Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4: Collective Ownership of the Means of Production - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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4: Collective Ownership of the Means of Production - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Collective Ownership of the Means of Production
The earliest attempts to reform ownership and property can be accurately described as attempts to achieve the greatest possible equality in the distribution of wealth, whether or not they claimed to be guided by considerations of social utility or social justice. All should possess a certain minimum, none more than a certain maximum. All should possess about the same amount--that was, roughly, the aim. The means to this end were always the same. Confiscation of all or part of the property was usually proposed, followed by redistribution. A world populated only by self-sufficient agriculturists, leaving room for at most a few artisans—that was the ideal society towards which one strove. But today we need not concern ourselves with all these proposals. They become impracticable in an economy dividing labour. A railway, a rolling mill, a machine factory cannot be distributed. If these ideas had been put into practice centuries or millenniums ago, we should still be at the same level of economic development as we were then—unless, of course, we had sunk back into a state hardly distinguishable from that of brutes. The earth would be able to support but a small fraction of the multitudes it nourishes today, and everyone would be much less adequately provided for than he is, less adequately even than the poorest member of an industrial state. Our whole civilization rests on the fact that men have always succeeded in beating off the attack of the re-distributors. But the idea of re-distribution enjoys great popularity still, even in industrial countries. In those countries where agriculture predominates the doctrine calls itself, not quite appropriately, Agrarian Socialism, and is the end-all and be-all of social reform movements. It was the main support of the great Russian revolution, which against their will temporarily turned the revolutionary leaders, born Marxists, into the protagonists of its ideal. It may triumph in the rest of the world and in a short time destroy the culture which the effort of millenniums has built up. For all this, let us repeat, one single word of criticism is superfluous. Opinions on the matter are not divided. It is hardly necessary to prove today that it is impossible to found on a “land and homestead communism” a social organization capable of supporting the hundreds of millions of the white race.
A new social ideal long ago supplanted the naive fanaticism for equality of the distributors, and now not distribution but common ownership is the slogan of Socialism. To abolish private property in the means of production, to make the means of production the property of the community, that is the whole aim of Socialism.
In its strongest and purest form the socialistic idea has no longer anything in common with the idea of re-distribution. It is equally remote from a nebulous conception of common ownership in the means of consumption. Its aim is to make possible for everyone an adequate existence. But it is not so artless as to believe that this can be achieved by the destruction of the social system which divides labour. True, the dislike of the market, which characterizes enthusiasts of re-distribution, survives; but Socialism seeks to abolish trade otherwise than by abolishing the division of labour and returning to the autarky of the self-contained family economy or at least to the simpler exchange organization of the self-sufficient agricultural district.
Such a socialistic idea could not have arisen before private property in the means of production had assumed the character which it possesses in the society dividing labour. The interrelation of separate productive units must first reach the point at which production for external demand is the rule, before the idea of common property in the means of production can assume a definite form. The socialist ideas could not be quite clear until the liberal social philosophy had revealed the character of social production. In this sense, but in no other, Socialism may be regarded as a consequence of the liberal philosophy.
Whatever our view of its utility or its practicability, it must be admitted that the idea of Socialism is at once grandiose and simple. Even its most determined opponents will not be able to deny it a detailed examination. We may say, in fact, that it is one of the most ambitious creations of the human spirit. The attempt to erect society on a new basis while breaking with all traditional forms of social organization, to conceive a new world plan and foresee the form which all human affairs must assume in the future—this is so magnificent, so daring, that it has rightly aroused the greatest admiration. If we wish to save the world from barbarism we have to conquer Socialism, but we cannot thrust it carelessly aside.