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State Socialism

State Socialism, therefore, is not distinguished by the fact that the State is the pivot of the communal organization, since Socialism is quite inconceivable otherwise. If we wish to understand its nature we must not look to the term itself. ... We must ask ourselves what ideas have been associated with the expression by those who are generally regarded as the followers of the state socialistic movements, that is, the out-and-out etatists. Etatistic Socialism is distinguished from other socialist systems in two ways. In contradistinction to many other socialist movements which contemplate the greatest possible measure of equality in the distribution of the social income between individuals, Etatistic Socialism makes the basis of distribution the merit and rank of the individual. It is obviously superfluous to point out that judgment of merit is purely subjective and cannot in any way be tested from a scientific view of human relations. Etatism has quite definite views about the ethical value of individual classes in the community. It is imbued with a high esteem for the monarchy, the nobility, big landowners, the clergy, professional soldiers, especially the officer class, and officials. With certain reservations it also allots a privileged position to savants and to artists. Peasants and small tradesmen are in a special class and below them come the manual labourers. At the bottom are the unreliable elements which are discontented with the sphere of action and the income allotted to them by the etatist plan and strive to improve their material position. The etatist mentally arranges a hierarchy of the members composing his future state. The more noble will have more power, more honours and more income than the less noble. What is noble and what is ignoble will be decided above all by tradition. To the etatist the worst feature of the capitalist system is that it does not assign income according to his valuation of merit. That a milk dealer or a manufacturer of trouser buttons should draw a larger income than the sprig of a noble family, than a privy councillor or a lieutenant, strikes him as intolerable. In order to remedy this state of affairs the capitalist system must be replaced by the etatistic.
This attempt on the part of the etatists to maintain the traditional social order of rank and the ethical valuation of different classes, in no way contemplates transferring all property in the means of production to the formal ownership of the State. This indeed, in the etatistic view, would be a complete subversion of all historical rights. Only the large undertakings would be nationalized, and even then an exception would be made in favour of large scale agriculture, especially inherited family property. In agriculture and in small and medium-sized industries private property is to continue in name at least. In the same way the free professions will be allowed scope, with certain limitations. But all enterprises must become essentially state undertakings. The agriculturist will retain the name and title of owner, but he will be forbidden ‘egoistically to look merely to mercantile profit’; he has the ‘duty to execute the aims of the State’.1 For agriculture, according to the etatist, is a public office. ‘The agriculturist is a state official and must cultivate for the needs of the State according to his best knowledge and conscience, or according to state orders. If he gets his interest and sufficient to maintain himself he has everything he is entitled to demand.’2 The same applies to the artisan and the trader. For the independent entrepreneur with free control over the means of production there is as little room in State Socialism as in any other Socialism. The authorities control prices and decide what and how much shall be produced and in what way. There will be no speculation for ‘excessive’ profit. Officials will see to it that no one draws more than the appropriate ‘fair income’, that is to say an income ensuring him a standard of life appropriate to his rank. Any excess will be ‘taxed away’.

von Mises, Ludwig (2010-03-25). Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (pp. 246-247). Ludwig von Mises Institute. Kindle Edition.

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