"The economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe points out that countries with socialised or nationalised production are not as wealthy as countries where production is in private hands."
This quotation comes from the Wikipedia. A PDF file (unfortunately removed in the meantime) on the Hoppe website was cited as the source.
In 1989, when I was six years old, I was able to get an idea of the poverty of Central and Eastern Europe with my own eyes. In this respect, Hoppe's argument is a matter of course for me - but perhaps not for younger people.
In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 11 April 2009 there is an article in the feuilleton with the headline "Wie der Markt wirklich sozial wird" (How the market really becomes social) about the "inventor of the social market economy", a certain Mr. Müller-Armack. This article quotes two interesting references from his book:
"From the point of view of freedom, the market economy should still be preferable even if its economic performance is lower than that of economic governance. This is in no way the case, as we can see, but it seems necessary to point out that the last criterion for an economic order rests also in the spiritual and not in the economic alone."
Capitalism is not a "system", but a natural human behaviour. This is the main misunderstanding of many Marxists. However, natural human behavior naturally has its flaws and can lead to unexpected side effects. But the "solutions" proposed by Marx are not; Ludwig von Mises already gave a theoretical explanation in the 1920s as to why socialism would not work, and history has now told us that all previous attempts to implement socialism have led to millions of deaths and not a single one to lasting economic prosperity.
In my opinion, the debate between capitalism and socialism is somewhat outdated. The reason for this is that capitalism is not a system. Rather than being a system, capitalism is a natural human behaviour resulting from the circumstances in which we live (limited resources, limited access to resources, etc.). Socialism can be described as a system, but it is not a system that replaces capitalism; it is only a system of intervention and violence with the intention of changing property relations and restricting human freedom. Even in a socialist country there is a kind of capitalism, at least to some extent, because what is called capitalism is actually, as I said, natural human behaviour.
Marxist-oriented politicians, who still say that their goal is the "overcoming" of capitalism, have apparently not yet realized what I said above.
Personally, I prefer as little intervention and coercion as possible. There is no "coercion" without "violence" - the English have recognized that, so there is a word for both things in their language, "force". Violence is a bad thing that I think should be avoided at all costs; it should at least be used as an "Ultima Ratio" when there is no other possibility.
Life is not about work, life is about access to the resources necessary for survival. Ideally, it is also about access to resources that improve and make happy the quality of life (you could call them "luxury goods"). It does not matter how one can gain access to these things unless one behaves unsocially, i.e. treats and exploits other people unfairly without giving them anything to return.
I do not share the socialist view that all people should be employed and gainfully employed. People should work when they want to work, but not because they are forced to. Of course, many have no alternative to access to resources than through paid work. But the idea that everyone should be employed and work, even if (for whatever reason) they were able to sustain themselves and lead a happy life without working, is in my opinion inhumane, to say the least.
Artificial intelligence and robotics represent a real challenge as they will make many jobs obsolete. We need to think about ways to organize society and make a living for people, even if people of many professions are replaced by machines. Altruism is called for; it will no longer be enough just to take care of oneself. We will have to work out solutions together, in cooperation, not in competition.
In short, the Austrian Social Democrats are absolutely right when they say that it is not just about the absolute wealth of a country, but also about how it is distributed. But socialism is not a solution.
Claus Volko, MD MSc