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on April 26, 2006
October 25th 1917- The Bolsheviks stage a coupe in Petrograd and overthrow the Kerensky regime. For the first time ever Marxists seize control of a major nation. It will be several years before the Bolsheviks overwhelm their opponents within Russia. However, one question demands an answer. Will it work? Can socialism at least match the results of capitalism? The full answer to this question came in 1922- the year that Mises published Socialism, an Economic and Sociological Analysis. Here Mises proved that socialism must fail.

Why must socialism fail? The simple answer is because it lacks private ownership and a market for the means of production. As Mises put it "where there is no market there is no price system, and where there is no price system there can be no economic calculation". The full answer has several parts. First, economic calculation requires functioning financial markets. Second, economic calculation requires actual rivalry in markets. Third, economic calculation requires entrepreneurial alertness to profit opportunities. With these three elements in place monetary calculation of private profit reflects true economic costs. As Mises put it economic calculation "is essentially a matter for the capitalists- the capitalists who buy and sell stocks and shares, who make loans and recover them, who make deposits in the banks and draw them out of the banks again, who speculate in all kinds of commodities". Perpetually changing economic conditions mean that- "it is above all necessary that capital should be withdrawn from particular lines of production, from particular undertakings and concerns and should be applied in other lines of production, in other undertakings and concerns". Speculation in financial markets directs resources to the most urgent consumer demands because the most profitable ventures satisfy consumer demand at the least economic cost. Socialism fails because it lacks speculation that takes place only with entrepreneurial rivalry and exchange in financial markets.

The issue of economic calculation is economic, but Mises also inquired into the political and psychological reasons behind the socialist movement. He also discusses historical and cultural issues. Socialism is a full-scale treatise, comparable to Smith's Wealth of Nations. Some might think that a book from 1922 might have lost its relevance, but this is untrue. Mises explained principles that are as valid today as they were originally. In fact, Socialism is more relevant today than many recent books on economics. This is because Mises dealt with the real life problems of a dynamic economy, while much of modern economics focuses on static models that apply only to imaginary economic conditions.

Socialism is not only Mises' best book; it is one of the greatest works ever written on social theory. Mises addressed vital issues with penetrating analysis and delivered profound results. All those who are serious about political economy should read this book, but only after having read Menger's Principles of Economics, and before reading Hayek's Road to Serfdom. Those who are less ambitious should read a shorter book by Mises- Liberalism in the Classical Tradition. In any case, Socialism is a towering intellectual achievement. Were its arguments more widely understood many of the tragedies of 20th century state socialism might have been avoided. This book remains important today because it explains why we live in an age of unprecedented prosperity, and how we can achieve further progress. To put it simply Socialism is as indispensable to intellectual development as property rights are to economic development.
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on May 2, 2000
This work is an absolute masterpiece. Originally published in 1922, this work features von Mises at his best. He completely demolishes socialism from almost every angle concievable. He demonstrates that socialism cannot function rationally, period. The primary contribution that this work is cited for, is of course the proof of the theory that economic calculation is impossible under socialism. Building on this fact, as well as many other important insights, socialism is shown to be little more than a chimera with virtually no scientific backing whatsoever. Quite nearly every major form or variant of socialism is critiqued, from marxism to Christian socialism, and even syndicalism. In each case, the conclusion is the same, i.e. socialism destroys society and civilization and replaces it with slavery, chaos, and poverty. Indeed, Mises correctly identifies socialism as a fundamentally destructive, purely anti-social force. In sharp contrast to this is the capitalist form of society based upon the principles of (classical) liberalism. Throughout the work, Mises refutes widespread misconceptions, myths and anti-capitalist dogmas associated with the market economy. At all times it is made clear that it is only capitalism that can sustain and advance the needs of individuals and their civilization. The importance of this work is difficult to overestimate. It is without a doubt, one of the greatest works of the last century, if not of all time. Even now, after almost eight decades in print, his principles stand unrefuted, even as we continue to slip down the slope toward complete state slavery. The fact that the message of his work has not eliminated the evils that he exposed takes nothing away from his achievement. As long as there are a few individuals remaining in whom the spirit of liberty remains strong, this work will continue to shine as a profound monument to the intellectual potential of man, and the superiority of capitalism.
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on September 22, 2000
A thorough analysis and brilliant refutation of socialism and the politics of redistribution. This book confront the many myths surrounding socialism that are stilled echoed today. It is so concise, straight-forward and covers all the bases in a simple, yet powerful text. Also, this book confronts all the so called "Third Way" positionists advocating social justice, a mixed economy, a corporatist state, fascism, syndicalism and other dubiously named contrivances that are essentially socialist forms of economic organization. Mises makes it clear that socialism, the so called economic system of the future, is anti-social and incompatible with human nature. As Mises declares, "Men must choose between capitalism and socialism," which is simply because, "If the the market is not allowed to steer the whole economic apparatus, the government must do it." There is no Third Way, how true! The debate lies between free-markets and socialism -and this book makes it clear socialism is illogical. This book might be helpful at deprogramming a quasi-socialist by exposing and refuting all the major myths. If you're getting a start on studying classical economics than get this book. The Law by Frederic Bastiat and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is also recommended.
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on July 23, 2001
In a well thought out work of considerable length (nearly 600 pages) Von Mises effectively demolishes the various arguments that have been made by the advocates of socialism. He approaches the problem of socialism from a number of different perspectives and provides very persuasive arguments concerning why socialism and its derivatives can only result in chaos. The underlying premise of Von Mises' work is that economic calculation is impossible under socialism, and the arguments that he advances on behalf of this proposition are in my view irrefutable. Overall, this is an excellent work by a very lucid, thorough, and perceptive thinker. My one complaint with the work - which was not enough to reduce it to below 5 stars - is that I found the manner of exposition sometimes more difficult than need be the case. Since this was not true with regard to "Liberalism" which was also authored by Von Mises, I can only conclude that this one deficiency may be attributable to the translation. However, if you are interested in reading Von Mises, I recommend that you read "Liberalism" (which is much shorter, easier to read, and a good introduction to Von Mises' thought), before reading "Socialism."
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on October 11, 1998
A great historical and economic reference for any lover of liberty who wants to recognize and incisively refute all Facist, Communist, and other Socialist arguments of the modern left with impecable logic and mathematical precision. ...Surprise, they are the same old arguments of 1800's >>early 1900's, easily recognized after reading this book. Your television news will never again seem as credible or informative...give your BS detector a quantum leap! Over 500 pages of facts, history, philosophy, and many predictions that came true after it was written in 1922. A must for serious historians, economists, and political science professionals.
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on April 17, 2013
Ludwig von Mises is the major force in the Austrian School of Economics. In the 1920's everyone understood the incentive problems of socialism. If everyone is equal who is going to shovel manure and take out the garbage. The answer socialist gave was the creation of the morally superior Socialist Man working for the common good cheerfully so that taste-testing cake and coal mining would not be percieved as different vocations in utopia. Wew! that problem is solved! We weren't buy it but is was considered correct and polite opinion before the inevitable crime of collectivism were revealed, but it still has adherents at universities, Hollywood, and the media. Mises' unique insight - which was taken seriously at the time and today is that without free actors in a free (unhampered) market using freely adjusting prices it is IMPOSSIBLE to allocate resources in any way other than in massively tragic, embarrassing, and distructive misallocations. This book detail why a centrally planned economy will misallocate everything and cause tragic waste and inevitable as well as unnecessary poverty. The book is an elaboration of his masterwork article "The Impossibility of Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth"
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on March 1, 2012
I have read numerous books on economics and always notice references to von Mises. Finally, I decided to go to the source, starting with "Socialism". Halfway through the book I was hooked and started collecting seven other von Mises books.

Reading this book requires a certain dedication, since every paragraph needs a great deal of concentration. It is not something to read while watching a ball game.

On the other hand, it is addictive. And you begin to wonder why his observations and conclusions are not accepted and put into practice. However, as you read others of his books, he explains why the statists will prevail.

This is a great book, especially now. His arguments for letting interest rates seek their own level without government interference explains much about our current problems. You will begin to despair of this administration's insistence on artificially low interest rates.

von Mises was truly a genius, as well as a prophet. Read this book, then move on to his others.
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on December 8, 2009
October 25th 1817- The Bolsheviks stage a coupe in Petrograd and overthrow the Kerensky regime. For the first time ever Marxists seize control of a major nation. It will be several years before the Bolsheviks overwhelm their opponents within Russia. However, one question demands an answer. Will it work? Can socialism at least match the results of capitalism? The full answer to this question came in 1922- the year that Mises published Socialism, an Economic and Sociological Analysis. Here Mises proved that socialism must fail.

Why must socialism fail? The simple answer is because it lacks private ownership and a market for the means of production. As Mises put it "where there is no market there is no price system, and where there is no price system there can be no economic calculation". The full answer has several parts. First, economic calculation requires functioning financial markets. Second, economic calculation requires actual rivalry in markets. Third, economic calculation requires entrepreneurial alertness to profit opportunities. With these three elements in place monetary calculation of private profit reflects true economic costs. As Mises put it economic calculation "is essentially a matter for the capitalists- the capitalists who buy and sell stocks and shares, who make loans and recover them, who make deposits in the banks and draw them out of the banks again, who speculate in all kinds of commodities". Perpetually changing economic conditions mean that- "it is above all necessary that capital should be withdrawn from particular lines of production, from particular undertakings and concerns and should be applied in other lines of production, in other undertakings and concerns". Speculation in financial markets directs resources to the most urgent consumer demands because the most profitable ventures satisfy consumer demand at the least economic cost. Socialism fails because it lacks speculation that takes place only with entrepreneurial rivalry and exchange in financial markets.

The issue of economic calculation is economic, but Mises also inquired into the political and psychological reasons behind the socialist movement. He also discusses historical and cultural issues. Socialism is a full-scale treatise, comparable to Smith's Wealth of Nations. Some might think that a book from 1922 might have lost its relevance, but this is untrue. Mises explained principles that are as valid today as they were originally. In fact, Socialism is more relevant today than many recent books on economics. This is because Mises dealt with the real life problems of a dynamic economy, while much of modern economics focuses on static models that apply only to imaginary economic conditions.

Socialism is not only Mises' best book; it is one of the greatest works ever written on social theory. Mises addressed vital issues with penetrating analysis and delivered profound results. All those who are serious about political economy should read this book, but only after having read Menger's Principles of Economics, and before reading Hayek's Road to Serfdom. Those who are less ambitious should read a shorter book by Mises- Liberalism in the Classical Tradition. In any case, Socialism is a towering intellectual achievement. Were its arguments more widely understood many of the tragedies of 20th century state socialism might have been avoided. This book remains important today because it explains why we live in an age of unprecedented prosperity, and how we can achieve further progress. To put it simply Socialism is as indispensable to intellectual development as property rights are to economic development.
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I want to thank all of the collectivists, central planners and socialists of both Left and Right affiliations for their low rankings and bad reviews of this book. If my entire worldview was shattered by a single book, I supposed I would be angry and irrational as well.
Anyway, this is a great book to learn not only why central planning and regulation of markets fail, but the mentality behind those type of people. This book exposes the myth that National Socialism and Soviet Communism were somehow radically different, and not in reality just different sides of the same coin. I have had many arguments with Lefists on how different socialism is from National Socialism, but with this book I can show them the error of their ways.
To sum up: If you are a market liberal, a fiscal conservative or libertarian, read this book and buy it for any central planning, anti-market advocates you know. If you are a collectivist or anti-market conserviative or liberal, please read this book and try to convince your fellows of the danger of their actions.
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on March 10, 2005
It is truly unfortunate that Von Mises is perhaps the most overlooked 20th Century champion of free market capitalism. His brilliant observations have heavily influenced the momentous (and much more revered) works of Friedrich Hayek, as well as subsequent scholars such as Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, and others. Von Mises is the one who towers over almost every other laissez-faire economist (except Adam Smith and few others). His insightful formulations devastated the incessant obfuscations of the socialists and demonstrated, once and for all, the comparative benefits of a free market system.

At the heart of SOCIALISM is the argument that economic calculation is impossible without a free market. Von Mises effectively drove home the need for a market price in order to regulate the supply and demand of human society. Recent proposals for socialized medicine completely deny this importance of the price system: if the price of medicine (for consumers) is zero, the demand will be astronomical, and the doctors and other medical personnel will not be capable of effectively meeting such demand. Few proponents of "universal health care" ever address this concern, which colorfully evidences their lack of interest in -- or understanding of -- Von Mises' penetrating contentions.

"The market is a democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote. . . . Every individual is free to disagree with an election campaign or of the market process. But in a democracy he has no other means to alter things than persuasion. If a man were to say: 'I do not like the mayor elected by majority vote; therefore I ask government to replace him by the man I prefer,' one would hardly call him a democrat. But if the same claims are raised with regard to the market, most people are too dull to discover the dictatorial apirations involved." (p. 490) Von Mises had the presence of mind to fully discern the tyrannical motivations behind most calls for a collectivist arrangement. He knew that the grotesque desires of the elite would inevitably eclipse the true inclinations of man. More than an economic dissertation, SOCIALISM was an expression of human justice, as illuminated by the deference the author paid to the individual autonomy of the common man. Respect for the personal choices of others is, after all, the defining characteristic of freedom.

Regardless of the self-serving configurations of the statists and their innumerable followers, the free market works, as evidenced by the fact that even the poor feely partake in such a system and usually enjoy a much higher standard of living than even the average citizen in socialist nations. As the American federal government continues to expand at an alarming rate, we would do well as a society to better familiarize ourselves with the philosophies of Von Mises and his progeny. Reading SOCIALISM would be a start in the right direction. Those of us who have already surveyed the book should recommend it to as many thoughtful (and open-minded) people as we know. Day by day, one person at a time, we can begin to recover and restore our devotion to liberty as a society. As the author of this tremendous book well knew, the voluntary exchange of a free market will almost always be more efficient and preferable than the coercive force of government. The hollow promises of a big, active, all-intrusive state will always lure a great percentage of our soicety -- most of them well-meaning, but averse to logic and evidence -- yet such dreams always provide the essential fuel for despotism. A return to our federalist roots (in which the states are sovereign entities rather than ineffectual subsidiaries of the federal government) and to the free market principles of Smith and Von Mises would serve us well in our on-going struggle against state-sponsored tyranny.
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