The Joy of Labor

Pigrum quin immo et iners videtur sudore 
adquirere quod possis sanguine parare.

              At the heart of any civilization is how its citizens can conduct themselves within financially praxeological means. Indeed, it has always been the case that the more access to the marketplace one has the more liberty he also holds. It is in this context that we can begin to draw the lines between statism and Classical Liberalism or Libertarianism. The Socialist-etatists want free reign to force their socio-political ideations upon the populace in the thinking they can bring about earthly utopianism. Conversely, the Classical Liberals realize that life is inherently tragic, and it is man’s mission, individually, to achieve whatever success he can by maximizing his own human capital and advancing supply chains in whatever particular industry he works in. The collectivist mentality is to introduce the “planning experts” – planwirtschaft – whilst the Individualists realize personal accountability and merit. This has been more thoroughly examined by Thomas Sowell in what he calls the constrained vs. unconstrained visions of life. Someone like Ludwig von Mises representing the constrained, and Franklin Roosevelt exemplifying the unconstrained vision. This contradistinction of personal responsibility and bureaucracy should give you some background into what possible outcomes could occur if the bureaucrats or “experts” are given control to plan out the human drama. In the case of Charles Fourier, utopian socialism will turn the oceans into lemonade. In the case of Marx, humans will be equal in all ways and the proletariat will have nothing to lose but their chains. In the case of Mises however, the analysis of the state is much more clear-eyed. Within a strictly Classical Liberal sense, the only duty of the state is to secure life and property against attacks from both external and internal foes. It is true statism is very much enticing, Americans hear all the time in various powerful slogans that college debt should be forgiven, healthcare is a human right, etc. Unfortunately, this was never the goal of America’s political scriptures and government structure. At least those endlessly repeating those common sayings can occasional ask, but who and how will we pay? What are the trade-offs? Unfortunately, many on the left never stop to do a cost-benefit analysis of collectivism’s blooded costs. Forcing one man to work to pay off another’s debt, is this not slavery? “It seems feckless, nay more, even slothful, to acquire something by toil and sweat which you could grab by the shedding of blood,” as Tacitus writes in his classic work Germania. The goal of this article is to introduce several varieties of socialism and how they begin with good intentions but ultimately collapse under their own unstable merits.

              Among the most celebrated forms of government on college campuses – Kathedersozialisten – and in popular culture is communism. Flyers can be found advertising for the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) in universities all over the states. The moral consequences of communism today and throughout the 20th century must be set aside to explain the overview of its ideology and aims. Communism is a much older concept than most know. The ancient Greeks spoke of “The Golden Age” when society would not be dictated by the “the lust for gain” as Hesiod said in his poem Works and Days. This Golden Age theme can also be found in the works by Virgil and Ovid. Of course, Plato’s Republic is also a well-known proto-communistic ideation where all property was shared, even wives. It was these early creations that sparked the interest of French revolutionaries who argued that rights were granted by the State. This notion, it should be stated, is a severe contrast with the American revolution where rights were granted by God, or nature. Interesting though, the goal of the French revolution was not to simply overthrow the monarchy because it had too much power, they overthrew the crown to give the government more power. The power to dictate and plan people’s lives. In short, King Louis XVI was not enough of a megalomaniac dictator. The chaos that tangled up Robespierre, Napoleon, etc. is highly characteristic of a power-thirsty bureaucracy. It is in the nature of collectivists to be prone to violent passions. Furthermore, it wasn’t until Karl Marx, a son of a wealthy capitalist, and Friedrich Engels, not only an owner of a textile’s factory, he inherited his businesses from his father, that communism and its principles begin to take form. Before going further, it should be noted that within this essay the economics of Marxist communism will only be covered. Marxism, and communism generally, are an ideology based on inverting morality and freeing society from collective norms that are said to chain men from ultimately achieving their true passions, the term “anarcho-hedonism” can be inferred. The main tenet of Communism is the abolition of private property and the state ownership of the means of production. In other words, man is not free to keep the fruits of his labor. To separate a man from what he has labored for obviously creates an incentive problem. If the worker puts in his effort and makes the same income as the rest, where is the want to put in more effort? The goal of a free-market economy is to incentivize merit; thus, the hardest workers gain more. Not only does the individual maximize his own capital, he contributes more in production through his sweat. This economic transaction between worker and employer is purely objectivist in the Randian sense – do ut des.  The socialist cannot avoid this ticklish problem, they try to sidestep it by utilizing the Marxian phrase, “the joy of labor” whereby workers will want to increase their output simply due to the communist spirit alone. This idea was so thoroughly adopted by the Soviets a new style of art was introduced called Socialist Realism and its sculptures can still be found all over the former Soviet Union. Stalin was also fond of making examples of hard workers by labeling them a “Stakhanovite” and artificially inflating their celebrity by putting their names in local newspapers. The fundamental problem here is that not all men can be expected to be Stakhanovites. When output of production was lowered due to the incentive problem, the communists dealt with this by forcing brutal conditions upon workers, working in negative 40 degree weather was the norm in Siberian gulags, especially if more timber or rare earth materials were needed, according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Surely these working conditions were not intended by communists, for, aren’t the workers supposed to benefit the most from this ideology? Unfortunately, for the advocates of this socio-economic schema, there can be no calculation of prices in a socialist system so there cannot be a socially optimal allocation of resources. As a consequence, the bureaucracy will have to either cook the books – приписа́ть (pripiski) – or resort to harsh conditions foisted upon innocent workers to meet demand.

              Fascism is by far the most abstract form of socialism. It is of course of the socialist variety because it demands most or partial control of the means of production. In Nazi Germany, the State seized most vital industries including automotive and chemical applications. Both could be used for the benefit of the war socialism machine. It should be noted, most companies within Germany were given a choice to collaborate with the Nazi’s but this was not necessarily a genuine choice as the State could always implement heavy regulations on the business which would make the business a de facto part of the state. The Nazi’s also engaged in creating a large safety net for its populace, something that is thoroughly part of the socialist doctrine. The German high command clearly wanted to create the Nietzschean Übermensch. They implemented orders to reduce smoking, eat vegetarian diets, preserve animal “rights”, and obviously dabbled in eugenics. The Nazi’s were even ardent environmentalists and their preferred newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter, regularly published articles on the urgency of wind power action on behalf of the Reichstag. Obviously, these types of nanny state doctrines are compatible with socialism because that is exactly what it is. It is commonly misunderstood that Fascism is somehow not socialistic, but this is thoroughly untrue. Fascism is non-Marxist socialism in that it is socialism + nation whereas traditional Marxism is socialism + class. To reinforce this point, take example of the Nazi’s phrase “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz!” – the common good supersedes the private good. An even more to the point slogan used was “Tod des Kapitalismus!” – death to capitalism. With these examples alone how could fascism not be viewed as collectivist? Even before the rise of Hitler, Germany was dabbling in socialist totalitarianism. Bismarck’s “Wohlfartsstaat” included forms of social insurance and labor reforms for every sector. This form of state socialism inspired many progressives in America, surprisingly. Upon review of Germany, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. commented that the aim of the law and American policy was to “build a race”. It is here Woodrow Wilson comes to the fore. It has been posited with all seriousness that Wilson was the world’s first fascist leader. A claim that is shocking in the outset but becomes much more plausible when evidenced. For instance, the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act in 1917 and 1918, respectively, were both implemented to force a jail sentence or large fine upon those speaking out against the American government. It is astonishing that close to 175,000 Americans were arrested for violating these two acts, it is suspected that Wilson unjustly imprisoned more Americans in his two terms of office than Benito Mussolini during his 20 plus year reign in Italy. Justice Holmes upheld these acts by citing speech could be banned if it posed “clear and present danger”. To add to the gross abuse of American law, the Justice Department also created the APL, or American Protective League. The Wilson Administration utilized the APL in the notorious Palmer raids where anything from “subversive groups” to capturing “slackers” avoiding conscription to extracting confessions out of black soldiers who were accused of assaulting white women. It was reported that one man was brought to trial for telling people in his own home why he did not buy Liberty Bonds. Another example is a man was shot and killed at a pageant for not standing up for the national anthem. In Woodrow’s 1890 essay titled, “Leaders of Men” he explained that “true leaders” use the masses as “tools”, this is played out when he nationalized the entire railroad industry during World War I. This was Wilson’s America. Highly nationalized, highly racist, and bent on war socialism. If his administration was not fascistic, it is uncertain what could be classified as such. Finally, Benito Mussolini must be more thoroughly examined in this section as he is credited with being a pioneer in fascism. Benito himself was a member of the Italian Socialist Party and was known to be influenced by Marx, Hegel, Engels, and Nietzsche. In Benito’s own words, “whatever happens, you won’t lose me. Twelve years of my life in the party ought to be sufficient guarantee of my socialist faith. Socialism is in my blood. You think you can turn me out, but you will find I shall come back again. I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change! They are bred into my very bones.” Mussolini’s autobiography also goes into depth about how his father was a radical socialist and how he was named after Benito Juarez, a far-left Mexican president. His two middle names, Amilcare and Andrea, came from two Italian socialists Amilcare Cipriani and Andrea Costa.

              Within the context of collectivism, several other pseudo-socialist variations of political economy exist. Syndicalism is a system where the workers, supposedly, own the means of production. This form of administration is also used as a political tool to implement gradual, or Fabian, socialism by massaging more and more unions into the economy whereby private industries are beholden to union bosses. However, in this work we will be looking at it primarily as an economic method. The railways to the railway men, the mines to the miners, the factories to the factory hands – a common syndicalist slogan. The modern progressive believes when a worker owns more stake in a company and can control it more, his individual profits will increase. This train of thought comes from the socialist way of thinking that the entrepreneur skims the profit off the top and keeps the lion-share to himself. This is a fundamental misconception about the allocation of profit and revenue as remaining capital leftover is almost always poured into research and development or marketing, which is crucial to the continual growth of a business. This development model, if properly utilized, will lead to more hiring and higher wages as worker acquisition and retention is imperative for a thriving business. What the syndicalist does not understand is that the business will be more beholden to the union boss, who knows less about the supply chain, labor yield, and allocation of resources than the businessman seeking gains through normal market circumstances. For this fact, not only will production decline but the common worker’s pay will also decrease. Furthermore, others in position of power can negotiate better deals for themselves, so in replacing capitalism with syndicalism it could be somehow claimed to be a more “just” system of wealth redistribution than the free-market but at what cost – parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus! The Soviet nomenklatura (номенклату́ра) system is a primary example of this in action. Bureaucrats and loyal party members were often the highest paid, regardless of their work ethic or industry yield. A similar type of union-based socialism is known as guild socialism and this is when a group controls certain industries for the benefit of the workers. How this diverts from the syndicalism is that guild socialism grants the need for both a government and an association for the workers. Syndicalism seeks to mesh both into one political-economic foundation. The guilds would work out the logistics, productivity, and allocation of resources while the government sets wages and employee subsidies. In the first years of the World War this was seen as a panacea for England. This form of socialism was the Anglo-Saxon attempt to correct the numerous incalculability problems and misdirections of industry that collectivism is known for. However, this economy did not need to collapse due to the maladies of socialism as the English could not shake their Classical Liberal ideals of the free-market and their natural distrust of the State. In short, England had recognized public ownership of the means of production and a large state apparatus as a great problem before most of Europe had. A lesser known form of collectivism is called Solidarism, and this is predominantly discussed in France, where it originated. The Solidarist agrees with the Classical Liberal in that private property is instrumental to societal harmony but where it diverges from the Classical Liberal is that is seeks to artificially benefit the poor more than any other class. This form of economy wants “to avoid the faults of the individualist and socialist systems, to maintain that which is right in both.” Obviously, this is far easier said than done. As Mises has explained, solidarism proposes to leave alone private ownership of the means of production but places above it an authority – indifferent to Law and its creator, State or Church (in France there is a sharp distinction between Catholic and freethinking solidarist in this respect). The obvious question to the solidarist is who is the apparatus or authority who communicates how to use your property? The goal of this movement cannot easily explain away what all bureaucracies with arbitrary and capricious power have done, and that is take away personal property and restrict liberty. Solidarism aims to be decentralized socialism but will always devolve into state socialism – reductio ad absurdum.

              Throughout the course of humanity, humans have wanted to bring heaven upon earth and wished for manna to fall from the sky. Today, we see this still in the hopes and dreams of socialists the world over. It is the utmost importance now than ever for these collectivists to read the literature of what they are advocating for and what they are supposedly fighting against.  The clarion calls for equality may seem beautiful but just as the grass conceals the snake so rhetoric masks true intentions. As was said in the opening of this essay, liberty is defined as man’s access to the market and his ability to retain the fruits of his labor. Economics is the study of power; the centrality lies at the Classical Liberal (individual) or socialist (collectivist) scales. Socialism has been at the gallows more times than one prefers to count. Never has a socio-political model been tried in so many countries, with so many different demographics all to have the same disastrous ending. East Germany had socialism; west Germany had capitalism. North Korea has socialism; South Korea has capitalism. Unfortunately for the socialist, objectivity holds no bias and when sane people are asked which of these countries they’d rather live in, the answers are rather obvious. The rebuttal to this is often that those aforementioned collectivist countries did not have “real” socialism, or socialism is not communism, etc. This is a myth of Sorelian nature. Socialism in its true meaning has the goal of abolishing private property and advancing the utopia of communism. It is worth telling that traditional socialists make no distinction between communism and socialism. Marx called himself a socialist in the Communist Manifesto. The USSR stands for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Lenin’s Bolshevik party was known as the Social Democratic Labour Party. Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist but so did Friedrich Engels. Hitler’s Nazi party was voted into power by democratic means. The point being is that society, so blinded by an ideological vision, can certainly vote itself into socialism but it will always have to fight itself out of it. Classical liberalism strives for the peace of progress, socialism strives to attain the peace of the graveyard.


Pipes, R. (2003). Communism: A history. New York: Modern Library.

Marx, K., Engels, F., & Jones, G. S. (2002). The communist manifesto. London: Penguin.

Solženicyn, A., & Willetts, H. T. (1978). The Gulag Archipelago. New York: Harper & Row.

Goldberg, J. (2009). Liberal Fascism: The secret history of the American left from Mussolini to the politics of change. New York: Broadway Book.

Mises, L. V., Ebeling, R. M., & Greaves, B. B. (2006). Marxism unmasked: From delusion to destruction. Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education.

Mises, L. V. (2016). Socialism: An economic and sociological analysis. Stellar Editions.

Higgs, R. (2013). Crisis and leviathan: Critical episodes in the growth of american government. Place of publication not identified: Ipg-Academic.

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