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From the Pen of David Horowitz: November 3, 2009

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Posted on November 3 2009 12:49 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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Even after the collapse of the socialist era, the marginalization of conservative ideas is so pervasive that the conservatives whose ideas were vindicated by the gotterdamerung remain hopelessly obscure. As far back as 1922, Ludwig von Mises wrote a 500-page treatise predicting that socialism would not work because socialist theorists had failed to recognize economic realities that would eventually bankrupt the future they were creating: the indispensability of markets for allocating resources and of private property for providing the incentives that would drive the engines of social wealth. Socialists, he wrote, showed no inclination to take seriously the problems their schemes created: “Without troubling about the fact that they had not succeeded in disproving the assertion of the liberal school that productivity under socialism would sink so low that want and poverty would be general, socialist writers began to promulgate fantastic assertions about the increase in productivity to be expected under socialism.”

As close as any analysis could, Von Mises’ warning anticipated the next 70 years of socialist history. Under the Soviet Union’s socialist plans, the Kremlin rulers were indeed unable allocate resources rationally, to accommodate innovation, or to replace the profit motive with viable social incentives. As a result, the socialist economy was unable to keep abreast of technological changes that would sweep the capitalist West into a new post-industrial era, or induce sufficient economic growth to feed its own people. Even grain — an export staple of Russia’s pre-revolutionary economy — was perpetually in shortage after the Bolsheviks took power, a direct consequence of collectivization. The economic effects of socialist order were exactly as Von Mises had predicted — to generalize poverty, while preventing Soviet Russia from entering the new electronic era and competing technologically with the West.

But although Soviet developments dramatically confirmed Von Mises’ prediction, his intellectual contributions are as unknown in the culture of the post-Communist West as they were before the Communist fall. And there has not been a single attempt by progressive intellectuals of the Left to re-visit his critique. Or to come up with answers that would justify their continuing radical faith. Von Mises’ work should be a central text of academic discourse, but instead is absent from the academic canon, as if it had never been written.

The Politics of Bad Faith

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