Yves Guyot warns that a new ruling class of managers and officials will emerge in the supposedly “classless” socialist society of the future (1908)

Yves Guyot

The French economist and politician Yves Guyot (1843-1928) very quickly realised that socialism would not lead to a peaceful and classless society as promised, but would result in a new form of class rule of party officials:

There will be at least two classes, one consisting of officials to distribute the burdens and the results of labour, the other of the drudges to execute their commands. Such a dispensation would not bring with it social peace, for political would take the place of economic competition.

The classical liberal political economists quickly saw through the fraud which was socialism. Bastiat was one of its most trenchant critics in the late 1840s and Yves Guyot did the same in the 1880s and 1890s. Whereas Bastiat wrote to expose the “economic sophisms” put forward by the protectionists in 1846, Guyot wrote to expose the “socialist sophisms” which were widespread at the end of the 19th century. In addition to the economic arguments you might expect about the lack of incentives to work in a socialist system and the problems faced by central planners in a complex economy, Guyot adds the devastating observation that any socialist society would also be a society ruled by a new ruling class, thus overturning one of the central socialist arguments against “capitalism”, namely that it was a vicious system of class exploitation of the workers by the capitalists. In Guyot’s view, the future socialist society would have to use coercion to get workers to work, it would have to be organised along the lines of an “army” or a “convent,” run by a new ruling class of officials and managers, with a “servile class” at the bottom to do their bidding. In addition, with a monopoly of political power the Socialist Party would become the focus of a new form of “political competition” which would be far more destructive than anything seen under the “economic competition” of the free market.