Against Collectivist Means, Not Socialist Ends

Against Collectivist Means, Not Socialist Ends


before we can progress within our main problem
an obstacle has yet to be surmounted the confusion largely responsible for the
way in which we are drifting into things which nobody wants must be cleared up this confusion concerns nothing less than
the concept of socialism itself it may mean and is very often used to describe merely the ideals of social Justice greater
equality and security which are the ultimate aims of socialism but it means also the particular method by
which most socialists hope to attain these ends and which many competent
people regard as the only methods by which they can be fully and quickly attained In this sense socialism means the abolition
of private enterprise of private ownership of the means of production and the creation of a system of “planned economy” in which the entrepreneur working for profit
is replaced by a central planing body there are many people who call themselves
socialists although they care only about the first who furvently believe in those ultimate aims
of socialism but neither care nor understand how they can
be achieved and were merely certain that they must be
achieved whatever the cost but to nearly all those to whom socialism
is not merely a hope but an object of practical politics the characteristic methods of modern socialism
are as essential as the ends themselves many people on the other hand who value the
ultimate ends of socialism no less than the socialists refuse to support socialism because of the
dangers to other values they see in the methods proposed by the socialists the dispute about socialism has thus become
largely a dispute about means and not about ends although the question whether the different
ends of socialism can be simultaneously achieved is also involved this would be enough to create confusion and the confusion has been further increased
by the common practice of denying that those who repudiate the means value the ends but this is not all the situation is still more complicated by
the fact that the same means the “economic planning” which is the prime
instrumeant of socialist reform can be used for many other purposes we must centrally direct economic activity
if we want to make the distribution of income conform to current ideas of social Justice “planning” therefore is wanted by all those
who demand “production for use” be substituted for production for profit but such planning is no less indispensable
if the distribution of incomes is to be regulated in a way which to us appears to be the opposite of
just whether we should wish that more of the good
things of this world to go to some racial elite the nordic men or the members of a party
or an aristocracy the methods which we shall have to employ
are the same as those which could ensure an equalitarian distribution it may perhaps seem unfair to use the term socialism
to describe its methods rather than its aims to use for a particular method a term which
for many people stands for an ultimate ideal it is probably preferable to describe the
methods which can be used for a great variety of ends as collectivism and to regard socialism as a species of that
genus yet although to most socialists only one species
of collectivism will represent true socialism it must always be remembered that socialism
is a species of collectivism and that therefore everything which is true
of collectivism as such must apply also to socialism nearly all the points which are disputed between
socialists and liberals concern the methods common to all forms
of collectivism and not the particular ends for which socialists want to use them and all the consequences with which we should
be concerned in this book follow from the methods of collectivism irrespective
of the ends for which they are used it must also not be forgotten that socialism
is not only by far the most important species of collectivism or “planning” but that it is socialism which has persuaded
liberal minded people to submit once more to that regimentation
of economic life which they had overthrown because in the words of Adam Smith it puts governments in a position where “to support themselves they are obliged to
be oppressive and tyrannical” the difficulties caused by the ambiguities
of the common political terms are not yet over if we agree to use the term collectiv-
ism so as to include all types of “planned economy” whatever the end of planning the meaning of this term become somewhat more
definite if we make it clear that we mean that sort
of planning which is necessary to realize any given distributive ideals but as the idea of central economic planning
owes its appeal largely to this very vagueness of its meaning it is essential that we should
agree on its precise sense before we discuss its consequences “planning” owes its popularity largely to the
fact that everybody desires of course that we should handle our common problems as rationally
as possible and that in so doing we should use as much
forsight as we can command in this sense everybody who is not a complete
fatalist is a planner every political act is or ought to be an act
of planning and there can be differences only between
good and bad between wise and foresighted and foolish and
short-sighted planning an economist whose whole task is the study
of how men actually do and how they might plan their affairs is the last person who could object to planning
in this general sense but it is not in this sense that our enthusiasts
for a planned society now employ this term nor merely in this sense that we must plan if
we want the distribution of income or wealth to conform to some particular standard according to the modern planners and for their
purposes it is not sufficient to design the most
rational permanent framework within which the various activities would be conducted
by different persons according to their individual plans This liberal plan according to them is
no plan and it is indeed not a plan designed to
satisfy particular views about who should have what what our planners demand a central direction
of all economic activity according to a single plan laying down how the resources of society should
be “consciously directed” to serve particular ends in a definite way the dispute between the modern planners and
their opponents is therefore not a dispute on whether we ought to choose intelligently
between the various possible organizations of society it is not a dispute over whether we ought
to employ forsight and systematic thinking in planning our common affairs it is a dispute about what is the best way
of so doing the question is whether for this purpose it
is better that the holder of coercive power should confine himself in general to creating conditions under which the knowledge
and initiative of individuals is given the best scope so that they can plan
most successfully or whether a rational utilization of our resources requires central direction and organization
of all our activities according to some consciously constructed
“blueprint” the socialists of all parties have appropriated
the term planning for planning of the latter type and it is now a generally accepted in this
sense but though this is meant to suggest that this
is the only rational way of handling our affairs it does not of course prove this it remains the point on which the planners
and the liberals disagree

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