The study of socialism is a challenging subject. I encounter in social networks many pastors and theological educators depending it. In fact, if I am not mistaken, socialism is the air that most evangelical pastors and theological educators breath. At least, I can attest to that as far as my experience when I was still taking my doctoral course is concerned. Most of our readings came from the Marxist camp. I never encounter even just one book from classical liberalism.
And so I decided to return to the basic. I want to understand what socialism is. Of course, I have a bias for the materials that I will be using are written by the classical liberals and economists from the Austrian school.
Based on my initial writing about socialism and reading of Part 2, Section 3 in Ludwig von Mises' book, "Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis," I realized that there are more or less nine or ten forms of socialism. In this article, I want to start with the most popular kind, Marxist socialism. In writing about this topic, I want to share my understanding of three articles, and I just want to start with David Gordon's "Mythologies of Marxism."
David Gordon reviewed G. A. Cohen's "If Youre an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?" In it he shared Cohen's critical assessment of his own belief system. Gordon considered Cohen virtuous in asking tough questions concerning Marxism. Gordon thinks that Cohen's critical assessment of Marxism opens vistas of argument in favor of the free market.
In his review, Gordon identified two areas of discrepancies between Cohen on the one hand and Marx and Rawls on the other. Cohen first dealt with Marx, and started by comparing Marx and Rawls' concepts of egalitarianism and socialism. The two have different basis for their concepts. Rawls based his concepts on morality while Marx on self-interest.
Before presenting Cohen's critical assessment of Marx and his own evaluation, Gordon described first Marx's vision of socialism. It is described as the end product in the evolution of capitalism, a system where the proletariat will ultimately replace entrepreneurs that would end exploitation, and usher into economic abundance. This is Marxian socialism's paradise.
According to Gordon, Cohen identified two errors in this line of thinking. The first one is related to the size of proletariat and the other one is about the unpreparedness of the advocates of socialism after the revolution.
However, despite the honesty of Cohen, Gordon identified that the former failed to ask question related to the basis for the existence of economic abundance in socialism. In effect, Gordon is aking, "How will the socialists account for their paradise of economic abundance?" Gordon believes that socialists cannot provide an answer to this question due to "calculation argument" ably raised by Mises, that the only logical destiny of socialism is one of chaos.
Gordon even placed socialism in a more intricate situation by saying that to claim increased economic productivity by merely replacing business owners with the proletariat has no logical basis. It is simply an assertion without foundation.
After identifying Marx's absurdity, Gordon proceeded to expose the faulty baseline of Rawlsian concept of equality and justice. For Rawls, basic in his idea of equality is the "equality of resources." Existence of inequality is considered illegitimate except on the basis of "difference principle" where inequality is allowed for the purpose of redistributing the excess income for the benefits of the poor.
Furthermore, concerning justice, Rawls regarded it as part of "basic structure" in social institutions. This basic structure serves as the boundary where invidual action caused by self-interest remains just.
Cohen differs on these two points. For him, equality does not need any qualification. He is also not convince with Rawl's concept of justice; it is dualistic to him.
The difference between the two positions is evident in the way they view the role of families in a society. Gordon shared his understanding of Cohen's assesment of Rawls' position: ". . . . family structures have no implications for justice . . . since they are not a concesquence of the formal coercive order." For Cohen, the society cannot maintain the concept of egalitarian justice since families in society are inherently hierarchical.
The final question is about dispensing of resources. For Cohen, though he admits that individual action to give away resources cannot end poverty, the existence of rich socialists is a contradiction. A socialist cannot maintain both: keeping his wealth and believing in egalitarian justice.
Identifying all these absurdities, - size of the proletariat, unpreparedness after the revolution, unaccountability of economic abundance, and maintaining both wealth and egalitarian justice - I now understand why Gordon is confident that Cohen's book works for the advantage of the arguments of the free market.