Guest Post: The New York Times And Socialism

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by James E. Miller of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada

The New York Times and Socialism

In lieu of the election of Socialist President Francois Hollande and a Socialist Party collision as the majority in France’s Parliament, the New York Times recently asked “what does it mean to be a Socialist these days, anyway?”   According to The Grey Lady, socialism today is “certainly nothing radical” and simply meant the “the emancipation of the working class and its transformation into the middle class” during its heyday.  Essentially the article categorizes the contemporary socialist as one who is a rigorous defender of the welfare state.  The piece quotes French journalist Bernard-Henri Levy as saying “European socialists are essentially like American Democrats.”  It even accuses center-right political parties in the West of being quite comfortable with socialism’s accomplishments.

So is the New York Times correct?  Is socialism just a boogeyman evoked by the “fringes” to scare the public into questioning the morality and efficiency of the welfare state?

Going by the New York Times definition, socialism is just another word for social democracy.  But of course the word socialism never really referred to just welfare entitlements.  Properly defined, socialism is a society where the complete means of production and distribution of goods are solely in the hands of the state.  It is also a system defined by the absence of private property.  According to famed socialist and author Robert Heilbroner

If tradition cannot, and the market system should not, underpin the socialist order, we are left with some form of command as the necessary means for securing its continuance and adaptation. Indeed, that is what planning means…

The factories and stores and farms and shops of a socialist socioeconomic formation must be coordinated…and this coordination must entail obedience to a central plan.

If capitalism and private property are the natural state of free men, socialism is the violent overthrow of liberty.  Outlawing of private property and free enterprise is no easy task.  It requires a large amount of enforcement to see to it that nobody trades without the state’s permission.  And it is because of its oppressive nature that it is only through totalitarian dictatorship can socialism be fully realized.  Economist George Reisman explains

In sum, therefore, the requirements merely of enforcing price-control regulations is the adoption of essential features of a totalitarian state, namely, the establishment of the category of “economic crimes,” in which the peaceful pursuit of material self-interest is treated as a criminal offense, and the establishment of a totalitarian police apparatus replete with spies and informers and the power of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.

Socialism cannot be ruled for very long except by terror. As soon as the terror is relaxed, resentment and hostility logically begin to well up against the rulers.

The New York Times paints socialism as a different picture.  The push for “democratic Marxism,” as the paper calls it, was responsible for creating a vibrant middle class with measures such as progressive taxation and a welfare safety net.  “Socialism and social democracy today are about a society with more solidarity, more protection of people, more egalitarianism” is how once-student revolt leader, now bureaucrat in the European Parliament Daniel Cohn-Bendit describes it.

No doubt these descriptions make for good political rhetoric.  State officials love nothing more than convincing the public they have brought them a standard of living beyond their wildest imagination.  Yet these claims are also completely false.  Government produces nothing; it can only redistribute using its implicit threat of violence.  Welfare transfer payments can’t be provided unless the private sector has produced wealth prior to confiscatory legislation.  Just as production must always precede consumption, government can’t rob Peter to pay Paul if Peter doesn’t first have something to steal.  No matter how hard they try, politicians can’t create a free lunch.  They can only order the citizenry around with the trigger of a gun.

This truth doesn’t fit well with the NYT’s favorable view of socialism.  The famously left-leaning newspaper never baulks at the chance to champion the newest scheme in government intervention.  Where the paper really misses the mark on actual socialism is the fact that it can’t work and is bound to fail.  True worldwide socialism will never create a worker’s paradise; just misery for all.

To proponents of incessant government control and regulation, such a statement is nonsense; even sacrilegious.  But in 1922 in his book “Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis,” Ludwig von Mises not only explained why a market economy with private property is superior to socialism, he refuted the socialist doctrine beyond anything the movement could even begin to disprove. Socialists at the time had no answer for Mises’ critique.  The same holds true for socialists today.

What was Mises’ devastating theory?  It’s actually quite simple.  Under a market economy, economic calculation is able to take place as long as there is private property and a pricing system.  Since prices act as signals between producers and consumers, they provide the basis for the rational distribution of resources.  Producers can’t fulfill the desires of consumers if they can’t calculate input costs and revenue.  Without the possibility of profit, what motive is there for producing in the first place?  Or as Hans-Herman Hoppe summarizes:

If there is no private property in land and other production factors (everything is owned by one agent), then, by definition, there can also be no market prices for them. Hence, economic calculation, i.e. the comparison, in light of current prices, of anticipated revenue, and expected cost expressed in terms of a common medium of exchange—money— (permitting cardinal accounting operations), is literally impossible. There can be no “economizing” under socialism. Socialism is instead “planned chaos.”

So precise was Mises’ theory that when the Soviet Union finally collapsed, Robert Heilbroner would go on to write in an article for the New Yorker entitled “Reflections: After Communism” that “socialism has been a great tragedy this century” and “no one expected collapse.”  After decades of denying Mises’ refutation of socialism, he was finally forced to admit “that Mises was right.”

To the working man, pure socialism only results in a state of destitution.  It is by no means the “emancipation of the working class.”  It is a system of top-down enforcement where the masses are treated as cogs in need of fine tuning.  Socialism gained traction only because leading intellectuals saw it as a possible utopia and did their best to convince the ruling establishment of its merits. “Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement” as F.A. Hayek put it.  It has always been an economics system favored by those elitists who hoped to find themselves crowned as central planners.

The New York Times article ends by quoting Marc-Oliver Padis, editor of the academic journal Esprit, who asks “Is socialism really more than pragmatism?”  The answer is no.  Even in its moderated European form, the socialist sees the state as the answer for all of society’s questions.  He values violence over peace; compulsory over voluntary, slavery over freedom, and submission over dignity.  As long as France continues down the road to socialism, its economic future is in grave danger.  Judging by the amount of wealthy businessmen who have begun to flee France in favor of London, it would seem that people in the end generally feel entitled to the sweat of their brow.  As Mises never tired of pointing out,

A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings.

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bigdumbnugly's picture

that's ok.  a socialist newspaper saves me money on TP wipes my ass just the same.

Cortez the Killer's picture

A national apology is owed to Senator McCarthy for the grave injustices done to him in his lifetime.

Socialism/welfare statism/fascism killed the USA

The only hope is the rise of sovereign states

Urban Roman's picture

I know, right? He should have been in the White House instead of Nixon.


flacon's picture

NY Times and Paul Krugman: "A little theft, a little pinching of people's pockets is actually good and beneficial for society - and when times are tough, a lot of theft and a lot of pinching is even better, and during a depression wealth confiscaton on a grand scale is really beneficial to THE STATE whom we all serve as slaves. Without THE STATE there would be no one to serve and the economy would collapse because it is incomprehensible that people would work for themsleves and not for THE STATE."



Freddie's picture

“the emancipation of the working class and its transformation into the middle class”

The middle class transformed into serfdom working like slaves for the elites, banksters and govt unionized goons and other union thugs.  Hope & Chains from the muslim.

Chuck Walla's picture

Absolutely. The middle class promotes the welfare state it then has to pay for without any say so in the vast Liberal Progressive vote buying scheme. Then, when the golden goose dies, the Left looks to blame - the middle class reactionaries because they were too cheap to fund all the schemes...


Only now they have the power to drag a few reactionaries outside an shoot them. That's the current Stalinist/Maoist Theory which hasn't changed in 60 years.   FORWARD!

knukles's picture

A Frenchman (supposedly intelligent) states that European Socialists and American Democrats are the same ilk.  He would also agree that the charges for YoMommaCare are taxes, as they, the French Socialists believe that higher taxes help expand the socialist state which they believe to be good for man and his economic freedom, etc., etc., etc..

That being said and accepted as Rational and Truthful by the French Socialists, the American Democrats could learn a lesson.

Quit fucking obfuscating because most folks are coming to not just have problems with the left (or right for that matter) and regardless of policy are sick and tired of the horse shit double talk, political correctness, lies and misinformation.
Quit lying.

In fact, would be best if the lefties and the righties just plain quit politics and left the world to the majority of people who'd just love to be left alone.

Anusocracy's picture



Socialism = the economic system of the hunter-gatherer culture. It begot:


Fascism = the economic system of the pharaonic culture. It begot:


Free markets = the economic system of the freedom culture.



jeff montanye's picture

well don't stop there.  what do you call this misbegotten crony capitalism/debt slavery/rule of man not law we have now?  where the self regulated futures brokers apparently regularly steal the customers' money by fraud.  don't let ideology blind you to reality.

capitalism has a lot of wonderful things going for it but it is not a panacea.  as adam smith noted, no merchants meet but seek to subvert the market. "unpoliced" free markets become oligopolies and monopolies, often with the subversion of the state as a means.  essentially the only people who increased their real income during the last thirty years were the richest tenth.  what middle class?

for a sexier and more detailed version:

redpill's picture

This is the kind of absurd ignorant horseshit that some alien race will find a record of in the distant future (long after we have exterminated ourselves out of sheer stupidity) that will be particularly embarrassing.


roadhazard's picture

Freddie = always an original post.

secret Muslim, oh my. There are never enough problems that a good false claim verified by other clowns can't make better.

 you go girlz

agent default's picture

What is really sad is that we have reached the level where you can spew out this kind of crap with a straight face, without being at the very least ridiculed for it.

knukles's picture

"without being at the very least ridiculed for it."

Unless of course your crap makes its way to ZeroHedge and you might just go so far as to be embarrassed..........

Look at the littlest Unicorn, Paul Krugman.
He's even given up trying in this venue.
And for God's sake that's pretty miserable to fail here when all's he's doing is spouting incomprehensible drivel.

Jorgen's picture

Westerners can practice future "benefits" of socialism in the comfort of their homes right now:

Poland's communist 'Monopoly' game goes global - Yahoo! News -

DanDaley's picture

This is just Krugman's way of screaming Give me a lobotomy, quick!

Harriet Wanger's picture

I agree, since he died in '57.

mkhs's picture

Dead corpse, Alzheimer, frat boy, social organizer; what difference does it make, anyway?

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

Whenever I hear about how bad socialism is, I always say "OK then let's just give Capital everything it wants". Seems to me we tried that, and here we are.

Another perspective is refreshing. Keep an open mind:

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Open mind? When someone tells me that 1+1=3, well, I don't find that "refreshing" at all.

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

OK, OK...let's just give ALL the money to the 1%. That's the track we're on. I happen to live in a "socialist" country, Australia, and things are pretty friggin good. Minimum wage is $17.50. Unemployment is 5.2%. Health care and retirement are available to all and cheap. One quarter of mildly negative growth was the full effect so far of the crisis. 20 years ago they called this "a worker's paradise", since then esp with John Howard (who idolized the Bush Crime Family) they have retreated a bit, but overall the idea of making sure there is still some money going into the hands of WORKERS who actually SPEND IT has worked well.

I'm not arguing for Socialism or Communism or Mercantilsm or whatever. Just making a few obvious points that the current system in the US to hand 100% of the money and power to the top 1% is not panning out so good IMO.

Cabreado's picture

"I'm not arguing for Socialism or Communism or Mercantilsm or whatever"

Well then, you did a shitty job.

"Whenever I hear about how bad socialism is, I always say..."

You even provided a video.


"the current system in the US to hand 100% of the money and power to the top 1% is not panning out so good IMO."

Don't fall into the trap, HAL.
And don't peddle your wares in your state of unawareness.
You are dangerous, HAL, because you push terrible things as a solution to unresolved corruption.

nmewn's picture

"OK, OK...let's just give ALL the money to the 1%."

Why not, you already surrendered your last common defense to them, your gun. Where we at down there anyways, 28 days to buy one? And who is the the one percent and what does it control?

That givin up the gun thingy should be whom is the question.

Freewheelin Franklin's picture

Using the Marxist definition of Capitalism? I think you have "Capitalism" confused with Mercantilism.


But OK. I'll play your game.


Markets, Not Capitalism



jwoop66's picture

That moronic video was posted as an article a while ago on zh I believe. 

So if human beings interact freely in commerce, bad things happen and bad people sometimes act immorally.    To counter this possibility, you want to let a small group of human beings "control"  commerce.   What ensures that they behave in a more moral fashion?   What is it about this small group of human beings that makes them less corruptable?   Is it that they have so much power?  Are they smarter, or more well educated than the rest of us?   Are they from a better gene pool?   Are they more "open minded" than the rest of us?  

Watch that video again and ask yourself at each point posted - How would handing power of all the things mentioned over to a small group of human beings be less corrupt?

r00t61's picture

Or as Rothbard once succinctly put it, "So, in order to prevent the concentration of power, you would create an even even larger concentration of power?"

Offthebeach's picture

The return on thief at the wholesale level is way better then picking a bunch of retail Muppets for their lunch money.

jeff montanye's picture

so what, no law enforcement?  strongest rules?  

it's a balancing act.  reality and history are not simply understood.  government corruption is eternal.  so is the battle against it.  markets need regulation (of fraud, of measures, of quality, etc. etc. etc.) to function.  consumer reports and the national futures association are not enough. people producing good products and services want it to keep gresham's law from operating universally.

Everybodys All American's picture

We are here because of over two hundred years of successful free market capitalism.

We have had one problem and that is the unwillingness to use bankruptcy which is a necessity for capitalism. Change that and we are without this cronyism that has engulfed us under this administration. I don't think it's necessary to blame anyone in this current administration but you have to recognize the problem. Bring back the bankruptcy procedures for insolvent banks and fund the good ones and you'll be surprised at how fast the economy responds.

Instead too many people continue to support government spending when this has nothing to do with the problem.

palmereldritch's picture

I always say "OK then let's just give Capital everything it wants". Seems to me we tried that, and here we are.

Don't confuse "capitalism" with the feudalism and plutoratic mercantilism that actively seeks to slander its reputation to further their own agenda.

True capitalism is true monetary freedom.  And money now being essentially data and information, protection of its expression and opportunity to re-produce is essential to liberty and survival of the individual.

GOSPLAN HERO's picture

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 --

Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.

El Oregonian's picture

Those people that advocate for socialism have generated over 120 million deaths through either starvation or murder, and probably a lot more, trying to reach their "Utopia". Nixon can not even cause a blip on that radar. Get real, dude.

Anusocracy's picture

There should be no White House.

azzhatter's picture

and it's been a smashing success in Europe

Reptil's picture

Actually..... Social Democracy was a success. Until the citizens dozed off and politicians started "privatising" everything (giving it to their buddies).

But everyone's jumping on the bandwagon here. It's oh so popular to destroy the very mechanisms that were put in place after centuries of fighting, just because ppl. do not understand the meaning of the word SOCIALISM. It can't be put in place for a longer time but with terror? Hello? Are you insane? Of course the State means violence. What would you expect? The issue is that there's fair representation. Democracy isn't flawless, but it's the best thing out there ATM. France's socialism is a peculiar sort, it's very nationalistic. And not "pure" socialism at all.



Freddie's picture

They let third world invaders flood in as cheap labor.  That failed when the invaders jumped on the welfare bandwagon.

tmosley's picture

And how long did that take?  12 seconds, or 13?

Always blame the other guy, socialist scum.  Given any chance, you will even blame the 100 years absent capitalists for your troubles.

Reptil's picture

"blame the other guy"

What the fuck are you babbling about? It's obvious this crisis is not caused by socialist measures in democratic countries of western europe.

Look at balance sheets pre and after 2008. You'll see that the citizens ponied up the cash for their own welfare you sorry excuse for a turd.

Go stick your Thatcherisms somewhere where the sun doesn't shine you ignorant fool, they're 30+ years late. No where did I say I was anti-capitalist.

The people in Europe, my family, myself WE built up the welfare state. WE contributed willingly part of our paycheck, profits, WE have every right to USE a WORKING system.



Everybodys All American's picture

Socialist states all end the same no matter the nuances. Broke.

Does anyone find the article in the NY Times out of place. I don't. This is how you defend Obama and his failures to improve the economy. Broadening the discussion to allow the Marxist all the cover he needs to show what an incapable leader he truly is. This allows all the liberals to claim how a vote for Obama is a vote for the common good and all that bs. Would this article have been written four years ago? The answer for you liberals is hell no because he could never have gotten elected then. But it makes sense now because Obama being the narcissist that he is thinks he can can run now and get your vote by the manner in which all socialist do and thats by class warfare and accompanying handouts to the perceived disadvantaged. Hugo Chavez did this to Venezuela.

Obama will not even have to mask his radical agenda anymore and Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals), George Soros (globalist), Van Jones, Valarie Jarret, and the weather undergrounds Bill Ayers have their guy in the white house and they are deciding the future of the democratic party and this country.

There is a difference between red and blue  ...

Maghreb's picture

So why is it the only places where Europeans are thriving are Socialist. Scandanavia and Australia are looking pretty good. Shit went tits up for the Eastern Europeans after they lost their socialism. Ended up cleaning toilets in the West of Europe after they ended the great social experiemnt and brought in much needed free market economics.

On the Latino front Chavez is facing hyper inflation. He says its the Americans screwing up his carefully planned economy. He keeps trying to nationalize foreign shit. Gave the idea to the Argentinians.People keep calling it financial terrorism but when they did it in Wall Street, nationalized their losses i mean, it was called a crisis we had to bail those motherfuckers out.

Its not the worst thing that ever happened in Latin America you know. Socialism all that. I heard a story they were forcing back street abortions on the Indians women folk. Paying them off to get sterilized. That was all Free market though so your partisan troll ass would never have heard about any of that.

WeekendAtBernankes's picture

How in the Fuck,

did so many socialists end up on ZH?

nmewn's picture

Good question.

Maybe they think theres profit to be had on anothers labor ;-)

Central Bankster's picture

When socialism fails, they are always trying to blame the capitalists... so the socialists destroyed capitalism about 100 years ago and they can't figure out how the system went bankrupt.  Shocking... really...

dander53's picture

So... just to be clear... in your view a "socialist" is anyone who states a critique of so-called free markets that you cannot counter ?

Reptil's picture

You don't even know what the word means. And no, I'm not a "socialist".

My people, my family, me myself we PAID into a collective system. WE SET IT UP. WE PLANNED IT. WE MADE SURE THERE WAS FREEDOM TO DO BUSINESS, BY MAKING THE SYSTEM CHEAP AND EFFICIENT. NO they were not "socialists" they were liberals, which has A TOTALLY DIFFERENT MEANING THAN WHAT YOU'VE BEEN TOLD. Then psychopaths and greedy fools came and plundered our systems under the pretence of a "free market". What they did is to put the collective cash into bankrupt casino gambling ("Investments"). Now there's nothing and they've told you it's "socialism". And that "Austerity" will somehow give us that cash back (extend and pretend it's still there), by chucking out the weakest of our society.

So you won't have any ethical argument when they finally COME FOR YOU.

And a LOT of you buy it, Hook, Line and Sinker. 0__0's picture



A national apology is owed to Senator McCarthy for the grave injustices done to him in his lifetime.


McCarthy made up accusations on the fly and attacked the innocent in a bid for personal power. He was an enemy of freedom and capitalism.

skipjack's picture

Like many, you are totally, deliberately misinformed.  What you are referring to are the proceedings of the House of Representatives' UnAmerican Committee.  McCarty was not part of that at all, being a Senator.  He brought specific charges against specific preople, most all of which were validated in 1995 by the release of the Venona papers.


Get educated, or suffer under indoctrination.  Your overlords would like you to remain ignorant; don't.'s picture

Actually I was referring to the Wheeling speech and the supposed list of infiltrators in the state department. It was a complete fabrication. But you keep on believing that out of control politicians like Senator McCarthy tell lies and ruin lives in an effort to protect you. People like you get what they deserve. Unfortunately your support for big government control puts those of us who are rational and productive at risk as well.