possessing it, and if you don’t pay it, they take away “your” property. In the case of income tax, they throw you in a cage, or take “your” property. “Free country” 

 2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax 

Does this really need to be fleshed out? “If you make this amount of money, we extort you for this percentage, if you make more than that, we increase it!” 

 3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance 

I’ll take “what is estate and inheritance taxes for $500, Alex!” And, before you think there are not people in mainstream outlets questioning why others should be able to pass along what they’ve acquired to their progeny, here’s an article by a prominent journalist doing just that.  

 4. Confiscation of the property of emigrants and rebels 

As was detailed previous, the government has given themselves the right to seize “your” property because they have written the laws and they enforce them. Is it possible to call someone accused of a crime a “rebel?” It has come to many people’s attention in the last decade that local police (THE GOVERNMENT), have been given the ability to seize the possessions of individuals that they only suspect of a crime. Civil Asset Forfeiture is used by local, county and state police as a way of enriching their coffers. One may only be accused of a “crime” in order for them to confiscate all of their assets. And good luck getting them back even if you are found innocent. Law enforcement will do everything to hamper the process 

Recent reports have shown that on an annual basis, police are taking more from citizens that “criminals” do. 

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly 

This is where you’re supposed to do an internet search for the Federal Reserve and find out that this plank is fulfilled. Recommended reading should be Ron Paul’s 2009 book, “End the Fed.” 

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the State 

The FCC controls all electronic communication in the U.S. The Communications Act of 1934 established this.  

As far as transportation goes, one question, often asked unironically, “Who will build the roads?”, is the direction that explanation should take. Whether it be the Federal Highway Act of 1916, or the Interstate Highway System, of which planning started in 1944, these are government-run. The Interstate Commerce Commission gave Congress the power to regulate trucking and shipping within the country. 

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State, the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan

The Department of Commerce, Agriculture, Interior… the EPA. Can this be argued? The Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 demanded farmers will receive government aid if, and only if, they relinquish control of farming activities. Many have heard that farmers are often paid not to grow. This is central planning at its finest. 

8. Equal liability of all to labor

Whether it be social security, welfare or the implementation of the minimum wage, it would seem the duo of Marx and Engels are an influence on those in charge who would call themselves capitalists and free-marketeers. It appears they always have been, even before they wrote their book. 

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country

If you were to dig deep a correlation with Plank 9 could probably be found, but the aforementioned gymnastics may become tiring. 

 10. Free education for all children in government schoolsAbolition of children’s factory labor in its present formCombination of education with industrial production 

I would suspect that even those who say, “We don’t want no communism in ‘Murica!”, would be completely on board with government schools and even fight for it. After all, the public-school teacher is one of three professions in this country that are not to be criticized as a whole. They are to be “white-knighted” for, as are police and military. And, let’s not ignore the “free” part of the plank. Everything the government has is stolen from someone else. Everyone pays for public-schools, even if you do not have children.  

 That there are people who openly express disdain for communism/socialism and believe America is neither of these things is a tribute to how successful the previously mentioned government schools are. Plank 10 is the pillar for the previous 9 and since being instituted has been the scales on the eyes of “good ‘Muricans” who’ve swallowed whole the line that what has been created, that has followed these planks, if not to the letter, but in spirit, is somehow not socialism/communism.  

The Moral and Economic Case for Capitalism | Gene Epstein and Keith Knight Ep. 121

The Moral and Economic Case for Capitalism | Gene Epstein and Keith Knight Ep. 121

In this episode of the Liberty Weekly Podcast, we bring to you an interview of the Great Gene Epstein conducted by Keith Knight. Together, they explore the various cases for and against capitalism.

Please check out Keith Knight’s Don’t Tread On Anyone:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8ewiXhsWfnBENJQLCIxRIQ

Gene Epstein is the Director and Moderator of the Soho Forum and former Economics and Books Editor at Barron’s.
http://www.thesohoforum.org
Gene’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeneSohoForum

Material mentioned in the interview (Amazon Affiliate Link):
Gene Epstein debates Socialism
The Anti-Capitalist Mentality by Ludwig Von Mises
The Ultimate Red Pill by Keith Knight
Economic Controversies by Murray Rothbard

Episode 119 of the Liberty Weekly Podcast is Brought to you by:

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Stranger Encounters Ep 36: It’s Not About Socialism; It’s About Liberty

Stranger Encounters Ep 36: It’s Not About Socialism; It’s About Liberty

Before you dig into this episode please take a minute to visit Antiwar.com and contribute to Justin Raimondo’s medical expenses as he continues to fight stage four lung cancer. Justin has been an extremely important voice in the antiwar movement, and despite his advancing illness he continues to fight for life and liberty by opposing US foreign policy.

In Episode 36 of Stranger Encounters Tommy takes on the talking points surrounding possible war with Iran and Venezuela.

Every time the US government decides to intervene in another country it means less freedom for the citizens of the US. Supporting US efforts to destroy other countries in the face of this fact is the reason that the truth about what is happening in Venezuela and Iran is so important.

There’s so many more details to cover, but the only way to take on this topic with a different perspective, a broad outlook, was to avoid some of the finer details and focus on the freedoms lost when the US involves itself in other nation’s affairs.

This Episode contains harsh language.

LISTEN TO STRANGER ENCOUNTERS EPISODE 36 HERE

Episode 219: What Does the ‘Communist Manifesto’ Actually Say?

Episode 219: What Does the ‘Communist Manifesto’ Actually Say?

44 Minutes

Suitable for All Ages

Pete invited Jen the Libertarian to come on the show and talk about her recent podcast where she took apart the teachings of the ‘Communist Manifesto’ that was written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

The Jen the Libertarian Podcast

The Communist Manifesto Book Review Episode

Jen on Twitter

Episode 215: The Myth of ‘Swedish Socialism’ w/ Per Bylund

Episode 215: The Myth of ‘Swedish Socialism’ w/ Per Bylund

41 Minutes

Suitable for All Ages

Per Bylund, PhD, is a Fellow of the Mises Institute and Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship & Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise in the School of Entrepreneurship in the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University.

Per, born and raised in Sweden, will describe the Swedish economic system and provide you with the ammunition you need to put an end to the argument from those who claim Sweden is an example that ‘socialism’ can work in practice.

What Sweden Can Teach Us About Obamacare

Per’s Mises Articles

Pete’s Patreon

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