Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: Art and Literature, Science and Journalism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
2: Art and Literature, Science and Journalism - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Art and Literature, Science and Journalism
Socialist society is a society of officials. The way of living prevailing in it, and the mode of thinking of its members, are determined by this fact. People who are always expecting promotion, people who had always a “chief” on whom they depend, people who, because they receive a fixed salary, never understand the connection between production and their own consumption—the last ten years has witnessed the rise of this type everywhere in Europe. It is in Germany, however, where it is especially at home. The whole psychology of our time derives from it.
Socialism knows no freedom of choice in occupation. Everyone has to do what he is told to do and to go where he is sent. Anything else is unthinkable. We shall discuss later and in another connection how this will affect the productivity of labour. Here we have to discuss the position of art and science, literature and the press under such conditions.
Under Bolshevism in Russia and Hungary, the artists, scientists and writers, who were recognized as such by the selectors appointed for this purpose, were exempted from the general obligation to work and given a definite salary. All such as were not recognized remained subject to the general obligation to work and received no support for other activity. The press was nationalized.
This is the simplest solution of the problem, and one which harmonizes completely with the general structure of socialist society. Officialdom is extended to the sphere of the spirit. Those who do not please the holders of power are not allowed to paint or to sculpt or to conduct an orchestra. Their works are not printed or performed. And if the decision does not depend directly upon the free judgment of the economic administration but is referred to the advice of an expert council the case is not materially altered. On the contrary, expert councils, which are inevitably composed of the old and the established, must be admitted to be even less competent than laymen to assist the rise of young talent with different views and perhaps greater mastery than their own. Even if the choice were referred to the whole nation the rise of independent spirits setting themselves against traditional technique and accepted opinions would not be facilitated. Such methods can only foster a race of epigones.
In Cabet’s Icaria, only such books which please the republic are to be printed (les ouvrages préférés [the preferred or favored works]). Writings of pre-socialistic times are to be examined by the Republic. Those which are partially useful are to be revised. Those which are regarded as dangerous or useless are to be burnt. The objection, that this would be to do what Omar did by burning the Alexandrian Library, Cabet held to be quite untenable. For, said he, “nous faisons en faveur de l’humanité ce que ces oppresseurs faisaient contre elle. Nous avons fait du feu pour brûler les méchants livres, tandis que des brigands ou des fanatiques allumaient les bûchers pour brûler d’innocents hérétiques.” (“We do on behalf of society what oppressors do against it. We make fires to burn the evil books, while the brigands or fanatics light fires to burn innocent heretics at the stake.”)76 From a point of view such as this, solution of the problem of toleration is impossible. Mere opportunists excepted, everyone is convinced of the rightness of his opinions. But, if such a conviction by itself were a justification for intolerance, then everyone would have a right to coerce and persecute everyone else of another way of thinking.77 In these circumstances, the demand for toleration can only be a prerogative of the weak. With power comes the exercise of intolerance. In such a case there must always be war and enmity between men. Peaceful co-operation is out of the question. It is because it desires peace that Liberalism demands toleration for all opinions.
Under Capitalism the artist and the scientist have many alternatives open to them. If they are rich they can follow their own inclinations. They can seek out rich patrons. They can work as public officials. They can attempt to live on the sale of their creative work. Each of these alternatives has its dangers, in particular the two latter. It may well be that he who gives new values to mankind, or who is capable of so giving, suffers want and poverty. But there is no way to prevent this effectively. The creative spirit innovates necessarily. It must press forward. It must destroy the old and set the new in its place. It could not conceivably be relieved of this burden. If it were it would cease to be a pioneer. Progress cannot be organized.78 It is not difficult to ensure that the genius who has completed his work shall be crowned with laurel; that his mortal remains shall be laid in a grave of honour and monuments erected to his memory. But it is impossible to smooth the way that he must tread if he is to fulfil his destiny. Society can do nothing to aid progress. If it does not load the individual with quite unbreakable chains, if it does not surround the prison in which it encloses him with quite unsurmountable walls, it has done all that can be expected of it. Genius will soon find a way to win its own freedom.
The nationalization of intellectual life, which must be attempted under Socialism, must make all intellectual progress impossible. It is possible to deceive oneself about this because, in Russia, new kinds of art have become the fashion. But the authors of these innovations were already working, when the Soviet came into power. They sided with it because, not having been recognized hitherto, they entertained hopes of recognition from the new regime. The great question, however, is whether later innovators will be able to oust them from the position they have now gained.
In Bebel’s Utopia only physical labour is recognized by society. Art and science are relegated to leisure hours. In this way, thinks Bebel, the society of the future “will possess scientists and artists of all kinds in countless numbers.” These, according to their several inclinations, will pursue their studies and their arts in their spare time.79 Thus Bebel allows himself to be swayed by the manual labourer’s philistine resentment against all those who are not hewers of wood and drawers of water. All mental work he regards as mere dilettantism, as can be seen from the fact that he groups it with “social intercourse.”80 But nevertheless we must inquire whether under these conditions the mind would be able to create that freedom without which it cannot exist.
Obviously all artistic and scientific work which demands time, travel, technical education and great material expenditure, would be quite out of the question. But we will assume that it is possible to devote oneself to writing or to music, after the day’s work is done. We will assume further that such activities will not be hindered by malicious intervention on the part of the economic administration—by transferring unpopular authors to remote localities, for instance—so that with the aid perhaps of devoted friends, an author or a composer is able to save enough to pay the fee demanded by the state printing works for the publication of a small edition. In this way he may even succeed in bringing out a little independent periodical—perhaps even in procuring a theatrical production.81 But all this would have to overcome the overwhelming competition of the officially supported arts, and the economic administration could at any time suppress it. For we must not forget that as one could not ascertain the cost of printing, the economic administration would be free to decide the business conditions under which publication could take place. No censor, no emperor, no pope, has ever possessed the power to suppress intellectual freedom which would be possessed by a socialist community.
[76. ]Cabet, Voyage en Icarie (Paris, 1848), p. 127.
[77. ]Luther urged the Princes of his party not to tolerate the monastic system and the Mass. According to him it would be irrelevant to answer that, as the Emperor Charles was convinced that the Papist doctrine was true, he would act justly, from his point of view, in destroying the Lutheran teachings as heresy. For we know “that he is not certain of this, nor can he be certain, because we know that he errs and fights against the Gospels. For it is not our duty to believe that he is certain, because he goes without God’s Word and we go with God’s Word; rather it is his duty to recognize God’s Word and to advance it, like us, with all his power.” Dr. Martin Luther’s Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, ed. de Wette, Part IV (Berlin, 1827), pp. 93 ff.; Paulus, Protestantismus und Toleranz im 16. Jahrhundert (Freiburg, 1911), p. 23.
[78. ]“It is misleading to say: Progress should be organized. What is really productive cannot be put into forms made in advance; it flourishes only in unrestricted freedom. The followers may then organize themselves, which is also called ’forming a school’.” Spranger, Begabung und Studium (Leipzig, 1917), p. 8. See also Mill, On Liberty, 3rd ed. (London, 1864), pp. 114 ff.
[79. ]Bebel, Die Frau und der Sozialismus, p. 284. Publisher’s Note: p. 395 in the English edition. See Index to Works Cited for complete citation.
[80. ]How Bebel pictured to himself life in a socialist community is shown by the following: “Here she (Woman) is active under the same conditions as the man. At one moment a practical worker in some industry she is in the next hour educator, teacher, nurse; in the third part of the day she exercises some art or cultivates a science; and in the fourth part she fulfils some administrative function. She enjoys studies, pleasures and amusement with her like or with men, just as she wishes and as the opportunity offers. In love choice she is free and unfettered like the man. She woos or lets herself be wooed, etc.” (Bebel, op. cit., p. 342). Publisher’s Note: pp. 466-467 in English edition.
[81. ]This corresponds to Bellamy’s ideas. (Ein Rückblick, translated by Hoops in Meyers Volksbücher, pp. 230 ff.) Publisher’s Note: In English, Looking Backward: If Socialism Comes, 2000-1887 (Boston, 1889); chapter 15; and (W. Foulsham, London), pp. 92-99.