In spite of its monumental failure to bring social peace and material abundance, socialism is enjoying something of a renaissance. From Venezuela to Bolivia to South Africa, government ministers espouse the supposed virtues of socialism. Even in the West, some policies are taking government intervention in the economy to levels unseen in decades. Given the renewed interest in alternatives to capitalism, it is perhaps appropriate to recall the last time that socialism was tried with real gusto.


As the Austrian philosopher Friedrich von Hayek explained in his 1944 classic, The Road to Serfdom, central planning leads to massive inefficiencies and long queues outside empty shops. A state of perpetual economic crisis then leads to calls for more planning. But economic planning is inimical to freedom. As there can be no agreement on a single plan in a free society, the centralization of economic decision-making has to be accompanied by centralization of political power in the hands of a small elite. When, in the end, the failure of central planning becomes undeniable, totalitarian regimes tend to silence the dissenters--sometimes through mass murder.

via The Road From Serfdom -- The American, A Magazine of Ideas.