Some folk recently on a local Facebook group called ‘Anarkiwi’ were discussing socialism and how (and here I paraphrase a little just to make the point clear), libertarians have been very poor in describing the process of collapse of a socialist country (here, for example), and further: that the world’s more socialist countries are not even collapsing as we libertarians say they will.
I mean, NZ's a socialist country, right? And I'm not scavenging for food, in fact I just purchased and enjoyed a Moa Five Hop English ale at the local supermarket.
And who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Still, as I pointed out to the fellow who wrote that, NZ is hardly a socialist country by any real definition.
Best description is: it's a hampered market. Or maybe a mixed economy.
So let’s be careful in our labels.
And you know what? The fellow who perhaps most briefly decribed the process of collapse, Friedrich Hayek, was himself aware that (the likes of Venezuela aside) socialism as practiced and espoused “today” is different from that he warned against just after the War. And that’s partly because he warned about it.
And that’s why today’s socialists talk more today about “inequality” and “poverty” and “progressive taxation” than they do about worker’s revolution – and why no Labour Party manifesto today, with the possible exception of Jeremy Corbyn’s is going to call for nationalising everything that moves.
But it’s still untrue to say that we’ve been bad at explaining the process of socialist collapse. Following the lead of Ludwig Von Mises’s Socialism which expained how socialism could never work, Hayek’s own Road to Serfdom was perhaps the first and briefest to explain how the transition to and the collapse of a fully-blown socialist chaos would happen.
Building upon both of those and fleshing out the economic process of collapse was George Reisman’s Government Against the Economy, which first explains how a market works, then the process by which (absent any political pressure to the contrary) a market can become increasingly hampered; how a hampered market can lead inexorably to controls, to more controls and increasing economic chaos; to rationing and police action and confiscations; and then inevitably to tyranny as shortages and revolt against the leaderhip becomes necessary just for human survival.
I commend them all to everyone’s attention.
Especially the folk at Anarkiwi.
[Hat tip Jim Rose]