Front Page Titles (by Subject) 5: Partial Socialism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
5: Partial 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).
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.
Natural ownership of the means of production is divisible. In capitalist society, it generally is divided.54 But the power to dispose which belongs to him who directs production and which alone we call ownership, is indivisible and illimitable. It may belong to several people jointly, but cannot be divided in the sense that the power of disposing itself can be decomposed into separate rights of command. The power to dispose of the use of a commodity in production can only be unitary; that this could in any way be dissolved into elements is unthinkable. Ownership in the natural sense cannot be limited; wherever one speaks of limitation, one means either a curtailment of a too-widely drawn juristic definition or recognition of the fact that ownership in the natural sense belongs concretely to someone other than the person whom the law recognizes as owner.
All attempts to abolish by a compromise the contrast between common property and private ownership in the means of production are therefore mistaken. Ownership is always where the power to dispose resides.55 Therefore State Socialism and planned economies, which want to maintain private property in name and in law, but in fact, because they subordinate the power of disposing to State orders, want to socialize property, are socialist systems in the full sense. Private property exists only where the individual can deal with his private ownership in the means of production in the way he considers most advantageous. That in doing so he serves other members of society, because in the society based on division of labour everyone is the servant of all and all the masters of each, in no way alters the fact that he himself looks for the way in which he can best perform this service.
It is not possible to compromise, either, by putting part of the means of production at the disposal of society and leaving the remainder to individuals. Such systems simply stand unconnected, side by side, and operate fully only within the space they occupy. Such mixtures of the social principles of organization must be considered senseless by everyone. No one can believe that the principle which he holds to be right should not be carried through to the end. Nor can anyone assert that one or the other of the systems proves the better only for certain groups of the means of production. Where people seem to be asserting this, they are really asserting that we must demand the one system at least for a group of the means of production or that it should be given at most for a group. Compromise is always only a momentary lull in the fight between the two principles, not the result of a logical thinking-out of the problem. Regarded from the stand-point of each side, half-measures are a temporary halt on the way to complete success.
The best known and most respected of the systems of compromise believes indeed that it can recommend half-measures as a permanent institution. The land-reformers want to socialize the natural factors of production, but for the rest to leave private ownership in the means of production. They hereby proceed from the assumption, regarded as self-evident, that common property in the means of production gives a higher yield than private property. Because they regard land as the most important means of production, they wish to transfer it to society. With the breakdown of the thesis that public ownership could achieve better results than private ownership, the idea of land reform also falls to the ground. Whoever regards land as the most important means of production must certainly advocate the private ownership of land, if he considers private ownership the superior economic form.
THE ALLEGED INEVITABILITY OF SOCIALISM
[54. ]See pp. 29 ff.
[55. ]On interventionism see my Kritik des Interventionismus, pp. 1 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, A Critique of Interventionism, trans. Hans F. Sennholz (New York: Arlington House, 1977), pp. 15 ff.