SurrealPolitiks S01E006 - Misesian Socialism - Part 1

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In the practice of Realpolitik, it is typically considered ill advised to go out of one's way to antagonize the greatest possible number of political participants with one's speech.

Today we break that rule with our episode title "Misesian Socialism".

The phrasing derives from the name of one Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist of Jewish ancestry who rather famously held socialism in the utmost contempt. Thus at first glance, we might appear to be dealing with a contradiction of terms, and be presumed to have made a failed attempt at humor.

Fail we just might, but humor is not the goal.

In recent discussions, here and elsewhere, we've delved into economics at some depth. The manner in which we have done this has created substantial confusion in off air conversations, and one suspects this is because it does not seem to fall into the pre-defined categories most are familiar with. The approach we have taken is to apply the teachings of what are commonly considered "classical" or "free market" economics to the task of central economic planning, and the achievement of what are typically considered socialist ends.

While it may strike the casual observer as bizarre, there's nothing actually forbidding this in economic thought. The classical economists have accurately described, for the most part, how an economy works. They make well reasoned complaints about inefficiencies created by government interference in the market, and go on to make suggestions of political reforms with the aim of eliminating those interferences.

But the political programs are not economics. They are politics and, more to the point, they are ideological in nature.

If a government program reduces the rate at which wealth is grown, or distributes it in ways an individual finds distasteful, that does not necessarily mean that the program should not exist. This is simply an observation upon which one forms a subjective preference. It may well be the case that the people of the country, or the governing authorities, find this forfeiture of economic efficiency a worthwhile trade-off for other economic or non-economic benefits produced by the program, or circumstances of the time require such forfeiture to avoid greater loss, with the most notable example being inflationary monetary policy to facilitate military objectives.

The premise of our concept here is essentially that the classical economists are correct so long as they remain "value free". While their analysis tends to be scientific and accurately describe economic phenomena in past and present, the track record has been for them to to veer away from the scientific, and into the value laden world of politics and philosophy, once they begin talking about the future.

Whatever preferences one may have as to the degree of government intervention in the economy, it is inevitable that intervention will occur. Since it is inevitable, calling for it to cease is an ideological masturbatory exercise. Consequently, this is not conducive to influencing the outcome, and since influencing the outcome is the whole entire point of Realpolitik, we must rule it out from our strategic repertoire.

Simultaneously, we observe the phenomenon that since this has for so long been the pathology, the advocates of government intervention tend to be, at best, economic illiterates. All too frequently, they are brilliant students of economics who understand full well that what they are doing is catastrophically destructive. They pursue these wild schemes parading under the guise of economic policies anyway, either as a short sighted political strategy for the attainment and maintenance of their own power, or as a means of waging war against the societies they govern or aim to govern. From here we derive ideas like "health care is a human right" and absolute equality of economic outcome, regardless of behavior, as the object of all government activity. 

Our view could fairly be described as a third position. We aim to understand market forces and the science behind them. Then, to analyze and understand the distortion of market forces caused by government interference in the economy. Then, to intelligently guide that interference in ways that are at least less destructive than current and prior practice, and preferably, to aid in the advancement of the National interest, which it will be our task to define going forward. This, we acknowledge is itself a value laden exercise, but we do not pretend to be mere economic analysts. We are politically interested, and we begin with that built into our assumptions.

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