Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1: The Nature of Distribution Under Liberalism and Socialism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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1: The Nature of Distribution Under Liberalism and Socialism - 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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The Nature of Distribution Under Liberalism and Socialism
On logical grounds, treatment of the problem of income should properly come at the end of any investigation into the life of the socialist community. Production must take place before distribution is possible, therefore, logically, the former should be discussed before the latter. But the problem of distribution is so prominent a feature of Socialism as to suggest the earliest possible discussion of the question. For fundamentally, Socialism is nothing but a theory of “just” distribution; the socialist movement is nothing but an attempt to achieve this ideal. All socialist schemes start from the problem of distribution and all come back to it. For Socialism the problem of distribution is the economic problem.
The problem of distribution is moreover peculiar to socialism. It arises only in a socialist economy. It is true, we are in the habit of speaking of distribution in an economic society based on private property, and economic theory deals with the problem of income and the determination of the prices of the factors of production under the heading “Distribution.” This terminology is traditional, and it is so firmly established that the substitution of another would be unthinkable. Nevertheless, it is misleading and does not indicate the nature of the theory which it is meant to describe. Under Capitalism incomes emerge as a result of market transactions which are indissolubly linked up with production. We do not first produce things and afterwards distribute them. When products are supplied for use and consumption, incomes for the greater part have already been determined, since they arise during the process of production and are indeed derived from it. Workers, landowners, and capitalists and a large number of the entrepreneurs contributing to production have already received their share before the product is ready for consumption. The prices which are obtained for the final product on the market decide only the income which a section of entrepreneurs obtain from the process of production. (The influence which these prices have on the income of other classes has already been exerted via the anticipations of the entrepreneurs.) As thus in the capitalistic order of society the aggregation of individual incomes to form a total social income is only a theoretical conception, the concept of distribution is only figurative. The reason that this expression has been adopted, instead of the simple and more suitable term formation of income, is that the founders of scientific economics, the Physiocrats and the English classical school, only gradually learned to free themselves from the etatistic outlook of mercantilism. Although precisely this analysis of income formation as a result of market transactions was their principal achievement, they adopted the practice—fortunately without any harm to the content of their teachings—of grouping the chapters dealing with the different kinds of income under the heading “distribution.”42
Only in the socialist community is there any distribution of consumable goods in the true sense of the word. If in considering capitalistic society we use the term distribution in any but a purely figurative sense then an analogy is being made between the determination of income in a socialist and in a capitalist community. The conception of any actual process of distribution of income must be kept out of any investigation of the mechanism of capitalist society.
[42. ]Cannan, A History of the Theories of Production and Distribution in English Political Economy from 1776 to 1848, 3rd ed. (London, 1917), pp. 183 ff. Also p. 294 of Socialism.