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Socialism-in-practice was a nightmare, not Utopia: Ludwig von Mises’s critique of central planning and the fall of the Soviet Union

Richard M. Ebeling ()
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Richard M. Ebeling: The Citadel: Military College of South Carolina, Baker School of Business

The Review of Austrian Economics, 2021, vol. 34, issue 4, No 1, 448 pages

Abstract: Abstract Thirty years ago, in 1991, the Soviet Union formally came to an end as a political entity on the map of the world. It marked the conclusion of the dream of a new socialist system based on comprehensive government central planning for a better society. Soviet socialist reality was a nightmare of tyranny, economic chaos, along with political privilege and favoritism, which left everyday life for those living in the great socialist experiment one of poverty, corruption and despair. The reason why the socialist experiment in central planning was such a failure can be understood in terms of another anniversary, that being one hundred years since the publication of Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises’s, famous 1920 essay on “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.” Mises demonstrated why it was inevitable and inescapable that socialism would fail and breed its negative side effects, due to the abolition of the economic institutions of private property, markets, and prices, without which a rational economic order is “impossible.” I recount some of the realities and absurdities of Soviet socialist daily life and its end based my travels in the Soviet Union in its last years. This paper is based on the Presidential Address delivered at the 2020 Society for the Development of Austrian Economics Annual Meeting.

Keywords: Socialism; Central planning; Soviet Union; Economic calculation; “Lost papers” of Ludwig von Mises (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s11138-021-00545-w

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