Reisman: "Social democrats should stop calling themselves socialists."

George Reisman is out with a new ebook, a long essay– which most of his ebooks are essentially– on Marxism/socialism. While Reisman isn’t a Misesian purist, especially in the Rothbardian tradition of Mises interpretation, I nevertheless think he is an immensely important contributor in the greater Austrian economic framework.

He echoes something I have been communicating myself over the last month or so: the social democrats (Bernie, Warren, etc.) should not be confused with socialism, properly (and historically) defined. I know, it is easy to dismiss everyone as a rank commie, and it can be fun; but when academic matters are concerned, accuracy is key. Socialism means, I’ve said again and again, the public (or government) ownership of the means of production.

Social democrats are calling for expanded welfare, an artificially (state-driven) diminished set of rights for business owners over their employee contracts, and so on. But they are not calling for the government ownership of the means of production. Therefore, they are not socialists.

They are, as I have stressed, left-interventionists. Interventionism deserves its own set of rebuttals, but these rebuttals are distinct from our case against socialism, properly defined.

Reisman agrees. From his new essay:

When they come to power, the social democrats retain capitalism as the economic system, though they may further hamper its operation with additional taxes and regulations. Sweden, Norway, France, et al. are capitalist countries, not socialist countries, despite the fact that they are typically described as socialist and their ruling parties are typically known as socialist parties. The truth is that the means of production in these countries are privately owned to more or less the same extent as they are in the United States, and they are employed by their owners in order “to make profits and avoid losses,” as von Mises put it. This is not socialism, but capitalism, even if badly hampered capitalism.

Consistent with the laws of logic, the social democrats need to stop calling themselves socialists and to insist that no one else call them socialists. This is because the word “socialist” means “one who advocates socialism.” Inasmuch as socialism means government ownership of the means of production, the word “socialist” logically implies that one is an advocate of government ownership of the means of production, which, in the real world of choosing and acting, the social democrats—to their credit—have repeatedly shown that they are not.