Front Page Titles (by Subject) 8.: Socialism and War - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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8.: Socialism and War - Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War 
Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, edited with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Indiana, 2011).
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Socialism and War
The socialists insist that war is but one of the many mischiefs of capitalism. In the coming paradise of socialism, they hold, there will no longer be any wars. Of course, between us and this peaceful utopia there are still some bloody civil wars to be fought. But with the inevitable triumph of communism all conflicts will disappear.
It is obvious enough that with the conquest of the whole surface of the earth by a single ruler all struggles between states and nations would disappear. If a socialist dictator should succeed in conquering every country there would no longer be external wars, provided that the O.G.P.U. were strong enough to hinder the disintegration of this World State. But the same holds true for any other conqueror. If the Mongol Great Khans had accomplished their ends, they too would have made the world safe for eternal peace. It is too bad that Christian Europe was so obstinate as not to surrender voluntarily to their claims of world supremacy.*
However, we are not considering projects for world pacification through universal conquest and enslavement, but how to achieve a world where there are no longer any causes of conflict. Such a possibility was implied in liberalism’s project for the smooth coöperation of democratic nations under capitalism. It failed because the world abandoned both liberalism and capitalism.
There are two possibilities for world-embracing socialism: the coexistence of independent socialist states on the one hand, or the establishment of a unitary world-embracing socialist government on the other.
The first system would stabilize existing inequalities. There would be richer nations and poorer ones, countries both underpopulated and overpopulated. If mankind had introduced this system a hundred years ago, it would have been impossible to exploit the oil fields of Mexico or Venezuela, to establish the rubber plantations in Malaya, or to develop the banana production of Central America. The nations concerned lacked both the capital and trained men to utilize their own natural resources. A socialist scheme is not compatible with foreign investment, international loans, payments of dividends and interest, and all such capitalist institutions.
Let us consider what some of the conditions would be in such a world of coördinate socialist nations. There are some overcrowded countries peopled by white workers. They labor to improve their standard of living, but their endeavors are handicapped by inadequate natural resources. They badly need raw materials and foodstuffs that could be produced in other, better endowed countries. But these countries which nature has favored are thinly populated and lack the capital required to develop their resources. Their inhabitants are neither industrious nor skillful enough to profit from the riches which nature has lavished upon them. They are without initiative; they cling to old-fashioned methods of production; they are not interested in improvement. They are not eager to produce more rubber, tin, copra, and jute and to exchange these products for goods manufactured abroad. By this attitude they affect the standard of living of those peoples whose chief asset is their skill and diligence. Will these peoples of countries neglected by nature be prepared to endure such a state of things? Will they be willing to work harder and to produce less because the favored children of nature stubbornly abstain from exploiting their treasures in a more efficient way?
Inevitably war and conquest result. The workers of the comparatively overpopulated areas invade the comparatively underpopulated areas, conquer these countries, and annex them. And then follow wars between the conquerors for the distribution of the booty. Every nation is prepared to believe that it has not obtained its fair share, that other nations have got too much and should be forced to abandon a part of their plunder. Socialism in independent nations would result in endless wars.
These considerations prepare for a disclosure of the nonsensical Marxian theories of imperialism. All these theories, however much they conflict with each other, have one feature in common: they all maintain that the capitalists are eager for foreign investment because production at home tends, with the progress of capitalism, to a reduction in the rate of profit, and because the home market under capitalism is too narrow to absorb the whole volume of production. This desire of capitalists for exports and for foreign investment, it is held, is detrimental to the class interests of the proletarians. Besides, it leads to international conflict and war.
Yet the capitalists did not invest abroad in order to withhold goods from home consumption. On the contrary, they did so in order to supply the home market with raw materials and foodstuffs which could otherwise not be obtained at all, or only in insufficient quantities or at higher costs. Without export trade and foreign investment European and American consumers would never have enjoyed the high standard of living that capitalism gave them. It was the wants of the domestic consumers that pushed the capitalists and entrepreneurs toward foreign markets and foreign investment. If the consumers had been more eager for the acquisition of a greater quantity of goods that could be produced at home without the aid of foreign raw materials than for imported food and raw materials, it would have been more profitable to expand home production further than to invest abroad.
The Marxian doctrinaires shut their eyes purposely to the inequality of natural resources in different parts of the world. And yet these inequalities are the essential problem of international relations.* But for them the Teutonic tribes and later the Mongols would not have invaded Europe. They would have turned toward the vast empty areas of the Tundra or of northern Scandinavia. If we do not take into account these inequalities of natural resources and climates we can discover no motive for war but some devilish spell, for example—as the Marxians say—the sinister machinations of capitalists, or—as the Nazis say—the intrigues of world Jewry.
These inequalities are natural and can never disappear. They would present an insoluble problem for a unitary world socialism also. A socialist world-embracing management could, of course, consider a policy under which all human beings are treated alike; it could try to ship workers and capital from one area to another, without considering the vested interests of the labor groups of different countries or of different linguistic groups. But nothing can justify the illusion that these labor groups, whose per capita income and standard of living would be reduced by such a policy, would be prepared to tolerate it. No socialist of the Western nations considers socialism to be a scheme which (even if we were to grant the fallacious expectations that socialist production would increase the productivity of labor) must result in lowering living standards in those nations. The workers of the West are not striving for equalization of their earnings with those of the more than 1,000 million extremely poor peasants and workers of Asia and Africa. For the same reason that they oppose immigration under capitalism, these workers would oppose such a policy of labor transfer on the part of a socialist world management. They would rather fight than agree to abolition of the existing discriminations between the lucky inhabitants of comparatively underpopulated areas and the unfortunate inhabitants of the overpopulated areas. Whether we call such struggles civil wars or foreign wars is immaterial.
The workers of the West favor socialism because they hope to improve their condition by the abolition of what they describe as unearned incomes. We are not concerned with the fallacies of these expectations. We have only to emphasize that these Western socialists do not want to share their incomes with the underprivileged masses of the East. They are not prepared to renounce the most valuable privilege which they enjoy under etatism and economic nationalism—the exclusion of foreign labor. The American workers are for the maintenance of what they call “the American way of life,” not for a world socialist way of life, which would lie somewhere between the present American and the coolie level, probably much nearer to the latter than to the former. This is stark reality that no socialist rhetoric can conjure away.
The same selfish group interests which through migration barriers have frustrated the liberal plans for world-wide peaceful cooperation of nations, states, and individuals would destroy the internal peace within a socialist world state. The peace argument is just as baseless and erroneous as all the other arguments brought forward to demonstrate the practicability and expediency of socialism.
Refutation of Some Fallacious Explanations
[* ]Voegelin, “The Mongol Orders of Submission to the European Powers 1245–1255,” Byzantion, XV, pp. 378–413.
[* ]We have dealt only with those types of foreign investment that were intended to develop the natural resources of the backward countries, i.e., investment in mining and agriculture and their auxiliaries such as transportation facilities, public utilities, and so on. The investment in foreign manufacturing was to a great extent due to the influence of economic nationalism; it would not have happened within a world of free trade. It was protectionism that forced the American motor-car producers and the German electrical plants to establish branch factories abroad.