a congressman cites the Constitution, I'm glad to hear it mentioned,
but I know he's subverting it with every vote he casts. That's how
I felt when left-wing economist Robert Heilbroner said in the New
Yorker that "Mises was right" about socialism.
von Mises was never able to get a paid academic post in the U. S.
He was shut out of American economic journals, and boycotted and
ridiculed by the establishment all because he told the truth,
without fear or compromise, when it wasn't fashionable to do so.
however, has never been anything but fashionable. A professor at
the New School for Social Research, his lecture fees are high and
his books sell well, especially his history of thought, The
Worldly Philosophers, which glorifies Marx and Keynes and
never mentions the Austrians.
John Kenneth Galbraith, Heilbroner has gotten rich by attacking
capitalism. And also like Galbraith, every time he writes a book,
the reviews in the top media read like sales copy.
his New Yorker article, Heilbroner mentions the debate of
the 1920s and 1930s on the workability of socialism. Mises started
it by saying, in his 1920 article on "Economic Calculation in the
Socialist Commonwealth" and 1922 book on Socialism,
that socialism was impossible. For more than two decades, the left
sought to refute this, and the conventional wisdom held until
the collapse of communism in 1989 that Mises had been wrong.
Heilbroner says Mises was right: "no Central Planning Board could
ever gather the enormous amount of information needed to create
a workable economic system." Although true, that was not Mises's
point. His critique was far more radical: that an economy couldn't
function properly, i.e., economically, without a free price system.
Socialism in particular couldn't work because there are no free
prices for its commonly owned means of production.
also made an even more significant point for those of us in the
West: free prices are what make an efficient economy possible.
Therefore, every step away from the free market subverts economic
calculation. Mises arguments about socialism therefore also apply
to the American economy of today.
Heilbroner's mis-statement serves a purpose. If he really believed
that Mises was right, he could hardly endorse "socialist capitalism"
as the answer to our problems.
late as 1970, Heilbroner was apologizing for Stalin. Sure, old Joe
made mistakes, usually "self-defeating" ones, poor guy, but "we
must bear in mind that industrialization on the grand scale has
always been wrenching, always accompanied by economic sacrifice,
and always carried out by the more or less authoritarian use of
power." This is Stalin as the Soviet Henry Ford.
in 1970, Heilbroner ridiculed Mises (without naming him) as the
reactionary dolt who claimed "in the first days of chaos following
the Russian Revolution" that "socialism" was ... impossible.'"
ha, said Heilbroner. The U.S. S. R. has grown "roughly twice as
fast as the United States," and Soviet socialism "continues to produce
at good rates."
the midst of a government-caused depression in 1978, Heilbroner
had the answer: "a powerful, and I think irresistible, force for
planning the economic process" "a general sticking of the public
nose into private life."
1980, Heilbroner praised Communism for "the immense material and
cultural improvement that these regimes have brought to their peoples."
History cannot be pushed back. "In our times and henceforth, change
is upon the world, in large part inspired and guided by Marxism
itself The task now is to understand it."
endorsed world government as necessary for economic justice in 1988,
since "the nation is in some way the ultimate barrier that has to
be transcended before something like socialism may be reached."
other rich leftist intellectuals, Heilbroner is a trimmer. Even
his New Yorker piece is all mea and no culpa.
He wasn't wrong when he disagreed with Mises; the times have changed.
was right at the wrong time. This is in contrast to Heilbroner,
who was right then and right now.
like all leftists, doesn't believe in economic law. What worked
in 1920 may not work in 1990, but might work again in 2000. Socialism
may not be feasible now, but that doesn't tell us anything about
the future if it comes back into fashion in Manhattan salons.
Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and Russia, Heilbroner like Galbraith is scorned as an apologist for totalitarianism, while interest
is high in the unabashed capitalists like Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard.
in the U.S., the situation is less encouraging. What conservative
or libertarian could be published on Mises or any other subject
in the New Yorker? In intellectual America, now as in the
past, only the left is respectable whether it repents its sins