Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: Eudaemonistic Ethics and Socialism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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2: Eudaemonistic Ethics 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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Eudaemonistic Ethics and Socialism
To eudaemonism, which looks at social phenomena rationalistically, the very way in which ethical Socialism states its problems seems unsatisfactory. Unless Ethics and “Economy” are regarded as two systems of objectivization which have nothing to do with each other, then ethical and economic valuation and judgment cannot appear as mutually independent factors. All ethical ends are merely a part of human aims. This implies that on the one hand the ethical aim is a means, in so far as it assists in the human struggle for happiness, but that on the other hand it is comprised in the process of valuation which unites all intermediate aims into a unitary scale of values and grades them according to their importance. The conception of absolute ethical values, which might be opposed to economic values, cannot therefore be maintained.
Of course one cannot discuss this point with the ethical apriorist or the intuitionist. Those who uphold the Moral as ultimate fact, and who rule out scientific examination of its elements by referring to a transcendental origin, will never be able to agree with those who are dragging down the concept of Right into the dust of scientific analysis. Ethical ideas of duty and conscience demand nothing less than the blindest submission.2A priori ethics, claiming unconditional validity for its norms, approaches all earthly relations from the outside and aims at transmuting them into its own form with no concern whatever for the consequences. Fiat iustitia, pereat mundus (let justice be done even though the world be destroyed) is its motto, and it is when it becomes honestly indignant about the eternally misunderstood plea, “the end justifies the means,” that it is most sincere.
Isolated man settles all his ends according to his own law. He sees and knows nothing but himself and arranges his actions accordingly. In society, however, he must temper his actions to the fact that he lives in society and that his actions must affirm the existence and progress of society. From the basic law of social life it follows that he does not do this to achieve aims lying outside his own personal system of ends. In making the social ends his own he does not thereby subordinate his personality and his wishes to those of a higher personality or renounce the fulfilment of any of his own desires in favour of those of a mystical universe. For, from the standpoint of his own valuation, social ends are not ultimate but intermediate in his own scale of values. He must accept society because social life helps him to fulfil his own wishes more completely. If he denied it he would be able to create only transitory advantages for himself; by destroying the social body he would in the long run injure himself.
The idea of a dualism of motivation assumed by most ethical theorists, when they distinguish between egoistic and altruistic motives of action, cannot therefore be maintained. This attempt to contrast egoistic and altruistic action springs from a misconception of the social interdependence of individuals. The power to choose whether my actions and conduct shall serve myself or my fellow beings is not given to me—which perhaps may be regarded as fortunate. If it were, human society would not be possible. In the society based on division of labour and co-operation, the interests of all members are in harmony, and it follows from this basic fact of social life that ultimately action in the interests of myself and action in the interest of others do not conflict, since the interests of individuals come together in the end. Thus the famous scientific dispute as to the possibility of deriving the altruistic from the egoistic motives of action may be regarded as definitely disposed of.
There is no contrast between moral duty and selfish interests. What the individual gives to society to preserve it as society, he gives, not for the sake of aims alien to himself, but in his own interest.3 The individual, who is a product of society not only as a thinking, willing, sentient man, but also simply as a living creature, cannot deny society without denying himself.
This position of social ends in the system of individual ends is perceived by the individual’s reason, which enables him to recognize aright his own interests. But society cannot always trust the individual to see which are his true interests. If it left everyone to judge of his own it would expose itself to the caprice of every foolish, sick, and weak-willed person, leaving him free to put its very existence into question, thus imperilling the continuity of development. This is what led to the creation of powers of social coercion which, vis-à-vis the individual, appear as external constraints because they demand imperative obedience. And here we see the social significance of the State and the Law. They are not something outside the individual, demanding from him actions which run counter to his own interests, forcing him to serve alien purposes. They merely prevent the misguided, asocial individual, blind to his own interests, from injuring his fellow men by a revolt against the social order.
It is therefore absurd to maintain that Liberalism, Utilitarianism and Eudaemonism are “inimical to the State.” They reject the idea of Etatism, which under the name State adores as God a mysterious being not comprehensible to human understanding; they dissent from Hegel, to whom the State is “divine will”; they reject the Hegelian Marx and his school who have replaced the cult of “State” with the cult of “Society”; they combat all those who want the State or “Society” to perform tasks other than those corresponding to that social order which they themselves believe the most proper to the end in view. Because they favour private ownership in the means of production they demand that the State coercive apparatus shall be directed to maintain this, and they reject all proposals intended to restrict or abolish private property. But never for a moment do they think of “abolishing the State.” The liberal conception of society by no means omits the apparatus of the State; it assigns to this the task of safeguarding life and property. Anybody who calls opposition to State railways, State theatres, or State dairies “enmity to the State” must be deeply enmeshed indeed in the realistic (in the scholastic sense) conception of the State.
Occasionally society can prevail against the individual even without coercion. Not every social norm requires that the most extreme coercive measures shall at once be put into force. In many things, morals and custom can wring from the individual a recognition of social aims without assistance from the sword of justice. Morals and customs go further than State law in so far as they protect more extensive social aims. In this respect, there may be a difference in extent between them, but no incompatibility of principle. Essential contrasts between the legal order and moral laws occur only where the two derive from different conceptions of the social order, that is, where they appertain to different social systems. The contrast is then dynamic, not static.
The ethical valuation “good” or “evil” can be applied only in respect of ends towards which action strives. As Epicurus said: “Αδιχία ού χαθ́ ὲαυτην χαχόν” (“Vice without injurious consequences would not be vice.”)4 Since action is never its own end, but rather the means to an end, we call an action good or evil only in respect of the consequences of the action. It is judged according to its place in the system of cause and effect. It is valued as a means. And for the value of the means the valuation of the end is decisive. Ethical, like all other, valuation proceeds from valuation of ends, of the ultimate good. The value of an action is the value of the end it serves. Intention, too, has value in so far as it leads to action.
Unity of action can exist only when all ultimate values can be brought into a unitary scale of values. If this were not possible, man would always be finding himself in a position where he could not act, that is, work as a creature conscious of his striving towards a goal; he would have to abandon the issue to forces beyond his control. Conscious scaling of values precedes every human action. The man who chooses to attain A while renouncing B, C, D, etc., has decided that in the given circumstances the attainment of A is more valuable to him than the attainment of the others.
Philosophers had been arguing about this ultimate Good for a long time before it was settled by modern investigation. At the present day Eudaemonism is no longer open to attack. In the long run all the arguments which philosophers from Kant to Hegel brought against it were unable to dissociate the concept Morality from that of Happiness. Never in history has more intellect and ingenuity been expended in defending an untenable position. We are lost in admiration of the magnificent performance of these philosophers. We might almost say that what they have done to prove the impossible elicits more admiration than the achievements of the great thinkers and sociologists who have made Eudaemonism and Utilitarianism a permanent possession of the human mind. Certainly their efforts were not in vain. Their gigantic struggle for anti-eudaemonistic ethics were necessary to expose the problem in all its wide ramifications and so enable a conclusive solution to be reached.
Since the tenets of intuitionist ethics, which are irreconcilable with scientific method, have been deprived of their very foundations, anyone who recognizes the eudaemonistic character of all ethical valuation is exempt from further discussion of ethical Socialism. For such a one the Moral does not stand outside the scale of values which comprises all values of life. For him no moral ethic is valid per se. He must first be allowed to inquire why it is so rated. He can never reject that which has been recognized as beneficial and reasonable simply because a norm, based on some mysterious intuition, declares it to be immoral—a norm the sense and purpose of which he is not entitled even to investigate.5 His principle is not fiat iustitia, pereat mundus, (let justice be done, though the world perish), but fiat iustitia, ne pereat mundus (let justice be done, lest the world perish).
If nevertheless it appears not entirely superfluous to discuss separately the arguments of ethical Socialism, this is not merely because it counts many adherents, but, what is more important, because it provides an opportunity of showing how eudaemonistic ideas lie concealed in every train of aprioristic-intuitive ethical thought, and how this system can be traced back, in every one of its utterances, to untenable notions of economic conduct and of social co-operation. Every ethical system built up on the idea of duty, even though it exhibits itself as strictly as Kant’s, is finally obliged to yield so much to Eudaemonism that its principles can no longer be maintained.6 In the same way every single requirement of aprioristic-intuitive ethics displays ultimately an eudaemonistic character.
[2. ]Jodl, Geschichte der Ethik als philosophischer Wissenschaft, Vol. II, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, 1921), p. 450.
[3. ]Izoulet, La cité moderne, pp. 413 ff.
[4. ]Guyau, Die englische Ethik der Gegenwart, trans. Peusner (Leipzig, 1914), p. 20.
[5. ]Bentham, Deontology or the Science of Morality, ed. Bowring (London, 1834), Vol. I, pp. 8 ff.
[6. ]Mill, Utilitarianism (London, 1863), pp. 5 ff.; Jodl, Geschichte der Ethik als philosophischer Wissenschaft, Vol. II, p. 36.